RECORD COLLECTING FAQ
Styrene (properly, Polystyrene)
- Hard, relatively inflexible plastic used
to press records, mainly 7-inch singles, mainly using the Injection
Moulding process. The material is heated to a liquid form and is then
squirted or injected into the closed stampers in the press. This requires
that the labels be either glued or painted on after the record leaves the
press. The cost savings to the manufacturer comes from the extended life
of the stampers because of the lack of a heating cycle to the stampers.
The material can also be reused without noticeable change to its moulding
properties. Styrene records will therefore usually have very quiet
surfaces when found in an UNPLAYED Mint condition, but unfortunately they
will wear to a noisy condition rapidly, especially if played with a bad
stylus or an improperly tracking tonearm. They also are more prone to Cue
The Columbia Records Pittman, New Jersey pressing plant was once the
major source of Injection Moulded Styrene pressings, and pressings from
this plant are found on MANY small labels. Look for the glued-on labels.
Painted-on labels can be found on records from the Amy/Bell/Mala group.
Vinyl (properly Polyvinyl Chloride). Relatively flexible material used
since the early 1930s to make non-breakable records. Its fumes are an
acknowledged carcinogen, so don't breathe in deeply when you have your next
holy burning of Beatles or back-masked devil-worship records. :-) Usually
pressed by Compression Moulding which allows the label to be an integral
part of the pressing itself. This process also requires that there be
extra material which spills out the sides of the press, therefore this
extra material is routinely ground up and re-used. Because vinyl does not
re-heat and re-cool to a smooth, glossy surface, the excessive use of
"re-grind" mixed in with Virgin Vinyl can account for the inherently noisy
surface of even Unplayed Mint examples of the cheap pressings that some
record companies used. Noise can be seen AND HEARD by looking at and/or
playing the un-grooved surface of the lead-in and lead-out areas. If this
area looks or sounds grainy, then the grooves will also have some of this
grainy background sound. The stampers used for the compression moulding
process will start to break down after only 1,000 pressings because they
are forced to expand and contract when heated by steam at the start of the
pressing cycle and then cooled to solidify the record. Some companies
routinely overused their stampers for their pop record series.
Dynaflex - Ultra-thin pressings of high-grade Virgin Vinyl introduced by
RCA Victor in late 1969. Although considered crap by most collectors
because they do not seem flat when held, they actually have much quieter
surfaces then most of the popular records pressed by RCA in the
mid-to-late-1960s due to the extraordinarily high percentage of Re-grind
Vinyl used in all but its Red Seal, Vintage Series, and Original Cast
pressings. Dynaflex was also less prone to breakage and permanent warpage
in shipment. Its lighter weight reduced shipping costs and allowed for the
use of a higher grade of Vinyl because less material was required. They
were supposed to lie flat on the turntable due to their own weight, but RCA
forgot that many people had changers with 8-inch turntables!
Dynagroove - Record cutting system introduced by RCA Victor in 1962 that
supposedly reduced tracking distortion by computer controlling cutting
characteristics to overcome the imagined faults of playback equipment.
Considered a disaster by everyone except the New York Times writer Hans
Fantel who wrote the blurb inserted in all of the early pressings, it
brought the golden age of RCA Victor Living Stereo to a screeching halt.
Because there is a possibility that this system was used on later
re-masterings of the early Living Stereo records, collectors try to obtain
only early pressings of these masterpieces--usually called "Shaded Dogs." The
words "Stereo-Orthophonic" are on the record label and sometimes the cover of
the "good" Living Stereo albums.
Acetate/Lacquer - Is usually a reference cut that is made on ultra high-grade
methyl cellulose sprayed onto thick aluminum discs. Reference acetates are
primarily to make certain the record will sound somewhat like the tape. Often
they are also made to allow a club or radio disc-jockey to play the music on
turntables before it has been pressed as a normal record. Acetate is a
misnomer. It is actually a Lacquer, but since so many people call these
acetates, both will be used here.
Alternate Take - At a recording seesion more than one take (recorded version) may
be kept on file for future use. What is considered the best take at the time is
usually used for the commercial release. Sometimes a different take is used for
a compilation album or in really rare cases the first recording that was issued
is pulled and an alternate take from the same session is used. When this
happens a lot of people will think "There is something different about that
song." This was done with a 50s record from Whirling Disc records. It was
Whirling Disc 107 and the songs were "I Really Love You"/"What Do You Do" by The
Channels. After a couple of months in release, Bobby Robinson (the owner) for
whatever reason, used two different takes (one for each side) from the same
session for subsequent releases. Anyone that has heard both records (I have
both) can tell the difference between the two in a minute. The most famous of
all is the Bob Dylan, "Positively 4th Street" 45 on Columbia. For some reason,
some copies of the commercial 45 were issued with a version of "Can You Please
Crawl Out Your Window" instead of "Positively 4th Street". The funny thing is
that Dylan's next release on Columbia "Can you please crawl out your window" was
a different take than the mistake on "Positively...".
