elvis presley bootleg picture sleeves 1954-1956

EVERY RECORD COLLECTOR should be familiar with some if not all of the many colorful picture sleeves that accompanied Elvis Presley records in the 1950s, many collectors may not be aware that not all Presley Product was issued with such a sleeve. All of them are collectable and I would argue that almost all of them are truly under-valued in truly near mint condition (NM), even harder than THAT to find in mint condition (M)!

Yet many collectors are unaware that of the twenty-one Elvis Presley 45 rpm singles issued in the United States by Sun and RCA Victor, nineteen were not issued with a picture sleeve! Despite Presley’s importance to RCA, the company did not see fit to invest a few thousand dollars into special sleeves for a Presley single until his eighth release, Hound Dog / Don’t Be Cruel, in July 1956. But after that, every Elvis 45 was issued in the US with a picture sleeve for the next twenty-five years.



The first Presley 45 single to be issued with a picture sleeve was RCA Victor 47-6604, Hound Dog / Don’t Be Cruel. It was issued in July 1956 and the initial sleeves heralded Hound Dog as the A-side by placing it above Don’t Be Cruel on the front cover. Note: this picture sleeve has been counterfeited.


This picture heralds Don’t Be Cruel as the A-side by placing it above Hound Dog on the front cover. You will almost always find this sleeve listed as “original sleeve” or “first pressing” or some such. It is not: it is a second printing or a reissue. Exactly when RCA decided to promote the B-side over the A-side is uncertain. Given sales and chart performance, it was probably early September, at least two months after the original sleeve above was issued. Note: this picture sleeve has been counterfeited.


Both the first printing sleeve with Hound Dog on top and the reissue sleeve with Don’t Be Cruel on top featured the same back cover: this close-up of Elvis from early ’56.

In the early 1970s, several rather creative collectors manufactured bootleg picture sleeves for those nineteen sleeveless singles. Many of these were the equal of, or superior to, the official RCA sleeves of the time in design, although not in finished product: the bootlegs sleeves were had black and white images printed on unfinished paper stock. These were sold on the collectors markets as bootlegs and have been a cherished part of many a fan’s collection. 

The initial bootleg Elvis picture sleeves were tasteful, attractive, and well made. They were quickly reproduced (counterfeited) by other unauthorized persons who cared less for the collector’s passion and more for the collector’s money. So, there are a variety of picture sleeves; some titles have more than one sleeve.

Of the images included below, some are reproduction of the image above, varying only in a tint of color added to the photo or the paper of the fact that the image was slightly enlarged by the second generation bootleg. In most cases, two different images for the same title may be the front and back sides of the same sleeve.

The Sun singles 1954-1955 

Sam Phillips released five singles by Elvis in a sixteen month period, none of which included a picture sleeve. Such a luxury would have added a part of a penny per record to his costs and there was simply no way to justify that in his budget. Phillips ran Sun on the proverbial shoestring budget and even company sleeves were not considered until 1956.

PlainPaper Sleeve

Sun simply purchased the cheapest plain paper sleeves available for their releases. These were manufactured from low-grade paper and were either white or brown and usually showed some wear after a little handling. (When the teenaged record buyer bothered to keep his records in their sleeves.) These sleeves have no collectors value.

SunCompany Sleeve

The Sun sleeves that are so prevalent on the Internet accompanying Elvis records were manufactured after Presley left Sun. It was with the money that Sam received from RCA Victor for Elvis’s contract that he was able to splurge a bit and start to make his new stars (Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, etc.) look they were recording for a real record company. These sleeves have minimal collectors value.


Sun 209 That’s All Right / Blue Moon Of Kentucky



Sun 210 Good Rocking Tonight / I Don’t Care If The Sun Don’t Shine

These are two different sleeves: not e that the top sleeve just has the Sun catalog number “210” in the lower left corner while the bottom sleeve has “Sun 210” in the corner.


Sun 215 Milkcow Blues Boogie / You’re A Heartbreaker



Sun 217 Baby, Let’s Play House / I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone


Sun 223 Mystery Train / I Forgot To Remember To Forget



The RCA Victor singles 1955 

Sam Phillips released five singles by Elvis in a sixteen month period, none of which included a picture sleeve. Such a luxury would have added pennies per record to his costs and there was simply no way to justify that in his budget. Phillips ran Sun on the proverbial shoestring budget and special sleeves were not even considered before 1956.

