the avid record collector’s price guide to A Touch Of Gold albums

MY FIRST POST ON THIS SITE was “Just a little bit of gold,” which explains my choice for the title for this site. Briefly, in 1959-60, RCA Victor issued three volumes of EPs titled A TOUCH OF GOLD. I had always liked that title and had subsequently used it as the title for my second Elvis Presley price guide for record and memorabilia collectors. And now it is recycled yet again . . .

I launched this site with that one post, and a friend immediately emailed me to suggest that I do a price guide article on the three EPs. He ended his email, “After all, old buddy, this is supposed to be a record collectors site, right?” And so here it is . . .

All price guides in all fields of collectables are approximate value guides and should be viewed as one views the daily stock exchange with an expectation of fluctuations up and down on a regular basis—but boyoboy is that another story for another article!

The TOUCH OF GOLD albums were compilations conjured without apparent rhyme, as the song selections make little sense. Each record had two legitimate A-sides that were million-sellers, one flip-side of a million-seller (that was itself a Top 40 hit), and one side that didn’t make any national survey anywhere or sell any where near a million. As the first two were definitely gold and the third arguably gold, I suppose that RCA could claim that the fourth was touched by that gold!

There may not have been rhyme, but there was reason: the three albums were released to keep ‘new’ Presley Product on the shelves. The years 1958–60 were Elvis’s Army years and required some clever repackaging of his earlier recordings. Several 7” EP and 12” LP albums of previously released material were issued to modest sales success.

Few were as useless as the TOUCH OF GOLD series—which recycled singles sides, some of which were already available on others EP and LP albums—and few as cherished by fans and collectors. They were potboilers of a sort and while they were not big selling items then, they have been fan faves and collectables for decades. 1

Below is a discography and price guide for those three records. I use the term price guide because it is the one most familiar to readers. But it is an inaccurate term: a price is usually an amount of money paid for an item in a sale; I am merely assigning approximations of the current market value to these records. (That is, the price you might expect to pay to acquire one of these records.)





EPA-5088 Touch Of Gold, Volume 1 shipped on April 21, 1959. It followed the release of FOR LP FANS ONLY in February and (Now And Then There’s) A Fool Such As I / I Need your Love Tonight in March. According to Ernst Jorgensen, this first volume sold “a respectable 130,000 copies.” 2

Jackets with two different cover designs can be found with first pressing records and both were apparently issued in the first half of 1959. The idea that RCA Victor paid for two separate designs is rather odd, as that could lead to confusion among buyers. So the two designs are presented below as simultaneous first printings.

ATOG_1_blue

ATOG_1_blue2

First printing jacket, or the 3-line title cover. The title on the front cover is on three centered lines as “A / Touch / Gold” with “of” set off to the left. Presley stands against a medium blue backdrop, and the print on the album title and the logo box and song titles on the maroon border is in a darker blue. This is arguably the most visually attractive of the cover variations and could reasonably be tagged ‘the blue cover.’

•  The back cover has “© by Radio Corporation of America, 1959” in the lower right corner.

•  This is definitely a first printing and may in fact be the sole first printing.

NOTE: Variations in the images that can be found online (like the two above) may be either fluctuations in the actual printing of the cover slicks in 1959, or less than perfect photographic and computer reproduction on the Internet fifty years later. This is a topic for further investigation.


ATOG_1_J_4lines

atog2

First printing jacket, or the 4-line title cover. The title on the front cover is on four centered lines as “A / Touch / of / Gold.” Presley stands against a neutral backdrop with a hint of blue, and the print on the album title and the logo box and song titles on the maroon border is in a darker blue.

•  The back cover has “© by Radio Corporation of America, 1959” in the lower right corner.

•  This is may be a first printing issued simultaneously with the 3-line printing above.

NOTE: Variations in the images that can be found online (like the two above) may be either fluctuations in the actual printing of the cover slicks in 1959, or less than perfect photographic and computer reproduction on the Internet fifty years later. This is a topic for further investigation.

Later printings of this jacket used through the ’60s have “© 1959, RCA, New York, N.Y.” in the lower right corner of the back cover. There is no difference in the value assigned to any of the jackets above at this time.




