Elvis 1969 Vegas PressConference 1500 crop

those bloody rare orange label gold standard 45s

WHY ARE THEY SO RARE? When were these records re­leased with these bloody or­ange la­bels? How many ti­tles were re­leased? How many copies of each were man­u­fac­tured? These ques­tions have puz­zled Elvis col­lec­tors for years—they cer­tainly baf­fled me as ed­itor of the O’­Sul­livan Wood­side record col­lec­tors price guides way back when.

I took the job in 1984, a time when OW had cash-flow is­sues to a lack of new product. The itty-bitty pub­lishing com­pany had six price guides that they wanted me to oversee, and they wanted a new rock & roll LP book as soon as pos­sible. That was the money-maker.

Ex­actly when did the first (bloody rare) or­ange label Gold Stan­dard Se­ries 45s ap­pear and why?

They wanted to follow that with a rock & roll 45 book—and they wanted each book to more or less du­pli­cate the pre­vious edi­tion so that they could get them out within a matter of weeks. 1

I agreed to re­vise the Rock & Roll Record Al­bums Price Guide as soon as pos­sible. That was a given as I knew how badly the values needed re­vising. But I wanted to follow with a new Elvis guide, as I was a BIG fan and I knew how badly those values also needed an over­haul.

But I wanted each book to be some­thing dras­ti­cally dif­ferent from the pre­vious editions—at least in con­tent and intent—and I knew that would take more than a few months. 

We ar­gued.

I won.

With both books, I wanted to raise the as­signed values of thou­sands of records. But there were thou­sands more whose values I wanted to lower. And I in­tended to raise and lower those values dra­mat­i­cally.

I ac­com­plished both goals in my first year. 2

And so here we deal with Elvis Gold Stan­dard 45 rpm sin­gles with or­ange and red la­bels. What fol­lows is the re­sults of cu­riosity and ques­tioning that began back in the ’70s and re­search that began in earnest in the ’80s.

 

NU_OW_LP_250x319

My first book for O’­Sul­livan Wood­side was the Rock & Roll Record Al­bums Price Guide. This was the sixth LP guide pub­lished by O’­Sul­livan Wood­side but to dif­fer­en­tiate it from the pre­vious edi­tions and the pre­vious editors(s), we called it the 1985-86 Edi­tion rather than the Sixth Edi­tion. 3

Orange label records and tapes

By the time I did A Touch Of Gold (the book) in 1990, there were three groups of records that I be­lieved had not re­ceived ad­e­quate at­ten­tion as col­lec­tables. All had or­ange la­bels:

•  The or­ange label LPs pressed on non-flexible (or rigid) vinyl in 1968–1970 were un­der­valued by everyone. This ap­plied to the new ti­tles (LPM-4088 through LSP-4460), for which there were le­git­i­mate first press­ings and later press­ings with iden­tical la­bels.

But it was the older cat­alog items that were of most in­terest: some ti­tles (like ELVIS’ CHRISTMAS ALBUM and DOUBLE TROUBLE) had been pressed in teeny-weeny quan­ti­ties and were ex­tremely hard to find—but few seemed to know this.

  The extended-play 45 rpm album had been dis­con­tinued in 1966, but most of the Elvis ti­tles ap­peared with or­ange la­bels. Some ti­tles were al­ready fetching $100 from well-heeled col­lec­tors in the ’80s, but some were worth as much as $300—and few seemed to know this.

  The re­ally big issue was the or­ange label Gold Stan­dard Se­ries 45s: I couldn’t find a single col­lector who had all of the ti­tles known to exist at the time in their col­lec­tion. Hell’s Belles, no one seemed to know how many of them ex­isted!

I knew they were rare but not much else.

 

NU_OW_Elvis_400

Don Wood­side wanted my second book to be a new edi­tion of their rock & roll 45 rpm sin­gles guide but I in­sisted that their Elvis book was a trav­esty and needed a com­plete over­hauling. They gave me my way and in late 1968 O’­Sul­livan Wood­side pub­lished my Elvis Presley Record Price Guide. 3

A more modern look

But first, here is a bit of back­ground: in Oc­tober 1968, RCA made a sig­nif­i­cant change in the look of their records and tapes. The fa­miliar black label with “RCA Victor” at the top ac­com­pa­nied by Nipper lis­tening to his mas­ter’s voice was jet­ti­soned. In its place came a to­tally un­re­mark­able or­ange label with the “RCA” on one side and “Victor” on the other and ab­solutely no dog at all!

By the end of 1968, RCA had switched most of their pre­re­corded media over to or­ange, in­cluding the cat­alog sin­gles (the 47-0000 and 74-0000 se­ries for pop and rock), most of their lines of LPs, and even the la­bels on the plastic spools on the boxed reel-to-reel tapes. 

