Queen album cover artwork will be put under the hammer, but the second one will be thrown out by mistake

A plan to sell original artwork created for a pair of classic Queen albums was thwarted when one was accidentally thrown in the trash.

Art director and designer David Costa has decided to auction off the original artwork from Queen’s 1975 vinyl album A Night At The Opera and 1976’s A Day At The Races.

However, only A Day At The Races can be sold because he thinks he threw away the cover of the previous record while cleaning up his studio.

Mr Costa said: ‘An unintended triumph of cleanliness over posterity, I have now come to the inevitable conclusion that A Night at the Opera has become a victim of my overenthusiastic effort to begin cleaning up 50 years of ephemera personal.

“Too bad, but in the grand scheme of things, not a global catastrophe.”

Going under the hammer in March is the original airbrushed cover, a panel from the back cover, and a pen and ink drawing used in the production process. It was based on an original sketch by lead singer Freddie Mercury.

Wiltshire-based music auction house Gardiner Houlgate valued the artwork at £5,000-10,000.

In 2021, the original cover for another Queen album, 1977’s News Of The World, sold in New York for US$62,575 (£46,000).

Auctioneer Luke Hobbs said: “Original album covers are rarely auctioned.

Auctioneer Luke Hobbs with original artwork by David Costa for the 1976 Queen album A Day At The Races (Gardiner Houlgate/PA)

“What makes this all the more important is that this album is a recognized classic.

“Despite being 46 years old, the artwork has been carefully preserved and is in incredible condition.

“Queens are so popular they could be sold to someone from anywhere in the world, especially in America where there are a lot of queen collectors.”

A Day At The Races was released in 1976 and went platinum, reaching number one on the album chart in the UK as well as Japan and the Netherlands. It contained the hit singles Somebody To Love and Tie Your Mother Down.

From 1973 to 2010, Mr Costa and his Why Art? Studio was responsible for the album covers of many prominent musicians, including Sir Elton John, Eric Clapton, Genesis, George Harrison and The Traveling Wilburys, and many notable books including The Beatles Anthology and The Rolling Stones’ A Life On The Road.

He is now retired and lives in the South West of England.

Mr Costa said: “My first design experience was pasting the composition for Elton John’s Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only The Piano Player in 1972.

“My last, or so, was writing the book for Elton’s Million Dollar Piano residency in Vegas in 2012. Forty years, and this circularity, seemed like a good time to stop.

“It took me 10 years to decide to let some ephemera and keepsakes move on to better homes.”

The auction will take place at the Gardiner Houlgate in Corsham on March 9.

About Elizabeth J. Swartz

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