ATOG_2

EPA-5101 Touch Of Gold, Volume 2 shipped on April 21, 1959, following the release of A Big Hunk O’ Love / My Wish Came True in June and A DATE WITH ELVIS in July. Ernst states that it sold, “close to 100,000 copies,” or approximately 20% fewer than the first volume.

•  First printing jackets have “© by Radio Corporation of America, 1959” in the bottom right corner of the back cover.

•  Later printing jackets have “© 1959, RCA, New York, N.Y.” on the bottom of the back cover. 

There is no difference in the value assigned to these jackets at this time.




atog3

EPA-5141 Touch Of Gold, Volume 3 shipped on February 23, 1960, weeks prior to the release of Elvis’ first post-Army single Stuck On You / Fame And Fortune in March and ELVIS IS BACK in April. According to Ernst, it sold “little more than 50,000 copies,” or approximately 60% fewer than the first volume.

•  First printing jackets have “© by Radio Corporation of America, 1959” in the bottom right corner of the back cover.

There were no further printings of this jacket. (Apparently, enough jackets were printed in ’59 or ’60 to last fora lmost ten years.)


As a medium, a hit EP rarely matched the success of a hit 45 or LP, and that includes most of the best-selling artists of the ’50s. The Presley EPs of 1956-57 were an exception: they were consistently big sellers, nine of them selling in excess of 500,000 copies in the US alone. Even relatively poor sellers topped 250,000!

None of the records have the title “A Touch Of Gold” on the labels. I could make the assumption that when the records were pressed, RCA Victor had not settled on a title for them.

So when Ernst claimed that the first TOUCH OF GOLD’s sales of half of that number were “respectable,” he must have been using a standard other than those of Presley’s earlier EPs. Sales declined even more with the succeeding volumes: the second barely reached six figures, while the third volume sold considerably less than half that of the first.

As these records remained in print for ten years, sales in the years 1961-68 apparently reflected initial sales, and this is born out by the number of copies available on the collectors market. As I write this, 360 copies of EPA-5088 have sold on eBay in the past ten years, followed by 250 copies of EPA-5101, and 200 copies of EPA-5141. So, there are considerably fewer copies of the second and third numbers and they sell for considerably more money.

Oddly, none of the records have the title “A Touch Of Gold” on the labels: they list the song titles and artist credit only. I could make the assumption that when the records were pressed, neither RCA Victor nor the Colonel had settled on a title for them, but I won’t.

The records and labels for A Touch Of Gold 

RCA Victor’s ‘popular’ or ‘pop’ music records in the 1950s and ’60s were known for two things: the high-finish, glossy black paper used for their labels, and the presence of the company mascot—a dog named Nipper listening to an old record player—on those labels. With few exceptions, every Elvis record released in the US between 1955 and 1968 were issued with that familiar label design. 3

For ease in collecting, first pressings are generally differentiated from later by the label design. During the ’50s, RCA had three primary pressing planets: in Rockaway, New Jersey, in Hollywood, California, and in Indianapolis, Indiana. Presley’s records were pressed in each of these locations. Also, as the demand for Elvis records was often beyond the capabilities of the three plants to meet, RCA hired other company’s plants and independent plants.

As each of these plants used local printers to make their labels, there are many possible variations on the RCA Victor’s basic, preferred look. But that is more than I will be dealing with below. For this article, each of the three albums has four distinct pressings as determined by label styles:




ATOG_3_nohf

ATOG_1st

1st pressing records from early 1959 (EPA-5088 and 5101) have glossy black labels with “RCA Victor” at the top and Nipper above the spindle hole. This label variation is often referred to as dog on top or Nipper on top.

•  The tiny print in the perimeter at the bottom of the label begins with “Trade Marks” on the left (8 o’clock) and includes “Camden, N.J.” on the right (5 o’clock). 

•  This first pressing of each of the three volumes of this EP is the most common pressing, as initial sales in 1959 would have been the biggest. The first pressings are also the most sought after, as each and every proper record collection focuses on first pressings.