It is un­clear as to whether this change was in­tended for the Gold Stan­dard Se­ries.

 

After forty years of searching, we have no or­ange label GS 45s past 447-0659. I as­sume that this lack of ev­i­dence for their ex­is­tence means that they do not exist.

 

The first year of re­lease for the or­ange label GS 45s is usu­ally given as 1968. Why? Be­cause that’s the year that RCA adopted the or­ange label. There ap­pears to be no real data to back the claim up.

So maybe it was 1969. Why not? 

Few re­searchers sug­gest 1970, but again, why not?

There are three rea­son­able ex­pla­na­tions for the rarity of these records:

  RCA did in­tend for the Gold Stan­dard Se­ries to use the new or­ange la­bels. They or­dered a small run of ti­tles and then backed off, opting for the red la­bels in­stead.

  RCA did not in­tend to use the or­ange label for the Gold Stan­dard Se­ries. But at some time in 1968-1970, for un­known rea­sons In­di­anapolis used some or­ange la­bels on a few thou­sand records by sev­eral artists.

 RCA did not know that the or­ange la­bels were used for the Gold Stan­dard Se­ries. All of the GS 45s (along with the EPs) were the re­sult of a pressing plant de­ci­sion or mishap. As the number of these records in the hands of col­lec­tors is so small, the pos­si­bility that they were er­ro­neously pressed and dumped on the market is real. If that is so, then it could have hap­pened at any time be­tween late 1968 and early 1976.

 

ln_447_0659 copy

ln_447_0660 copy

Here are in­voices from RCA Victor to their In­di­anapolis plant for press­ings of Gold Stan­dard Se­ries 447-0659, In­de­scrib­ably Blue / Fools Fall In Love, and 447-0660, Long Legged Girl / That’s Someone You Never Forget. The upper left corner has the date the order was placed: Listing No­tice 6-19-69); the upper right has the Ship­ping Date: 7-15-69. (Im­ages cour­tesy of Keith Flynn.) 4

Two labels were used concurrently?

At this point, I re­ferred to Keith Fly­nn’s Elvis Presley Pages, a web­site with a lengthy discog­raphy of do­mestic Presley re­leases. What sep­a­rates Kei­th’s discog­raphy from most others is that each re­lease has a very spe­cific date. It was there that I found that RCA or­dered five new ti­tles from In­di­anapolis as Gold Stan­dard num­bers on Jan­uary 22, 1968:

Cat­alog #     Song ti­tles                                                                                                                      First label
447-0655     Tell Me Why / Blue River                                                                                    new black
447-0656     Frankie And Johnny / Please Don’t Stop Loving Me                            new black
447-0657     Love Let­ters / Come What My                                                                           new black
447-0658     Spinout / All That I Am                                                                                     new black

Each of these records was pressed with the stan­dard black label with the logo and Nipper on the sides. The next batch of Gold Stan­dard num­bers was not or­dered until June 15, 1969.

I con­tacted Keith about the re­li­a­bility of that ’69 date and he sent me copies of the in­di­vidual Listing No­tices from RCA to In­di­anapolis to press these six num­bers (below). These ver­i­fied those dates: the or­ders were placed 6-19-69 and first press­ings of the fol­lowing Gold Stan­dards were shipped on 7-15-69:

Cat­alog #     Song ti­tles                                                                                                                      First label
447-0659     In­de­scrib­ably Blue / Fools Fall In Love                                               or­ange or red
447-0660     Long Legged Girl / That’s Someone You Never Forget                                  red
447-0661      There’s Al­ways Me / Judy                                                                                               red
447-0662      Big Boss Man / High Heel Sneakers                                                                          red
447-0663      Guitar Man / You Don’t Know Me                                                                              red
447-0664      U.S. Male / Stay Away                                                                                                      red

 

Elvis_GS_0614_orange250

Elvis_GS_0601_red250

Es­sen­tially, the two la­bels above are iden­ti­cally de­signed: each has the recording date above the spindle hole but does not have pub­lishing data on the right side. The only telling dif­fer­ence is the red label notes that it is a GOLD STANDARD re­lease on the right side, a no­ta­tion messing from pre­vious Gold Stan­dard label de­signs. (For stick­lers, the five lines of type on the right side of the red label are flushed right and set close to­gether; the three lines on the or­ange label are looser and ragged right.)

