the elvis presley gold standard 45s part 2 (company sleeves)

SOMEWHEN ALONG THE WAY, the powers-that-be at RCA Victor decided that the recordings that Elvis Presley labored over in the studio were not up to snuff. You know, the ones that sold umpteen bajillion copies and almost single-handedly justified the invention of the 45 rpm single as a medium. Apparently, some of those recordings simply were not good enough technically to preserve on a 33⅓ rpm LP album.

This is the second of eight articles that provides collectors with the most complete and accurate discography and price guide to Elvis’ Gold Standard 45s and picture sleeves on the Internet!

Starting in 1959 with the compilation albums FOR LP FANS ONLY and A DATE WITH ELVIS, many of these sides were remastered by RCA engineers. This included but was not limited to boosting the low and high ends, adding echo to Presley’s voice, and moving the lead vocal forward.

Thus began a pattern of disrespect for their number one seller of records, a pattern that lasted throughout the singer’s life and decades afterwards.

In the early ’60s, the RCA’s patented method of achieving a stereo effect was known as electronically reprocessed stereo. The abuse that it put the original mono signals through was such that the term is often used by audiophiles as a four-letter word, or accompanied by a four-letter word.

Nonetheless, them was the facts of life then, and so it was that many of us grew up with the doctored versions engrained in our noggins as the real thing. 1


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An irrelevant but interesting anecdote

Way back in 1970, I became aware (finally!) of the fact that the tapes used to make Elvis Presley 45s were copies of the original tapes used in the ’50s. I don’t remember the source of this new information on Elvis singles, but I do remember trucking on down to Public Square Records, where I knew that the owner John had a ton of old inventory stashed in the back.

He brought out several boxes of Elvis singles and said, “Buy ten or more and you can have them for 69¢ apiece.”

So I did.

These were all Gold Standard Series 45s and included older black label records and the current red labels. These records were in an assortment of RCA Victor sleeves along with the ubiquitous plain white sleeves.


Agnes Flood Times Tribune Archives Agnes Flood Times Tribune Archives

I went searching for a photo of Public Square Records but couldn’t find one on the Internet. I did find this photo from June 24, 1972, and it caused me pause: this is how I got out of my apartment on that very day! Except the boat that ‘rescued’ me was smaller and had no motor, but compensated by having a priest with a megaphone in the prow tolling, “Helloooooo! Is anybody out there?” 2

Company sleeves are not picture sleeves

Among record collectors, the terms factory sleeves, manufacturers sleeves, and company sleeves are synonymous. They refer to sleeves manufactured by record companies here and abroad that identified the record within as company product without specifying what the individual record was.

These sleeves were made of an inexpensive, unfinished paper stock and companies had enormous quantities manufactured in a single order. Bulk ordering drastically reduced unit prices to a fraction of a cent per sleeve.

Such a huge inventory usually meant that stockpiles often sat for years after the company changed their sleeve design (logo, color, data, etc.). Of course, overlapping of old sleeve designs with new was common. This was especially so for the largest companies, such as Columbia and RCA Victor, whose orders for such sleeves could be in the millions!

It is important to note that picture sleeves are very different from company sleeves: each picture sleeve featured an image (usually a picture of the recording artist) along with the record’s titles and catalog numbers. Almost all picture sleeves were manufactured specifically for a particular record.


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The first 100,000 or so copies of a record like Playing For Keeps / Too Much would be issued with a picture sleeve like the one above. (And note which title the sleeve places first and therefore as the presumed featured A-side.) But the rest of the 45s—hundreds of thousands or even millions—would have been shipped in either company sleeves or plain brown or white sleeves.

Serious collectors want each of their Gold Standard singles in the ‘correct’ sleeve of its time of release. So, the list below includes each of sleeve designs that RCA’s Gold Standard Series records have used since the series’ inception in 1958.

This list and the illustrations in this series of articles will assist you in finding which sleeve matches which pressing of each of the Elvis Presley Gold Standard Series 45s in your collection.


 


 

1958–1965


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Company sleeve design 1

This is the company sleeve that first appeared with the original Gold Standard releases in late 1958. Therefore, it is the most important sleeve to any Elvis Presley Gold Standard collection, as every GS 45 in your collection from 1958 through 1965 (447-0600 through at least 447-0624) should be accompanied by one of these sleeves!

Every GS 45 in your collection from 1958–1965 should be in a design 1 company sleeve!

There are two variations on this sleeve, which may indicate different printers that RCA hired, or the difference may have occurred over time:

•  On one sleeve, the top is cut straight across on both the front (top image above).

•  On another sleeve, the top has a notch cut into the front (middle image above).

•  The back of each variation is the same for both (bottom image above). 3

For perfectionists, this sleeve and only this sleeve should be used with 45s with black labels with “RCA Victor” at the top. This sleeve overlaps with and therefore can be reasonably used with GS 45s with black labels with “RCA Victor” on the side.

It was possible to find various pressings of Gold Standard records from the ’50s and ’60s in these sleeves into the ’70s.


 


 

1965–1973


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Company sleeve design 2

This sleeve design came into play sometime in the early to mid-’60s. As RCA made a major change in the design of their record labels—moving “RCA Victor” and Nipper from above the top to the sides—it is assumed that the change in the company sleeves (both catalog and Gold Standard releases) occurred around the same time.

Every GS 45 in your collection from 1965–1973 should be in a design 2 company sleeve!