Variations for this label exist: RCA Victor’s three pressing plants used three different companies to print their labels. Each plant’s records can usually be identified by the peculiarities of each plant’s printer. This can be also be done by looking at the identifying code of each plant that is etched into the trail-off vinyl (or ‘dead wax’ among older, aging, decrepit collectors like myself) of each record.

Most of the differences are in choice of type-face and the sizing of that type. There are a few bigger differences: for example, copies can be found with and without RCA Victor’s trademark “New Orthophonic High Fidelity” motto printed on the right side of the label.

So far, no variance in value has been established for these differences.




ATOG_1st_maroon_NOHF

ATOG_1st_maroon

1st pressing records from early 1959 (EPA-5088 and 5101) have glossy maroon labels with “RCA Victor” at the top and Nipper above the spindle hole. This label variation is often referred to as dog on top or Nipper on top.

•  The tiny print in the perimeter at the bottom of the label begins with “Trade Marks” on the left (8 o’clock) and includes “Camden, N.J.” on the right (5 o’clock). 4

Variations for this label exist: RCA Victor’s three pressing plants used three different companies to print their labels. Each plant’s records can usually be identified by the peculiarities of each plant’s printer. This can be also be done by looking at the identifying code of each plant that is etched into the trail-off vinyl (or ‘dead wax’ among older, aging, decrepit collectors like myself) of each record.

Most of the differences are in choice of type-face and the sizing of that type. There are a few bigger differences: for example, copies can be found with and without RCA Victor’s trademark “New Orthophonic High Fidelity” motto printed on the right side of the label.

So far, no variance in value has been established for these differences.

NOTE: Variations in the images that can be found online (like the two above) may be either fluctuations in the actual printing of the labels in 1959, or less than perfect photographic and computer reproduction on the Internet fifty years later. This is a topic for further investigation.




ATOG_2nd_black

2nd pressing records from late 1959 have glossy black labels with “RCA Victor” at the top and Nipper above the spindle hole. This label variation is often referred to as dog on top or Nipper on top.

•  But the tiny print in the perimeter at the bottom of the label was changed in late 1959: it begins with “TMK(s)” on the left (8 o’clock) and does not have the Camden, N.J. address on the right.

This would be a second pressing for EPA-5088 and 5101 but a first pressing for EPA-5141.

Variations for this label exist: RCA Victor’s three pressing plants used three different companies to print their labels. Each plant’s records can usually be identified by the peculiarities of each plant’s printer. This can be also be done by looking at the identifying code of each plant that is etched into the trail-off vinyl (or ‘dead wax’ among older, aging, decrepit collectors like myself) of each record.

Most of the differences are in choice of type-face and the sizing of that type. There are a few bigger differences: for example, copies can be found with and without RCA Victor’s trademark “New Orthophonic High Fidelity” motto printed on the right side of the label.

So far, no variance in value has been established for these differences.




2nd pressing records from late 1959 have glossy maroon labels with “RCA Victor” at the top and Nipper above the spindle hole. This label variation is often referred to as dog on top or Nipper on top.

•  But the tiny print in the perimeter at the bottom of the label was changed in late 1959: it begins with “TMK(s)” on the left (8 o’clock) and does not have the Camden, N.J. address on the right.Does this label variation exist?




ATOG_3rd

3rd pressing records from 1965 have glossy black labels with “RCA Victor” on the right side of the spindle hole at 3 o’clock, and Nipper on the left at 9 o’clock. This label variation is often referred to as dog on side or Nipper on side.

Label variations for these EPs may not exist, as all pressings of the records for the three titles appear to have been done solely at the Indianapolis plant.




ATOG_4th_orange

4th pressing records from 1968 have orange labels with “RCA” on the left side of the spindle hole and “Victor” on the right. Those of us buying RCA records in in 1968-69 missed the faithful form of Nipper on the rather ugly orange labels.

Label variations for these EPs may not exist, as all pressings of the records for the three titles appear to have been done solely at the Indianapolis plant.

