Vinyl Records Glossary

Vinyl Records Glossary

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record collecting glossaryIf you’re a record collector, and you’re new to the hobby, you may encounter a number of terms in your searches for vinyl with which you’re unfamiliar.

To help, we’ve compiled this vinyl record collecting glossary of terms that you may find it helpful to know:

10” – Ten inch record. This size was used for both 78 RPM singles, made from the 1910s through the late 1950s, as well as long-play albums during the first years of album production (roughly 1948-1955.)

12” – Twelve inch record. While this sizes is most commonly used for modern record albums (post-1955), this size record is also used occasionally for singles and extended-play (EP) recordings.

16 2/3 RPM – A playback speed for certain record albums, most commonly used for talking books for the blind. The slow playback speed allows for extra-long playing time, though the sound quality suffers as a result. Most of the people who own record players that are capable of playing 16 2/3 RPM records have never actually seen one.

180 gram – Weight of some modern era (post-1990) record pressings, usually those titles pressed as “audiophile” records. Most 12″ records pressed in earlier eras weighed between 125-150 grams. The heavier weight of these modern pressings is thought to provide better sound and less likelihood of warping.

200 gram – Weight of some modern (post-1990) record pressings, used by some manufacturers of “audiophile” records. 200 gram records are not seen as often as 180 gram pressings, and there’s considerable debate in the audio community regarding the benefits of the additional 10% in weight, including the question of whether the added weight provides any benefits at all.

33 1/3 RPM – The speed used for nearly all long-play (LP) record albums from 1948 to the present day. This speed allows for longer playback time than the earlier 78 RPM pressing, and records at this speed usually offer up to 20 minutes of program material per side (though we’ve seen a few that played as long as 35 minutes, with reduced volume and sound quality.)

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45 RPM – The speed used since 1949 for most 7″ records, and occasionally for 12″ singles. Since the mid-1990s, a few record labels have reissued older recordings that were originally pressed at 33 1/3 RPM at the 45 RPM speed for improved sound quality, though this requires more discs. A single disc album at 33 1/3 will usually take up two discs when pressed at 45 RPM.

78 RPM – Speed used from the 1910s through the late 1950s for 10″ singles. This format was rendered obsolete circa 1960 by the 45 RPM, 7″ single. Occasionally 78 RPM speeds have been used for certain promotional singles, usually as a marketing gimmick. Records pressed at this speed have had no commercial application for the past half century.

7” – Size of singles (usually one song per side) since 1949. These records normally play at 45 RPM, though a few have been released over the years that played at 33 1/3 RPM.

acetate lacquer
An example of an acetate, or lacquer.

Acetate – Also known as a lacquer, an acetate is the first step in the record manufacturing process. An acetate is a lacquer-covered metal plate upon which the music is encoded via a lathe. You can read more about acetate records here.

Album – Originally a collection of 78 RPM, 10″ singles, collected in a binder. When the long-play album, containing a number of songs on a single disc, replaced 78 RPM albums in the early 1950s, the name remained.

Today, an “album” usually refers to a collection of songs recorded together and released as a single entity, usually one one disc, but sometimes released as multiple-disc sets.

Long-play albums were originally 10 inches in size, but modern albums are 12 inches in size.

Audiophile Record – Records pressed specifically to attract the attention of buyers who want (and are willing to pay for) albums with higher sound quality than regular mass-produced pressings.

Most audiophile records are pressed on more expensive vinyl that has less surface noise, and are mastered using tapes that are as close as possible to the original master tape. These pressings are usually on heavier (180-200 gram) vinyl and are sometimes cut at 45 RPM, rather than the standard 33 1/3.

Many audiophile records are intentionally released as limited edition pressings and sell for a premium price when new.

You can read more about audiophile records here.

Binaural Record – Short-lived early attempt to press records in stereo. These records required a special tonearm with two cartridges. Due to the awkwardness of the playback process and the expense of buying a special turntable or tonearm, these records were not successful.

You can read more about binaural records here.

Bootleg Record – An album of previously unreleased material, pressed and released to the market without the knowledge or permission of the artist involved or their record company. Most bootleg records consist of previously unreleased studio recordings or live performances by popular artists.

You can read more about bootleg records here.

Bossa Nova – A form of music that originated in Brazil in the late 1950s, and popular through about 1967 or so. The music incorporated elements of samba and jazz and introduced the world to artists such as Sergio Mendes and Joao Gilberto. Many popular American artists (Frank Sinatra, Eydie Gorme, Stan Getz, and others) had success recording Bossa Nova.

cheesecake
An example of an album with a “cheesecake” cover.

Cheesecake – Term usually used to describe album covers that prominently feature attractive women, often in risque poses or in minimal attire. Most often found on albums from the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Colored Vinyl – Term used to describe any record pressed from a color of vinyl other than black. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, some record companies routinely pressed records on colors other than black as a matter of course. Over time, colored vinyl records became limited to either promotional use or as limited edition releases.

You can read more about colored vinyl records here.

Counterfeit – A reproduction of a record, created by unscrupulous individuals with the intention of fooling the buyers into believing they are buying the genuine item. Most often found today with exceptionally rare titles, though in the 1970s, counterfeit copies of new releases were often mass produced and frequently found their way into major record stores.

You can read more about counterfeit records here.

Cover – The paper, cardboard, posterboard, or (rarely) plastic outer covering provided by the record company to hold a single or album. Covers usually have printed titles and often have a photo of the artist, as well as a listing of the contents of the record inside.

Cover Mouth – The portion of the cover that opens to allow for insertion and removal of the record. For albums, this is usually the right side of the cover as you look at the front. For 7″ singles, the opening is usually at the top.

CSG Process (also known as Haeco-CSG) – Short-lived process used from roughly 1968-1970 to compensate for vocals with too much volume when stereo records were played back on mono record players. CSG-encoded records were pressed during the time when monaural records were being phased out of the market.

This encoding solved the problem it was trying to fix while introducing others and was not popular with record buyers. Over time, record companies stopped using CSG encoding as the percentage of record buyers with stereo turntables increased to the point where it became unnecessary.

cut corner
An example of a cutout album with a cut corner.

Cut Corner – A record album with a cover that has part of one of the corners cut off. This was done to indicate that the album had been discontinued (remaindered) and sold at a discount and that it was ineligible for a refund. While many rare records are often found with cut corners, as many of them sold poorly when new, collectors usually prefer to buy copies that do not have a cut corner.

Cutout – Known in the book industry as a “remainder,” a cutout is a record that has been deleted from a record company’s catalog and is being sold at a discount to get rid of inventory the record company no longer wants.

Cutout albums are usually defaced in one of three ways – a drill or punch hole through the cover, removing a corner from the cover, or cutting a notch in the cover with a saw. These mark the records as being ineligible for a refund and while the covers are defaced, the records inside them are usually fully intact.

Dead Wax – The area immediately outside the label of a record that contains the runout groove and matrix numbers, but no recorded music. The dead wax area of a record is usually 1/4″-1″ wide.

deep groove
A record with a “deep groove” label.

Deep Groove – A ring found in the label area of some pressings from the mid-1950s through the early 1960s. This ring was an indentation, usually about 3″ in diameter, that was caused by certain types of pressing equipment. As record companies phased out that equipment by the mid-1960s, pressings with a deep groove may be indicative of original pressings, rather than later reissues.

Direct Metal Mastering (also known as DMM) – A process used in the manufacture of record albums where the music is cut to a solid metal plate, rather than a softer lacquer. There are advantages and disadvantages to this process, though many listeners prefer the sound of DMM pressings to the lacquer alternative. This process was often used in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and many records mastered using this process prominently have the letters “DMM” somewhere on the cover.

Direct to Disc – A process where the recorded material is performed live and recorded directly to acetate or lacquer, without first being recorded to magnetic tape. While the process produces better sound quality, direct to disc recording requires that an entire album side be recorded live in one take with no breaks. Direct to disc records are also, by necessity, limited edition pressings, as only a few lacquers can be cut at one time.

Double Album – An album containing two records, rather than the customary one.

Drill Hole – A hole drilled through the corner of an album (or less frequently, through the label) by a record company to indicate that the album has been discontinued and may not be returned for a refund. Most records with drill holes were sold at deeply discounted prices.

duophonic
An example of a record in “Duophonic” stereo

Duophonic – A proprietary system used by Capitol Records in the early 1960s to simulate stereo on material originally recorded in mono. Duophonic usually added a bit of a delay between the two channels and added reverberation to give a stereo effect to mono recordings.

Duophonic was created when record companies discovered that some buyers would only purchase stereo records, and it was an attempt to sell mono material to those buyers.

You can read more about Duophonic and other “fake stereo” pressings here.

Dynaflex – A short lived manufacturing process used by RCA Records from 1969 to some time in the mid 1970s. To save money, RCA developed a process to press records using less vinyl than they’d been previously using. The result was a record that was exceptionally thin, more flexible than other records, and much more prone to warpage, though less prone to damage in shipping. On their record covers and inner sleeves, RCA promoted Dynaflex pressings as an improvement in the product.  Buyers disagreed, and often disparagingly refer to Dynaflex as “Dynawarp.”

Dynagroove – A process developed by RCA Records in 1963 to improve the sound of their records on low-end playback equipment. This process increased bass in quiet passages while attempting to reduce high frequency distortion. Unfortunately, this only worked on phonographs with inexpensive conical needles and not more expensive elliptical ones. Owners of more expensive turntables thought the “new” process sounded much worse than the old one.

Audiophiles were unhappy with the process and the resulting sound, and RCA discontinued it about 1970 or so.

exotica
An album in the exotica genre

Exotica – A type of music introduced in the mid-1950s, usually attributed to Martin Denny. Exotica attempted to introduce music from Asia, the Orient, and Africa to Western listeners, and the music from this short-lived fad often included tribal chants, gongs, and the sound of birds or insects to augment the music.

The popularity of music in the Exotica genre led to lots of backyard parties with people drinking Mai Tais while standing amidst Tiki torches. By the early 1960s, people had moved on from listening to Exotica when they discovered Bossa Nova.

Extended Play – Also known as an “EP”, this term is usually used to describe a 7″ single that plays more than one song per side. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, record albums were quite expensive, and priced at the equivalent of about $50 today.

Record companies occasionally took a 12 song album and sold it as three 7″ records that had four songs each, with pricing that allowed buyers to buy one disc alone or all of them.

Extended play singles were sometimes released as standalone releases of one disc with three or four songs. While the format was quite popular in Britain, it never really caught on in the United States.

In the modern (post-1965) era, an extended play record usually describes a 12 inch record with more than two songs but fewer songs than one might find on an album.

Foxing – The appearance of brown spots on picture sleeves or album covers as they age.   Foxing can occur on all kinds of paper, but it’s most visible on white paper.  For unknown reasons, foxing is quite common on album covers from Japan, and probably seven out of ten Japanese albums have some evidence of it.

Foxing is not an indication of wear or mistreatment by a previous owner.  An album cover can be in mint, untouched condition and still exhibit foxing.  It is simply an artifact of the aging process.

Garage Rock – Raw, unpolished rock and roll from the mid-1960s, inspired by relatively inexperienced musicians who often rehearsed and sometimes recorded in their home garage. Examples include the Castaways, the Sonics, and the Standells.

Gatefold Cover – A record cover that is intended to fold open like a book. Often the inside of a gatefold cover will include lyrics, liner notes, or additional photos of the artist.

Gold Record Award – A framed, gold-plated record, usually with an accompanying plaque, created to commemorate sales of $1 million (later 500,000 copies sold.) In the United States, “official” gold record awards have an RIAA logo, indicating that that organization has certified the sales of that particular record.

These awards are usually given by a record company to the artist, the producer, and other people who were instrumental in helping the album achieve that particular sales milestone.

hype sticker
An example of a hype sticker

Hype Sticker – A paper or plastic sticker attached to the shrink wrap or cover of an album, usually with the intention of drawing attention to one or more songs on the album in order to increase sales. Sometimes a hype sticker will indicate that the particular record is pressed on colored vinyl, contains a poster, or is in some way special.

In-House Record Award – A gold or platinum record award that does not have an RIAA certification on it; usually created by record companies to award to their own personnel, rather than to be giving to the artist.

In the collector’s market, in-house awards usually sell for lower prices than RIAA-certified awards.

Inner Sleeve – A paper or plastic sleeve included with a record album that is intended to protect the disc from coming in direct contact with the cover, as the rough surface of the cover might damage the record.

While many inner sleeves are plain paper or plastic, sometimes inner sleeves contain lyrics or other information about that specific recording. On other occasions, record companies used inner sleeves to advertise other albums that might be of interest to the listener or to provide technical information about stereo recordings (1950s) or quadraphonic recordings (1970s.)

Insert – Any piece of paper included with an album other than a poster or inner sleeve. The most common use of inserts is to provide the listener with lyrics to that particular album.

Instrumental – A recording of music that contains no vocals. This applies to most jazz, classical, and surf music recordings.

jukebox ep
An example of a rare jukebox EP by the Beatles

Jukebox EP – A 7 inch extended-play record manufactured exclusively for use in jukeboxes. Jukebox EPs were primarily made in the 1960s and 1970s, and were usually pressed in stereo and often included a hard cover, similar to an album cover.

A typical jukebox EP would include three songs on each side and come with a small paper reproduction of the album cover and a half a dozen paper “title strips” to be inserted in the jukebox so that customers could select them for play.

Label – The round piece of paper in the center of a record that lists the name of the artist, the name of the album or song, the name of the record company, and other information that may be useful to the buyer or listener.

Lacquer – Another (and more correct) term for an acetate.

Live Album – Usually, an album that contains a recording of an artist performing in an “in concert” setting before a live audience. Occasionally, a recording of a band performing in a studio collectively as a band, rather than recording vocals and instruments individually.

Live albums are often released as either contractual obligations or to provide fans with something to buy during an unusually long delay between releases of studio albums by a particular artist.

Many modern live albums are not entirely live and may contain multiple overdubs added to the live recording in the studio at a later date. A few live albums released over the years weren’t live recordings at all, but were simply studio recordings with overdubbed audience sounds.

Living Stereo
An example of an RCA Living Stereo LP

Living Stereo – Name used by RCA Records from 1958-1963 for their stereo recordings, which often had a rich, and unusually lifelike recording quality. Many albums from the Living Stereo period in both classical and popular genres are highly valued by collectors.

LP – Technically, a trademarked term by Columbia Records (correctly printed as “Lp”) in the late 1940s to denote their then-new long-playing record format, which could theoretically play up to 26 minutes per side at 33 1/3 RPM.

Popularly, the term is most often used as a slang reference to a record album. (“Have you heard the new Metallica LP?”)

Marbled Vinyl – A record pressed from multicolored vinyl with the vinyl distributed in such a way that the record resembles marble.

Matrix Number – A stamped or handwritten number in the dead wax area of a record. Matrix numbers tell pressing plant employees which record they are making. Matrix numbers may also include an indicator as to which of a series of sequential stampers was used to make a particular record.

Monaural – A method of recording in which all of the music is contained in a single audio channel, and which may be heard through a single speaker. Until 1957, all records were monaural. From 1957-1968, most albums were sold in both mono and stereo.

You can read more about monaural records here.

multicolor vinyl
An album pressed on multicolor vinyl.

Multicolor Vinyl – A colored vinyl record that is comprised of two or more colors of vinyl on a single disc.

Obi – On Japanese albums (and some singles), a paper strip, usually about 2 inches wide, that wraps around the cover. The information printed on the obi is almost always in Japanese and includes information for the buyer that may not be printed on the cover.

Historically, many buyers discarded the obi shortly after purchase, as they are easily torn. In some cases, the presence (or absence) of an obi can dramatically affect the price of the record.

Original Cast Recording – A recording of the music, score, or songs from a play, performed by the cast of that play.

Picture Disc – A record pressed from two layers of clear vinyl with a paper image or photo sandwiched in between. Picture disc albums are usually limited edition or promotional items and are often packaged in covers with a die-cut window so that buyers can see the record itself.

The sound quality of picture discs is usually not as good as conventional pressings.

You can read more about picture discs here.

Picture Sleeve – A paper sleeve included with a record (usually a 7 inch single) that has a photo or image printed on it. Picture sleeves usually also list the artist and the name of the songs. Picture sleeves are usually limited in production and many are quite collectible.

pirate record
A pirate pressing of Led Zeppelin IV.

Pirate Pressing – A record that contains material that has previously been released commercially but is pressed without authorization from the artist or the record company responsible for that material.

Often casually referred to as “bootlegs,” though that term actually refers to something else.

You can read more about pirate pressings here.

Platinum Record Award – Similar to a gold record award, a platinum record award is a framed, silver-plated record, usually with an accompanying plaque, created to commemorate sales of 1 million copies of a particular album. In the United States, “official” platinum record awards have an RIAA logo, indicating that that organization has certified the sales of that particular record.

Play Hole – The hole in the center of a record that allows the record to fit over a turntable spindle. The hole and spindle keep the record properly centered on the platter so that it will play correctly.

Poster – A photographic insert included with an album that usually folds out to a size that is larger than the album cover itself. Occasionally included as a bonus with some titles, posters can often become quite rare with time, as many buyers hung them on the wall after purchase and failed to put them back in the album cover when they took them off of the wall at a later time.

Progressive Rock – A style of music popular from the late 1960s through the mid-1970s that featured long solos, fantasy lyrics and inventive song structures. Bands such as King Crimson, Yes, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and Gong are examples of progressive rock bands.

Promo-only – A record release that was created to be distributed to radio stations or other promotional outlets, but was not intended for commercial sale. Promo-only releases often consisted of previously unavailable live material or compilations of recordings by a given artist intended to promote airplay.

Sometimes, promo-only titles contained the same material as commercial releases, but may have been in a different format from the commercial title, such as being pressed as a picture disc or on colored vinyl.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, some albums that were commercially available only in stereo were released to radio stations in monaural as promo-only pressings.

promotional copy
A white label promotional copy of an album by Led Zeppelin.

Promotional Copy – A copy of a record that was pressed for distribution to radio stations or other promotional outlets, but were not pressed for retail sale. Most promotional copies of records have some print or indication on the label that they intended for promotional use, such as “Promotion Copy – Not for Sale” or some similar wording.

Promotional Stamp – A rubber stamped or machine stamped indicator on a record label or cover that indicates that the record is intended for promotional use only. Promotional stamps are usually used when record companies wish to use retail copies (“stock copies”) of records for promotional use.

Prototype – A record that was manufactured as an example of a potential release that was ultimately never released in that form. Prototype records are often pressed in very limited quantities and some are literally unique.

Examples of prototype records might be one-of-a-kind colored vinyl or picture disc pressings.

Provenance – The ability of a seller to demonstrate previous ownership or history of a particular record. Usually of interest to people buying unusual, one-of-a-kind items or items that are represented as being autographed by a particular artist.

Psych – Short for “psychedelic rock,” a short-lived style of rock music that was popular from roughly 1966 to 1970 that featured unusual chords, odd instrumentation, and frequently, long instrumental jams.

Psychedelic rock records were largely an underground phenomenon and many titles were privately pressed releases by artists that did not have national recognition. A number of psych records sell for hundreds or even thousands of dollars today.

Examples of psych artists include the 13th Floor Elevators, Mystic Siva, and the C.A. Quintet.

punch hole
An album cover with a punch hole.

Punch Hole – A hole punched by machine through the corner of an album cover. Unlike drill holes, which were rough holes made with an electric drill a punch hole is a clean hole made by a machine. Punch holes are generally larger than drill holes and were most often used by record companies to indicate that the record was intended for promotional use.

Capitol Records frequently used punch holes to designate their promotional copies. Capitol sometimes used single punch holes and sometimes a series of very small holes that spelled out either the word “free” or the word “promo” in the corner of the cover.

Quadraphonic – A short-lived audio format during the early to mid-1970s that presented music in four channel sound, as opposed to the two channels of stereo.

Quadraphonic music was available in 8-track tape, LP, and reel to reel tape formats and required a four-channel amplifier (or two stereo amplifiers), four speakers, and a turntable, reel to reel tape deck or 8-track player capable of playing back quadraphonic records or tapes.

There were at least three different quadraphonic formats for records, and all were incompatible with the others. Format wars and equipment costs prevented the quadraphonic format from becoming popular.

Collectors are interested in quad records and tapes as the mixes are often dramatically different from the stereo versions of the same albums. In the case of a few quadraphonic records, the recordings are completely different from the stereo versions.

R&B – Short for “rhythm and blues” a term used by record companies in the 1950s to describe music that was primarily marketed to African-Americans. In record collecting, R&B can describe anything from Ray Charles to Robert Johnson to Motown.

Radio Show – A program of live concert performances, audio documentaries, or programs of music and interviews with recording artists intended for radio broadcast only. Syndicated shows such as the King Biscuit Flour Hour, Metalshop, Innerview, and Off the Record are examples of syndicated radio shows.

The live shows are often sought out by collectors of a given artist, and those recordings have often been the source material for bootleg records.

rechanneled stereo
A Ray Price album in rechanneled stereo

Rechanneled Stereo – Also known as “fake stereo,” rechanneled stereo was an audio format developed by various record companies in the early 1960s to accommodate buyers who refused to purchase any records that weren’t available in stereo. See also: Duophonic

Rechanneled stereo records often created a stereo effect from monaural recordings by using frequency separation, audio delay, and added reverb to make monaural recordings sound “kind of like” stereo, usually with poor results.

Records released in rechanneled stereo usually indicated it on the cover, saying things like “Electronically reprocessed to simulate stereo.” Rechanneled stereo records nearly always sell for lower prices than their mono counterparts.

You can read more about rechanneled stereo here.

Record Grading – A description of a record in terms of its physical condition in order to accurately describe it to potential buyers.

Most record grading is done using the Goldmine system of Mint, Very Good, Good and Poor, with a + or – used to denote grades in between. Some sellers, particularly those based in the UK, use the Record Collector system which uses Mint, Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair and Poor.

Record grading is highly subjective, due to the many ways a record can be worn or damaged.

Reissue – A later, rather than original, pressing of a record. Record companies used to delete titles that were no longer selling well, but they would occasionally return a title to print if they felt it was warranted by potential sales.

Such a later pressing is known as a “reissue,” and they’re almost always less desirable to collectors than original pressings.

ROIR – A Record Of Indeterminate Origin. Another term for a bootleg recording.

Saw Mark – A cut in an album cover, usually near a corner, literally made through the use of a saw. Used to mark a record as discontinued and to indicate that it may no longer be returned for a refund.

Sealed – A record that is still encased in shrinkwrap or a factory applied bag. Record companies begn sealing records in the early 1960s in order to prevent vandalism in stores and to assure buyers that the record inside was new and pristine.

Sealed copies of out of print titles often command a premium price among collectors.

Seam Split – A tear along an edge of an album cover, usually caused by the record inside or by improperly inserting or removing the record from the cover.

shaped record
A shaped record.

Shaped Record – A record in any shape other than round. Most often found in picture discs. Shaped records start as round records but are cut using a die shortly after being pressed. Shaped records may be triangular, square, rectangular, hexagonal, octagonal or cut to a custom shape.

Single – A record containing one or two songs, usually sold on the basis of one song alone. Most often found in a 7 inch size playing at 45 RPM, singles have also been sold in 10 inch (78 RPM) and 12 inch (33 1/3 or 45 RPM) sizes.

Soundsheet – Also known as a flexi-disc, a flexible record pressed from ultra-thin plastic. Soundsheets have historically been inserted in magazines or newspapers.

Soundtrack – A recording of a score, music, songs, or dialogue from a motion picture.

Spindle Mark – A physical mark or impression on a record label caused by an inaccurate attempt to place the record on a phonograph or turntable. An abundance of spindle marks, even on a record with little apparent wear, may indicate that the record has been played excessively and may exhibit unwanted noise during playback.

splatter vinyl
A record pressed on splatter vinyl

Splatter Vinyl – A record pressed from multicolored vinyl where the vinyl is spread across the record in a scattered, random pattern, rather than swirled, such as with marbled vinyl.

Spoken Word – A recording of someone speaking or reciting printed material, as opposed to singing.

Stamper – The metal plate used to press a record from a “biscuit” of vinyl.

Stamper Number – A number, written or stamped into the dead wax area of some records that indicates which of a sequential series of stampers was used to press that particular record.