If that assumption is correct, we can assume that they were intended to accompany those GS titles issued from 1965 into the early ’70s. Therefore, every Elvis GS 45 in your collection from 1965 through 1973 (447-0625 through at least 447-0685) should be accompanied by one of these sleeves!

There are two variations on this sleeve, which may indicate different printers that RCA hired, or the difference may have occurred over time:

•  On one sleeve, the paper on the inside is yellow (bottom image above).

•  On another sleeve, the paper on the inside is white (middle image above).

•  The back of each variation is the same for both (bottom image above).

It was possible to find various pressings of Gold Standard records from the ’50s and ’60s in these sleeves into the ’70s. For perfectionists, this sleeve should be used with:

1) all GS 45s with black labels with “RCA Victor” on the right side;

2) all GS 45s with orange labels; and

3) all GS 45s with red labels through at least 447-0685.

This sleeve overlaps with and therefore can be reasonably used with 45s with red labels in the GB-10000 series and 45s with black labels with only “RCA” at the top.


 


 

1974–1975


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Company sleeve design 3

This sleeve was introduced in 1974 and was shipped with the later red label numbers. This design was used very briefly (little more than a year) and these sleeves are rather hard to find.

For perfectionists, this sleeve only should be used with GS 45s with red labels in the GB-10000 series.

This sleeve overlaps with and therefore can be reasonably used with earlier red label records and those with black labels with only “RCA” at the top.


 


 

1976–1988


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Company sleeve design 4

This sleeve was introduced in 1976 along with the new black label with only “RCA” at the top. This sleeve was shipped with these records and countless red label records. It lasted into 1989.

As a rule of thumb, this only sleeve should be used with 45s with black labels with only “RCA” at the top, and it can be reasonably used with GS 45s with red labels.


 


 

1989–1993


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Company sleeve design 5(a)

This sleeve was introduced in 1989 and was shipped with the new black label (with only “RCA” at the top) numbers. It can be found in two colors—a yellow-gold and a burnt-gold.

This sleeve should only be used with GS 45s with black labels with only “RCA” at the top.


 


 

1994–2000


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Company sleeve design 5(b)

This sleeve was introduced in 1994 and shipped with the new black label numbers. The only significant difference between 5(a) and 5(b) is that Nipper was increased in size and move from a position of insignificance in the lower right corner to the more prominent spot just below the die-cut window.

This sleeve should only be used with GS 45s with black labels with only “RCA” at the top.


 


 

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HEADER IMAGE: While assigned to the 3rd Armored Division in Germany in 1958, Elvis met hill-climb ace Hans Stuck, who was racing a ’57 BMW 507 at Autodrome de Linas-Montlhéry in France. Presley was smitten with the 150-hp droptop and leased it that December.

The car was originally Feather White, but Pvt. Presley quickly tired of female fans scrawling their phone numbers in lipstick across its hood and fenders and it repainted Porsche Red. Only 253 BMW 507s were ever made, and Elvis owned two of them. (Adapted librully from Road & Track)


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Postscriptually, for “The Elvis Presley Gold Standard 45s Part 2” you should keep in mind that Gold Standard records were also shipped in plain white and sometimes brown paper sleeves. Finding them in those sleeves is normal and a perfectly acceptable way to house them in your collection.

Unless, of course, you are a perfectionist.

Erling Mehl’s 45-Sleeves website was very useful in figuring the chronological breakdown of the sleeves above. He goes into much more detail than I do here, so a visit to his site will be rewarding.

WARNING: A small company in England is printing reproductions of early RCA company sleeves to assist collectors in housing their records in appropriate sleeves. At this time, none of the Gold Standard sleeves have been reproduced, but that could change in the future.

Finally, such things as corrections, additions, suggestions, and even the occasional disputation are welcome and that’s why Wholly Grommett convinced WordPress to include a Comments section below . . .

Now, here are all the articles on the Elvis Gold Standard 45s listed in the suggested reading order:

1The Elvis Presley Gold Standard 45s Part 1 (Foreword)

2The Elvis Presley Gold Standard 45s Part 2 (Company Sleeves)

3The Elvis Presley Gold Standard 45s Part 3 (1958–1965) 

4The Elvis Presley Gold Standard 45s Part 4 (1964)

5. The Elvis Presley Gold Standard 45s Part 5 (1965-1968)

6. Those Bloody Rare Orange Label Gold Standard 45s

7. The Elvis Presley Gold Standard 45s Part 6 (1969)

8. The Elvis Presley Gold Standard 45s Part 7 (1969–1976)

9. The Elvis Presley Gold Standard 45s Part 8 (1976–2000)


 


FOOTNOTES:

1   Information of this kind was not only not easy to come by in the pre-Internet reality, it was often simply gone. Those who knew better had retired or had no position from which to make such things known to fans and collector.

2   I placed ‘rescued’ in semi-quotation marks because, despite the 14-feet of polluted river water reaching into the second floor of my building, and despite the buildings around me in flames (I lived behind the scene in the photo above, right where all that black smoke is emanating), despite all that I was 20-years old and had enough food and pot to see me through any crises!

As Freewheelin’ Franklin said, “Dope will get you through times of no dry ground better than dry ground will get you through times of no dope.” (And, no, the parenthesized quote is not a bit of Catholic existentialism . . .)

3  The notch is referred to as a thumb-groove; it is there for easily removing the record from the sleeve.



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