 

By the time of the British Invasion of 1964, sales of EPs for every artist plummeted in the US. Excepting the Vee Jay Beatles EP (which was priced as a single at 98¢), there were no EPs selling in large quantities. The Beatles and the Beach Boys each had EPs issued by Capitol make the carts in 1964, but sales were a fraction of the normal sales of a single for those two groups.

By 1968, the LP became the medium of choice for rock music and sales of EPs were so minimal as to be inconsequential. Consequently, copies of most Elvis EPs with the black Nipper-on-side labels (1965-68) and orange labels (1968-69) are rather rare records indeed.

In fact, the orange records are so scarce that they may have been pressing plant errors! They are far rarer than the other pressings above and command the highest prices from collectors.

A price guide to A Touch Of Gold

The values below are expressed in United States dollars (USD). They are a combination of my interpretation of sales on eBay and elsewhere on the Internet as reported on Popsike and Collectors Frenzy—and understanding what the sales figures actually mean is not as easy as it may sound. This data is combined with forty years of experience in the hobby and business of buying and selling used and collectable records.

Due to a variety of factors—new people coming on eBay daily with little knowledge of what they are selling, and the continuing bad rep that many sellers have for not understanding grading—prices paid for these records on eBay over a 24 month period can vary dramatically.


EPA-5088 Touch Of Gold, Volume 1

Black label, Nipper on top, “Trade Mark”: $75125
Black label, Nipper on top, “TMK”: $100150
Maroon label, Nipper on top, “Trade Mark”: $100–150
Maroon label, Nipper on top, “TMK”: $150–200
Black label, Nipper on the side: $
75–150
Orange label: $100–200


EPA-5101 Touch Of Gold, Volume 2

Black label, Nipper on top, “Trade Mark”: $100150
Black label, Nipper on top, “TMK”: $125175
Maroon label, Nipper on top, “Trade Mark”: $150200
Maroon label, Nipper on top, “TMK”: $175200
Black label, Nipper on the side: $75–150
Orange label: $150200


EPA-5141 Touch Of Gold, Volume 3

Black label, Nipper on top, “TMK”: $150–200
Maroon label, Nipper on top, “TMK”: $200300
Black label, Nipper on the side: $75–150
Orange label: $200300

 

The values above are an approximation of what an established dealer with a sound reputation for grading and honesty should expect to sell these items for in NM condition. Should you choose to sell your copies of these records anywhere, you should not expect to realize these numbers.

There are more records out there than expected, but fewer of them in NM condition than expected, hence collectors have adopted the rallying cry, “Condition! Condition! Condition!”

In my previous books, I used a rule-of-thumb scale for ascertaining values of records and sleeves in less than nearly mint condition. An item graded VG+ was valued at 40% of the NM value, while a copy graded VG copy was 20% of the NM value.

That is a 2.5/1 and a 5/1 ratio, respectively, and that was the largest such spread between NM and the lesser grades that had appeared in a price guide. I am inclined to say that the vast amounts of records for sale on the Internet has made the spread even greater. As my books predicted decades ago, the number of really desirable items in really desirable condition (NM or better) is far fewer than most collectors believe.

Conversely, the number of copies in VG-VG+ condition is considerably greater than anyone believed at the time. That is, there are more copies of each title in the hands of collectors and dealers than we expected, but fewer of them are in NM condition than we expected.

More and more collectors have adopted the rallying cry, Condition! Condition! Condition!

As an example, let’s take the last record listed above: an orange label pressing of the third volume (EPA-5141). With a $200-300 value assigned to a NM copy, I would suggest a VG+ value of $80-120, and a VG value of $40-60. If you check Popsike’s listing, I believe that you will find the majority of the copies of this record that are sold on eBay are less than NM and sell in the areas I just suggested.

So, should you own the records above in less than NM condition and want to evaluate their value, start at approximately 40-50% of the assigned NM value above and then work your way down from there.

Please keep in mind when reviewing these values that the Internet is not the best place to sell Elvis records. True rarities often sell for much more via word-of-mouth or through an established record dealer’s set-sale list. And those dealers who specialize in Presley product get prices that you would not believe.