Many collectors prefer earlier stamper numbers, either because that record was made closer to the album’s original release date or because records pressed from lower-numbered stampers often sound better than records pressed from higher-numbered stampers.

Not all record companies used user-recognizable systems for denoting stamper numbers, though there are exceptions:

Stamper numbers are easily identified on records by RCA, where the matrix number ends with a dash, a number, and the letter “S.” Example: “-1S”

Other record companies, such as Parlophone in the UK, used a coded system to identify stampers. You can read more about that system here.

Stereo – A recording format where the recorded material is presented in two distinct channels of sound, one on the left and one on the right. The de facto audio standard for records since 1968.

Stock Copy – A copy of a record that was pressed for commercial sale to the public, as opposed to a promotional copy, which was pressed for use by radio stations.

Surf Music – A style of rock music made popular during the early to mid-1960s. Surf music was originally instrumental, and featured distorted guitars with lots of added reverberation. Dick Dale and bands such as the Surfaris and the Chantays specialized in this type of music.

Instrumental surf was later augmented by adding vocals, with the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean being good examples.

Test Pressing – A copy of a record manufactured expressly for evaluation purposes by record company personnel or the artists or producers involved in the recording of that record. Test pressings are often indicated with custom labels that say “test pressing” or blank labels with no information at all.

Test pressings are often identical in sound to later stock copies of that same record, though sometimes test pressing appear on the market that contain earlier versions of songs or songs that were eventually discarded before the album was released.

timing strip
A promotional copy of an album with a timing strip

Timing Strip – A strip of paper, usually 2 to 4 inches in width and about 12 inches wide, that appears on the covers of promotional copies of many albums from the 1960s.

This strip usually listed all of the song titles on the album, publishing information, and the running times of the songs.

Sometimes a timing strip included a checkbox next to each song title that allowed a radio station’s program director or disk jockey to indicate which songs they preferred to use for airplay.

Title Sleeve – A paper sleeve for a 7 inch single that has the name of the artist and the title of the song(s) printed on it, but not a photograph.

Similar to a picture sleeve, but without the photo.

UHQR – Ultra High Quality Record, a proprietary type of record pressed by JVC in Japan in the early 1980s. The UHQR was distinguished by its then-heavy 200 gram weight and its unusual “flat” profile in that the record had uniform thickness across its entire surface, where most records were thicker in the middle than they were at the edges.

Only a handful of UHQR titles were ever pressed, and as far as we know, such titles were only released by Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs, Reference Recordings, and Telarc. All are highly collectible.

Vinyl – Within the record collecting community, “vinyl” has multiple meanings. It can refer to the physical material used to manufacture a record, but it can also refer to the record format generically, as in, “I’m not going to buy Abbey Road on compact disc; I prefer to buy it on vinyl.”

Wax – Slang for vinyl; usually used by older collectors. “Red wax” and “red vinyl”, for example, are synonymous.

White Label Promo – A promotional copy of a record distinguished by having a white label with promotional indications on it (“Promotion Copy – Not for Sale”) that is distinctly different from the stock copies of the same record, which were sold with colored labels.

You can read more about white label promo records here.

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Vintage Vinyl Records – 9 Reasons Why Collectors Like Them

Vintage Vinyl Records

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vintage vinyl recordsAfter a twenty year period of relative scarcity and public indifference, sales of vinyl records are back and have been increasing annually for more than a decade. Nearly all new releases by popular artists are now available in vinyl format, as well as in downloadable form or as compact discs.

While sales of new vinyl records are increasing as more people become familiar with the format, buyers are also turning towards vintage vinyl records as a way of adding to their record collections. In fact, there are currently more than five million records for sale on eBay, and most of those are vintage vinyl records.

The appeal of new records would be immediately obvious – you get a pristine copy of your favorite artist’s newest release. But why would people want to buy vintage vinyl records? What is the appeal of vintage vinyl records to the average buyer or collector?

In this article, we’ll explain why so many buyers are interested in vintage vinyl records and why, for many collectors vintage vinyl records are the only kinds of records that they will buy.

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Different Versions
Availability
Increasing Scarcity
Collectability
Price Advantages
New Discoveries
Vintage Vinyl Records Conclusion

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Sound Quality

There are many reasons why the average record buyer or collector would be interested in vintage vinyl records, and we’ll get to all of them in this article.

Any reason for preferring vintage vinyl records over new ones is valid, of course; buyers are free to buy whatever they personally like. For many buyers, however, the main reason for buying vintage vinyl records rather than new ones is the sound quality.

The source material for nearly all commercially released recordings is magnetic tape. While a lot of recordings made in the past 30 years were made using digital tape, which can be copied repeatedly without degradation, most of the recordings ever made (and many new ones) used analog tape.

simon and garfunkel vintage vinyl recordsAnalog tape does not age well; over time the sound can degrade due to improper storage. Poor storage can cause the coating on the tape that contains the recording to flake off, rendering the tape useless.

Of course, copies of analog tape can be made, just as with digital tape.

Unlike digital tape, however, the sound quality of analog tape gets worse with each subsequent copy. A copy of an original tape will not sound as good as the original. A copy of that copy will sound worse, and so on.

The appeal of vintage vinyl records in this regard is that original pressings of albums were made from tapes that were new at the time the records were pressed. Newly-pressed copies of those same records may be mastered using tapes that are copies of copies of copies.

In the case of some older albums from the 1950s and 1960s, the original master tapes may no longer even exist, and new pressings of these older albums may have been mastered from the best source that’s currently available. While those sources may be quite good, they’re likely not as good as the tapes that were used to press the albums when they were first released 40 or 50 years ago.

While current record manufacturing techniques are quite refined and the quality of the vinyl used in modern pressings is quite good and is capable of producing exceptional sound, the final product is only going to sound good if the record was mastered from a good source.

In the case of some classic albums, the record companies have taken good care of the original master tapes, and current pressings of albums by a lot of artists from the 1950s and 1960s sound just fine. Albums by the Beatles, for example, still sound great, as EMI Records has taken good care of the tapes over the years.

In other cases, the results can vary widely. Columbia Records did not take particularly good care of the master tapes for Simon and Garfunkel, for example, and even though their albums stayed in print for many years after their original release in the 1960s, their albums tended to sound worse and worse over time.

If you’re buying vintage vinyl records and get early pressings of whatever albums you’re seeking, you’ll know that the records were mastered from tapes that were new at the time the records were made and that the tapes used to master the albums were not copies of copies or copies.

In many cases, vintage vinyl records simply sound better than new ones.

Extra Features

vintage vinyl records with poster
A copy of Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon with one of the posters that came with it.

Many classic albums are again available in the vinyl format, making it easy for buyers to grab albums by the Doors, Jimi Hendrix, or the Beatles. With the rise of Internet marketing, you can even have new copies of albums these and other artists delivered to your door.

While those new pressings have their advantages, many of them will not include the extra features that once accompanied albums. It was once fairly common for albums to include such extras as postcards, lyric inserts, custom inner sleeves with liner notes or lyrics, or even postcards.

Here is a partial list of albums that originally included a poster when they were new:

  • Beatles – The Beatles (aka The White Album)
  • David Bowie – Space Oddity
  • Black Sabbath – Master of Reality
  • Jimi Hendrix – Smash Hits
  • Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon
  • George Harrison – All Things Must Pass
  • Cream – Goodbye
  • Grand Funk – Live Album
  • Ricky Nelson – More Songs by Ricky
  • Jimmy Clanton – Jimmy’s Happy/Jimmy’s Blue

Other vintage vinyl records included different sorts of inserts. The 1977 Kiss album Love Gun, for instance, included a special insert that could be assembled to form a cardboard gun. The second album by Country Joe and the Fish included a board game. Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon came with two posters and two stickers.

We’re an American Band by Grand Funk included a set of stickers and the record was pressed on yellow vinyl, as well. Tim Buckley’s Greetings from L.A. had a section of the cover that was removable and could be used as a postcard. This was also true of Duty Now for the Future by Devo.

the who - live at leeds
A copy of Live at Leeds by The Who, with the inserts that were originally included.

Live at Leeds by The Who came with a set of 12 different paper inserts, including a reproduction of their contract to perform at Woodstock.

While vintage vinyl records often included these sorts of interesting extras, most recent reissues do not, usually because of cost concerns. That was also true years ago; many vintage vinyl records that included such things as posters often included them only for a short time after the record was originally released, making them somewhat scarce today.

Even original copies of vintage vinyl records that did include such extras as posters can be hard to find complete today, as many of those posters were removed from the album cover and hung on the buyers’ walls. Eventually, those posters all came down from the walls, but they rarely found their way back into their album covers.

Part of the fun of shopping for vintage vinyl records is to find those albums that came with extras and trying to find a copy that’s complete.

Different and/or Better Artwork

bob dylan = blonde on blondeAlbum art is another reason why a buyer might prefer vintage vinyl records to new ones. Of course, an album, by sheer advantage of larger size, will provide better artwork than a compact disc, and certainly better than a download, which comes with no artwork at all.

But there are advantages of vintage vinyl records over new pressings when it comes to artwork, as well. We’ve previously discussed how master tapes can be lost, forcing record companies to settle for not-as-good reproductions. The same is true of album artwork.

Artwork gets created, and then stored in file cabinets, and sometimes the artwork in those file cabinets gets misplaced, thrown away or accidentally destroyed.

When that happens, new artwork has to be created, usually by using an existing album as source material. This can result in new pressings with album covers that have poor quality artwork. The cover art may be the wrong color, or the images may be blurrier than they were on the original.

A good example of this is Bob Dylan’s 1966 album Blonde on Blonde. At some time in the past, the original artwork for the album was lost, and copies of the album made since the 1970s have a blurry, faded photo of Bob Dylan on the cover. Collectors of vintage vinyl records would likely prefer to find an original pressing that had better artwork. In the case of Blonde on Blonde, original 1966 pressings included a photo of actress Claudia Cardinale on the inside of the cover which was later removed for legal reasons.

Most albums sell best when they’re first released, and as sales tapered, record companies would often change cover art to save money. In some cases, vintage vinyl records were released with gatefold covers that were eliminated in later pressings due to cost concerns.

The album that Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks made before joining Fleetwood Mac, Buckingham/Nicks, is a good example. When first released in 1973, the album had a gatefold cover and then went out of print due to poor sales.

Another example is the 1970 LP Let It Be by the Beatles. That album was originally issued with a gatefold cover, but the album went out of print in the mid-1970s. When it was reissued in the 1980s, the album was released without the gatefold cover. Collectors of vintage vinyl records will likely prefer the original version.

The 1971 LP L.A. Woman by the Doors had a cover with a cellophane “window” on the front with the images of band members on it. The yellow paper inner sleeve gave the clear cellophane a yellow appearance. Newer pressings of this LP simply have the image of the band printed on the front cover against a yellow background.

A few years later, after the duo became famous, the album was reissued, but without the gatefold cover. There are many similar examples, and while some current reissues of such albums do include the original cover art, collectors tend to prefer the gatefold covers that often came with vintage vinyl records.

Different Versions

santana abraxasWhile a surprising number of classic albums are now available again in the LP format, they’re not necessarily available in all of the different versions that may have previously been available. Vintage vinyl records released between 1958 and 1968, for example, were usually released in both mono and stereo. In the early to mid-1970s, many albums were also briefly available as four-channel quadraphonic pressings.

Mono and stereo versions of the same album usually had different mixes, and the two albums often sounded considerably different from one another. Sometimes, the mono version of a particular record might lack backing vocals that could be heard on the stereo version, such as in “Pleasant Valley Sunday” by the Monkees or “Blue Jay Way” by the Beatles.

Sometimes, the mono and stereo versions of the same album might feature different versions of one or more songs. The quadraphonic pressing of Volunteers by the Jefferson Airplane has different versions of several songs from the stereo version. This is also true of The Allman Brothers at Fillmore East, a 1971 live album that has two different versions of songs on the quadraphonic version than those found on the stereo version. One of those songs, “Whipping Post, takes up all of side four!

Record companies discontinued releasing albums in both mono and stereo in 1968. Over the previous three or four years, more people had been purchasing stereo turntables and began to show a preference for stereo records over mono records. When sales of mono LPs reached the point where making them as a separate product from stereo records was no longer economically feasible, record companies discontinued them.

Since the elimination of mono records in 1968, most albums that were originally available in both stereo and mono have only been available in stereo versions. There have been a few mono reissues in recent years of titles by prominent artists, but for the most part, collectors who are interested in having albums by their favorite artists from that era in both mono and stereo are going to have to find the mono version by buying vintage vinyl records.

Some vintage vinyl records were originally available as limited edition colored vinyl pressings or picture discs. While it’s true that some of these records have been reissued this way, most vintage vinyl records that were originally sold that way are not available in those formats as new pressings today.

Availability

the j's with jamie
One of thousands of vintage vinyl records that you cannot purchase new today.

Sometimes, the reason people are looking for vintage vinyl records is a simple one – a matter of availability. While there are lots of albums currently available in the vinyl format as new releases (one large retailer currently lists 19,802 new vinyl titles in stock) that hardly represents the entirety of what collectors or music buyers might be seeking.

When companies choose to reissue older albums, they’re interested in sales. If they aren’t sure that they can sell several thousand copies of a given title, then they’re not going to spend the money to press the records.

That’s fine, if you’re interested in albums by the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, or Rush, or Led Zeppelin. But if you’re interested in any one of a thousand other artists, you may be out of luck and vintage vinyl records will likely present your only opportunity to buy that music in the vinyl format.

Fortunately, not all artists are equally collectible, and finding vintage vinyl records by the majority of artists isn’t that difficult, nor is it that expensive. It would be nice if every album ever released was currently available for purchase as new vinyl, but market economics make that highly unlikely. If you’re a fan of Rosemary Clooney, Martin Denny, or Gary Lewis and the Playboys, you’ll likely have to settle for vintage vinyl records.

Increasing Scarcity

It’s a mistake to assume that if something is readily available, it will always be readily available. That’s certainly the case with vintage vinyl records. There was a time, not all that many years ago, when one could usually find boxes of records at yard sales, flea markets and thrift stores.

la woman doors
A copy of L.A. Woman by the Doors with the original “window” cover

While vintage vinyl records still occasionally show up in such places, they do so far less frequently and in far smaller quantities. It’s been several years since we’ve seen vintage vinyl records for sale at any yard sale. While we do still occasionally see them at thrift stores, we don’t see them as often, and certain genres, such as jazz and rock, rarely turn up there anymore.

There was a time when we used to see albums by Led Zeppelin or the Beatles at thrift stores, for example, but these days, everything seems to be easy listening. Part of the reason is that people who have such records usually don’t want to donate them to charity; they’d rather give them to friends or family members or sell them on eBay.

Buyers are aware of this, and they know that you’ll have better chances of finding the vintage vinyl records that you want if you buy them now, rather than waiting until later. We know many buyers who would rather spend their limited funds on vintage vinyl records than new ones, simply because the older titles they’re looking for may not be available a year or two from now.

Collectability

introducing the beatles
Some vintage vinyl records will always be collectible

As with any other limited commodity, people collect records, just as people collect stamps, coins, or Picasso paintings. While there are certainly new releases that are collectible, particularly as many new releases are limited editions, most record collectors have collections that consist largely of vintage vinyl records.

That’s certainly going to be the case with anyone who collects any major artist – the Beatles, Elvis, Led Zeppelin, or the Rolling Stones, for example. These are artists that are well-established and who released their first records decades ago.

Collectors who are interested in those artists and others of the same era will almost always be interested in obtaining original pressings of at least some of those records. Sure, you can buy the entire Beatles catalog, right now, in the form of new, still sealed records.

But purchasing or owning a copy of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band that was pressed and released in 2018 isn’t the same thing as owning a 1967 original pressing. There’s an indefinable quality to vintage vinyl records that appeals to collectors, and we’ve met many collectors who were interested in owning original copies of rare albums, even if they were in poor condition.

They might have a new copy to play, but the still like having original copies of vintage vinyl records on their shelf and they might very well have a beat up 1967 pressing of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on the shelf, right next to a new one that they bought last year.

Price Advantages

Sometimes, vintage vinyl records can be a bargain

There can certainly be price advantages to buying vintage vinyl records rather than buying new ones. For the most part, second hand records will cost less than new ones. A new copy of just about any album is likely to be priced at $20 or more, where used records can often be purchased, even in stores, for less than $10, and sometimes for $5 or less, depending on title.

Furthermore, it’s still possible to buy vintage vinyl records at thrift stores, flea markets and yard sales, though as we mentioned above, vintage vinyl records are less common in such places than they used to be.

It goes without saying that collectible vintage vinyl records are not going to be less expensive than new ones. A mint original pressing of that Sgt. Pepper LP by the Beatles is certainly going to cost a lot more than a new copy of a current reissue.

That’s true of many collectible albums, but the truth is that most of the records ever made are not particularly collectible, and records that are not particularly collectible usually comprise the bulk of anyone’s record collection.

We personally own about 2000 albums, and while we do own a number of rarities, we also own hundreds of vintage vinyl records that would likely sell for less than $5 in any marketplace. That’s not to say that we don’t like those records, but not all records, not even all good ones, are valuable.

That might be because they’re records that are largely unknown, records by artists who have mostly been forgotten, or albums that sold so well when they were new that no copies of them are particularly valuable today.

If you’re buying collectible records, you’ll pay more for original pressings than you will for new ones. But if you’re just buying music in general, buying vintage vinyl records will likely save you a lot of money over buying new ones, and that’s assuming that new copies of the titles you’re seeking are even available.

New Discoveries

vintage vinyl records moog
You might find new and interesting things.

A final advantage of vintage vinyl records over new ones is the ability to affordably discover new music by artists you might otherwise not have heard.

With the price of new vinyl records averaging about $20 per title, few buyers are likely to grab a title by an unknown artist on a lark, just to see how they sound. Most buyers don’t have enough disposable income to buy records by artists with which they are unfamiliar, so they stick with what they know.

But as we have previously mentioned, most vintage vinyl records are priced affordably, and any well-stocked store that sells second hand records will likely have hundreds or even thousands of affordably priced vintage vinyl records.

The same is true for thrift stores, flea markets, and yard sales. When you find records that are for sale at more affordable prices, you are in a better position to buy something with which you aren’t familiar just to see if you like it.

We’ve purchased countless records over the years that were unknown to us at the time, but had covers that suggested that they might be interesting and prices that were reasonable. Some turned out to be great finds and others not so much. But that’s part of the fun of buying vintage vinyl records – you never know what you’re going to find and sometimes, you end up discovering new artists and genres of music that you might never have bought new.

Vintage Vinyl Records Conclusion

There are reasons for why people buy anything and that applies to cars, houses and vintage vinyl records. While there are lots of good reasons to buy new ones, there are also a lot of compelling reasons to buy vintage vinyl records.

Vintage vinyl records are often more affordable than new ones. There are thousands of titles that aren’t available new anymore and are only available for purchase as vintage vinyl records.

There are many cases where vintage vinyl records offer better sound than newer releases, and that’s particularly true of older recordings where the master tapes may be damaged. Some vintage vinyl records may have originally been sold with posters, booklets or other extra features that newer reissues don’t include.

And finally, vintage vinyl records can offer you the opportunity to find and discover new music and artists that you previously knew little about.

There are times to buy new records, and you’d certainly want to do that if the album in question is a new release. After all, there aren’t going to be any “vintage” versions of an album that came out for the first time last month. But for many buyers, vintage vinyl records offer a lot of advantages over new ones.

While we do have a few new titles in our store, most of the records that we sell are vintage vinyl records.

Click here to view our selection of vintage vinyl records.

Pink Floyd Albums Are Interesting and Often Quite Rare

Pink Floyd Albums

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pink floyd People are often curious to know which records are the most valuable, and which artists are the most collectible. Beatles albums would have to top the list, as the British band is the biggest selling act of all time, but many people might be surprised to see the British band Pink Floyd listed among the most collectible artists of all time.

While several of Pink Floyd’s albums are among the best-selling albums of all time (The Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall among them,) most of the band’s catalog sold relatively modestly when the albums were first released.

Collectors took notice once the band became a best-selling act in the mid-1970s, however, and many Pink Floyd albums now trade hands among collectors at prices ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

As with any band that has sold millions of records, most Pink Floyd albums are not especially collectible or valuable. There are, however, many rare and unusual releases by the band from various countries around the world, and a growing number of collectors of Pink Floyd albums despite the fact that the band has only released three albums of new material in the past thirty five years.

In this article, we will cover some of the more interesting Pink Floyd albums from around the world and show examples of some of the rarer Pink Floyd albums that collectors are trying to find. This article is by no means intended to be comprehensive, but is rather intended to give a general overview of the sorts of Pink Floyd rarities that are lurking out there.

Pink Floyd Albums – Browse by Category

Click any of the links below to jump to each category:

Pink Floyd Albums Discography
American Pink Floyd Albums
British Pink Floyd Albums
Monaural Pink Floyd Albums
Quadraphonic Pink Floyd Albums
Japanese Pink Floyd Albums
Other Foreign Releases of Note
Pink Floyd Colored Vinyl albums
Pink Floyd Picture Discs
Bootleg Pink Floyd Albums
Conclusion

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Pink Floyd Albums Discography

In listing the discography of Pink Floyd albums, we’re restricting the list to those albums that were released in a vinyl format, as record albums are what our site is about.

The Pink Floyd albums discography on vinyl consists of fifteen studio recordings, five compilation albums and two (and a half) live albums:

  • The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967)
  • A Saucerful of Secrets (1968)
  • More (1969)
  • Ummagumma (1969) (one live disc and one studio disc)
  • Atom Heart Mother (1970)
  • Relics (compilation) (1971)
  • Meddle (1971)
  • Obscured by Clouds (1972)
  • The Dark Side of the Moon (1973)
  • A Nice Pair (compilation) (1973)
  • Wish You Were Here (1975)
  • Animals (1977)
  • The Wall (1979)
  • A Collection of Great Dance Songs (compilation) (1981)
  • The Final Cut (1982)
  • Works (compilation) (1983)
  • A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987)
  • Delicate Sound of Thunder (live) (1988)
  • The Division Bell (1994)
  • Pulse (live) (1995)
  • Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd (compilation) (2001)
  • The Endless River (2014)

All of these albums were released in both the U.S. and the UK and in most other major countries when new. All are currently available in at least one format and most are currently available for purchase on vinyl.

That said, original pressings of some of these albums can be quite hard to find, especially those that were released prior to 1973’s The Dark Side of the Moon.

American Pink Floyd Albums

Tower Records

pink floyd albums - more on tower
An original pressing of the 1969 LP More on the Tower Label.

Since the release of their first album in 1967, American Pink Floyd albums have been released on three different labels – Tower, Harvest, and Columbia.

The first three Pink Floyd albums – The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, A Saucerful of Secrets, and More, were released by Tower Records. Tower was a subsidiary of Capitol records that focused on psychedelic and garage bands. Despite the major label distribution, few albums on Tower (by any artist) sold particularly well, and they’re all hard to find today.

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn was released by Tower in both mono and stereo, and the mono version of the album was one of the last titles the label released in mono and is quite hard to find today.

The American version of the album is quite different from the version issued in the UK and in the rest of the world. For starters, the album had a shortened title, simply saying “Pink Floyd” on the front cover (the full title appears on the back cover.) The label simply says “The Pink Floyd.”

The UK version of the album had eleven songs, but the U.S. version has only nine, deleting “Flaming,” “Astronomy Domine,” and “Bike,” but adding the song “See Emily Play,” which had been released earlier as a single.

It’s worth noting that the studio version of “Astronomy Domine” has never been released on any vinyl Pink Floyd albums in the United States.

There were two different Tower labels used for Pink Floyd albums- the first one was a solid reddish-brown color. The second one (from mid-1969 on) had multiple colors and a series of stripes.

Copies of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and A Saucerful of Secrets can be found with either label. More was issued only on the striped label.

Promotional copies of More were issued with custom promotional labels that said “Promotion Copy – Not for Sale.”

Capitol Records shut down their Tower subsidiary sometime in 1970, and all three Pink Floyd albums issued on that label went out of print. More was reissued in 1973 on the Harvest label, but The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and A Saucerful of Secrets have never been reissued in the United States as individual albums.

All Pink Floyd albums on Tower are quite hard to find today, and the mono version of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn is particularly rare.