RCA_Factory Sleeve

RCA Victor printed millions of these company sleeves (or factory sleeves) and used them on 45s from every imaginable genre. The majority of Elvis singles were shipped in these or the plain brown sleeves above. These sleeves have minimal collectors value.



RCA Victor 47-6357 I Forgot To Remember To Forget / Mystery Train




RCA Victor 47-6357 I Forgot To Remember To Forget / Mystery Train

The two sleeves on the bottom have their titles in slightly different locations. The top one has better balance for having more white space beneath the print and is more appealing.






RCA Victor 47-6380 That’s All Right / Blue Moon Of Kentucky

The bottom two sleeves (Blue Moon Of Kentucky) are probably the flip-sides of the first two sleeves (That’s All Right).





RCA Victor 47-6381 Good Rocking Tonight / I Don’t Care If The Sun Don’t Shine





RCA Victor 47-6382 Milkcow Blues Boogie / You’re A Heartbreaker




RCA Victor 47-6382 Milkcow Blues Boogie / You’re A Heartbreaker




RCA Victor 47-6383 Baby, Let’s Play House / I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone





RCA Victor 47-6383 Baby, Let’s Play House / I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone

The RCA Victor singles 1956 

RCA Victor reissued the five Sun singles in November and December 1955 without picture sleeves. They also issued Presley’s first two new singles sans sleeves: Heartbreak Hotel / I Was The One and I Want You, I Need You, I Love You / My Baby Left Me.

In August 1956, RCA released all twelve tracks from the first LP as six singles along with a special (throwaway) release of Shake, Rattle And Roll / Lawdy Miss Clawdy, two fine recordings that should have been saved for the second LP.



RCA Victor 47-6420 Heartbreak Hotel / I Was The One




RCA Victor 47-6540 I Want You, I Need You, I Love You / My Baby Left Me




RCA Victor 47-6636 Blue Suede Shoes / Tutti Frutti




RCA Victor 47-6637 I Got A Woman / I’m Counting On You




RCA Victor 47-6638 I’ll Never Let Yu Go (Little Darlin’) / I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Cry (Over You)




RCA Victor 47-6639 Tryin’ To Get To You / I Love You Because




RCA Victor 47-6640 Blue Moon / Just Because





RCA Victor 47-6641 Money Honey / One Sided Love Affair




RCA Victor 47-6642 Shake, Rattle And Roll / Lawdy Miss Clawdy


The Avid Record Collector’s price guide

Today, most of these sleeves are a regular part of the Presley Product that can be purchased on various sites on the Internet. Assigning values is damn near impossible as most sellers don’t know what they are selling, original boots or boots of boots. Hence the prices paid have been fairly modest: most of the sleeves pictured below can be found with a little patience in NM condition for $20-$40 each.

Some of the rare sleeves have sold for more than $100, but they are few and those sales may have been aberrations. Some sleeves seem so plentiful—I just ran across a seller on eBay who has sold more than twenty copies of the same sleeve, allowing me to infer that he has made a new batch himself.

Elvis on stage in Memphis1956. Photo by Robert W. Dye.

FEATURED IMAGE: Another great photo by Robert W. Dye of Elvis and Scotty, Bill, and D.J. on stage in Memphis in 1956.


POSTSCRIPTUALLY, while many of the sleeve designs above are typical of good quality bootlegs, a handful of them count among the most striking Elvis picture sleeves ever released. That they were probably done by amateurs does not paint a glowing picture of RCA’s art and graphics people in the ’50s.


8 Replies to “elvis presley bootleg picture sleeves 1954-1956”

  1. First things first…I don’t think I received a notice. Might be because I signed up on the main site rather than this one in particular?…Anyway I’ll try to add my name to this site in the next day or two.

    More significantly, I’m really glad you sent me the extra notice. Fascinating subject…I’m particularly intrigued by that cover for Good Rockin’ Tonight that has Elvis the “twin” looking at himself…Mind you I’m not sure how I feel about it, but I’m definitely going to keep thinking until I do!

    And just curious, but how many artists have bootleg picture sleeves out there in any quantity? I confess it’s an idea that never would have occurred to me.

    1. NJ

      I spent time on the phone with HostMonster yesterday and have hopefully resolved several issues regarding my subscriptions app, including sending notifications.

      No other artist that I am aware of has any bootleg sleeves! Although a set of Dylan boots would probably be fun.


  2. JR

    Each of my sites functions independent of each other: you will not receive a general notification of my posting something new. You wanna keep up with the Elvis site, you gotta subscribe to the Elvis site.

    Think of them as love letters straight from my heart . . .

    Rockahula, baby!


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