Test Pressing - A "true" test pressing is sent back to the cutting engineer,
producer and sometimes the perfomer, to confirm that the pressings will sound as
intended. Most TP's are really just early pressings, frequently without artwork
of any kind, and they are serviced to whoever as early promo's. In many cases
this was done to rush the record out to radio stations to try and get immediate
airplay before the complete label could be finished.
Original Label - This refers to the company that first issued a certain record.
A lot of times small labels will have a record that will become very popular and
they cannot meet the sales demand. In a lot of cases the master is sold or
leased to a larger record company and the record is released on the larger
company's own label. Also look at the small label examples under "Reissue."
All of these fall under "Original label."
First Pressing - The way the record first came out on a certain label. Examples:
The first pressing of "Sixty Minute Man" by the Dominoes came out on Gold top
Federal. The first pressing of "Church Bells May Ring" by the Willows came out
as "Church Bells Are Ringing" and all that was changed a few weeks later was the
title. The label design and color remained the same.
Reissue - There are several types of reissues. There is the budget reissue.
This falls into the K-tel, Design, Forum, etc., labels. These are discount
labels that got the permission to use the original master to issue songs
(usually hits) later as discount compilations. Then there is the reissue that
is just a later issue that isn't a budget item. Labels that can fit here are:
Collectibles, Eric, Rhino, etc. And then there is the other type reissue: A
record that was originally pressed on a small label (see Original Label above)
and then was picked up by a major or by a big independent. Examples: Question
Mark & The Mysterians--"96 Tears". First recorded for Pa-go-go. It was picked
up by Cameo/Parkway and reissued on Cameo. "At The Hop", Danny and the
Juniors--original on Singular with a count-off intro. It was then picked up by
ABC Paramount and the intro was deleted. "Short Shorts", the Royal
Teens--original on Power but the hit was on ABC Paramount after ABC picked it up
from Power and reissued it on their own label. The Motley Crue's first album
originally came out on Leather and then was picked up and reissued on Elektra.
Re-Release - A record that was out of print for a certain period of time and the
original company decides to put it back into their catalog of available items.
Re-Number - Taking a currently available record and re-numbering it.
Re-Recording - A song that was originally recorded by an artist for one label and
then was re-recorded and issued later by another label. (Sometimes the original
label will record the same song by the artist years later.) Examples: Roy
Orbison and the Teen Kings. "Ooby Dooby"--originally recorded for Je-wel
records and was later re-recorded and issued on Sun. Penguins--"Earth Angel
(Will You Be Mine)"--Originally recorded by the Penguins and released by Dootone
records. Re-recorded and issued later on Mercury.
Revision/RE - To RCA Victor it means that something was revised, a credit was
changed, the layout of the cover was changed, something simple like that.
Sometimes the first pressings of the record has an RE. They did their
changes even before issuing and felt it important enough to note it. You
see things like this in the RCA files. This is the meaning of RE on the back of
some of the RCA albums.
Cover - The same song issued by another artist at about the same time as the
first record. This was done to "cover up" or take away sales from the first
record. Timeliness was important in issuing "cover" records. Many times in the
50s the "cover" record was by a white artist "covering" a song by a black artist
or black group. If the white artist or group was successful, the black artists
record either died, or did not sell very well outside R & B circles. Examples:
are: "Sh-Boom" The Chords covered by the Crew-Cuts. The Crew-Cuts far outsold
The Chords. "Wheel Of Fortune by the Cardinals was covered by Kay Starr.
Starr far outsold the Cardinals.
Remake - A song done later-on by another artist. This was not timely enough to
be called a "cover" record. Examples: "Hound Dog" Big Mama Thornton remade a
few years later by Elvis. "The Train Kept a-Rollin', orignally by Tiny
Bradshaw. Remade a few years later by the Rock'n Roll Trio. Remade again in
the mid 60s by The Yardbirds. "Louie Louie" Richard Berry in the mid 50s.
Remade by the Kingsmen in the early 60s and then by 9 million other artists.
Master #s/Matrix #s - These terms (interchangeable) are used for the side
identification # for each side of a record. It is usually printed on the label
and is also in the dead wax of a record. I think it was also the catalog #
given to each recorded song of a record label. RCA, Columbia and Epic had
special alphabetical prefixes for their master #s.
Dated master #s - Some labels for a time put a date at the beginning of their
master #s. This would show the releases for that year. The next year would
start at the bottom of the numbering sequence. Labels that did this were: VJ,
Tollie, M-G-M and Cub. RCA also did this from the late 40 to the early 60s.
They used a letter and a # to denote the date. D8 would be 1948; E4 was 1954.
In 1956 they changed again with F being 1956, G being 1957 and H being 1958. And
they skipped I for 1959.