Harvest Records

Ipink floyd harvest labeln 1970, Pink Floyd moved to Harvest Records in both the United States and the UK. Harvest was a new label, distributed by Capitol in the U.S. and EMI in the UK that specialized in progressive rock.

Pink Floyd albums from Ummagumma through The Dark Side of the Moon appeared on the Harvest label.

The U.S. version of the 1971 compilation album Relics has a cover that is different from the version issued in the UK.

The U.S. version of the 1971 album Meddle has a slightly altered cover photo that obscures the ear that is plainly visible on the UK version.

The U.S. version of the 1973 compilation album A Nice Pair was different from versions released outside the United States. Foreign versions of the two record set contained copies of the band’s first two albums – The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and A Saucerful of Secrets.

The U.S. version of the album replaced the studio version of “Astronomy Domine” with the liver version from Ummagumma.

In 1975, in an effort to sell older Pink Floyd albums after the band had moved to Columbia, Capitol Records released an album titled Pink Floyd Tour ’75. This LP was released only as a promotional item, and came in a plain white cover with the title printed on it using a rubber stamp, to give the impression that the album was a bootleg.

In fact, the album contained all studio recordings, though it is quite hard to find today.

Columbia Records (CBS in the UK)

In 1975, Pink Floyd albums moved to Columbia Records in the United States and CBS Records in the UK. The band has remained with this label ever since, and all albums from Wish You Were Here on were issued on this label.

Wish You Were Here was originally released with the cover sealed in dark blue shrink wrap. Sealed copies with the blue shrink wrap are quite collectible today.

Special editions of Wish You Were Here and Animals were issued for promotional use with the tracks banded for airplay. The promotional version of Animals came in a plain white cover and contained a version of “Pigs: Three Different Ones” that had an obscenity edited out.

British Pink Floyd Albums

British Pink Floyd albums have appeared on the Columbia, Harvest, and CBS record labels. It should be noted that in Britain, the Columbia label was distributed by EMI, where in the United States, Columbia was owned by CBS.

Columbia Records

dark side of the moon
The Dark Side of the Moon (1973)

The first three Pink Floyd albums appeared on Columbia in the UK.

British record buyers were slower to buy stereo equipment than buyers in America, so the first two Pink Floyd albums were released in both stereo and mono in Britain, while More was issued in stereo only.

The Columbia label used in Britain from 1967-1969 was a black label with a blue Columbia logo. In 1969, the label changed to a black label with a silver logo and that label remained in use for many years.

Collectors of British Pink Floyd albums are often interested in obtaining the earliest possible pressing. Given that these Pink Floyd albums remained in print for years without obvious changes to the cover or label, how can one know if they’re looking at an early pressing or a later one?

It’s possible to determine whether a particular copy of Pink Floyd albums on Columbia are early pressings or a later pressing by examining the numbers that are stamped in the area around the record’s label known as the “dead wax” area. These numbers usually indicate the catalog number of the album itself, so that record company employees would know which stampers to use to press a particular record when grabbing them from storage.

Those dead wax numbers also indicate, however, roughly how many records of that title had been pressed before it.

Stampers on the Columbia (and Harvest) LPs are marked using a stamped letter or series of letters that is generally visible at the 3 o’clock position in the dead wax. A stamper code usually consisted of one, two or three letters, using the table below:

G=1
R=2
A=3
M=4
O=5
P=6
H=7
L=8
T=9
D=0

pink floyd piper mono
An original UK mono pressing on the Columbia label

These letters are derived from the phrase “Gramophone Ltd.” and the letters may appear individually or in combination with others. Each stamper was usually used to press some 300-500 discs, at which time it was discarded and replaced with a new one. The first 300-500 copies of a given title, for instance, would have the letter “G” stamped in the vinyl at the 3 o’clock position. The next 300-500 copies would use a stamper with the letter “R.” Later pressings might have multiple letters, such as RM, or GRO, which would represent the 24th and 125th stampers, respectively.

As a general rule, Pink Floyd albums with earlier stamper numbers tend to sell for more money among collectors than those with higher stamper numbers, with the emphasis on owning a copy of the album that was pressed as close to the original date of release as possible.

Harvest Records

As in the United States, Pink Floyd albums in Britain from Ummagumma through The Dark Side of the Moon were issued on the progressive Harvest Records label. The earliest pressings of Ummagumma and Atom Heart Mother can be identified by their lack of an “EMI” logo on the label, which was added to later pressings.

The first pressings of The Dark Side of the Moon from Britain are noteworthy, as they have a distinctly different label from that used on later pressings. The prism on the label was originally a light blue color, but that made it quite difficult to read the song titles, as the silver print on the blue prism offered little in the way of visual contrast.

After a few hundred thousand copies were pressed, the prism logo was changed to a simple outline, making it easier to read the song titles. While copies with the light blue triangle are relatively rare compared to later issues, they were pressed in large quantities when new. Collectors will often pay a significant premium to find a copy of The Dark Side of the Moon that has both a light blue triangle and a low stamper designation.

CBS Records

In 1975, Pink Floyd albums in Britain moved to the CBS Records label, and the band has remained with that label to the present day.

Monaural Pink Floyd Albums

pink floyd tower mono
A rare American mono pressing of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn

The first two Pink Floyd albums were released at a time when record companies were still releasing records in both stereo and mono, the latter for people who owned older record players.

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn was released in both stereo and mono in the U.S. and the UK, and the band’s second album, A Saucerful of Secrets, was released in both mono and stereo in the UK, but only in stereo in the United States.

Mono pressings are quite rare when compared with their stereo counterparts, as most people preferred to buy Pink Floyd albums in stereo by the time these two albums were released. It’s likely that stereo copies of these two albums outsold the mono copies by a ratio of roughly 50:1, making the mono versions of these to albums quite rare compared to the stereo issue.

American record companies phased out mono pressings earlier than those in the UK, making American copies of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn considerably harder to find in mono than the UK version.

Why are collectors interested in mono Pink Floyd albums? One of the reasons, besides relative rarity, is that the stereo and mono versions of the albums have distinctly different mixes. As the mono versions of songs were the ones most likely to be played on the radio, the artists and record companies usually spent more time on the mono mixes than on the stereo versions.

The mono mix of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn is quite different from the stereo version, and many collectors prefer that version.

For whatever reason, the 1970 LP Atom Heart Mother was released in mono in Brazil, making that album one of the few titles by any artist that was pressed in mono, stereo and quadraphonic.

Quadraphonic Pink Floyd Albums

wish you were here quad
A rare quadraphonic copy of Wish You Were Here

During the mid-1970s, record companies introduced quadraphonic sound, which required the use of four speakers to produce a surround sound effect. Four channel releases were issued in reel to reel, 8 track tape, and LP formats, though releases and formats varied from country to country.

Three different Pink Floyd albums were released in quadraphonic on vinyl.

In the UK, copies of Atom Heart Mother, The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here were released in the UK in both stereo and quadraphonic. Quad copies of all three are quite scarce.

In the United States, the only Pink Floyd album to be released on vinyl in the quadraphonic format was Wish You Were Here, though The Dark Side of the Moon was released in quadraphonic on 8 track tape.

These titles are all quite collectible, as they have distinctly different mixes from the stereo versions. To get the full effect, you’ll need four speakers, four channels of amplification, and a four channel decoder. If you don’t have that equipment, and few people do, you’ll still hear noticeable differences from the stereo versions when playing them on stereo equipment.

Japanese Pink Floyd Albums

While Pink Floyd albums were issued worldwide, the releases in most countries did little to distinguish themselves from Pink Floyd albums released elsewhere.

That’s not the case in Japan, where there were a number of interesting Pink Floyd albums released that differed in various ways from their British or American counterparts. While all Pink Floyd albums released in Japan were issued in stereo only, there are still many reasons for why albums from Japan appeal to Pink Floyd collectors.

pink floyd relics japan
An original Japanese pressing of Relics, pressed on red vinyl and including the obi

The first distinguishing feature of Japanese Pink Floyd albums is the presence of the “obi,” a paper strip that wraps around the cover. The obi was intended to give record buyers information about the album (printed in Japanese), such as the title and the price. These paper strips were often discarded after purchase by buyers and over time, it has become quite difficult to find older Pink Floyd albums from Japan that still have the obi intact.

In some cases, such as with the first pressings of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, the value of the obi alone can exceed the value of the album itself!

Japanese promo only pink floyd sampler
The rare 1970 Japanese promo-only Pink Floyd sampler LP

All Pink Floyd albums issued in Japan from The Piper at the Gates of Dawn through Meddle were issued on both standard black vinyl as well as on “Everclean” red vinyl, which was specially formulated to be resistant to attracting dust. The first three albums, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, A Saucerful of Secrets, and More, were released two different times on red vinyl with different catalog numbers and different obis.

While the red vinyl pressings were not intended to be limited edition collector’s items, the red vinyl was usually limited to first pressings only, and collectors are far more interested in the red vinyl copies than they are in the black vinyl versions.

Red vinyl pressings of Ummagumma are particularly rare, as only white label promotional copies of the album were released that way. All stock copies of the album were pressed on black vinyl.

The Pink Floyd albums More and Relics were issued in Japan with gatefold covers, unlike the U.S. and UK issues of those albums.

Dark Side of the Moon Japan
The Japanese record club issue of Dark Side of the Moon

The Japanese pressing of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn is noteworthy for having 12 tracks – the 11 tracks included on the original UK pressing of the album and the additional track, “See Emily Play” that was included on the U.S. version of the album.

Finally, there were two different Pink Floyd albums released in Japan which were issued only as promotional items. The first, simply titled Pink Floyd, was issued in about 1970 and featured the head of a cow on the cover. This LP was reportedly pressed in quantities of less than 100 copies and contains a variety of tracks from the band’s early years.

The second of the promo-only Pink Floyd albums from Japan was a single disc version of The Wall called The Wall In Store. This album was intended for use in record stores.

Perhaps the rarest of all Japanese Pink Floyd albums is the version of The Dark Side of the Moon that was issued only through a Japanese record club. This version of the album features a live photo of the band performing on stage on the front cover, rather than the common “prism” artwork found on pressings from every other country.

Aside from all of the interesting things listed above about Japanese Pink Floyd albums, collectors also value them because of their high sound quality. Japanese LPs are usually pressed using high quality vinyl and the packaging and print quality of the covers and inserts are usually better than those found on releases from other countries.

Other Foreign Releases of Note

While Pink Floyd albums from most countries are nearly identical to those issued in the U.S. or UK, there are a few noteworthy pressings from around the world that were different in some way.

Obscured by Clouds from Turkey, with Queen on the cover!

The Australian and New Zealand pressings of Relics have a cover that was different from either the U.S. or UK pressing. The UK pressing had a cover featuring a drawing by Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason. The U.S. cover depicted an odd photo of an antique bottle opener.

The Australian edition had a photo of some coins on top of a map.

The original Italian pressings of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn were not released until 1971, by which time founding member Syd Barrett had been replaced in the band by David Gilmour. The Italian cover of this release has a photo of the band with Gilmour (and without Barrett.)

This particular album is quite scarce, and is one of the few Pink Floyd albums to have been counterfeited.

Several different Pink Floyd albums have been released in Turkey with covers that are significantly different from the covers used elsewhere. The 1978 reissue of A Saucerful of Secrets uses a cover photo taken from the A Nice Pair compilation album.

Italian Piper at the Gates of Dawn
The Italian Piper at the Gates of Dawn

The Turkish Obscured by Clouds cover features a live concert photo on the cover, but close inspection of the photo makes it clear that the band on the cover is not Pink Floyd, but Queen!

A South Korean-only Best of Pink Floyd LP features a live shot of the band on the cover, and this time, the band really is Pink Floyd.

There are hundreds of variations on covers of Pink Floyd albums from around the world, but the ones above are among the more significant ones. Small countries, particularly those in Asia and Africa, often issued unlicensed albums using whatever they could find for album cover art.

Pink Floyd Colored Vinyl albums

If you like collecting colored vinyl records, you’ll definitely like collecting Pink Floyd albums. Many Pink Floyd albums have been released as limited edition colored vinyl pressings over the years.

The listing of colored vinyl Pink Floyd albums below is not definitive, but you will notice that there are far more titles for this band than for most other artists, including the Beatles.

Blue vinyl Atom Heart Mother from France
Blue vinyl Atom Heart Mother from France

Blue Vinyl Pink Floyd Albums

  • Atom Heart Mother (France; 1978)
  • The Dark Side of the Moon (France; 1978)
  • Wish You Were Here (Netherlands and Germany; late 1970s.)
  • The Division Bell (U.S.; 1994)

Clear Vinyl Pink Floyd Albums

  • The Dark Side of the Moon (France; 1978)

Orange Vinyl Pink Floyd Albums

  • The Wall (Italy; 1979 – promotional issue only; limited to approximately 600 numbered copies)

Pink Vinyl Pink Floyd Albums

  • Animals (France; 1978) Issued with an all-pink cover as well as the standard one
  • The Dark Side of the Moon (Australia; 1988 – these copies are all quadraphonic)
  • Money (U.S.; 1982 – promo-only 12″ single containing a remix of “Money.”)
Orange vinyl The Wall from Italy
Orange vinyl The Wall from Italy

Red Vinyl Pink Floyd Albums

Seven different Pink Floyd albums were released on red vinyl in Japan:

  • The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (two issues – 1967 and a 1971 reissue)
  • A Saucerful of Secrets (two issues – 1968 and a 1971 reissue)
  • More (two issues – 1969 and a 1971 reissue
  • Ummagumma (promo copies only; all stock copies were black vinyl)
  • Atom Heart Mother
  • Relics
  • Meddle

White Vinyl Pink Floyd Albums

  • The Dark Side of the Moon (Netherlands and Germany; late 1970s.)
  • A Momentary Lapse of Reason (France; 1988)

Other Pink Floyd albums exist on colored vinyl, but most of these are unauthorized, counterfeit pressings, manufactured by individuals trying to make quick cash from unsuspecting collectors.

Many of these colored vinyl Pink Floyd albums have labels indicating that they are promotional copies, but they’re not legitimate promotional items. The most common of these is The Dark Side of the Moon pressed on various colors, but we’ve also seen colored vinyl copies of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and A Saucerful of Secrets that are counterfeits of original UK pressings of the LP.

We have also seen copies of Wish You Were Here pressed on red, green, and blue vinyl. Again, these are all unauthorized pressings that have little value.

Pink Floyd Picture Discs

Dark Side of the Moon picture disc
Dark Side of the Moon picture disc

Despite the large number of colored vinyl Pink Floyd albums on the market, there are relatively few picture discs by the band.

The most common by far is the 1978 pressing of The Dark Side of the Moon, released in the United States by Capitol. This album sold quite well for a picture disc, despite a retail price that was nearly twice that of the regular black vinyl pressing. The picture disc had a photo of the prism from the front cover on one side and the “pulse” image from inside the original cover on the back side. The album was released in a multi-colored non-gatefold cover and without the postcards or posters that came with the regular copies of the album.

A limited edition box set released in France in the late 1970s titled The First XI contained all of the band’s albums from The Piper at the Gates of Dawn through Animals. The versions of The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here included in this rare box set were picture discs, and these discs were not made available except as part of the set. The picture disc for The Dark Side of the Moon had a different photo from the U.S. picture disc of the album.

The only other authorized Pink Floyd picture disc of which we are aware is a single-disc edition of The Delicate Sound of Thunder that was released in Brazil as a promotional item only. Plans to release the album commercially in Brazil as a two-disc picture disc set were scrapped at the last minute, and a couple of copies of the two disc set are known to exist.

There are many other Pink Floyd albums in picture disc format, and these can be frequently seen for sale on Ebay. All of these are unauthorized counterfeit pressings and are not official releases.

Bootleg Pink Floyd Albums

A Pink Floyd bootleg album
A Pink Floyd bootleg album

Pink Floyd albums have been popular with collectors since the early 1970s and when any band becomes popular, bootleg albums will inevitably follow. These are unauthorized albums containing previously unreleased studio material or recordings of live performances that are sold without the permission of either the band or the band’s record company.

Bootleg Pink Floyd albums have long been popular among collectors who already own all of the band’s official releases, and over the decades, hundreds of Pink Floyd bootlegs have appeared on the market.

While a few of them, such as Omayyad, released in the early 1970s by the Trademark of Quality label, feature studio recordings, the vast majority of Pink Floyd bootleg albums feature recordings of the band in concert.

The band performed several times on the air for the BBC in the early 1970s and these recordings offer good, and sometimes exceptional, sound quality. Other recordings from the 1970s, such as Raving and Drooling, offer poor quality recordings made by someone in the audience with a portable tape recorder.

In the late 1970s, someone recorded a live concert of the band performing The Wall that became a huge seller and which likely sold tens of thousands of copies. When the band reunited in 1987 to tour for their Momentary Lapse of Reason album, bootleggers had an album on store shelves within a week of the first concert of the tour.

Many bootleg Pink Floyd albums have been reissued multiple times, and releases as either picture discs or colored vinyl are quite common. Some of these titles have become quite collectible themselves, particularly the titles on the Trademark of Quality label. Others command little value, either because the sound quality on the records is poor or because the material on them has since been officially.

Pink Floyd Albums Conclusion

As one of the world’s best-selling artists, Pink Floyd commands a lot of attention from collectors, and some Pink Floyd albums rank among the world’s top collectibles, with some records selling for thousands of dollars.

Some Pink Floyd albums that you would think would be rather common sell for surprising amounts of money. While The Dark Side of the Moon sold well from the day of release, finding a mint condition first pressing UK edition of the album that is complete is quite difficult to do some 40+ years later, and such an album can sell for more than $1000 at auction.

Click here to see our Pink Floyd albums for sale

Most Valuable Vinyl Records – The Top 10 Rarest Albums

Most Valuable Vinyl Records

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most valuable vinyl records Vinyl records have made a comeback in recent years, and as a result, people are often searching for information about them online. One of the most popular searches, oddly enough, is for the phrase most valuable vinyl records.

People know that some records are more valuable than others, and that many records are quite expensive. As a lot of people are now giving thought to the boxes of records in their attic or basement that they haven’t touched in decades, it makes sense that they might have a curiosity as to whether they personally own any of the most valuable vinyl records.

The short answer is – they don’t, and neither do you. That’s not because you don’t have good taste in records or that you simply bought the wrong ones in the store all those years ago.

The real reason that you, or any randomly selected individual, don’t own any of the most valuable vinyl records is because, with few exceptions, nearly all of the most valuable vinyl records are highly unusual, one-of-a-kind items.

We’re talking about things like Elvis Presley’s cut-with-a-lathe acetate of “My Happiness”, or the one acetate of “That’ll Be the Day” by the pre-Beatles Quarrymen, or the intentionally pressed-in-a-quantity-of-one albums by the Wu Tang Clan (Once Upon a Time in Shaolin) or Jean-Michele Jarre (Music for Supermarkets).

Those records are indeed the most valuable vinyl records, but they’re all unique, aren’t likely to change hands anytime soon, won’t be affordable if they do, and aren’t records that anyone reading this article actually own.

We suspect that when people do a search for “most valuable vinyl records”, what they really want to know is “Do I personally own any of the world’s most valuable vinyl records?” We know that when we bought our first record price guides back in the late 1970s, the first thing we did was look up records we owned to see if we had anything that was worth a lot of money.

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Click here to browse some of the rarest records we have in our store.

We didn’t, of course, and that’s because nearly all of the top 100 of the world’s most valuable vinyl records are individually cut acetates, test pressings, pre-production (not commercially released) items that were never formally released, or other items that likely would only have been available to record company employees or in some cases, only to the artists themselves. A few other items on the list are ultra-rare pre-World War II blues 78s and ultra-rare 45 RPM singles that were released on tiny regional record labels and were quickly forgotten.

That being the case, we put this article together to list some of the world’s most valuable vinyl records, but with a bit of a twist. This article will cover the rare and the valuable, but only record albums, and only albums that were actually commercially available. We’re leaving out the 45 and 78 RPM singles because on this site, we focus on albums, so we’ll restrict the list to that format only.

That is, these are albums that were, at least in theory, sold in stores and records to which the general public might have been able to purchase at one time or another.

We’ll list 10 of the world’s most valuable vinyl records, more or less in order of value. Keep in mind that these are prices for items that have been sold publicly. Obviously, private sales are just that, and we have no idea as to the sorts of deals that may have gone on between private collectors.

World’s Most Valuable Records – The Top 10

It likely won’t surprise most readers to see that a majority of the most valuable vinyl records are by the Beatles. They are perhaps the most heavily collected artist, and the single biggest-selling band of all time. With that kind of interest, it only stands to reason that a number of albums by the Beatles would appear on a list such as this one.

The original withdrawn “Butcher cover” version of Yesterday and Today.

Beatles – Yesterday and Today sealed stereo “first state” Butcher cover (1966) – $125,000 – The infamous withdrawn pressings of the Beatles 1966 American LP Yesterday and Today are perhaps the most sought out album in history. The album was intended to be released with a photo that depicted the Beatles dressed in butcher smocks, posing with chunks of raw meat and parts of disassembled toy dolls. This cover became known as the “Butcher Cover.”

The response to review copies of the album was hostile, and stores were threatening not to stock the album when it was formally released to the public. Capitol Records changed their mind about the cover and printed new ones…which they then pasted over the photo with the dolls.

While the covers with the second cover pasted over the first one, known as “second state” Butcher covers, are collectible, the “first state” covers that never had the second cover pasted over it are among the rarest and most valuable of all records. Most of the review copies were sent back to the record company at their request, though it appears that a handful of copies were sold at retail in Southern California. Mono copies are considerably rarer than their stereo counterparts, and only a handful of copies survive today in pristine, still-sealed (unopened) condition.

There may be a few dozen sealed mono copies in existence, but there are likely fewer than 10 known sealed stereo copies, and one of them sold for $125,000 in 2016.

While a sealed stereo “first state” Butcher cover can sell for six figures, even a mint one can sell for considerable amounts of money, and copies have sold for more than $15,000

Mono sealed copies, mono or stereo opened copies, intact second state copies and peeled “third state” copies of this album sell for considerably less, sometimes for as little as $100, depending on condition.

Click here to read a more comprehensive article about the Beatles Butcher cover.

freewheelin bob dylanBob Dylan – The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan with withdrawn tracks (1963) $35,000 – Bob Dylan’s first album, released in 1962, drew some critical notice but didn’t sell well enough to make the Billboard charts. His second album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, on the other hand, drew attention and sold well enough to reach #22 on the American Billboard album chart.

The album consisted mostly of self-written material, including the now-classics “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.”

The album was issued in both mono and stereo, but at Dylan’s request, four songs were withdrawn from the album shortly before release and replaced with new ones.

The intended original album contained the songs:

  • “Rocks and Gravel”
  • “Let Me Die in My Footsteps”
  • “Gamblin’ Willie’s Dead Man’s Hand”
  • “Talkin’ John Birch Blues”

These songs were replaced with:

  • “Girl From the North Country”
  • “Masters of War”
  • “Bob Dylan’s Dream”
  • “Talkin’ World War III Blues”

Even though the original version of the album was ready for release, new stampers were manufactured with the new songs, and the album shipped to stores on the scheduled day of release with the second set of songs.

It appears, however, that at some point during the early days of manufacturing the album, a few copies were accidentally pressed using the stampers for the original intended version of the album. On the mono copies, the labels listed the second set of songs, but actually played the withdrawn tracks. These can be identified by either playing the record or by examining the stamped numbers in the “dead wax” area near the label. The numbers on the rare version of the album end in -1, followed by a letter. Later pressings have “2” (or higher) as the final digit.

Only a dozen or so mono copies have been found so far, and only two copies have been found in stereo. The stereo pressings are easier to identify, as not only do the records play the original songs, but the labels also list the original songs.

Mono copies have sold for as much as $12,000, but one of the two known stereo copies sold a few years ago for $35,000. As these were pressed by mistake, these copies may very well have found their way into record stores back in 1963, and it’s possible that more copies are still out there.

beatles frank ifieldThe Beatles and Frank Ifield On Stage (1964) $30,000 – When the Beatles first started releasing records in Britain, their UK label, Parlophone, offered their contract to the label’s American counterpart, Capitol. Capitol declined the offer, as English acts hadn’t sold particularly well in the U.S. up to that point.

