Queen album cover auction derailed after artist accidentally dumps artwork



Queen's iconic cover is...in the trash (Photo: Keystone/Getty Images)


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Queen’s iconic cover is…in the trash (Photo: Keystone/Getty Images)

If you were hoping to get your hands on the art that inspired Queen’s album cover for A Night At The Opera, we have some very bad news for you.

It may be in landfill.

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

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

That’s great, but only A Day At The Races can be sold now because Costa thinks he threw away the cover of the previous record while cleaning up his studio.

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 personal ephemera.

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



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


© Provided by Metro
Auctioneer Luke Hobbs with original artwork by David Costa for the 1976 Queen album A Day At The Races (Picture: PA)



The pen and ink drawing to guide the airbrush design for the front cover - not in tray (Image: PA)


© Provided by Metro
The pen and ink drawing to guide the airbrush design for the front cover – not in tray (Image: PA)

Let this be a lesson to all of you: there is no point in being tidy.

Going Under the Hammer in March is the original airbrush painted cover of A Day At The Races, a back cover panel and pen and ink drawing used in the production process, based on a sketch original of the singer of the group. Freddie Mercury.



Artist Costa is the artist behind the rock band's iconic art (Picture: PA)


© Provided by Metro
Artist Costa is the artist behind the rock band’s iconic art (Picture: PA)

Wiltshire-based music auction house Gardiner Houlgate is also poised for a pretty penny, valuing the artwork at between £5,000 and £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 of the artwork, which is an extravagant piece featuring crowned lions and an eagle: “Original album covers are rarely auctioned.

“Other than selling another Queen album and an album by American rock band Boston, we don’t have much to do.

“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.

A Night At The Opera, released in 1975, had iconic tracks Bohemian Rhapsody, You’re My Best Friend and Love Of My Life. The cover was quite similar to A Day At The Races, featuring similarly crowned lions.

From 1973 to 2010, 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, obviously in a clutter-free home.

Costa said, “My first design experience was composing 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 that 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.

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About Elizabeth J. Swartz

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