Machine Stamped - A lot of labels used perfect die cut letters to put the master
#s and pressing #s in the dead wax of their records. This is different than the
hand written #s that some companies used. In a lot of cases this can be used to
a certain degree of certainty in determining a counterfeit with U. S. pressings.
Some companies that had machine stamped master #s were: RCA, Decca, Coral,
Brunswick, Capitol. Columbia, Liberty, Laurie and Rust. Atlantic had the #s
usually hand written, but somewhere in the dead wax had AT---machine stamped,
but once in awhile it was handwritten.
Lead-In Groove - This is the silent area at the beginning of a record.
Cue-Up Area - This is the area where a disc jockey "cues up" the record so that
the music will start as soon as he starts the turntable. With the stylus on the
record the disc jockey moves the record back and forth over the same area to get
the desired start-up point.
Cueing Scratch/Cue Burn - A common phenomenon with 45s that were cued-up by disc
jockeys. In most cases there is either a hiss or a loss of fidelity in the
first few revolutions of the record.
Dead Wax - Also known as the trail-off groove and lead-out area. Also known as
the run-off area. The area between the end of the recording and the label.
Delta # - In July of 1954 an independent pressing plant in Los Angeles, called
Monarch Records started putting a Delta (triangle) with a # next to it in the
dead wax of each record that they pressed. This is the way that they kept track
of the order of items pressed. Each side had it's own Delta #.
Repaired Seam - In a lot of cases the edge seam on album covers, EP covers and
picture sleeves become split. This is a designation to show that this has been
repaired. Sometimes this is done by gluing the ends together and sometimes tape
is used to close the split.
Colored Wax (Actually colored vinyl) - Several companies in the early 50s
used color vinyl on some of their 45 issues. These are normally a lot rarer and
more sought after than the normal black vinyl release. Some examples:
King--Blueish green for its R&B series, and red vinyl for its maroon label
Federal--Same blueish green vinyl as King
Vee Jay--Red vinyl
And the most famous of the 60s labels to issue white label promos on colored
wax: Columbia, with the following known colors: red vinyl, green vinyl, blue
vinyl, yellow vinyl and purple vinyl.
Timing Strip - This is usually found glued to the front of promo copies of
albums. This shows the song titles and playing times for each cut on the album.
These can take up a small space at the bottom of an album or can take up to half
of the album cover at the bottom.
Gatefold - An album cover, EP cover or picture sleeve that opens up like a gate.
Sometimes has records that fit in both open ends.
Vinyl Junkie - A record collector that has the collecting fever so bad that
nothing else really matters. He/she plans his/her vacations around looking for
records. He/she spends his/her weekends going to the usual swap meets, garage
sales and record meets. He/she spends hours on the phone and internet with
fellow record collectors. (See "High Fidelity.")
Break-In Record - A record that usually has a story line and has a lot of
segments of different records mixed in. In most cases the records used are
current of that time period. This form was first popularlized by Buchanan and Goodman ("Flying Saucer, Part I & II").
Answer Record - A record that is usually a response to another record, usually a
hit. This is usually done by a different artist, not by the original artist.
Examples: "Duke of Earl" - "Duchess of Earl"; "Mother in-law" - "Son in-law";
"Oh Carol" - "Oh Neil","A Boy Named Sue" - "A Girl Named Johnny Cash."
Kiddie Record - These were usually records that were put out for children by the
big labels. In the early 50s they came out in both 45 and 78 form. RCA had the
"Little Nipper" Series. Decca had the "Children's Series" and Capitol had the
"Bozo Approved" series and the "Record Reader" series where you followed along
in a booklet attached between the covers, and read along while the record
played. RCA also had versions of this.
Bootleg - (Also improperly used as a synonym for
counterfeit reproduction.) An illegal pressing of a record that was
recorded at a concert and does not have the band or record company's permission
to do so. Can also be used to describe illegally pressed music from a company's
vaults that was acquired without the record company's permission. The term was
also used with 50s and 60s 45 rpm collectors as exact reproduction and forgery.
Counterfeit - (Also known as "bootleg" or "repro," commonly but wrongly used terms.) This is a record that was illegally
remade to look and sound like the original issue, usually done by
making a tape of a regular pressing of an original copy of one of the records
and then pressing this up on vinyl. Most of these types are made up to look
exactly like the original with the same artwork and label design. The
counterfeiter does not show any distinction between his forgery and the original
(Once in awhile the bootlegger will make a subtle change to the label to let
collectors know his record is in fact a counterfeit. Henry Mariano used to
scratch in the current year into the deadwax of his counterfeits).
Repro/Reproduction/Counterfeit - An exact copy of a record done
without permission of the original record company or without permission of the
owner of the master recording.
Radio Spots - Promotional Advertising records that went to radio stations.
These were mainly records that had a few one minute (or so) spots plugging a
product or even a current movie.
Studio Tracks - Film or cast music which has been
re-recorded, not an "original soundtrack" taken directly from the
film or cast, even if featuring the same cast, musicians or orchestra.