Tiny Vee Jay Records ended up with the contract. They released a few singles that went nowhere, and gave up. When Capitol announced their intentions to release the Meet the Beatles album in early 1964, Vee Jay realized that they had a bunch of Beatles material sitting in their vaults.

A lawsuit from Capitol prohibited Vee Jay from releasing any Beatles product after October, 1964, but between January and October of that year, they released Introducing the Beatles, Songs, Pictures and Stories of the Beatles (a reissue of that album with a different title), The Beatles vs. The Four Seasons (that album again, along with a Four Seasons LP) and Jolly What! The Beatles and Frank Ifield.

Frank Ifield was an English singer whose biggest hit was “I Remember You,” which reached #5 on the U.S. charts in 1962. The Jolly What! The Beatles and Frank Ifield LP was a collection of eight songs by Ifield, along with four tracks by the Beatles: “Please Please Me”, “From Me to You”, “Ask Me Why”, and “Thank You Girl”.

That album was released in February, 1964 with a cover depicting a drawing of an old man with a mustache wearing a Beatle wig. The album sold poorly, and in October of that year, looking for a last-minute boost in sales before their rights to sell Beatles records went away, Vee Jay made some changes to the album:

  • The title was changed, dropping the “Jolly What!”, but retaining the “On Stage,” suggesting that the album was a live recording, which it was not.
  • All four Beatles song titles (but none by Ifield) were listed on the cover
  • The cover was changed to one with a drawing of the four members of the Beatles
  • “The Beatles” was printed in a lighter, easier-to-read font than was “Frank Ifield”

The new cover was only available for a few weeks and while exact pressing figures are unknown, it’s likely, based on sales over the years, that only a few hundred mono copies were pressed, and likely fewer than 100 stereo copies were pressed.

The version of the album with the old man on the cover is rare, and copies sell in the $100-$400 range, depending on condition and whether they are mono or stereo.

Mono copies of the second cover are rare and sell in the $5000-$10,000 range. The stereo pressing is one of the most valuable vinyl records sold in the U.S. by the Beatles and a sealed copy was offered for sale a few years ago by a prominent Los Angeles record store for $30,000.

Those looking to cash in should be aware that both the mono and stereo copies of this album have been counterfeited, with most counterfeit copies lacking the printing of the album’s title on the spine of the cover.

white album low numberThe Beatles – The Beatles (aka “The White Album”) low-numbered copies (1968) $10,000+ – After the 1967 LP Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, an album that had an unusually elaborate cover, the Beatles went minimalist on their 1968 follow-up. Titled simply The Beatles, the album had a cover that was all white, though the name of the band was embossed on the cover.

In addition, every copy of the album sold during its initial release was individually numbered. Multiple copies were made in both the U.S. (in stereo only) and in the UK (in mono and in stereo) bearing #1. These were given to members of the group and to high-ranking record company employees.

A few years ago, Ringo Starr sold his personal mono copy with #1 on it in an auction and it sold for $750,000!

All other copies were consecutively numbered (though various numbering systems were used) on both U.S. and UK pressings and copies numbered into the millions. One would think that since every copy bears a unique number that all copies should share equal value, but collectors are particularly interested in finding copies that have low numbers.

Pricing can vary dramatically for numbered copies of The Beatles depending on the number. A mint copy with a six or seven digit number might sell for $100 or so, but copies numbered under 100,000 draw higher prices, and the prices increase substantially for copies lower than 10,000, 1000, or 100. In 2008, a UK copy with #5 sold for £19,201 (about $27,000 U.S.) and we recently saw a U.S. copy with number 32 offered for sale for $10,000.

While copies numbered under 100 were likely all issued to record company employees, it’s possible that numbers above that were sold to the public and these could sell for anywhere from $1000-$10,000, depending on the number.

The Beatles was sold with numbered copies in a number of different countries besides the U.S. and the UK, and prices will vary widely depending on the country and the number. Still, there are a lot of low-numbered copies out there, and The Beatles is one of those rare cases where you might just have one of the world’s most valuable vinyl records sitting in your closet.

velvet underground and nicoThe Velvet Underground & Nico – The Velvet Underground & Nico (1966) stereo pressing without the song “Sunday Morning” $22,000 – The 1966 debut by the Velvet Underground, the self-titled The Velvet Underground & Nico, sold poorly but remains one of the most influential albums of all time.

The album featured a banana on the cover in the form of a sticker and printed above it were the words “Peel slowly and see.” Many people did just that, and it’s hard to find an original copy of that album in either mono or stereo that still has a fully intact banana.

Copies of The Velvet Underground & Nico in mint condition with a complete banana have sold for upwards of $1000, but in 2017, a previously-unknown variation of the LP came up for sale. This version was missing the song “Sunday Morning,” which would ordinarily have been the first song on side one of the album.

The cover and label of this particular U.S. pressing did list that song title, but the record did not include the song on it. Apparently, the album was originally intended to be released without the song, but it was added at the last minute and new stampers were made. As with The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, a few copies appear to have been pressed with the earlier stampers by mistake, creating an ultra-rarity.

The only copy known to date sold for $22,000 in 2017, which would certainly qualify it as one of the most valuable vinyl records and was a stereo copy. Most stereo copies of the album have the letters “REV” (for revision) etched in the dead wax area near the label on side one. Copies of this ultra-rare version can be identified by either playing the record, where “I’m Waiting for the Man” would be the first song, rather than “Sunday Morning.” Alternatively, the record can be identified by the lack of “REV” in the dead wax on side one.

Introducing the Beatles stereo with "ad back" coverThe Beatles – Introducing the Beatles stereo with “ad back” cover (1964) $15,000 – Yes, another Beatles album, and another album from the misfit label Vee Jay. Vee Jay had acquired the rights to an album’s worth of Beatles songs (released as Please Please Me in the UK) in 1963, but due to the poor sales of several singles, the label, which was strapped for cash, decided not to release the album.

When Capitol released “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and announced the release of Meet the Beatles in January, 1964, Vee Jay remembered that they had the unreleased album in their vaults and quickly rushed to release it to the public.

The label titled the album Introducing the Beatles and quickly put together a front cover with a photo of the band, but they were in such a rush to get the album to stores that they didn’t bother to create a back cover for the album. First pressings of the album, issued in both mono and stereo, list no song titles anywhere on the cover. The back cover of the album shows pictures of 25 other Vee Jay albums, but has no information about either the group or the contents of the record.

About the same time, Vee Jay also released a few copies of the album that had blank white back covers. This may have been a production error. Within a couple of weeks, a “proper” album cover listing song titles was added to the album, and a couple of weeks later, that back cover was changed as two songs (“Love Me Do” and “P.S. I Love You”) were dropped from the album and replaced with two others (“Please Please Me” and “Ask Me Why.”

The first version of Introducing the Beatles with the 25 cover photos on the back cover is known as the “ad back” cover and the version with no printing at all is known as the “blank back” cover.

The “ad back” version is the more valuable, as it’s both harder to find and is considered to be the original pressing of the album. Stereo copies have sold for as much as $15,000, putting them among the most valuable vinyl records, and mono copies have sold for about half that price. As Vee Jay pressed about 50 mono records for every one in stereo, the stereo version is a relative bargain.

“Blank back” copies sell for $3000-$5000, depending on whether they are mono or stereo, but finding a blank back copy without a lot of cover wear is quite difficult.

While Introducing the Beatles is the most heavily counterfeited album of all time, most of the counterfeit copies of this album are of later pressings. We are not aware of counterfeit copies of either the ad back or blank back versions of this album.

Be aware that due to the large number of counterfeits of this album, most people believe that Introducing the Beatles is actually a fairly common album. That’s not the case; it’s rather rare and exceptionally so in stereo.

beatles albums parlophoneThe Beatles – Please Please Me UK stereo with black and gold label (1963) $21,000 – The Beatles first album, Please Please Me, was released in Britain nearly a year before its U.S. release as Introducing the Beatles. The album was initially released in March, 1963 in the UK on the Parlophone label, and first pressings were available only in mono.

A month later, stereo copies were released, and like the mono, the label used on the record was the then-current black Parlophone label with gold print. Shortly after the stereo release, Parolophone changed their label artwork to a black label with yellow and white print, and that label was used for all subsequent pressings of the album through 1969.

At the time, mono records typically outsold stereo pressings by a ratio of nearly 100:1, as most buyers did not own stereo phonographs. While mono pressings sold fairly well when the album was first released, stereo copies did not, and it is estimated that fewer than 1000 stereo copies were sold with the black and gold label before Parlophone changed label designs, making the first-issue stereo pressings quite rare, given that the album eventually sold millions of copies.

While original mono copies are rare, it’s the stereo pressings that qualify as being among the world’s most valuable vinyl records.

Finding an original stereo UK pressing of Please Please Me is quite difficult, but it’s even harder to find a copy in collectible condition, as most people who bought the album played it until it was worn out. Mono copies turn up for sale fairly frequently, but stereo copies are much harder to find and much more expensive.

In 2014, a stereo copy in exceptional condition sold on eBay for £14,994, or about $21,000 in 2018 dollars.

stonewall tiger lilyStonewall – Stonewall (1976) $14,000 – You may not have ever heard of a band called Stonewall, and that’s not surprising. They released only one album, the self-titled Stonewall in 1976, and it’s not even fair to suggest that that album was even properly released.

Stonewall was issued by the small Tiger Lily record label, and Tiger Lily is known among record collectors as a “tax scam” label. Tiger Lily was apparently run by Morris Levy, who was also the president of Roulette Records. Under tax laws in effect in the 1970s, record labels could charge recording, pressing and distribution costs against profits.

Tiger Lily was apparently set up for the express purpose of not making money. The label solicited tapes from a variety of artists who thought they might get a record deal. Ordinarily, when record companies solicit tapes, they listen to them, find artists the like, sign them to a contract, and put them into a studio to record an album.

Tiger Lily Records apparently took a different approach. They asked for tapes, cut records from them and released the albums without any effort to promote them and often without even informing the artists and certainly without paying them their due royalties. Most of the titles were pressed in small runs of a few hundred copies, and then then were deleted from the catalog.

Most Tiger Lily albums purchased by the public were likely found in the discount bins.

In the meantime, Tiger Lily fabricated recording and distribution “costs” which they used to offset profits at the main label, Roulette.

The 60+ known albums released by Tiger Lily covered the full spectrum of music, from pop to country to hard rock. Everything released by the label is collectible to some degree, but some records are harder to find (and contain better music) than others.

Stonewall was an album by a hard rock group if the same name, and the album compares favorably to a number of better-known hard rock acts of the era, such as Grand Funk Railroad or Cream. Their lone album is also one of the hardest titles to find on the Tiger Lily label, and in 2014, a copy of the album was sold on eBay for $14,100.

We’ve never seen a copy and we don’t know anyone who has, but there have to be more copies out there than the handful that have turned up to date. While it’s likely that future copies that turn up will sell for less money than $14,000, the album still qualifies as one of the most valuable vinyl records sold to date.

It’s also a pretty good album, and it has since been legitimately reissued.

beatlrs white album exportThe Beatles – The Beatles (aka “The White Album”) UK export copies (1968) $10,000+ – Yes, the White Album appears on this list again. This time, it’s not the number on the cover that matters (though it might affect the price.) This particular version of the White Album is the version that Parlophone Records in Britain made especially for export.

In 1968, the Beatles created their own record label, Apple Records. All of their records from that point on, in both the UK and the rest of the world, were intended to be issued on that label and in most countries, the White Album appeared with green Apple labels. Due to some legal issues, the Apple trademark hadn’t yet been secured in a few countries when the White Album was released.

For service to those countries (in parts of Europe, Asia and Africa), Parlophone pressed a few copies of the White Album that had black and yellow Parlophone labels, rather than Apple labels. There were likely only a few thousand copies ever pressed like this, if that, and most of them have long since vanished.

A copy in pristine condition was sold in 2015 for just under £10,000, or about $14,000 in 2018 dollars. This record is an interesting listing among the most valuable vinyl records as it’s a UK pressing that one might find just about anywhere other than the UK, as the record was made only for export.

beatles yesterday red target labelBeatles – Yesterday and Today red Capitol “target” label (1971) – Yes, another pressing of Yesterday and Today by the Beatles qualifies as one of the most valuable vinyl records, but this one is not a Butcher Cover.

After the Beatles created their own Apple Records label in 1968, all of their new albums in the U.S. and the UK were released on that label. In the U.S., even older titles were eventually reissued with Apple, rather than Capitol, labels, and this remained the case until the Apple label was dissolved in 1975.

In 1970 or 1971, due to an error at Capitol’s Winchester, Virginia pressing plant, a few copies of the 1966 LPs Revolver and Yesterday and Today were inadvertently pressed using the red “target” style Capitol label that was then in use for all non-Beatles albums issued by Capitol.

The Revolver pressings are fairly rare, and sell for $300-$500 when they turn up for sale, compared to $30 or so for the regular Apple pressings. The mispressing of Yesterday and Today, on the other hand, is exceedingly rare, and to date, only 2-3 copies have turned up for sale.

A copy with this label was sold in 2016 for $11,250. While only a few copies are known, it’s quite likely that others are out there. It should be noted that prior to moving the Beatles Capitol albums to the Apple label, all of them were briefly available on a green Capitol label that has similar artwork to the red label.

While red label pressings of Yesterday and Today would sell for thousands of dollars, the green label pressings command prices in the $100 range, as they are far more common.

hank mobley blue note 1568Hank Mobley – Hank Mobley Blue Note 1568 (1957) – $10,000 – Hank Mobley was a tenor saxophone player who had a long career, the early part of which was spent with Blue Note Records of New York City. Many of Blue Note’s releases from the 1950s have long been sought out by collectors, and first pressings of a number of their titles from the 1950s routinely sell for more than $1000.

The most valuable of all of them is the self-titled Hank Mobley, released in 1956. Oddly enough, the album was Mobley’s sixth title for Blue Note, but for some reason, the first pressing of that album was quite small, with estimates that no more than 300-1000 copies were printed.

First pressings can be noted by a discrepancy in the record company’s address on the label; side one lists the city as “NYC,” while side two lists “New York 23.” For whatever reason, the album was not reissued after Blue Note was acquired by Liberty Records in the mid-1960s, making all copies of the album relatively rare compared to other Blue Note titles.

While Hank Mobley has long been a highly sought out album by fans of jazz and hard bop, in recent years, the price of the album has escalated dramatically. Copies often change hands for upwards of $5000, and in 2015, a buyer on eBay paid £7300 ($11,000 in 2018 dollars) for a pristine copy.

Copies with “NYC” on both sides also command high prices and sell for almost $5000 in mint condition.

Most Valuable Vinyl Records Conclusion

No list of the most valuable vinyl records can be either complete or definitive. Thousands of records are sold every day, and new high prices are established all the time. As we mentioned earlier, the true examples of the most valuable vinyl records are odd, one-of-a-kind items that likely come from the collection of either the artists themselves or high-ranking record company employees and are not the sorts of records that the layman is likely to encounter.

Others are obscure singles, either 45 or 78 RPM that were pressed by tiny regional labels or which were pressed by major record companies but withdrawn prior to release, with only a few copies “leaking out.”

In this listing of the most valuable vinyl records, we’ve tried to list albums only, as that’s what our site is about. We also tried to list only records that were sold commercially. Granted, they might have been available only in select regions or available only for a short period of time. In a couple of cases, they’re records that were released by accident using stampers that were mistakenly used at the pressing plant by employees that weren’t paying as much attention as they should have been.

Do you own one of these records? Frankly, it’s unlikely, but it’s not impossible. In our nearly 40 years of selling records, we’ve had exactly one of the records on this list – an “ad back” stereo copy of Introducing the Beatles.

Still, a big part of record collecting is the thrill of the chase and hunting down of rarities, and every one of the most valuable vinyl records listed here is something that someone, somewhere, might possibly encounter in going through a box of used records at a yard sale, a thrift store or even a record shop.

LIkely? No, but the unlikely happens every day. Good luck!

We don’t have the most valuable vinyl records, but you can browse some of the rarest records we have in our store.

 

Japanese Records – The Appeal of Japan LPs

Japanese Records

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Note: Due to COVID-19-related supply issues, particularly in the United States, we’re currently buying more records from our Japanese suppliers than usual.  It puts our inventory a bit out of balance, but then again, we’re turning up some pretty amazing Japanese records at the moment.

You may have noticed that we have a lot of Japanese records in stock here at RareRecords.net. If you are unfamiliar with Japan LPs, you might wonder why we have so many Japanese records for sale and not, say, a comparable number of French or German records.

That’s a reasonable question, so we will explain why, as a collector, you may find it worth your while to add some Japanese records to your collection.

There was a time when the phrase, “made in Japan” was synonymous with poor quality, and most Japanese products were scorned as being cheap or poorly made.

Shortly after World War II, Japan’s manufacturing industry was trying to recover quickly from the war and to do so, they became primarily concerned with making inexpensive, low-quality merchandise that they could produce quickly.

That changed by the early 1960s, when the country began to try to change their image, much as South Korea and China have been doing in the past two decades. By the mid-1960s, Japan was known for producing high-quality cameras and stereo equipment, among other things.

With the increase in quality of stereo equipment, Japanese records also improved in quality, with record companies using better materials for their covers and high-quality, dead-quiet virgin vinyl for the records themselves.

In addition, record companies also paid strong attention to the mastering and pressing processes, trying to produce the best-sounding records possible.

By the early 1980s, Japanese records were being exported all over the world to be sold to quality-conscious audiophiles, who liked the high-quality covers and the quiet playing surfaces.

This was a time when American record companies were often making records from noisy, recycled vinyl, and using stampers until they wore out, which resulted in a poor sounding domestic product.  Many sound-conscious buyers began buying Japanese records instead.

Read on to see why so many record collectors are interested in buying Japanese records.

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You can browse our selection of Japanese records here.

Why Collectors Seek Out Japanese Records

 

Japan LPs on red vinyl

Besides good sound, a quiet playing surface, and quality cover printing, Japanese records also offered some other things of interest to the collector.

There are several things that make Japanese records appealing to both record collectors and audiophiles:

Red vinyl.

Toshiba, one of the primary record manufacturing companies in Japan, pressed many of their records on red, “Everclean” vinyl from 1958 through 1974.

The Everclean vinyl was designed to be less prone to collecting static electricity and dust than the more common black vinyl.

This “Everclean” formula was proprietary to Toshiba, so only the record labels that contracted with Toshiba to manufacture their records issued albums on red vinyl.

While not intended to be collectors’ items at the time of manufacture, these red vinyl pressings are more sought out by collectors today than their black vinyl counterparts, as colored vinyl records are far less common than black vinyl ones, and collectors like the unusual.

The labels that issued albums on red vinyl included Odeon, Liberty, Capitol, Stateside, Warner Brothers (through 1970), and World Pacific, which meant that collectors might find albums by such artists as the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Grateful Dead, Frank Sinatra, and Julie London, among others, pressed on red vinyl.

Japan LPs with different coversThe decision regarding which Japanese records would be pressed on red vinyl was seemingly random; there was no way of knowing if a particular title by a given artist would come out on black vinyl, red vinyl, or both.

Among collectors, if an album was pressed on both black and red vinyl, the red vinyl pressing will command a significantly higher price, even if the red vinyl pressings are more common than the black ones.

In a few cases, such as with Ummagumma by Pink Floyd, and Empty Sky by Elton John, the red vinyl was limited only to promotional copies, and all copies sold in record stores were black vinyl.   In the case of Live Album by Grand Funk Railroad, not only were the red vinyl pressings limited to promotional copies, but only one record of the two record set was pressed on red vinyl!

Different covers. Often, particularly in the 1960s, Japanese records were released with different covers than their U.S. counterparts. This was often a temporary measure, and these alternate covers rarely stayed in print for long.

One example would the the 1969 release of Smash Hits, by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. The original Japanese pressing featured a colorful photo of the entire band, taken through a fish eye lens.

U.S. pressings (and later Japanese issues) featured multiple images of Hendrix alone. The original cover is quite rare today.

Other Japanese LPs that had covers that were significantly different covers from their UK or U.S. counterparts were:

  • Beatles – A Hard Day’s Night
  • Canned Heat – Boogie With Canned Heat
  • Jimi Hendrix – Axis: Bold as Love
  • Julie London – Swing Me an Old Song and About the Blues
  • Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon (record club issue)
  • The Who – The Who Sell Out and My Generation

Relative rarity. Most Japanese records contain music by Japanese artists that are sung in Japanese; English-language albums have been, especially in the 1960s, a relatively small part of the overall industry.

As a result, most Japanese records of English-language music were pressed in small runs; sometimes as small as a few hundred copies. Rather than keeping titles in print, the records would be repressed if demand warranted it.

Depending on sales, reissues might come a few months later, or several years later.

Often, these repressings would have a different cover, catalog number, and obi from the earlier issue.  It isn’t unusual to find that some popular Japanese records have been released at least a half a dozen times, with each pressing being different in some way from all of the ones that preceded it.

Good sound quality. There are many factors that determine how a record will sound, including the quality of the master tapes used, how the record was mastered, and what kind of vinyl was used to press the records. Japanese records are often revered for their high quality sound.

American record companies that pressed records in the millions in the 1970s and early 1980s often used inexpensive or recycled vinyl to press their records, resulting in poor sound or excessive surface noise.

They would also press a high number of records from a single stamper, with each record pressed sounding worse than the one made just before it.

Most Japanese records were pressed using high quality “virgin” vinyl that was manufactured exclusively for pressing records. These records are often extraordinarily quiet and have little or no surface noise, allowing the listener a better listening experience.

In addition, English-language music titles were usually pressed in fairly small quantities in Japan, meaning all of the discs were likely pressed while the stampers were still fairly new.

For many years, Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs, an American company known for their high-quality audiophile pressings, contracted the pressing of their records to JVC in Japan, as JVC had invented an exceptionally durable and quiet vinyl compound known as “Super Vinyl” that was unavailable anywhere else.

japanese records with different obi

The obi. While most Japanese records feature local music, a lot of music fans there like foreign music, as well. The language barrier in Japan presented a problem – should foreign album covers be changed for Japanese records,with artist names, album titles and song titles printed in Japanese?

The solution was the obi, which means “belt” or “sash”. The obi is a strip of paper, usually about two inches wide, that wraps vertically around the album cover, containing information about the artist and album in Japanese.

As these strips of paper were fragile and easily torn, they are often missing when older albums are found today, especially since consumers in the 1950s and 1960s attached little significance to them and often threw then away shortly after purchase.

Finding Japanese records made prior to 1970 that still have the obi intact can be quite difficult, and for some albums, nearly impossible. The inclusion of the obi can dramatically affect the price of some Japanese records, sometimes increasing the price by a factor of ten or more.

While usually found in a wraparound strip, there are other versions of the obi that have occasionally been used. In 1963, a short-lived hankake obi, or “half obi” was used. These were small strips of paper that simply folded over the top of the cover. These were problematic for retailers, as they tended to easily fall off of the record.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, a few record companies, most notably RCA and CBS, used a larger, foldover obi that ran across the top of the cover. These are generally known as a “cap” obi, and are often missing, as the only thing that held them to the cover was the album’s original shrink wrap.

Some labels used a sticker instead of an obi in the 1970s and 1980s. These stickers were attached to the shrinkwrap itself and are often missing when these albums turn up for sale today.

Some collectors revere Japanese records for their high manufacturing quality and sound, and couldn’t care less about whether the obi is present or not.

Other collectors attach a great deal of significance to the obi, regarding it as an essential part of the album.

That’s a matter of personal preference, though a copy of an album with an obi will always command a higher price than a copy of the same album without one.

Japanese Records Summary

Japanese records offer great sound, visual interest, and general interest as something unusual in record collecting. No matter what artist you collect, chances are there are some Japanese records by that artist that you will find to be a welcome addition to your record collection.

You can browse our selection of Japanese records here.

 

Counterfeit Records and Pirate Pressings

Counterfeit Records – Buyer Beware

introducing the beatles counterfeit recordsWhen anything becomes both valuable and collectible, it’s inevitable that sooner or later, someone will attempt to reproduce it in order to profit from presenting and selling the reproduction as if it were the real thing. It happens with money, paintings and stamps, and unfortunately, rare records.

While many counterfeit records were easily identified and sold as such when they were new and plentiful, over time, people forget about them or forget how to distinguish them from original pressings.