The listings above are for US pressings; the first two volumes were issued elsewhere, notably England, but they are not included in this article.

A couple more things about A Touch Of Gold

In 1959, some American record companies began shipping EPs and LPs to wholesalers in a loose, baggie-like wrapper that was heat-sealed on one side to protect the jacket and the record within. This wrapping was not shrunk with heat so that it clung to the album. The process of what is called the shrink-wrapping albums in thin plastic sleeves was not widely adopted by the American record industry until 1963–64.


ATOG(cardEP)

ATOG_2_sealed

ATOG_2(ss)

Some RCA wrappers had a gold box printed on the front that advertised the album as “Gold Standard Series – Only $1.29” (above top). Others had a more generic $1.29 or $1.49 printed on the front (above middle and bottom). Needless to say, sealed copies are very difficult to find fifty years later and can sell for considerably more than NM copies.


ATOG (card)

Copies of EPA-5088 (the first volume) can be found with a bonus Elvis fan identification card inside the wrapper (above). It is 2 x 3 inches with a black and white photo from King Creole that begins, “I am a loyal Elvis fan.” There is a line at the bottom for a signature.

I am loath to even assign a value to an authentic copy, as this card has been counterfeited many times. A value of $50–100 is reasonable for a NM card; it would be higher if not for the reproductions. As to how one how can tell the difference between a real one and a fake: originals have rounded corners, whereas most of the fakes have angled corners. And most reproductions will appear to be new because they are new!


Elvis_GoldSuit

Postscriptually, see your name in print: make a correction or an addition to this or any other article on my Elvis – A Touch Of Gold site and I will praise thee unto the Heavens (and thank you in print as an addendum to the article).

And special thanks to collector extraordinaire Frank Daniels, to whom I sing hosanna unto Heaven for his contributions to this article! His input helped in differentiating first and second printing jackets, and first and second pressing records above. 5




Footnotes:

1   One reason for this is that the image of Elvis is attractive and the design by RCA’s graphics department is so damn pleasing. This is not something that I would say about many—if not most—of the Presley pictures sleeves and album jackets issued by RCA Victor in the US. I could pick a dozen releases from the ’50s and present an argument that the Colonel was consciously playing down Presley’s looks! And some of RCA’s packaging is just plain amateurish. It would only get worse in the following decades . . .

2   Sales figures are taken from those that Ernst Jorgensen supplied for the book Elvis: Day-by-Day that was co-authored by Peter Guralnick (Ballantine Publishing, 1999).

3   This logo was of a dog named Nipper with his head damn near stuck in the horn of an old gramophone, supposedly listening to his master’s voice. This image was taken from a painting by English artist Francis Barraud, and was originally used by another record company, the Gramophone Company of England, later His Master’s Voice (HMV). It was also used in the US by the Victor Talking Machine Company, later a part of RCA Victor. Also, RCA’s records had other colors of papers depending on the genre: blue, gray, green, maroon, and red labels were also used.

4   It was long assumed by most collectors that the maroon label EPs were a manufacturing error where the pressing plant used the wrong labels or simply ran out of the black ones. This was because RCA’s classical albums had red/maroon labels. such may not be the case: RCA may have intended maroon labels for the Gold Standard Series EPs. The case is not closed.

5   The word hosanna is from Hebrew (הושיעה־נא,הושיעה נא) or hôshia-nā’, which is short for hôšî‘â-nā’ from Aramaic (הושע נא), meaning “save, rescue, savior.”

 
 

2 Replies to “the avid record collector’s price guide to A Touch Of Gold albums”

  1. Hi, I have a Elvis touch of gold volume 11 and it has not a maroon label but actually looks brown,i think they were shooting for a gold look ,when it hits the light it is gold,have you seen this or know anything about it,can send pics of you want,thanks so much Lisa

    1. LISA

      If it is a US pressing of ATOG 2, then yes please send pics and I will post them and address the issue. Some of the maroon labels were very dark with a brownish look; as yet, collectors have not differentiated between these and the normal reddish-maroon variations.

      Thanks for contacting me and hoping to hear from you soon!

      NEAL

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