Johnny Cash is one of the best-selling musicians of all time, with over 90 million record sales worldwide.
His lyrics evoke themes of moral tribulation, sorrow, and redemption, with his sound drawing influence from country, rock and roll, blues, rockabilly, folk, and gospel.
Nicknamed the “Man in Black,” Cash is known for his deep, calming, bass-baritone voice, typically coupled with chugging guitar rhythms.
His sombre tone, often tinged with a hint of rebellion, is exemplified in signature songs like ‘I Walk the Line’ or ‘Ring of Fire.’
Johnny Cash’s huge significance has made his records of particular interest to collectors, with some vinyl commanding hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.
Amongst his rarest records are special promos, first pressings, atypical recordings, and unique acetates.
Let’s find out more about the rarest and most valuable Johnny Cash records that have been on the market.
10. Songs Of The Heart – Japan 10″ LP (1962)
Approximate value: $380
Songs Of The Heart appears as a very rare Japanese 10″ LP release. The picture sleeve features Cash surrounded by a Caribbean motif wearing a Hawaiian-inspired shirt, leaning against a palm tree and holding his red acoustic guitar.
On the instrument’s neck are the words ‘Johnny Cash’ in silvery white handwriting, and the vinyl also includes a lyric sheet. The record features ten tracks in total.
A copy of this rare 78” sold in 2016 for around $380.
9. Ring Of Fire: The Best Of Johnny Cash – Japan Promo LP (1963)
Approximate value: $395
Ring of Fire: The Best of Johnny Cash is the artist’s sixteenth album, and was initially released on Columbia Records in 1963.
This record collates tracks from singles and an EP that were all released between 1959 and 1963, during Cash’s first years on the Columbia label.
The vinyl marked the first release of these tracks in LP format, with the exception of ‘I Still Miss Someone’ which previously featured on the 1958 album The Fabulous Johnny Cash with ‘Ring of Fire’ making its first LP appearance.
The Japanese promo of this vinyl holds value and in 2019 one fetched in the region of $395.
8. ‘It’s Just About Time/I Just Thought You’d Like To Know’ – 7“ (1958)
Approximate value: $400
During his time with the Tennessee Two, Johnny Cash released this 7″ 45 RPM of ‘It’s Just About Time’ / ‘I Just Thought You’d Like To Know.’
Produced with Sun Records in 1958, copies of the record deemed to be in near pristine condition are rare and can be valuable.
A-side ‘It’s Just About Time’ is a melodic song, has a classic Cash sound with a plodding bassline and driving rhythm guitar. It is best described as a sombre love song, featuring surprisingly light harmonies.
Side B’s ‘I Just Thought You’d Like To Know’ is a melancholy country track, with prominent piano.
One vinyl copy sold as recently as 2022 for $400.
7. With His Hot And Blue Guitar! LP – First Pressing (1957)
Approximate value: $405
Johnny Cash’s debut studio album His Hot and Blue Guitar! was released in October 1957. The iconic album contained four hit singles – ‘I Walk the Line,’ ‘Cry! Cry! Cry!,’ ‘So Doggone Lonesome’ and ‘Folsom Prison Blues.’
It was one of the first records ever issued on Sam Phillips’ Sun Records label, and featured twelve tracks into total. Each of the record’s singles are amongst Cash’s best-known and most-loved.
A first pressing stereo copy of this rare find sold in 2017 for $405.
6. Helping (One of The Things American Stands For) – Standard Oil Private Pressing (1972)
Approximate value: $430
Pressed in 1972, this ultra-rare Standard Oil Private Pressing includes six of Cash’s most famous tracks. Side one contains eight songs of ‘prologue’ including radio adverts featuring the star and two music pieces, with six more tracks on side two.
The tracklist includes the likes of ‘Helping,’ ‘Something Better,’ ‘Gravity Pump,’ and ‘Lonely Man.’
A copy of this LP commanded $430 when it sold in 2019.
5. ‘Luther Played The Boogie / Thanks A Lot’ (1959)
Approximate value: $500
Released on Sun Records in 1958, this single was recorded during a time where the Tennessee Two featured heavily on Cash’s work. ‘Luther Played The Boogie’ sits on Side A, an earthy number with a deep groove, and Cash’s typical bassy vocals.
B-side ‘Thanks A Lot’ has a lighter feel, featuring Cash’s distinct, gravelly vocal style and a strong bass run. Whilst the record found its way into US Country and Western charts it, failed to enter the Billboard 100, making it slightly obscure amongst his releases.
A copy of the vinyl sold in 2021 for close to $500.
4. Johnny Cash At Harrison Ark 12″ Acetate (1968)
Approximate value: $1,000
Produced by Jagger Studios in Little Rock, Arkansas – this record captures Cash’s performance at a political rally in Harrison for Winthrop Rockfeller, who was running for re-election as Governor.
The single track is a rendition of ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ and features Carl Perkins, replacing Cash’s guitarist Luther Perkins, who was killed in a fire only days before the concert.
In 2017, the rare acetate sold for $1,000.
3. Trail Of Tears As Told By Johnny Cash (1970)
Approximate value: $1,250
Trail Of Tears As Told By Johnny Cash is a spoken word record that tells the tale of the forced relocation of a Cherokee tribe from Georgia to Oklahoma in 1838.
This was a special promo recording made for Nashville Public Schools and distributed by Historic Landmark Association’s Living History Program.
The fascinating and historically significant recording is solely narrated by Cash. It is likely that only a handful were pressed for the Nashville Public Schools, with the record never being commercially sold.
In 2017, a collector paid $1,250 for this rare gem.
2. ‘I Forgot To Remember To Forget/Katy Too’ – Sun Records 7” (1959)
Approximate value: $1,600
Recorded and released in 1959, this record combines the tracks ‘I Forgot To Remember To Forget’ and ‘Katy Too.’ There are very few known copies of this recording, especially in near mint or pristine condition, and so they have become extremely valuable.
‘I Forgot To Remember To Forget’ utilises beautiful moments of piano that provide a brighter tone to Cash’s work. ‘Katy Too’ is a refreshing and upbeat song which glides around his softer vocal delivery.
This sought-after vinyl is valued at around $1,600 today.
1. ‘The Man In Black’ – One Sided Acetate 7” (1971)
Approximate value: $2,200
Released on Columbia in 1971, The Man In Black was originally a two-sided record. This rare acetate features only two songs. On side A is a mono version of the title track, and side B contains a stereo iteration.
‘The Man In Black’ is one of Cash’s most reflective and transparent works. With a typically rolling bass and guitar track beneath, the lyrics reveal a blatant tale of his inner thoughts concerning self-image.
It is thought that, at one time, this extremely rare find was likely owned and played by Johnny Cash himself. This particular piece sold for $2,200 back in 2016.
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