Often, buyers will pay top dollar for records that aren’t authentic. Just as often, the sellers of those records aren’t even aware that the item they’re selling is a counterfeit, rather than an original pressing.

Counterfeit records, pirate pressings and bootlegs have been sold to unwitting collectors for decades, though the practice of making counterfeit records seems to have peaked in the late 1970s. In this article, we’ll cover the history of counterfeit records, show a few examples of some frequently seen titles, and offer some general advice as to how to avoid inadvertently paying a lot of money for a record that may be a forgery.

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Click any of the links below to jump to each category:

Counterfeit Records and Pirate Pressing Terminology
History and Motivation
Examples of Counterfeit Records
Examples of Pirate Pressings
Modern Pirate Pressings
Counterfeit Stickers and Resealed Records
How to Identify Counterfeit Records
Conclusion

Counterfeit Records and Pirate Pressing Terminology

Before going into detail about these questionable pressings, it’s important to understand the terminology and the differences between the three kinds of unauthorized records that are usually encountered in the market.

elvis costello counterfeit
Counterfeit copy of Elvis Costello Live at the El Mocambo. Note the tears around the spindle hole. These are common on counterfeit pressings

Counterfeit records – Counterfeit records are unauthorized releases of any record that are intended to duplicate the original, authorized pressing in order to fool the buyer into thinking that they are buying the genuine item.

These records often look quite a lot like original pressings and can easily fool the untrained eye or inexperienced buyers. Most counterfeit records are singles or albums by major artists and are usually reproductions of items that are long out of print or titles which were only issued for promotional or radio station use.

Pirate pressings – Pirate records are pressings which contain recorded music which has been previously and legitimately released, but are packaged in such a way as to not fool the buyer into believing they are buying the original item.

Pirate pressings may contain the exact same songs as a well-known album, but may have a different cover, a different title, a different label and record company mentioned on the product, and often may feature all of those things.

A relative of pirate pressings are so-called “tax scam” labels, which often popped up for short periods of time to release records for the express purpose of losing money. The Tiger Lily label may be the best example of this.

Unlike counterfeit records, which are made to fool buyers into paying money for a rare collectible, pirate pressings were often sold at the same price as regular albums, and were simply manufactured to make money from buyers who might otherwise buy the legitimate album.

Bootlegs – Bootleg albums are records which contain previously unreleased material, usually by a well-known artist. Bootlegs represent an entirely new product, and are not intended to fool the buyer into believing that they’re buying a legitimate release from a major record company. While there are some exceptions, most bootleg records do not represent legitimate releases and usually contain previously unreleased studio or live recordings.

The term “bootleg” is often used interchangeably in casual conversation with “counterfeit” or “pirate” to refer to any record that was not authorized by a record company and/or recording artist.

This usage is incorrect and often confuses collectors and would-be buyers, as bootlegs are distinctly different products from counterfeit records. The three terms, counterfeit records, pirate records and bootleg records refer to three distinctly different products.

Despite this, one will often hear even experienced record sellers refer to a counterfeit record as “a boot,” as in, “This record isn’t original; it’s a boot.” One rarely encounters the term “pirate” among collectors, but that may have a lot to do with the fact that pirate pressings, while once quite common in the 8 track tape format, have always been relatively rare in the record market.

Counterfeit Records History and Motivation

introducing the beatles counterfeit
Early counterfeit of Introducing the Beatles – note the poor print quality of cover and label

Counterfeit records have been sold to collectors for decades; the earliest examples likely date to the age when records were still shaped like cylinders. Many rare blues 78 RPM singles have been counterfeited, as well.

All five of the Elvis Presley singles issued on the Sun label have been counterfeited in both 45 and 78 RPM formats, as these became collectible rather early in Elvis’ career.

As collectors started to seek out records that were no longer available for general sale, unscrupulous individuals decided to fill the need in the marketplace by making reproductions.

Early attempts were often of questionable quality, but as technology improved in the graphics industry, so did the quality of the counterfeit records produced by these individuals.

While some counterfeit records were produced to be sold to collectors at the market price for the reproduced item, many titles were simply sold in quantity to record wholesalers, often at rock-bottom prices.

The album generally regarded as the most-widely counterfeited album ever, Introducing the Beatles, was often found in the 1970s in stores selling them at discounted prices that rarely topped $4.

Few buyers likely thought they were buying a rarity at those prices, especially when the discount bins were often full sealed copies at that price.

Of course, over the decades, many of these records have changed hands multiple times and their origins have long been forgotten. Today, people find the now-40-year-old-copies of that Beatles album and assume that they must be original because they’re old, or because their parents bought them as children.

In fact, they’re just forty year old counterfeit records.

While some titles, such as Introducing the Beatles, often appeared in bargain bins, other counterfeit records were made to fool buyers purchasing brand new releases. In the late 1970s, counterfeit copies of new titles by major artists often found their way into the distribution chain.

At that time, it was sometimes possible to buy counterfeit pressings of a new album the very week it was released. These were sold by stores that may have had no idea that the records they were selling were fraudulent in origin.

Perhaps the most famous example of this was the soundtrack to the film, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, featuring the Bee Gees. This album was pressed in large quantities in anticipation of it becoming a big seller.

Unfortunately, the movie was a flop and the record sold poorly, leading many retailers to return them to distributors. The record company reportedly had more copies of this particular album returned to them from distributors who couldn’t sell them than they had pressed in the first place.

Regardless of whether the records being reproduced were older collectibles, rare promotional items, or new releases, the motivation for those who made them was the same – to produce them as cheaply as possible and to sell them at a profit.

Most often, counterfeit records are rare titles by major artists, though there are also plenty of examples of relatively obscure titles by artists that are unknown outside the collecting community. The latter is particularly true of albums in the garage rock and psychedelic rock genres.

Examples of Counterfeit Records

To list all known examples of counterfeit records, even in the rock and roll category, would be a thankless task best suited to encyclopedists. Still, there are a number of well-known examples that most collectors are likely to encounter sooner or later, and that would include, not surprisingly, counterfeit records by the Beatles.

Introducing the Beatles – Introducing the Beatles is the granddaddy of all counterfeit albums; no other record has ever come close. It’s quite likely that the counterfeit copies of this album outnumber originals by two or three times, despite the fact that the original album sold quite well.

Savage Young Beatles counterfeit. Note the red catalog number (arrows)
Savage Young Beatles counterfeit. Note the red catalog number (arrows)

Introducing the Beatles was released on the small Vee Jay label in January, 1964 and due to legal action, was out of print by October of that year. After that, it became a highly sought after collector’s item, and the counterfeiters took over to fill that demand.

Early counterfeit issues were clumsily produced, with fuzzy covers and poor color. Later pressings were much more convincing.

With original pressings of the album, mono copies outnumber stereo copies by a ratio of roughly 50:1, making stereo copies quite rare. Naturally, about 95% of the counterfeit copies have covers that say that they are stereo.

What they don’t have are records that say they are stereo, and every fake copy of this album we’ve ever seen with a stereo cover had a record that played mono and lacked the word “stereo” on the label.

Original pressings were made with surprisingly thick vinyl with stamped numbers in the trailoff or “dead wax” area near the label. Most counterfeit copies are pressed with thinner, more flexible vinyl and have handwritten numbers in the dead wax.

Counterfeit copies of the album that feature a color band around the label are usually missing the color green in the band.

The easiest way to determine whether a copy of Introducing the Beatles is genuine or not is to look at the hole on the label. Do both the title of the album and the name of the group appear above the label? If so, the record is likely genuine. If the name of the album and the name of the group are separated by the play hole, then the record is a counterfeit.

Any copy with a brown border around the front cover is a fake.

Many original pressings of Introducing the Beatles included a custom Vee Jay paper inner sleeve. These are missing on all counterfeit copies.

beatles songs pictures and stories counterfeit
Counterfeit copies of Songs Pictures and Stories of the Beatles leave out the word “Stories” from the title.

Other counterfeit Beatles albums on Vee Jay:

  • Songs, Pictures and Stories of the Fabulous Beatles – The counterfeits of this album omit the word “stories” from the title and lack the original album’s gatefold cover.
  • The Beatles and Frank Ifield on Stage – Originals have the title of the album written on the spine of the cover; counterfeit copies do not.
  • Jolly What! The Beatles and Frank Ifield on Stage – Originals have the title of the album written on the spine of the cover; counterfeit copies do not

Other counterfeit Beatles and Beatles-related albums of note:

  • Yesterday and Today – Many of the counterfeit copies of the Beatles famous “Butcher Cover” have front covers that feel slick to the touch, while originals had a rough feel to them. Many of the fakes have colored vinyl records; the originals were all black. The colored vinyl pressings are technically pirate issues.
  • Let It Be – Believe it or not, this album was out of print for several years in the late 1970s, so some wily individuals made copies of it. Originals have a red label with sharp printing; the fakes that we’ve seen have pinkish labels with somewhat blurry printing.
  • The Savage Young Beatles – (see image above) Original pressings feature the catalog number on the front cover printed in black; the counterfeit copies show the number in red.
  • The Beatles Christmas Album – This one can be tricky, as many counterfeit copies of this record are quite convincing. The original album had a cardboard cover with a paper slick glued on; most of the fakes have the cover art printed directly on posterboard. On original pressings, look at the second photo on the lower left of the front cover. The words “theater royal” are legible on original pressings.

Note: the presence of the stamped words “Bell Sound” in the vinyl are not necessarily an indication of an original pressing, as many of the fakes have this.

  • Original and counterfeit copies of Two Virgins. Note the bag that opens at the top and lacks the seal sticker
    Original and counterfeit copies of Two Virgins. Note the bag that opens at the top and lacks the seal sticker

    John Lennon/Yoko Ono – Two Virgins – Original U.S. pressings included a brown paper outer cover that was sealed with a round white sticker on the right side. Copies with brown covers that open on other sides, which lack the sticker, or copies where the brown wrapper is not large enough to cover the entire album cover are likely fakes.

  • Roots: John Lennon Sings the Great Rock & Roll Hits – Counterfeit copies of this 1975 mail order album are quite convincing, especially since the original pressings were so poorly made.Original pressings included a custom inner sleeve advertising other albums on the label, and had the title of the album printed on the spine.On original covers, the text on the other albums shown on the back cover is legible, and on original discs, the catalog number is faintly etched on the label itself.
  • Ed Rudy – American Tour With Ed Rudy #2 – an album of Beatles interviews. Original pressings had thick, ultra-heavy vinyl; the counterfeit pressings used thin, flexible vinyl.

Other common or well-known counterfeit albums by major artists:

  • David Bowie – The Man Who Sold the World – Original U.S. pressings of this 1970 album featured a cartoon cover, but were quickly deleted due to poor sales. Counterfeit pressings have handwritten matrix numbers in the dead wax; originals have stamped numbers. The labels on original pressings are smooth in texture, while the fakes tend to be pitted.
  • Johnny Burnette and the Rock and Roll Trio – Originals of this album sell for thousands, and were pressed on thick, brittle vinyl and had the title of the album printed on the spine. Fakes have thin, flexible vinyl and no spine printing.
  • Elvis Costello – Live at the El Mocambo – This late 1970s LP was originally issued only to radio stations in Canada. Most counterfeit copies have flimsy posterboard covers and labels with tears around the spindle hole. Many fakes of this album have completely different labels altogether.
  • Emmylou Harris – Gliding Bird – This was Emmylou Harris’ first album originally had a color cover and label. Copies that have black and white printing are fakes.
  • Buddy Holly – That’ll Be the Day – Like the album above, originals of this album sell for thousands, and were pressed on thick, brittle vinyl and had the title of the album printed on the spine. Fakes have thin, flexible vinyl and no spine printing.
  • Phil Lesh/Ned Lagin – Seastones – Fake copies of this odd electronic album have posterboard covers; the originals used paper slicks glued to a cardboard cover.
  • Madonna – Erotica – This 12” single picture disc is one of the few picture discs to have been counterfeited. Originally pressed as a legitimate release but withdrawn before being distributed, the original pressings are quite rare and sell for thousands of dollars. Genuine copies have stamped matrix numbers; counterfeit copies do not.
  • Todd Rundgren – Runt – Todd Rundgren’s 1970 solo album was counterfeited several times in the late 1970s and include versions on both the Ampex and Bearsville labels. On all copies, the words “Queens Litho in U.S.A.” are clearly legible on original covers but not on the fakes.The fake Ampex copies usually have a red printed box on the cover that mentions “We Gotta Get You a Woman.” Originals do not have this, as the “box” was actually a sticker that was attached to the copy used to make the counterfeit pressings. Oddly enough, the rare variation of Runt that includes alternate takes and mixes has not been counterfeited.
  • The City – Now That Everything’s Been Said – This 1968 LP featuring Carole King originally had a color cover and label; the fakes have black and white covers.
  • The Yardbirds – Live Yardbirds Featuring Jimmy Page – This album by the Yardbirds was released by the band’s former label to take advantage of the success of Jimmy Page’s new band, Led Zeppelin. Page sued and the album was withdrawn from sale but was quickly counterfeited to meet collector demand. Counterfeit copies of this album exist on both the Epic and Columbia Special Products labels. Look for pitted labels and tears around the spindle hole on the fake copies, which may have stamped matrix numbers in the dead wax just like the originals.The most common counterfeit pressing of this album features a black and white cover and a black and white label.  You would think that this would immediately suggest to anyone that this album is a counterfeit, as all original pressings had color covers and yellow labels, but we’ve seen a lot of people over the years selling these as “white label promo” copies.  There are no legitimate white label promotional copies of this album; even the copies sent to radio stations had yellow labels. Not that it matters, since the white labels on the counterfeit copies do not indicate that they are promotional pressings.   All copies of this album that have either black and white covers or white labels are counterfeits.

live yardbirds real and counterfeit

Other albums we’ve seen over the years as counterfeit pressings include:

  • The Banana Splits – The Banana Splits – The soundtrack to this 1970s children’s show was once quite collectible, counterfeit copies of a white label promo copy exist.
  • David Bowie – The Man Who Sold the World (German pressing with the “round” cover)
  • David Bowie – An Evening With David Bowie – promotional interview album; the counterfeit copies are quite convincing.
  • Chocolate Watch Band – One Step Beyond – white label promotional copies of this album have been counterfeited
  • Chocolate Watch Band – The Inner Mystique – Counterfeit copies of this album have white labels; the originals were brown.
  • Gandalf – Gandalf 1969 psych LP on Capitol.
  • David Gilmour – David Gilmour (1978) – We inadvertently bought a counterfeit pressing of this album brand new from a major record store chain within a month of the album’s initial release.
  • The Kinks – Face to Face (U.S. copies on Reprise)
  • Mad River – both Capitol albums by this late 1960s band have been counterfeited.
  • The Nice – Ars Longa Vita Brevis (Columbia Special Products pressings)
  • The Nice – The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack (Columbia Special Products pressings)
  • Small Faces – Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake (U.S. pressings)
  • Leslie West – Mountain – Fake copies of the debut LP by Leslie West have poorly printed covers and labels.
  • The Yardbirds – For Your Love – The counterfeit pressings of this LP are quite good, though the quality of the photos on the front cover is not as good as the original pressings.
  • The Yardbirds – Little Games

This list is far from complete; there are hundreds of examples of counterfeit albums.

Examples of Pirate Pressings

pirate pressings on melody recordingsPirate pressings are records containing material that is legitimately available elsewhere, but is packaged differently.

The purpose of these pressings, unlike counterfeits, is not to fool the buyer into thinking that they’re buying something rare and valuable, but to simply get the buyer to pay for it.

In the 1970s, pirate 8 track tapes were quite common and were often sold at truck stops and convenience stores. Titles would be identical to those sold in record stores but the labels usually lacked artwork and the names of the companies producing the products were different from legitimate issues.

Pirate records, by comparison, are less common. A company called Melody Recordings issued a number of titles in the early 1970s, all of which had the same cover, depicting two crowns and two scepters.

Artists and titles in this series included:

  • Cheech and Chong – Cheech and Chong
  • Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Pictures at an Exhibition
  • Faces – A Nod Is As Good As a Wink to a Blind Horse
  • Grand Funk – E Pluribus Funk
  • George Harrison and Others – The Concert for Bangladesh (custom cover)
  • Michael Jackson – Got to Be There
  • Carole King – Music
  • Carole King – Tapestry
  • Led Zeppelin – IV
  • Don McLean – American Pie
  • Harry Nilsson – Nilsson Schmilsson
  • Charley Pride – Charley Pride Sings Heart Songs
  • Santana – Santana (third album)
  • Paul Simon – Paul Simon
  • Sonny & Cher – All I Ever Need is You
  • Traffic – The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys
  • Neil Young – Harvest

There were other labels that released such albums in the early 1970s, but they were largely out of business by 1975, due to increased enforcement of U.S. copyright laws.

In the mid-1980s, a label called Koala popped up that issued a number of albums by well-known artists, all without liner notes or photos of the artists themselves. Little is known about this label, which the covers claimed was based in Hendersonville, Tennessee.

Many of the Koala covers featured generic images or photos and carried this disclaimer:

“Notice – The illustrations are a commercial concept for this album. Therefore we are unable to say that the illustrations represent a completely accurate presentation of the recording artist as he has or does now appear. This album may contain previously released material.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Artists included:

Paul Anka – She’s a Lady
The Monkees – She Hangs Out
The Fendermen – Poison Ivy
…along with dozens of others.

Modern pirate pressings

Led Zeppelin pirate picture disc
Led Zeppelin pirate picture disc

Most contemporary pirate pressings fall into a gray area that resides somewhere between pirate pressings and counterfeit records. The most common examples would be records which appear, at first glance, to be official record company issues, but which are pressed as either colored vinyl records or picture discs, even though no official release of those album exists in those formats.

All five Elvis Presley 78 RPM discs on the Sun label have been pressed on colored vinyl, for example. The pressings are thin, flexible vinyl, when the originals were made from rigid shellac, and were, of course, all black.

We have seen numerous albums by such artists as Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, or Metallica, to name a few, that appear to be genuine record company releases, except for the fact that they’ve been pressed on colored vinyl or as picture discs. These records are often sold as “limited editions” or as “promotional copies.”

On the colored vinyl issues, the covers usually look identical to the original issues. The labels may or may not look the same, and are often older label designs that mimic the designs used on the original issues of the albums, rather than the labels currently in use.

Counterfeit Stickers and Resealed Records

fake album stickers
This Dylan album has three stickers, and they’re likely all fakes. Click image for larger version.

While counterfeit records remain a problem and will likely continue to be one for as long as records are sold, a new problem has popped up in recent years, largely involving records sold on eBay by a relatively small number of sellers.

That problem involves used records that have been resealed in shrink wrap in order to fool buyers into believing that used records are new ones.  Often these records have counterfeit stickers applied to the shrink wrap, hyping a song or an included bonus.

These records are sealed examples of albums that are rarely found in sealed condition, and these sealed examples usually have rare and/or previously unseen stickers attached to the shrink wrap.

To be clear, there’s nothing unusual about finding still sealed examples of older or rare records. We have plenty of sealed records for sale in our store. Nor is there anything particularly unusual about finding sealed records for sale that have stickers on the wrap.

Older sealed records are often found with price stickers still attached, and some older albums had “hype” stickers attached that were intended to make potential buyers aware that the album contained a particular song, or that it contained a bonus of some kind, such as a poster.

The problem is that it appears that there are a few sellers on eBay and elsewhere who are finding nice used examples of rare records, re-sealing them in shrink wrap, and then attaching newly-printed stickers to the wrap.

In some cases, the stickers are common ones that were often seen on those titles when they were new. In other cases, the stickers are unusual to the extent that people who have been selling rare records for 30-40 years do not recall ever having seen them before.

Not surprisingly, these records, which are almost always titles by collectible artists, such as the Beach Boys, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin or the Velvet Underground, end up selling for large, and sometimes, record-breaking, prices.

pet sounds fake sticker
The previously-unknown “promo” sticker. Click image for larger version.

With modern graphics programs like Photoshop and affordable laser and inkjet printers, it’s quite easy to scan and print convincing replicas of stickers, especially since many of them consisted only of white text on black paper or black text on white paper.

The problem is that the stickers are fake, the shrink wrap is not original, the “new” record is almost certainly a used one, and most importantly, the seller makes no effort to make any of those things known to potential buyers. The records are presented as rare, sealed examples of original pressings with rare, previously-unknown stickers.

Obviously, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to determine if a sticker or shrink wrap is original or not via photographs online.

On the other hand, there are a few things that potential buyers should consider when examining such items.

    • Look at all of the items the seller has for sale to see if there’s anything suspicious about the group of records as a whole. We’ve noticed that the sellers who offer such records tend to have groups of records for sale at any given time that have a number of things in common:
      • They only have records by top-tier artists for sale and they’re all valuable items. It’s all Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Velvet Underground, etc.
      • Every album has one or more stickers on the shrink wrap.
      • Every album (or nearly all) are still sealed, or are opened copies that still have shrink wrap on the cover.
    • Look for common stickers.  We’ve noticed that a lot of these records tend to have price stickers from either Sears or Kmart.  While both stores sold records in the 1960s and 1970s, it’s unusual to see a seller offering 20 records for sale from a broad period of time that all have Sears or Kmart stickers on them.If you see that ten of the albums for sale also have the same price sticker on them, that’s likely a clue that something isn’t what it seems to be.
    • Look for rare or unusual stickers. Stickers with song titles are common. Check other auction listings to see if other sellers also have albums with similar stickers.Check completed auction listings on eBay and at popsike.com to look for other examples of such stickers to see how common or rare they might be.It would be quite unusual for someone to find a sticker on a cover of an album that is 50 years old that no one has ever seen before.Yet one of these eBay sellers recently had a copy of the Beatles Yesterday and Today album for sale with a sticker that suggested that the album was part of Capitol Records’ archive.The sticker had a typed date and noted that the record was a “second state” Butcher cover. And yes, the cover was still in the shrink wrap.Another oddity from the same seller was a sealed copy of Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys, complete with a never-before-seen sticker that indicated that the album was a promotional copy.

      The sticker looked very professional, and the album sold for thousands of dollars.

      butcher cover archive sticker
      The Capitol Records “archive” sticker found on a Beatles Butcher Cover.

      Unfortunately, the sticker (and probably the shrink wrap) was a fake, as Capitol designated promotional copies at that time by punching the word “free” or “promo” in the cover, rather than using stickers.

      Another Beach Boys oddity turned up not long ago. Their first album, Surfin’ Safari, was originally issued with a cover that indicated that the album was stereo. This was an error; the album was not true stereo. Later pressings corrected this by changing the banner to read “Duophonic”, which was Capitol’s name for their rechanneled stereo process.

      This particular copy of Surfin’ Safari featured both a stereo and a Duophonic banner, as well as a never-before-seen sticker touting the alleged “benefits” of Duophonic. That album sold for a lot of money, but the entire thing was almost certainly fabricated by an unscrupulous seller.

    • Look for stickers that don’t seem quite right. We recently saw a first pressing stereo copy of Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited (see image above or click here) that had a hype sticker for the song “Like a Rolling Stone”, a hype sticker for the (very rare) photo that came enclosed in the first few copies pressed and a discount sticker indicating that the record had been reduced in price to only $1.27.That’s a first pressing of what was, in 1965, a brand-new record. While all three stickers may be reproductions, the $1.27 sticker is the one that stands out for being wrong, as that album, especially in stereo, would never have been discounted to such a low price as a brand-new release.
    • We’ve also seen stereo copies of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles with similar stickers. While mono copies might have been found in discount bins when Capitol stopped pressing mono records, there would have been no reason to discount the stereo version, which remained in print for decades and which remained a big seller for the entire time it was in print.
    • Velvet Underground & Nico
      A typical example of a copy of The Velvet Underground & Nico

      Be suspicious of stickers that are nicer than they should be. Most genuine stickers are wrinkled, or may have wear or fading, especially after 30-50 years. Newly-printed stickers, of course, will always appear perfect.

      As an example, consider the first album by the Velvet Underground & Nico, which came with a sticker on the cover that looked like a banana. The cover had a tease printed on it – “Peel slowly and see.” Pretty much everyone who bought that album did try to peel it.

      Unfortunately, the stickers usually became torn during attempts to peel it, and many people gave up. Most copies seen for sale have a banana that has been completely peeled, one that has been partially peeled, or one where someone tried to peel it, gave up, and then put the now-torn sticker back in place.

      What is almost never seen is a copy of that album where the banana is 100% intact. Yet one eBay seller often has 2-3 copies for auction per week, and each of them has a banana sticker that is absolutely perfect. How unusual is that? There is probably one copy of that album in 1000 that has a sticker that no one has ever attempted to peel.

    • …and a seemingly perfect unpeeled one, complete with another sticker that no one has ever seen before.

      Look for listings that have only sealed records or listings where nearly all of the records are either sealed or are still in the shrink wrap. Shrink wrap machines are fairly inexpensive, but finding perfect copies of 50 year old records to reseal is hard.

      Close examination to check for wear under the shrink wrap may be difficult to do online, but we’ve seen records from some of these sellers where the wear on the cover under the shrink wrap was noticeable even in the photos they used in their auction listing. Ring wear on the cover or wear near the mouth of the cover are often giveaways.

How can you protect yourself against resealed records or albums with fake or counterfeit stickers? There is no surefire way to protect yourself, but here are a few suggestions:

  • Look out for any of the unusual or suspicious things listed above. If everything is rare, perfect, sealed, and has stickers, you’re likely looking at a bunch of fraudulent listings.
  • Don’t do business with sellers that do not offer refunds if you aren’t satisfied.
  • Do your research. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to know what you’re buying.

How to Identify Counterfeit Records

david bowie - man who sold the world
David Bowie – The Man Who Sold the World. Original labels are flat; fakes are shiny and pitted.

It can be difficult to identify any particular record as a counterfeit, especially if you do not have a known original pressing at hand with which to make a comparison, or if you have never seen an original pressing before.

There are certain traits that are often seen on counterfeit records:

      • Labels that are pitted, off-center, or have tears near the spindle hole.
      • Vinyl that has streaks, bumps or other marks that may suggest that it’s of poor quality.
      • Thin vinyl – Records from the 1950s and early 1960s were usually pressed from heavy, relatively rigid vinyl. Counterfeit pressings of those titles are usually pressed on lightweight, flexible vinyl.
      • Incorrect cover construction – Older album covers were usually printed on paper slicks that were then glued to gray or brown cardboard. Many counterfeit records have covers that are printed directly on white posterboard, making the covers thinner and lighter.
      • Poor cover detail – Printing and detail on both the album cover and the label may be of poor quality or be somewhat blurry. Make sure that the smallest text on the cover is completely legible.
      • Incorrectly formatted matrix numbers – Many original pressings from major labels have machine stamped numbers in the dead wax area. Most, but not all, counterfeit records have hand etched numbers. There are exceptions to this, however, and some fakes do have stamped numbers.

Buyers should always be suspicious of any unusually rare record offered for sale in exceptional condition at a price that seems too good to be true.

One thing that almost all counterfeit records have in common is that they’re always in mint condition. Why wouldn’t they be? They’re likely new. Original copies of albums that are 30-50 years old, on the other hand, rarely turn up in new, unplayed condition, so buyers should take that into consideration if you’re unsure.

Counterfeit Records Conclusion

It’s unfortunate that people want to take advantage of record collectors, but if there’s a record that people want to buy and it’s rare, chances are good that someone has reproduced it for profit. Your best advice when considering a purchase is to buy from reputable dealers, or find someone who may be familiar with an original pressing and get their opinion before buying.

While most counterfeit records can be spotted by an experienced eye, a few are exceptionally good copies. Be careful when buying, especially if the condition and the price seem too good to be true.

Colored Vinyl Records Are Popular With Collectors

Colored Vinyl Records

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colored vinyl recordsIf you have spent any time around records, either 45 RPM singles or albums, you might have encountered the term “colored vinyl records.” You might think that’s a strange question; after all, all records are colored vinyl records, aren’t they? And aren’t they all black?

Historically, most records are black, probably because black vinyl is relatively inexpensive compared to other colors of vinyl and possibly because the dark colors might help obscure any impurities that might be in the compound.

This isn’t a new thing; since the introduction of the commercial cylinder record in 1889, most records of any kind have been made from materials that were either naturally black or which were colored during the manufacturing process to make them appear black. The reasons for this had to do with both cost and with quality control. When you use different types of materials and different sources, you can make sure that all of your finished product looks the same by adding substances to make them look black.

Despite this, over the years, a few recordings, dating to the cylinder era, have been manufactured as colored vinyl records, with “colored vinyl” generally defined as some color other than black. Colored vinyl records have long been popular with collectors and they usually command a premium price on the collector market. In this article, we’ll cover the history of colored vinyl records and show examples of some of the more interesting ones we’ve seen over the years.

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Promotional Colored Vinyl Records
Japanese Colored Vinyl Records
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Mass Market Colored Vinyl Records
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Colored Vinyl Records History

The earliest examples of colored vinyl records date to 1908, with the introduction of Blue Amberol cylinders by the Edison company. These cylinders, which were more durable and had longer playing time than the earlier versions, used celluloid that was dyed blue in order to make them stand out in the marketplace.

vocalion colored vinyl recordsIn about 1920, the then-new Vocalion records pressed colored vinyl records in the form of a reddish-brown, mostly to distinguish their products from others in the marketplace. While the company claimed that their records were more durable than the black ones offered by their competitors, the red color was mostly a marketing ploy.

Most records sold at the time were packaged in simple paper sleeves, rather than in custom covers, as albums are today. If a buyer were to browse through a stack of records and notice that some of them were colored vinyl records, they might be more likely to buy one, simply because it was a bit unusual.

In the 1930s, Columbia Records pressed a number of 78s as colored vinyl records, with most of them being blue.

Far more interesting were the records from Seattle-based Morrison Records, which began pressing colored vinyl records in the 1940s using multicolored vinyl.

morrison records colored vinylBecause of the way the vinyl was mixed, no two records, including those pressed consecutively, were alike. Though the tiny label had no artists of note on their roster, their records are moderately collectible today simply because of their unusual appearance.

Record companies rarely pressed colored vinyl records in the early to mid-1940s, probably due to cost concerns and the rationing of materials mandated by World War II. In the late 1940s, when RCA introduced their then-proprietary seven inch 45 RPM records, the company made the decision to press colored vinyl records in eight different colors.

These colors represented different genres of music, with classical records being pressed on red vinyl, for instance, and country records being pressed using green vinyl. They did this only for singles, however; all of their albums were made using black vinyl.

This unique brand of marketing using colored vinyl records didn’t last long, probably due to cost concerns. By 1950 or so, RCA was pressing all of their records, including their singles, using black vinyl, though they did maintain the color distinction for their classical records, which had a red label and a blurb on the cover that said “RCA Red Seal.”

Older Labels That Manufactured Colored Vinyl Records

tops mayfair colored vinyl recordsThere were not a lot of colored vinyl records pressed in the 1950s, though a few small labels, such as Aladdin Records and Crown Records, pressed a few titles on red vinyl.

Crown’s decision to make colored vinyl records is a bit odd, since the company was a budget label that mostly issued recordings that had previously been released by other companies.

Though Crown used the more expensive red vinyl, as opposed to the common black, they cut corners in other ways by producing poorly-constructed covers that had no reinforcement at the seams and by selling their albums without paper inner sleeves.

Another budget label that pressed colored vinyl records was the Tops label from California. Tops released mono records; their stereo pressings were issued on the sister label, Mayfair. These labels issued a few titles on red and yellow vinyl, with yellow vinyl being the most common. Here’s an example of a multicolored vinyl record from Mayfair by actress and model Sandy Warner.

Liberty Colored Vinyl Records

Stereo records were introduced to the market in late 1957, but not all labels immediately began producing them, as the market for them initially was quite small. Most of the labels, including the larger ones, introduced stereo pressings slowly. Liberty Records, then a major label, added stereo pressings to their catalog in 1960.

To celebrate, Liberty pressed a handful of titles as colored vinyl records using both blue and red vinyl. Oddly enough, the fact that these titles were colored vinyl records wasn’t advertised in any way on the cover, but would simply come as a surprise to the buyer. While Liberty issued records on both blue and red vinyl, the red vinyl pressings seem to be more common than the blue ones.

Although most of the titles in this limited series were pressed using either one color or the other, at least three titles, Julie London’s Julie is Her Name, Martin Denny’s Exotic Sounds from the Silver Screen and Spike Jones’s Omnibust, were pressed on both colors of vinyl.

Bel Canto Colored Vinyl Records

bel canto stereo demonstration recordA short-lived record label from Columbus, Ohio, Bel Canto, arrived on the scene in the late 1950s. Bel Canto was an odd label in a number of ways. First of all, they were located in Ohio, away from the music scenes on either coast.

The company was owned by Thompson-Ramo-Woolridge (later TRW), a company known as an aerospace company and defense contractor, not as an entertainment company. Even more odd was the fact that Bel Canto released all of their albums on colored vinyl and in stereo only, which was quite unusual at a time when more than nine records out of ten were sold in mono.

One of Bel Canto’s titles, a stereo demonstration record, was pressed on multicolored vinyl. Most of Bel Canto’s releases fell into the light jazz and popular vocal category, and as far as we know, the label was out of business well before 1965.

Columbia Colored Vinyl Records

colored vinyl promotional recordIn the 1960s, a few record companies, notably Columbia Records and their affiliated label, Epic, began pressing colored vinyl records for promotional use.

The record company realized that radio station program managers often received dozens of records per month, and they wanted their product to stand out among them and perhaps get airplay as a result.

Columbia pressed hundreds of colored vinyl singles throughout the 1960s by artists as diverse as Andy Williams, Eydie Gorme, Patti Page, The New Christy Minstrels, Bob Dylan, the Yardbirds, Simon and Garfunkel and the Dave Clark 5.

Colors of vinyl used were green, blue, red, yellow, purple and orange, though red was by far the color used most often.

Columbia also pressed at least 14 colored vinyl albums for promotional use on red, yellow, blue, purple and green vinyl. The selection of albums pressed as colored vinyl records wasn’t nearly as diverse as the label’s singles; the titles were all easy listening, classical or soundtrack/original cast recordings.

Perhaps the most noteworthy among them were two different titles by Barbra Streisand – The Second Barbra Streisand Album was pressed on blue vinyl and Color Me Barbra was pressed on red vinyl.

madonna white vinyl promo LPOccasionally, starting in the 1970s and continuing to the present day, other record labels have pressed some of their titles as colored vinyl records exclusively for promotional use.

Sometimes these were intended as a tool to get the record played on the radio and at other times, they were simply pressed as a “thank you” to radio personnel for having promoted the record already.

As a rule these rare pressings always sell for higher prices than their black vinyl counterparts that were sold in stores.

A few examples:

  • The Beatles – Reel Music – yellow vinyl; limited to 12,000 numbered copies
  • Electric Light Orchestra
            • Ole ELO! – yellow vinyl
      • Out of the Blue – blue vinyl
  • Fabulous Poodles – Mirror Stars – pink vinyl
  • Elton John – Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy – brown vinyl; autographed on the inside cover by Elton John and Bernie Taupin (2000 copies)
  • Madonna
    • Like a Virgin – white vinyl
    • Bedtime Stories – pink vinyl
  • Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – You’re Gonna Get It – red vinyl
  • Sparks – Introducing Sparks – red vinyl

The Chicago-based Chess label, which issued rhythm and blues records in the 1950s and 1960s, and its jazz subsidiary, Argo, pressed a number of titles on beautiful multicolored vinyl in the 1960s as promotional items.

Japanese Colored Vinyl Records

japan red vinyl LPIn 1958 in Japan, Toshiba Musical Industries, one of the two or three large manufacturers of records in Japan, began pressing colored vinyl records, with the introduction of their red, “Everclean” vinyl.

This vinyl compound was created in order to be more resistant to static electricity, and was intended to help prevent records from accumulating dust. Toshiba pressed red colored vinyl records from 1958 through early 1974, though they often coexisted on the shelves with black vinyl pressings.

Labels that were pressed by Toshiba included Capitol Records (and all of their subsidiaries), Odeon Records, Liberty Records, Stateside Records, and World Pacific Records.

While the red Everclean vinyl was intended to prevent the buildup of static electricity, the label was inconsistent in its use, as only a small percentage of the albums and singles pressed during that sixteen year period were made using that vinyl compound.

Furthermore, there seemed to be no rhyme or reason as to which albums would be issued on red vinyl and which only on black, and sometimes that was the case even with a particular title. In some cases, promotional copies of a particular album might have been pressed with red (or black) vinyl while the copies available for sale in the stores might be the opposite color.

Though these Everclean pressings were not manufactured with the specific intention that they be collectors’ items, they have become so over time, and a red vinyl copy of a given album will always sell for a higher price than its black vinyl counterpart, even if the red vinyl version is more common than the black one. Red vinyl LPs exist for such artists as the Beatles, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Pink Floyd, and Julie London, among numerous others.

Japanese records are collectible for a number of other reasons that you can read about here.

Taiwan Colored Vinyl Records

taiwan colored vinylIn the 1960s, thousands of titles were released in Taiwan as colored vinyl records. None of the record companies in Taiwan seem to have had legitimate licensing arrangements with major American or European record labels, however, making all of these titles unauthorized.

The most common colors used for these colored vinyl records were a pale green, a bright orange and a bright red. Some had English language label names, such as First Records, while others were printed in Chinese.

The albums were of poor quality, and while the records sounded terrible, being dubbed from other records, the quality of the album covers was even worse. The artwork was poorly printed on ultra-thin paper that was laminated in thin plastic.

What these colored vinyl records lacked in quality, they made up in quantity – nearly every major artist of the 1960s saw their albums issued as colored vinyl records in Taiwan. These include titles by Elvis Presley, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys, and hundreds of other artists.

Despite their poor quality, these records are sought out by collectors today. In some cases, these albums represent the only colored vinyl albums available by a particular artist.

Mass Market Colored Vinyl Records

Seeing an opportunity to make some money from record collectors by selling them the same titles a second time, record companies began pressing colored vinyl records as limited edition collectibles in the late 1970s. Albums by bands such as the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Rush, Elton John, AC/DC, and the Eagles were pressed on various colors of vinyl for a short time.

While a few of these titles were domestically produced, such as the Beatles’ White Album, most of them were available in the United States only as imports from Canada, England and the Netherlands. Several of the titles from England, including the Beatles’ Abbey Road, Let It Be and Magical Mystery Tour, were pressed exclusively for export, making them quite hard to find in England today.

led zeppelin colored vinyl LPHere’s a list of a few of the titles pressed on colored vinyl in the late 1970s (not comprehensive):

  • AC/DC
    • Got Blood If You Want It – multicolored vinyl (Netherlands)
    • Powerage – red vinyl (Canada)
  • Beatles
    • 1962-1966 – red vinyl (U.S., Japan, France, Germany, UK, and possibly others)
    • 1967-1970 – blue vinyl (U.S., Japan, France, Germany, UK, and possibly others)
    • Abbey Road – green vinyl (UK; export only)
    • Greatest Hits – gold vinyl, purple vinyl (Netherlands)
    • Magical Mystery Tour – yellow vinyl (UK; export only)
    • Let It Be – white vinyl (UK; export only)
    • Love Songs – yellow vinyl (Canada)
    • Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – gray marbled vinyl (Canada) clear, green, yellow, blue, purple, orange (France)
    • White Album – white vinyl (U.S., France, Germany, UK (export only) and possibly others)
  • Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young – Deja Vu – brown vinyl (UK)
  • Eagles – Greatest Hits green vinyl (UK)
    • Hotel California green vinyl (Netherlands)
  • Fleetwood Mac
    • Fleetwood Mac – white vinyl (UK)
    • Rumours – white vinyl (Netherlands)
  • Elton John
    • Blue Moves – blue vinyl (France)
    • Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – yellow vinyl (UK)
  • Led Zeppelin – IV – lavender vinyl (UK)
  • Alan Parsons Project – Tales of Mystery and Imagination – yellow vinyl (Canada)
    • Pyramid – orange vinyl (Netherlands)
  • Pink Floyd
    • Animals – pink vinyl (France) two versions; one has an all-pink cover!
    • Atom Heart Mother – blue vinyl (France)
    • Dark Side of the Moon – white vinyl (Germany, Netherlands)
    • The Wall – orange vinyl (Italy)
    • Wish You Were Here – blue vinyl (Germany, Netherlands)
  • Ramones – Road to Ruin – yellow vinyl (UK)
  • Rush – Hemispheres – red vinyl (Canada)
  • Rolling Stones
    • Beggar’s Banquet – white vinyl (Netherlands)
    • Between the Buttons – yellow vinyl (Netherlands)
    • Big Hits, High Tide and the Green Grass – orange vinyl (Netherlands)
    • Black and Blue – blue vinyl (Netherlands)
    • Get Your Yeah Yeahs Out – blue vinyl (Netherlands)
    • Let It Bleed – red vinyl (Netherlands)
    • Miss You (12” single) pink vinyl (Netherlands)
    • Some Girls – orange vinyl (Netherlands)
    • Their Satanic Majesties’ Request – white and clear vinyl (Netherlands)
    • Through the Past, Darkly – green vinyl (Netherlands)
  • Steely Dan
    • Can’t Buy a Thrill – yellow vinyl (Canada)
    • The Royal Scam – yellow vinyl (Canada)
    • Greatest Hits – yellow vinyl (Canada)
    • Aja – yellow vinyl, red vinyl (Canada)
  • Synergy (Larry Fast)
    • Electronic Realizations for Rock Orchestra – clear vinyl (U.S.)
    • Sequencer – clear vinyl (U.S.)
    • Chords – clear vinyl (U.S.)
  • Neil Young – Harvest – peach colored vinyl (UK)

Many of these albums are now quite rare and are sought out among collectors, particularly the colored vinyl titles by The Beatles and Pink Floyd.

Unusual Colored Vinyl Records

ac/dc- splatter vinyl LPThe majority of colored vinyl records are pressed using a single color – red, green, blue, etc. Occasionally, there have been examples of records pressed using more than one color or a color that wouldn’t be considered a “normal” color.

Twelve inch singles by Kraftwerk and Metallica have been issued on pale green “glow in the dark” vinyl. Madonna’s Hard Candy was released on a red and white swirl “candy” vinyl. Several titles, starting with Faust’s self-titled 1971 LP (UK) were pressed in clear, transparent vinyl.

A Bob Marley title was pressed with three colors of vinyl – red, yellow, and green, to evoke the colors of the Jamaican flag.

Others are made using a hodgepodge of colors and are known as “splatter” or “swirl” vinyl, depending on the appearance of the finished product.

There have been quite a few examples of multicolored vinyl pressings in recent years, mostly from small, privately-owned record companies. Third Man Records, run by Jack White of White Stripes fame, has released a number of unusual colored vinyl records in the past few years.

Privately Pressed Colored Vinyl Records

julie london privately pressed LPSometimes, a record company or pressing plant employee will take it upon themselves to press colored vinyl records, even though they have not been authorized to do so by their employer. They may do this for their own use, or with the intention of secretly reselling the records at a profit at some point in the future.

Because of the covert nature of these pressings, it’s not possible to document all of them, and sometimes, they aren’t even discovered until many years (or decades) after they were initially manufactured.

Collectors are generally very interested in these sorts of titles, provided that it can be demonstrated that they were manufactured at the time of the record’s initial commercial release and that they were made at the same facility used to press the regular, black vinyl copies of the same record.

Here’s a list of a few of the titles we’ve seen over the years that appear to have been privately pressed as colored vinyl records:

  • The Beatles – A Hard Day’s Night – a single copy of this album is known to exist on pink vinyl.  This copy was found at a Los Angeles yard sale!
  • Dave Brubeck – Jackpot – one copy of this LP is known on blue vinyl
  • Dion – Runaround Sue – copies of this 1962 LP are known to exist on both green and brown vinyl; the brown vinyl copy may be unique
  • Fats Domino – Just Domino – One copy of this 1962 LP is known to exist on multicolored vinyl
  • The Doors – The Doorsone test pressing of this album is known to exist on white vinyl
  • Bob Dylan – John Wesley Harding – copies of this 1967 LP are known to exist on red and on yellow vinyl
  • Electric Light Orchestra – Ole ELO! – While yellow vinyl copies of this album were officially issued as promotional items, there are also copies on red, white, and blue vinyl that were pressed by a record company employee.
  • Julie London – Julie Is Her Name – a single copy of this 1955 LP is known to exist on half red/ half green vinyl (see photo)
  • Ketty Lester – Love Letters – one copy is known to exist on multicolored vinyl
  • Rolling Stones – Let It Bleed – two copies are known to exist on multicolored vinyl
  • Nina Simone – The Amazing Nina Simone – one blue vinyl copy of this 1959 album is known
  • Ike and Tina Turner – River Deep, Mountain High – one copy of this album is known on blue vinyl

This list is hardly comprehensive, but because of the nature of these pressings, it’s impossible to document all of them. New ones are discovered all the time; the Julie London album, pressed in 1955, turned up for the first time in 2014!

Unauthorized or Pirate Colored Vinyl Records

pirate pressing colored vinylSince collectors have demonstrated a willingness to buy just about anything by their favorite artist, a number of unscrupulous individuals have taken it upon themselves to issue quite a few colored vinyl records by famous artists.

These titles are technically known as “pirate” pressings; they very closely resemble official releases, but are actually unauthorized private pressings.

As these pressings are unofficial and are not related to official releases by the artist represented, nor are they authorized by the artists’ record companies, these pressings rarely attract much attention from record collectors.

They do, however, usually sell for quite a bit more than the standard, black vinyl pressings of the same title, usually selling for $30-$40.

Here are a few examples of titles we’ve seen for sale on colored vinyl that are unauthorized:

  • John Lennon/Yoko Ono – Milk and Honey – green and yellow copies exist; these were reportedly pressed from legitimate stampers that were stolen from the record company.
  • Led Zeppelin
    • Led Zeppelin I – multiple colors of vinyl
    • Led Zeppelin II – multiple colors of vinyl
    • Led Zeppelin III – multiple colors of vinyl
    • Houses of the Holy – multiple colors of vinyl
    • Physical Graffiti – multiple colors of vinyl
  • Pink Floyd
    • The Piper at the Gates of Dawn – multiple colors of vinyl
    • A Saucerful of Secrets – multiple colors of vinyl
    • Dark Side of the Moon – multiple colors of vinyl (these are distinctly different from the authorized pressings listed above)

There are numerous other examples of these, but it’s impossible to document all of them.

Colored Vinyl Records Today

Limited edition colored vinyl pressings continue to this day, particularly among companies that specialize in reissuing older titles. The original pressing of a Bob Dylan album from the 1960s might have been on black vinyl, but you can buy a red vinyl pressing today!

Many titles released in the past five years have been issued as colored vinyl records, sometimes for the entire run and sometimes as a limited edition item.

About five years ago, Warner Brothers Records began reissuing the entire Metallica catalog as high quality pressings, some were mastered at 45 RPM for better sound quality. All of these titles were briefly available as colored vinyl records, though several of the titles were limited to 100 colored vinyl copies. Later pressings in the series were manufactured in larger quantities to help satisfy collector demand.

Record companies today understand that it’s a bit more work than it used to be to persuade customers to pay cash for hard media, rather than downloads. Because of this, it’s quite common these days to see titles issued as colored vinyl records as an added incentive for the customer to buy.

That’s not the only reason why someone might want to buy colored vinyl records, however.
Because colored vinyl pressings are generally more free of impurities than black vinyl, many of them provide good sound quality. This is particularly true of those colored vinyl records which are pressed for promotional use by radio stations. Regardless of sound, they’re all popular among collectors, if for no other reason than the fact that they’re different and unique.

Click here to view our selection of colored vinyl records.

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Beatles Albums Are Popular With Collectors

Beatles Albums and Why People Collect Them

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beatles albumsWhen it comes to record collecting, some artists are more popular with collectors than others. No artist, however, is quite as collectible as the Beatles, though Elvis Presley comes close. Despite being available for more than fifty years and with most of their records never going out of print, Beatles albums draw more interest, and sell for more money, than those by any other artist.

Collector interest in Beatles albums isn’t limited to original pressings, either, though first pressings of their records do command a lot of interest. Later issues, reissues, limited edition items and compilation Beatles albums assembled long after the group broke up in 1970 are also of interest to record collectors.

In this article, we’ll attempt to give an overview of the sorts of Beatles albums that tend to attract the most attention among collectors and we’ll show a few examples of some of the Beatles albums that tend to sell for the most money on the collector market.

Browse by Category

Click any of the links below to jump to each category:

Beatles Albums on Parlophone
Beatles Albums on Vee Jay
Beatles Albums on Other Labels
Beatles Albums on Capitol
Yesterday and Today
Beatles Albums on Apple
Other Foreign Releases of Note
Picture Discs and Colored Vinyl
Bootleg Beatles Albums
Recent Releases
Conclusion

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Click here to view our selection of Beatles albums.

Beatles Albums on Parlophone

beatles albums parlophoneWhile collectors worldwide are usually the most interested in Beatles albums from the country in which they live, there is also a lot of collector interest in Beatles albums from two countries in particular – Great Britain and the United States. British Beatles albums are of interest because the band hailed from that country, and their records were usually issued in the UK before they were released anywhere else.

British Beatles albums also defined what releases should look like and which songs they should contain, making any releases from other countries that differed in any way collectible in their own right.

American Beatles albums are of interest because Capitol Records, the group’s American label, reformatted a number of their albums, changing titles, track listings and artwork, resulting in a number of Beatles albums that were unique to the United States.

Beatles albums issued in Great Britain between 1963 and 1967 were issued on the Parlophone label. The first issues of the band’s debut album, Please Please Me, were issued using label art that dated to the late 1950s, a label known among collectors as the “black and gold” label. This label art was used for only a month or two before being changed to the “black and yellow” label that Parlophone used throughout the remainder of the 1960s, making first issues of Please Please Me quite rare in comparison to later pressings, particularly in stereo.

It has been estimated that perhaps 40,000 or so mono copies of the album were issued on the black and gold label and no more than 900-1000 copies in stereo. As this album was the first album by the Beatles issued anywhere, collectors around the world are interested in acquiring copies of Please Please Me on the black and gold label.

While minor label variations are rampant with Beatles albums, as minor details such as tax codes, the placement of the words “sold in the UK” often appeared in various places on the label or were possibly omitted completely from one pressing to another, the primary interest with collectors lies in obtaining the earliest pressings possible of a given record.

Given that these Beatles albums remained in print for years without obvious changes to the cover or label, how can one know if they’re looking at an early pressing or a later one?

It’s possible to determine whether a particular copy of Beatles albums on Parlophone are early pressings or a later pressing by examining the numbers that are stamped in the area around the record’s label known as the “dead wax” area. These numbers usually indicate the catalog number of the album itself, so that record company employees would know which stampers to use to press a particular record when grabbing them from storage. Those dead wax numbers also indicate, however, roughly how many records of that title had been pressed before it.

Stampers on Parlophone LPs are marked using a stamped letter or series of letters that is generally visible at the 3 o’clock position in the dead wax. A stamper code usually consisted of one, two or three letters, using the table below:

G=1
R=2
A=3
M=4
O=5
P=6
H=7
L=8
T=9
D=0

These letters are derived from the phrase “Gramophone Ltd.” and the letters may appear individually or in combination with others. Each stamper was usually used to press 300-500 discs, and then it was discarded and replaced with a new one. The first 300-500 copies of a given title, for instance, would have the letter “G” stamped in the vinyl at the 3 o’clock position. The next 300-500 copies would use a stamper with the letter “R.” Later pressings might have multiple letters, such as RM, or GRO, which would represent the 24th and 125th stampers, respectively.

As a general rule, Beatles albums with earlier stamper numbers tend to sell for more money among collectors than those with higher stamper numbers, with the emphasis on owning a copy of the album that was pressed as close to the original date of release as possible.

abbey road export pressingKeep in mind that Beatles albums in Britain were issued in both mono and stereo through 1969 (Yellow Submarine) and that both mono and stereo pressings would have their own sequence of stamper numbers. At the time of the release of Please Please Me in early 1963, mono records outsold their stereo counterparts by a ratio of nearly 100:1, making early stereo pressings quite scarce in comparison with mono copies. This ratio changed through the 1960s, and by 1968, most records sold were in stereo, making mono pressings of later Beatles albums, such as the White Album or Yellow Submarine much harder to find than stereo pressings.

It’s also worth noting that UK Beatles albums are generally harder to find than their American counterparts, as the country is smaller and has fewer buyers. An original American copy of just about any Beatles album will be easier to find than its British equivalent.

Albums issued in Britain by the Beatles, 1963-1967:

  • Please Please Me (March 1963)
  • With the Beatles (November 1963)
  • A Hard Day’s Night (July 1964)
  • Beatles for Sale (December 1964)
  • Help! (August 1965)
  • Rubber Soul (December 1965)
  • Revolver (August 1966)
  • Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (June 1967)

In addition to the Beatles albums above, which were pressed by Parlophone for sale within the UK, the label also pressed a few Beatles albums that were intended to be exported to other countries. These were all rather limited in production and are quite rare today and are highly sought out by collectors.

  • Something New
  • The Beatles Second Album
  • Beatles VI

The three albums above have the same title, cover art and track listing as the American albums of the same title, but they have Parlophone labels instead of Capitol labels.

  • The Beatles (The White Album) – Same as the regular UK pressing, except that the album has Parlophone labels instead of Apple labels.
  • Yellow Submarine – This pressing, intended for export to Portugal, has an Odeon label, rather than an Apple label.
  • Abbey Road – Same as the regular UK pressing, except that the album has Parlophone labels instead of Apple labels.
  • Hey Jude – Same as the regular UK pressing, except that the album has Parlophone labels instead of Apple labels. Issued as an export-only release in 1970; the album was released in 1979 with Apple labels.
  • Let It Be – Same as the regular UK pressing, except that the album has Parlophone labels instead of Apple labels.

In addition to the titles above, four different Beatles albums were pressed on colored vinyl in 1978 for export to the United States:

  • Magical Mystery Tour – yellow vinyl
  • The Beatles (The White Album) – white vinyl
  • Abbey Road – green vinyl
  • Let It Be – white vinyl

American Beatles Albums on Vee Jay

beatles albums vee jayWhile the history of Beatles albums in the UK is pretty straightforward, with all albums being released on the Parlophone label through 1967 and on the Beatles’ own Apple label thereafter, the story of Beatles albums in the United States is a bit more complex.

When the Beatles released their first single, “Love Me Do”, in late 1962, Parlophone’s American counterpart, Capitol Records, passed on the opportunity, as they’d had a poor track record in selling British artists to the American public. A small Chicago-based label, Vee Jay Records, ended up with the rights to the Beatles’ early singles and their first album, which they initially declined to release as the singles by the band they’d released had sold poorly.

In the meantime, the Beatles put together a string of hits in the UK, and Capitol Records took notice. When the cash-strapped Vee Jay neglected to pay royalties on the singles they’d sold, Parlophone assigned the rights to the American market to Capitol, and a series of lawsuits followed. As Capitol prepared to release the Beatles second album (With the Beatles in Britian, and Meet the Beatles in the U.S.), Vee Jay decided to release the Please Please Me album after all, and in early January 1964, two different Beatles albums appeared in stores in America, one on Capitol and one on Vee Jay.

The Vee Jay release of the Please Please Me album was released as Introducing the Beatles and was rushed to market in such a hurry that the first pressings didn’t even have a listing of the songs on the cover. Instead, the back cover of the album simply had photos of other albums by Vee Jay artists.

During the first quarter of 1964, lawyers for the various labels sorted out the matter of whether Vee Jay or Capitol had the rights to the Beatles catalog, and in the end, Vee Jay was given until October, 1964 to stop releasing Beatles product. In addition, they were told that they’d have to remove two songs, “Love Me Do” and “PS I Love You”, from the Introducing the Beatles album.

Tiny Vee Jay was ovewhelmed by demand for their only Beatles album, and they subsequently contracted pressing of the album to multiple companies, which resulted in dozens of pressing and label variations. Some covers listed song titles, others had blank white covers, and some albums were pressed with smaller labels intended for 45 RPM singles when they ran short.

With the October deadline coming up, Vee Jay decided to repackage the limited amount of Beatles material they had in order to increase sales. They repackaged Introducing the Beatles as Songs, Pictures and Stories of the Fabulous Beatles by simply putting discs labeled Introducing the Beatles into new covers. They also combined Introducing the Beatles with the album The Golden Hits of the Four Seasons and sold the two record set as a “battle of the bands” package, titled The Beatles vs. the Four Seasons, complete with a poster and a scorecard on the cover.

beatles and frank ifield on stageYet another album combined four Beatles songs that had previously been issued only as singles with a number of songs by singer Frank Ifield and was given the awkward and misleading title of The Beatles and Frank Ifield on Stage, which gave buyers the mistaken impression that the album was recorded live in concert. This album was issued with two different covers, and the second one, which features a drawing of the Beatles (but no Frank Ifield) on the cover, is among the rarest of all Beatles albums.

Vee Jay also released an album of interviews with the Beatles titled Hear the Beatles Tell All, and this was the one Beatles title that Capitol Records was not able to release themselves, as the album contained no music by the band.

While Beatles albums on Vee Jay sold well in 1964, they were all out of print by October of that year, and many of them were treated poorly by their owners. Because of this, it’s quite difficult to find any Beatles album on Vee Jay in collectible condition today. In addition, Introducing the Beatles has been heavily counterfeited over the years, and may be the most heavily counterfeited record of all time. Most counterfeit copies can be identified by thin vinyl, poor quality printing on the label, and having the name of the band and the title of the album separated by the spindle hole. In addition, most counterfeit copies have stereo covers but have discs that do not say stereo on the label.

As mono albums were more popular than stereo pressings in 1964, Vee Jay pressed approximately 50 mono copies of each title for every stereo copy, making stereo pressings of Introducing the Beatles, Songs Pictures and Stories of the Beatles and The Beatles vs. the Four Seasons much rarer and more expensive today than their mono counterparts.

Beatles albums issued by Vee Jay Records in 1964:

  • beatles vs the four seasonsIntroducing the Beatles (January 1964) – This was the same album as Please Please Me in the UK, with two songs, Please Please Me, and Ask Me Why, removed to cut the songs from 14 to 12. After a lawsuit, those two songs were added back to the album, and the songs Love Me Do and PS I Love You were removed.
  • Songs, Pictures and Stories of the Fabulous Beatles (October 1964) – This is the same album as Introducing the Beatles, but with a different cover. The discs inside the cover still say Introducing the Beatles and have that album’s catalog number printed on the label.
  • Jolly What! The Beatles and Frank Ifield on Stage (February 1964)– This album contains four Beatles songs and 8 by Australian singer Frank Ifield. Originally issued with a cover showing an old man with a Beatle haircut, the album was later briefly available with a cover showing a drawing of the Beatles and the “Jolly What!” removed from the title. The latter version is among the rarest of all American Beatles albums. The title is quite misleading, as the phrase “on stage” suggests that the album was recorded live. The songs were all studio recordings.
  • The Beatles vs. the Four Seasons (2 record set with poster)(October 1964) – This album combined Introducing the Beatles with The Golden Hits of the Four Seasons in a “battle of the bands” concept, which even included a scorecard on the back cover so that buyers could compare the two artists on a song-by-song basis.
  • Hear the Beatles Tell All (interview album) – An album of interviews with the Beatles

Beatles Albums on Other Labels

savage young beatlesPrior to signing their contract to record for Parlophone in early 1962, the Beatles recorded some songs in Germany as a backup band for British singer Tony Sheridan. These songs, which included “My Bonnie,” with Sheridan on vocals, and “Ain’t She Sweet,” with John Lennon singing, were licensed by a number of record companies that combined those songs with the work of other, largely unknown bands in order to release a “Beatles” album at the height of Beatlemania in 1964.

Atco Records released an album titled Ain’t She Sweet, combining a few of these songs along with songs by a band called The Swallows. MGM Records used a band called The Titans to fill out an album called The Beatles With Tony Sheridan and Guests. Both of these albums were later reissued on subsidiary labels under different titles. No one ever heard of the Titans or the Swallows again.

Another label called Savage Records released an album called The Savage Young Beatles that contained much of the same material. This album was a bit unusual in that it included a photo of the Beatles on the cover.

Another company called Greatest Records didn’t even bother licensing material; they simply released an album called The Original Greatest Hits, which contained material originally released on Capitol Records.

Greatest attempted to hide this by not mentioning the words “The Beatles” anywhere on the cover, but the drawing of four heads with Beatle haircuts on the cover made it clear exactly what the buyer could expect to hear.

All of these albums are somewhat scarce today and are fairly collectible. They don’t draw the attention of the Parlophone or Capitol releases, but most serious collectors have at least one of the above albums in their collection.

American Beatles Albums on Capitol

beatles albums capitolOnce Capitol Records secured the rights to release Beatles albums, they began to release them with gusto. The record-buying public had demonstrated that they were willing to buy albums in quantities previously unseen in the music industry, so Capitol set out to give the public as many Beatles albums as they were willing to buy.

A couple of differences between the way record albums were sold in the UK vs. the U.S. led to significant differences in album titles and content. In Britain, an album often contained up to 14 songs, while in the United States, albums were typically shorter, having 12 songs instead.

In addition, American albums usually included songs that had been previously released as singles, while albums sold in Britain did not. As Capitol always tried to ensure that the latest album also contained the latest singles, some songs ended up being removed from the albums to make room for the singles. Over time, the removed songs added up and with fewer songs per album and extra songs available from singles, Capitol found themselves with enough Beatles songs to issue a number of albums that were unique to the American market.

Between 1963 and 1966, Parlophone issued seven albums of new Beatles songs. During that same time period, Capitol issued eleven, along with a two-record set of interviews called The Beatles Story.

The Beatles weren’t too happy about this arrangement and when their contract came up for renewal, they insisted that album titles, artwork and content be consistent worldwide. This was the case for all albums from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967 through Let It Be in 1970.

Albums issued by Capitol, 1964-1967:

  • Meet the Beatles (January 1964) – This album had the same cover as Britain’s With the Beatles, but five tracks were dropped and the single I Want to Hold Your Hand and I Saw Her Standing There and This Boy were added.
  • The Beatles Second Album (unique U.S. release) (April 1964This album was actually their third American album, and included deleted tracks from Meet the Beatles, the “She Loves You” single with both UK and US b-sides (“I’ll Get You” and “You Can’t Do That”), and two new songs that had previously been released in the UK on an EP – “Long Tall Sally” and “I Call Your Name”
  • A Hard Day’s Night (June 1964) – The UK album featured 14 Beatles songs, including 8 from the film of the same name. The U.S. album had a different cover, and mixed 8 songs from the film with four instrumental songs by the George Martin Orchestra that had been used in the movie.
  • Something New (unique U.S. release) (July 1964) – This album, unique to the U.S., had 8 songs from the UK A Hard Day’s Night LP, plus “Slow Down” and “Matchbox” from a UK EP release and the German version of “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”the beatles storyThe Beatles Story (unique U.S. release) (November 1964) – This two record set consisted of interviews and portions of press conferences, along with song segments and narration that told the story of the Beatles rise to success.
  • Beatles ’65 (unique U.S. release) (December 1964) – This album contained 8 songs from Beatles for Sale, which wasn’t released in America, along with “I’ll Be Back”, “I Feel Fine”, and “She’s a Woman.”
  • The Early Beatles (unique U.S. release) (March 1965) – This album contained 11 of the 14 tracks recorded for the Please Please Me LP and was essentially Capitol’s version of Introducing the Beatles.
  • Beatles VI (unique U.S. release) (June 1965) – This album included the other 6 songs from Beatles for Sale, two songs recorded just for the U.S. market (“Dizzy Miss Lizzy” and “Bad Boy”), a B-side (“Yes It Is”) and two tracks from the UK Help! Album (“You Like Me Too Much” and “Tell Me What You See.”)
  • Help! (August 1965) – Like A Hard Day’s Night before it, Help! was released as a 14 track Beatles album in Britain but in the states it had 7 Beatles songs and five instrumental orchestral pieces from the film. The U.S. release had a unique cover that differed from the UK version.
  • Rubber Soul (December 1965) – The U.S. version dropped four songs from the UK album of the same name and added two songs from the UK Help! LP – “I’ve Just Seen a Face” and “It’s Only Love.”
  • Yesterday and Today (unique U.S. release) (June 1966) – A hodgepodge of tracks from various sources, including songs from the UK Help!, Rubber Soul and the then-unreleased Revolver LP, plus both sides of the “Day Tripper” single. See more about this LP below.
  • Revolver (different tracks from UK LP) (August 1966) – The U.S. album removed three songs from the UK LP, as these had already been issued on Yesterday and Today a few months earlier.
  • Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (June 1967) – Same as the UK LP
  • Magical Mystery Tour (unique U.S. release) (November 1967) – Tracks from the film of the same name were issued as a double 7” EP set in Britain, but the EP format did not sell well in the U.S. market, so the tracks were combined with songs from three singles issued that year to form a complete album.

All albums from Meet the Beatles through Magical Mystery Tour were issued in both stereo and mono; mono pressings of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Magical Mystery Tour are relatively rare, as most buyers were purchasing stereo copies at the time of those albums’ release.

Yesterday and Today

beatles butcher coverThe 1966 album, Yesterday and Today, was a unique release in the Beatles catalog as well as a unique headache for Capitol Records and it became the only Beatles albums to actually lose money on its initial release, despite the fact that it reached #1 on the album charts.

Yesterday and Today, issued in June 1966, was a collection of tracks from three different UK albums, plus both sides of the “Day Tripper” single. As the album was unique to the American market, Capitol needed artwork for it and contacted the band’s management. The photo they received was an usual image of the members of the band wearing butcher smocks while sitting on a bench. Scattered about were heads and bodies from toy dolls and pieces of raw meat.

Promotional copies of the album were sent out to the media and radio and the reaction to the cover photo was hostile. So hostile, in fact, that Capitol made the decision to change the cover to a photo of the band sitting around a steamer trunk. The album had been printed at three different pressing plants, and while the plant in Jacksonville, Illinois destroyed all of their copies of the so-called “Butcher cover” in order to print new ones, the plants in Scranton, Pennsylvania and Los Angeles opted to paste the new cover over the existing ones in order to save time and money.

Very few of the original, “first state” covers survived and only a handful were known to have been sold at retail when the album finally hit the stores. The covers that most buyers saw on the album’s day of release were either new covers printed in Illinois or “pasteover” covers from the other two plants. A few enterprising individuals discovered that it was possible, using steam or chemicals, to remove the second cover to reveal the Butcher cover underneath.

The cost to Capitol to fix the cover problem was reportedly more than $250,000, which equates to nearly $2 million today.

Original “first state” pressings of Yesterday and Today with the Butcher cover photo are quite rare, and sealed copies have sold for as much as $75,000 on the collector market. “Second state” copies, with the trunk cover still attached sell for anywhere from a few hundred dollars to $10,000 or so, depending on condition. “Third state” issues, which are copies that have had the trunk cover removed, can sell for as little as $50 to as much as $3500, depending on the condition of the cover and the degree of success in removing the trunk cover without damaging the image underneath.

The Butcher cover is perhaps the single most sought after of all Beatles albums, and demand remains strong today, despite the fact that they aren’t all that rare. Capitol probably shipped several hundred thousand copies when the album was new, but over time, many of them have been lost or damaged.

We have written a comprehensive article about the Beatles Butcher cover. You can read it here. (opens in a new window)

Beatles Albums on Apple

apple labelIn 1968, the Beatles created their own record label, Apple Records, to be used for their own releases as well as those by other artists signed to the label. Beatles albums released on the Apple label were pressed by Parlophone in Britain and by Capitol in the United States and were identical in title, cover art, and content.

Titles issued on Apple, 1968-1970

  • The Beatles (aka “The White Album”) (November 1968) – Issued in a plain white cover; original UK issues had covers that opened at the top, rather than the side. Each copy of the original pressing had a unique number stamped on the front cover. The two record set included four 8”x10” photos and a large poster. Issued in the UK in stereo and mono; in the U.S. in stereo only.
  • Yellow Submarine (January 1969) – Soundtrack album; issued in mono and stereo in the UK but U.S. releases were all stereo.
  • Abbey Road (September 1969) – Issued only in stereo in both the UK and U.S.
  • Hey Jude (February 1970) – A compilation of singles and B-sides that had not previously been issued in album form. The LP was issued in the U.S. in 1970, but not released in the UK until 1979.
  • Let It Be (May 1970) – First issues in the UK came in a box that included a large book containing photos from the film of the same name. U.S. issues did not include the book or the box.

The Beatles (White Album) and Yellow Submarine, unlike the UK issues, were released in the United States only in stereo, as sales of mono records in the U.S. had decline to the point where Capitol records was no longer pressing them.

Other Foreign Releases of Note

beatles hottest hits denmarkBeatles albums issued in the 1960s in other countries generally followed the UK format, though a few albums issued in Canada, such as Yesterday and Today, followed the U.S. format. In Japan, Beatles albums were issued in both configurations.

Japanese Beatles albums of the 1960s were initially pressed on red “Everclean” vinyl, which was specially formulated to minimize static electricity. Later issues were pressed on standard black vinyl. While the red vinyl pressings were not intended to be collector’s items, they have become so over time, and red vinyl copies of Beatles albums from Japan always sell for more money than their black vinyl counterparts. Also of interest on Japanese Beatles albums is the paper sash, or “obi” that was originally attached to the cover. The presence (or absence) of the obi can greatly affect the selling price.

A few other foreign albums tend to attract attention from collectors, including a compilation album from Denmark that shows the Beatles wearing parkas and another from France that shows them riding horses.

Picture Discs and Colored Vinyl

abbey road picture discIn the 1960s, the original Beatles albums from Japan, which were pressed on red vinyl, were the only albums by the band issued anywhere in the world using a color of vinyl other than black. In the late 1970s, record companies began issuing albums by a variety of artists on colored vinyl as limited edition items. These included a number of titles by the Beatles.

In the United States, Capitol Records released the following Beatles albums on colored vinyl in 1978:

  • The Beatles 1962-1966 – red vinyl
  • The Beatles 1967-1970 – blue vinyl
  • The Beatles (The White Album) – white vinyl

In the UK, four titles were released in 1978 on colored vinyl – Magical Mystery Tour (yellow), The Beatles (The White Album – white), Abbey Road (green) and Let It Be (white.)

In Canada, there were two colored vinyl Beatles albums issued:

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – gray marbled vinyl
  • Love Songs – yellow vinyl

In France, the following Beatles albums were issued on colored vinyl:

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – clear, green, yellow, blue, purple, orange
  • The Beatles 1962-1966 – red vinyl
  • The Beatles 1967-1970 – blue vinyl
  • The Beatles (The White Album) – white vinyl

In Japan, the following Beatles albums were released on colored vinyl:

  • The Beatles 1962-1966 – red vinyl
  • The Beatles 1967-1970 – blue vinyl

In the Netherlands, the Beatles Greatest Hits was released on both gold and purple vinyl.

The Beatles (The White Album) was released on white vinyl in Germany.

abbey road green vinylIn addition to the colored vinyl albums listed above, a few experimental pressings of Beatles albums have turned up on colored vinyl over the years. These were experimental pressings that were not intended for commercial sale:

  • Beatles VI – clear vinyl
  • Love Songs – brown swirl vinyl/clear vinyl (one disc each)
  • The Beatles (The White Album) – clear vinyl, gray and white swirl vinyl, red and white swirl vinyl (one disc only)
  • The Beatles 1967-1970 – clear vinyl (one disc only)

About the same time as the colored vinyl releases, Capitol Records issued two different Beatles albums as limited edition picture discs:

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
  • Abbey Road

These were released in die-cut covers that allowed buyers to see the record, which had the artwork from the cover pressed into the vinyl itself.

The two titles above were also issued as picture discs in Japan. Abbey Road was issued as a picture disc in Holland, with a different cover and artwork from the U.S. or Japanese issues. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was issued as a picture disc in Germany, with a different cover from the U.S. or Japanese issue.

Bootleg Beatles Albums

beatles bootleg albums five nights in a judo arenaIn addition to the authorized releases issued worldwide by Capitol, Parlophone, and Apple, a number of unauthorized, or “bootleg” Beatles albums have been issued by unknown parties over the years.

The first of these appeared in 1969 or so, and were recordings of the then-unreleased Let It Be material. Other titles soon followed, initially in plain white covers with rubber-stamped titles on them. Later issues became more elaborate, with either paper title inserts attached to the cover or properly printed covers.

At the time, U.S. copyright law was vague, and many of these bootleg Beatles albums were sold in regular record stores and even in department stores. By the mid-1970s, Congress changed the laws to make such unauthorized pressings illegal.

A few titles, including those issued by the famous bootleg label Trademark of Quality, were released on colored vinyl. The content of these bootleg Beatles albums usually fell into two groups – live recordings from 1964-1966 and previously unreleased material. As no authorized live album by the band was available until 1977, bootleg Beatles albums of live material were quite popular in the early 1970s.

One popular title, a recording of the Beatles performing in Japan in 1966, was titled Five Nights in a Judo Arena.

beatles bootleg picture discMost of the unreleased studio material was of very poor quality, as they were usually made from copies of copies of copies of tapes that had been passed around among collectors. In the late 1980s, a series of bootleg albums issued under the title of Ultra Rare Trax became available and offered exceptional sound quality recordings of several hours of previously unreleased material. The quality of this material was so good that it eventually led to the release of the three-volume Anthology series in the mid-1990s.

A few bootleg Beatles albums even included material that wasn’t recorded by the Beatles at all, such as the frequently-included track “Peace of Mind” (also known as “The Candle Burns”), whose source remains unknown, and “Have You Heard the Word”, which was actually a single by a group called The Fut. Another track that often appeared on bootleg Beatles albums was “The L.S. Bumble Bee,” which was actually a track by comedians Peter Cook and Dudley Moore that sounded nothing at all like the work of the Beatles.

Early Beatles bootlegs, particularly those on colored vinyl or those pressed as picture discs, remain popular with collectors. Bootleg picture discs include material from the Let It Be sessions and the band’s 1962 audition recordings for Decca.

Recent Releases

Even though the Beatles broke up in 1970, both Capitol and Parlophone continue to release new albums every few years. These have mostly been compilation albums, starting with the 1962-1966 and 1967-1970 sets released in 1973.

Later titles included Love Songs and Rock ‘n Roll Music, which collected ballads and rockers, respectively. An album called Rarities was released in 1980 that included songs that were previously unavailable in LP format.

reel musicIn 1982, Capitol released Reel Music, an album of songs from the Beatles films. In 1995 and 1996, three albums entitled Anthology 1, 2, and 3 were released, and these contained material that was previously only available on bootlegs.

Newer releases have included high-quality box sets containing all of their UK albums in stereo and a separate box set containing mono pressings of all of their albums that were originally released in that format.

All of these albums have sold well, often to buyers who weren’t even born when the band broke up.

Beatles Albums Conclusion

More than 40 years after the Beatles stopped working as a band, collector interest in their albums remains high. Prices for rare and hard to find items continue to climb, with particular emphasis on the Yesterday and Today Butcher cover and the first pressing of the UK Please Please Me LP on the original black and gold label.

For newer collectors, there are lots of moderately priced items on the market, and one can still put together a good sized collection of Beatles albums without having to spend tens of thousands of dollars.

And why not? The Beatles made a lot of great music, and collecting Beatles albums is fun.

Click here to view our selection of Beatles albums.

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Audiophile Records – What Are They?

Audiophile Records – What Are They?

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rca living stereo audiophile recordsThe term “audiophile” has a number of meanings; one definition we found was, “hi-fi enthusiast: somebody who has an enthusiasm for sound reproduction, especially high-fidelity music recordings.” That’s probably a good overall assessment; it’s someone who has an appreciate for how music sounds.

What are audiophile records? Presumably, “audiophile records” would refer to records that were created for the enjoyment of people who like well-recorded sound.

Or, in short, “records that sound good.” In that case, why aren’t all records audiophile records? After all, no one makes records to intentionally sound bad, do they?

No, companies don’t intentionally make records that sound bad, though many records don’t sound as good as they possibly could.

All record companies intend for their product to be enjoyable for the listener. That said, every record company and every artist has different objectives in terms of what they’re trying to accomplish, and who they’re trying to please when they release a record. Is the goal to make money?

To make sure the artist is pleased with the result? Or to give the listener the best possible experience? Sometimes, these objectives are at odds with one another, and the result is often a record that doesn’t sound as good as it could. While all records could be audiophile records, few of them actually are.

Ideally, all recordings would be made under ideal recording conditions, with the greatest care taken to ensure that the recording produced a realistic reproduction of the music played in the studio. The tapes would then be transferred to production stampers with the greatest of care, and the records would be pressed using quiet, high-quality vinyl and packaged in such a way as to protect the finished disc as much as possible.

In a mass-production record company environment, those results rarely occur, though they are becoming more common as the record companies realize that consumers are now more picky than ever before about how they spend their money.

While most record companies today strive to make a quality product, from recording to final pressing, that wasn’t always the case. In the era of stereo records, we had a period where many, if not most, records produced qualified as audiophile records, then a long period where virtually none of them did. Today, as we enjoy the return of vinyl records to the marketplace, fans of well-recorded music are again able to enjoy listening to audiophile records.

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Early Audiophile Records

atlantic stereo labelIn the late 1950s and early 1960s, a few record companies, such as Columbia and Atlantic, spent a lot of time trying to make sure that their recordings sounded great and that their finished product was of a high quality. Their albums were well-recorded, with a sense of space and depth that truly immersed the listener in the experience.

Both companies were early adopters in acquiring then-expensive stereo and/or multi-track tape recording equipment. In addition, their records were pressed from quality vinyl, with quiet surfaces that reproduced the music well without producing distracting noise or ticks or pops that often comes with records pressed from poor quality or recycled vinyl compounds.

In the late 1950s, those companies, along with RCA, discovered that those consumers who were early adopters in buying stereo playback equipment had larger than average amounts of disposable income and they set out to make a quality product to appeal to those buyers. That’s not surprising; the cost of a stereo record album in 1960 equates to more than $40 today. Buying a new record back then was not an impulse purchase.

RCA in particular was an innovator in stereo recording, particularly in their classical releases, which were recorded using a three track tape recorder to capture the left, right, and center of the orchestra. These techniques were later used for RCA’s popular recordings, as well, and their records, issued under the “Living Stereo” banner, captured a realism that is still revered by audiophiles today. Many RCA stereo albums from that era command prices in the hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of dollars on the collector market.

This early “golden age” of stereo and high quality recordings didn’t last all that long; in fact, it was over in less than a decade. There were various reasons for changes in the industry, but the result was the mass production of records that, for the most part, didn’t sound that great when compared to what had been available just a few years before.

rca dynagroove - not audiophile recordsThe price of stereo equipment began to drop as the 1960s wore on, and more people started buying stereo records. Their lower-priced equipment didn’t do as good a job of reproducing stereo sound, and RCA compensated for this beginning in 1963 when they introduced their “Dynagroove” process.

Dynagroove attempted to compensate for the deficiencies of consumer-grade equipment by artificially boosting bass frequencies and reducing the overall volume level of the music on the records.

While RCA claimed that the Dyangroove process added “a remarkable degree of musical realism,” the music community disagreed as did many stereo and hi-fi publications of the time.

Unfortunately, RCA continued using this process for all of their recordings for nearly a decade. By the time they stopped using it, they’d already adopted something far worse – Dynaflex, which we’ll cover shortly.

Another mid-1960s process that hurt the sound of records was the Haeco-CSG process, which attempted to correct a problem caused when consumers played stereo records on mono phonographs.

Between 1957, when stereo records were first introduced and sold alongside their mono counterparts, and 1968, when mono records were finally phased out, consumers had to choose either mono or stereo records when they made a purchase. Early mono phonographs could not play stereo records without damaging them, but by the late 1960s, manufacturers were using needles that were compatible with both formats.

The problem during playback was that a stereo record played on mono equipment would artificially boost the sound of any information that was present in both channels of the stereo disc. This resulted in recordings that didn’t sound right, as part of the music, usually the vocals, would play back at a higher sound level than intended.

The Haeco-CSG (“compatible stereo groove”) process attempted to correct this and allowed record companies to produce a record in one format only – stereo, which would play back at the same level regardless of the type of phonograph used to play it.

csg processWhile this was great for record companies, as it allowed them to dramatically reduce manufacturing costs, it was terrible for consumers who appreciated high-quality sound, as the phase-cancellation process used by CSG resulted in “tinny” sounding records with relatively little bass.

Although the CSG process was used for only two or three years, it was often used at the master tape mixing stage, leaving master tapes of albums released during this time by several major record companies (the Warner-Elektra-Atlantic group among them) forever sounding artificially wrong.

While there are now processes available to remove the CSG artifacts from recordings from the 1968-1970 era when it was primarily used, most copies of albums released during that era suffer from poor sound quality due to its use.

By the early 1970s, various record company mergers with other labels and acquisitions by companies with no prior interest in music (such as Kinney’s buyout of Warner Brothers in the late 1960s – Kinney’s primary business to that point was managing parking garages and janitorial services) led to an increased interest in the bottom line and an emphasis on producing greater profits over producing a good-sounding, quality product.

These mergers, combined with a global oil crisis and a relative shortage of vinyl, led to cutbacks in quality across the industry. Many records were lighter in weight and indifferently manufactured, resulting in records with lots of surface noise and a tendency to warp. Making matters worse was the tendency of the record companies to press their records from noisy, recycled vinyl. With new vinyl (and the oil needed to make it) being scarce, companies would grind down their unsold product and reuse it for new releases.

rca dynaflexPerhaps the worst example of this were the records RCA pressed at this time. These were extraordinarily thin pressings were so thin that you could almost fold them in half.

RCA knew these records were of poor quality, but they attempted to sell this obvious step back in quality as a feature, which they even chose to name – Dynaflex. These records were quite flexible, and weighed about half as much as a regular LP.

Dynaflex records sounded terrible and were prone to warping, but RCA actually advertised these pressings as an improvement, going so far as to claim that they were less likely to warp than traditional pressings from heavier vinyl.

While Dynaflex records were less prone to actual breakage than their predecessors, they were more prone to warpage, leading to the derisive nickname, “Dynawarp.” If you were unfortunate enough to buy albums from RCA artists around 1970 or so, you had the double problem of purchasing records by likes of the Guess Who, Elvis Presley or Jose Feliciano that were plagued by the problems of both Dynagroove and Dynaflex. You spent the same money that you used to, but now you received a product with thin, compressed sound on a disc that was more likely then ever to warp.

Adjusted for inflation, records were far more affordable in the early 1970s than they had been a decade earlier. This led to increased sales. Record companies expanded and opened more pressing plants, but this led to yet another decrease in quality. Ideally, to get the best-sounding record, you want to use the two-track master tape to make it.

This isn’t possible, of course, as record companies don’t want to use their only two track master to produce millions of records. The tape would wear out if they did that. So they’d use copies of that tape instead. Sometimes, they’d use copies of copies, with each copy sounding worse than the tape from which it was made. The product was widely available at an affordable price, but the finished product sounded worse than ever.

audiophile records labelAs a side note, there was a small label in operation from the late 1940s through the 1970s that called itself “Audiophile Records.” This label specialized in jazz recordings, and took great care in making sure their records sounded as good as possible.

As far as we know, all of their releases were pressed on red vinyl, and many of their early titles were cut at 78 RPM, as the company felt that speed offered better fidelity. Despite the label’s attention to quality, they were never overly successful, with their records being seen as a niche market.

The 1960s and early 1970s were not a good time for audiophiles, as the mass-produced product of that decade largely resulted in poor quality pressings made from noisy vinyl. It didn’t matter if the albums were well-recorded or not, as they playback was likely to sound terrible regardless of what kind of equipment you were using to listen to it.

Audiophile Records by Design

Sheffield Lab

sheffield labIn the early 1970s, a record mastering engineer named Doug Sax and a musician named Lincoln Mayorga discovered that many of their old 78 RPM singles sounded better than newer recordings. This led to the formation of one of the earliest companies to intentionally produce audiophile records – Sheffield Lab.

Sheffield specialized in “direct-to-disc” recordings, which sent the signals from the artists’ microphones directly to the cutting lathe, bypassing the tape deck (though a tape deck was used as a backup.) These recordings produced records of astonishing depth and clarity and the label’s occasional releases became quite popular in the hi-fi and audiophile community.

There are several problems with the direct-to-disc process, however. Because the music is recorded live to the acetate, an entire album side had to be played and recorded at once, with no opportunity to make corrections later or overdub instruments or additional voices at a later time.

What was played live was what went on the record. Another problem was that the lack of a master tape meant that when the stampers wore out, production of a particular title must come to a stop forever.

Since most artists were, by that time, accustomed to recording in a studio with 8, 16 or even 32 track tape recorders and were more comfortable with a recording process that allowed them to record, and overdub or make corrections at leisure, direct-to-disc recordings were somewhat of a niche product that worked best with small jazz groups, who were accustomed to performing live with limited overdubbing.

A few other labels attempted to produce records using similar direct-to-disc methods, including Century, Direct Disk Labs, Crystal Clear and M&K Realtime, but most of them were out of business by the early 1980s.

Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs Audiophile Records

mobile fidelity audiophile records catalogIn the late 1970s, a company called Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs, founded by Brad Miller, decided that it was time to produce audiophile records, meaning records that manufactured to sound good as the music on them, and records intended for people who actually care how their music sounds.

Mobile Fidelity wasn’t new; the company had been founded around 1960 as an outlet for recordings of locomotives for train buffs. The company later expanded to include a few race car recordings, but through the 1960s, they were mostly a company that produced high-quality, but little-noticed, sound effects records.

In the mid-1970s, the owners of the label had noticed that the records issued by the major labels were of relatively poor quality and that they sounded a lot worse than what had been available ten or fifteen years earlier.

They came up with what was then a novel idea to produce higher-quality records than what was then available, allowing listeners to experience well-recorded albums, such as Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon or John Klemmer’s Touch, as they were meant to be heard.

Miller’s plan was to approach the major labels and license recordings to some of their albums from major artists. They would negotiate, for example, with Capitol Records to release Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon themselves. They would insist on using only the master two-track tape, rather than a copy, or a copy of a copy.

The acetate from which the stampers were made was cut on the lathe using a process known as half speed mastering. Half speed mastering was a process where both the tape recorder playing back the album during mastering and the cutting lathe that cut the acetate from which stampers were made were both run at half of the normal speed, thus creating a more accurate groove in the record. This process, which required special equipment and a lot of extra time, was also thought to improve spatial imaging and bass response in the finished product.

mobile fidelity uhqr audiophile recordsThe company also made the decision to use only new, high-quality, “virgin” vinyl, as opposed to the recycled vinyl that was then in use by nearly every major record company.

The vinyl that Mobile Fidelity used was a proprietary compound made by JVC in Japan called Supervinyl and had JVC manufacture the records in Japan. It was translucent, with a brownish-gray color when held to the light, had exceptional wear properties for repeated play, and had dead-quiet surfaces that allowed you to hear just the music, rather than a combination of music and record surface noise.

Mobile Fidelity sold their records for nearly double the price of that of the major record companies, but enjoyed considerable success in the days prior to the invention of the compact disc. Their records were available in specialty record shops and at hi-fi stores, which often used their albums as demonstration discs.

Mobile Fidelity also declared up front that all of their titles were to be limited editions, claiming that fewer than 200,000 copies of any of their titles would ever be pressed. While this appeared to be an appeal to scarcity to encourage sales, it actually had more to do with requirements from the record companies from whom they were licensing the recordings. Most, if not all, of their contracts had time limitations on them; Mobile Fidelity could only sell a particular title for a specified period of time before they were contractually required to discontinue their sales of that title.

By licensing titles that were already big sellers, such as the Pink Floyd LP, Supertramp’s Crime of the Century, and the Grateful Dead’s American Beauty, Mobile Fidelity became quite successful, though not all record companies were interested in licensing their product to the label, nor were they interested in having it demonstrated to the public that the records they were selling themselves didn’t sound very good.

In 1982, Mobile Fidelity went a step further in producing audiophile records by creating the Ultra High Quality Record, or UHQR. These records used heavier, 200 gram vinyl, than the regular 140 gram releases from the company. The records were truly flat, unlike regular records, which tended to be thicker in the middle than at the edge. The records were kept in the presses longer than their regular releases in order to produce a better-defined disc. Only eight of these UHQR releases were ever issued, and they were limited to 5000 copies per title and were sold at a then-outrageous retail price of $50.

Other Modern Audiophile Records Labels

nautilus recordsWith the success of Mobile Fidelity, other companies soon joined the trend of releasing mass-produced audiophile records. Some of the early competitors were California-based Nautilus and Nashville’s Direct Disk Labs.

Nautilus produced about 50 titles through the early 1980s, before going out of business due to financial issues with their owner. They did, however, produce noteworthy titles by The Allman Brothers Band, Elton John, and John Lennon, among others.

Direct Disk Labs had best been known for their direct-to-disc releases, but they ventured into the same territory as Mobile Fidelity and Nautilus by licensing titles by Derek & the Dominoes, Elton John and Peter Gabriel, among others.

They only issued a handful of titles, but were noteworthy in that they released titles by artists who recorded for Columbia Records, a label whose products Mobile Fidelity didn’t release. Those titles included albums by Neil Diamond, Blood Sweat & Tears, and Loggins & Messina.

As they were then the largest record company, Columbia Records didn’t see that it made sense to license their titles to other companies who would then try to sell them by suggesting that their products were better than what Columbia was producing, even though that was exactly the case.

So in 1981, Columbia Records decided to make their own audiophile records, releasing both half speed mastered pressings of titles recorded on analog tape and albums using the then-new digital recording process, though the digital titles were mostly classical. These pressings were made entirely in-house, and used a higher quality vinyl than what Columbia used for their regular pressings.

columbia half speed mastered recordsColumbia’s audiophile records consisted of an odd mix of older, classic titles combined with then-new releases.

While Columbia’s titles, which included albums by Bob Dylan, Boston, Pink Floyd, Barbra Streisand, Willie Nelson, Earth Wind & Fire and others were quite good, many buyers and audiophiles were annoyed by the combination of prices that were double those of Columbia’s regular pressings and by the fact Columbia was effectively choosing to improve a small selection of their products, when they had the ability to improve the quality of their entire product line.

Instead, the more expensive, higher quality audiophile records sat in the same bins as the noisy, indifferently manufactured regular pressings, with both produced by the same company.

In Canada, A&M records started their own line of half speed mastered audiophile records, and had them pressed by JVC in Japan using their proprietary “Super Vinyl.” Many of these titles, by artists such as Supertramp, Styx, the Carpenters, and The Police, were widely available for sale in the United States.

While these records looked a lot like those from Mobile Fidelity and used a similar half speed mastering process, the tapes used to make these audiophile records were at least one generation down in the duplication chain from those used to produce Mobile Fidelity records, resulting in a product with a quiet playing surface but sometimes spotty sound.

With the increased number of companies producing audiophile records, consumers were confused and frustrated by the experience of seeing the same titles sometimes offered in multiple versions at a wide variety of price ranges with little information offered as to what, exactly, they were buying. By the mid-1980s, a glut in the market and the introduction of the compact disc put all of these companies except Mobile Fidelity out of business.

Japanese Audiophile Records

japanese LPWhile all of this was going on, a few people quietly noticed that records imported from Japan tended to always sound better than their American counterparts.

Part of that had to do with the fact that the Japanese record companies always used premium materials in their product manufacturing – the vinyl was of high quality, their cover printing was of high quality and they took great care in the mastering of their acetates and plating of their stampers.

The Japanese record companies even packaged their records using non-abrasive rice paper inner sleeves, instead of the heavy paper used by American record companies that often damaged the discs after repeated play.

In the early 1980s, tens of thousands of Japanese LPs were imported into the United States and sold as high quality “audiophile records.” Many of these titles were pressed in Japan by JVC, the same company that was pressing records for Mobile Fidelity, often using the same vinyl, though rarely the same master tapes.

The importation of Japanese audiophile records was halted in the mid-1980s when the American record companies realized that they were losing money on sales of imported records. Royalty payments to artists are negotiated on a country-by-country basis, with higher rates in the United States and Great Britain than in other countries, such as Japan.

If an American buyer purchased an imported Japanese album of a title that was also available as a domestic pressing, the royalty payment to the artist and likely the profit to the record company itself, would be less.

With the record companies putting an end to the importation of Japanese audiophile records, they then set out to try to get rid of the record altogether, instead promoting the digital compact disc, which had significantly higher profit margins. Unfortunately, audiophiles didn’t care for the sound of compact discs, and many simply stopped buying music altogether as records became scarce in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Audiophile Records Today

analogue productions audiophile LPAfter forcing records from the market in the early 1990s, the record companies found themselves with little product to sell after consumers balked at paying high prices for compact discs and resorted instead to illegally downloading low-quality mp3 files from the Internet.

Realizing that they could still sell physical product if they made something that people felt was worth buying, the major record labels started selling a high-quality product that has long been popular with the public – records.

The public has responded, and today, every pressing plant in the world is running at full capacity.

Today, with the resurgence in sales of vinyl, lots of companies are again making audiophile records. After a brief period of bankruptcy, Mobile Fidelity is back in business, and Warner Brothers Records is selling albums on a Website with the title Because Sound Matters.

Often, these are limited edition pressings cut at 45 RPM (on twice as many discs) to produce even better sound quality than the standard 33 1/3 pressings. Mobile Fidelity is back in business again after a short period of bankruptcy, and other companies such as Classic Records and Acoustic Sounds have stepped in to add to the quality pressings available on the market. Newer labels include names such as Equinox, Analogue Productions and the Electric Recording Company.

The latter company produces painstakingly detailed reproductions of obscure classical titles that are limited to 300 copies only. The titles they choose to release may be obscure, but they’re albums that often sell for upwards of $1000 on the collector market.

Analogue Productions has been producing audiophile records in two versions – a regular pressing that plays at 33 1/3 RPM and a pressing that plays at 45 RPM. The 45 RPM pressings require that a single album be spread over two discs, but the higher speed allows for less distortion and better sound quality. The company is doing so well that they have built their own pressing plant.

Across the board, the overall quality of the records available today is the best it’s ever been. Record companies today are making a determined effort to make their product as good as possible, with careful attention paid to the quality of the mastering process, the quality of the vinyl used in pressing the records themselves and the tapes used in the mastering process.

While sales of vinyl records are the highest they’ve been in twenty five years, the sale of records is still a niche industry, as most consumers purchase digital downloads. As records represent a premium product that sells at a premium price, the companies making records today realize that quality matters more than ever, and if they don’t make a good product, consumers are going to take their business elsewhere.

The term “audiophile records” is really rather vague, and can encompass a wide variety of recordings, both those intended to be of high quality, such as those from Mobile Fidelity, as well as vintage titles that sounded great because that’s how the record companies at that time made all of their products. Nevertheless, if there’s a record out there that sounds great, with a wide soundstage and a sense of three dimensional depth to it, you can rest assured that people will be lining up to buy it.

Records today sound better than ever. If you like quiet vinyl and good representation of the recorded music on it, you may find audiophile records to be to your liking.

Click here to browse our selection of audiophile records.

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Record Articles

We have written a number of articles about various aspects of record collecting. We hope you find them to be helpful.

Why do people collect vinyl records? – An explanation about record collecting.

Acetates and Test Pressings – What are they?

Audiophile Records – Albums made to sound better than regular pressings

Beatles Albums – Information about Beatles albums from around the world

Beatles Colored Vinyl Albums – Beatles albums from around the world that were issued on colored vinyl

Bootleg Records – Unauthorized pressings including live albums and ROIR pressings

Butcher cover – The story of the Beatles’ most notorious album – Yesterday and Today

Colored Vinyl – Information about records pressed on some color of vinyl other than black

Counterfeit Records and Pirate Pressings – Information about fake rare records

Japanese albums – Why collectors seek out records from Japan

Lesley Gore records – We have a large collection of albums, singles and more by the singer.

Most Valuable Vinyl Records – The Top 10 Rarest Albums That Were Sold in Stores

Picture Discs – Information about picture discs and their history

Pink Floyd Albums – An overview of unusual records by one of the world’s most collectible artists

Stereo Records and Mono Records – Why collectors prefer one or the other

Vintage Vinyl Records – 9 Reasons Why Collectors Like Them – The reasons collectors might prefer vintage records over new ones

Vinyl Record Collecting Glossary – A collection of useful terms related to records and record collecting

Vinyl Record Storage and Care – Taking Care of Your Investment

Vinyl Records Value – What determines what your records are worth?

White Label Promo – Information about promotional releases