Elementary deductions

For those six ti­tles from July 1969: we know that there are press­ings of 447-0659 with or­ange la­bels. But after forty years of searching by col­lec­tors and re­searching by discog­ra­phers and his­to­rians such as Mr. Flynn, we have not found or­ange label copies of the other five num­bers

The ear­liest press­ings of each of them that we have found have red la­bels. While William Dear would ad­monish me here (“Never as­sume. Al­ways verify.”), I am doing some as­suming here:

 The com­plete lack of ev­i­dence for the ex­is­tence of these five Gold Stan­dard 45s with or­ange la­bels means that they do not exist with or­ange la­bels.

 There are no or­ange label press­ings for any Gold Stan­dard 45 after 447-0659.

 

There were so few or­ange GS 45s in the hands of col­lec­tors that I as­sumed that they were er­ro­neously pressed, dumped on the market, and for­gotten.

 

Don’t be too im­pressed with this de­duc­tive (in­duc­tive?) reasoning—just about every se­rious Elvis col­lector has al­ready fig­ured that out. So, if these six GS 45s were man­u­fac­tured and shipped in mid-1969, then we can make a few de­duc­tions:

 We know that red label Gold Stan­dard 45s were man­u­fac­tured in 1969.

 We know that or­ange label 447-0659 ex­ists; we still don’t know when they were man­u­fac­tured in 1969.

 We do not know that the or­ange label is a first pressing for447-0659—it could be a later pressing.

Since there is a red label pressing of 447-0659, it is pos­sible that all six of the records first pressed in July ’69 were red la­bels. Since this date would seem to es­tab­lish the red label as the color of choice for the Gold Stan­dard Se­ries, it is un­likely that or­ange la­bels would be used in­ten­tion­ally after this time.

There­fore it is pos­sible that the or­ange label pressing for 447-0659 along with all the other or­ange label GS 45s were pressed at a later date. As RCA used the or­ange label for stan­dard sin­gles into 1976, it is pos­sible (if un­likely) that the or­ange label GS 45s were pressed in the early to mid-1970s.

 

Elvis 1969 Vegas 1 600 crop

Elvis on stage at the In­ter­na­tional Hotel during his re­mark­able re­turn to live per­for­mance in Au­gust 1969.

The orange label 45s were a mistake

What we cannot de­duce is when the first or even the last or­ange label GS 45s was man­u­fac­tured. Using the in­for­ma­tion above, I as­sume the fol­lowing are cor­rect:

  RCA never in­tended to use or­ange la­bels for the Gold Stan­dard Se­ries.

  The use of or­ange la­bels for GS 45s was a pressing plant mis­take that orig­i­nated at In­di­anapolis and we may never know why or how it hap­pened.

  The mis­take of using or­ange la­bels in­stead of red oc­curred sev­eral times, pos­sibly (but un­likely) in 1968, prob­ably (but not def­i­nitely) in ’69, per­haps (but also un­likely) in ’70. To live dan­ger­ously, I am going with 1969 for all of the or­ange label GS 45s.

 

Elvis_GS_0646_orange250

Elvis_GS_0640_red_A250

Es­sen­tially, the two la­bels above are iden­ti­cally de­signed: each has the pub­lishing data on the right side but does not have the recording date above the spindle hole. The only telling dif­fer­ence is the red label notes that it is a GOLD STANDARD re­lease on the right side, a no­ta­tion messing from pre­vious Gold Stan­dard label de­signs. (For stick­lers, the cat­alog number is placed closer to “Victor” on the right side of the red label.)

The number of titles has grown

My ini­tial ex­plo­rations back in the ’80s that found their way into my Touch Of Gold book yielded re­sults that caused thou­sands of Elvis col­lec­tors to pay at­ten­tion to the or­ange label GS 45s. Since then, others have been doing re­search; here are the re­sults 

  In 1985, I listed two (2) or­ange label GS 45s (Blue Christmas and Kiss Me Quick, the most common then as now) in the Elvis Presley Record Price Guide with a value of $24 each.

  In 1990, I listed twenty-nine (29) ti­tles as having or­ange la­bels in the Touch Of Gold book with a value of $50 each.

 In 2015, I list forty-two (42) or­ange label Gold Stan­dard ti­tles in the sixth part of the Elvis’ Gold Stan­dard 45s ar­ti­cles on this site. They have an av­erage value of ap­prox­i­mately $150 each.

I think I am close to the truth of things about the or­ange label Gold Stan­dard Se­ries 45s. Nonethe­less, un­less someone has doc­u­men­ta­tion that RCA in­ten­tion­ally or­dered forty plus GS 45s and twenty-some EPs pressed with or­ange la­bels, or un­less a former pressing plant em­ployee steps for­ward with mem­o­ries of making those records, the origin of these sports may re­main a sup­po­si­tion.

I have se­lected 1969 as the year of re­lease for the or­ange label Gold Stan­dard Se­ries 45s. Why? The switch to the or­ange label began in Oc­tober 1968, lit­er­ally weeks be­fore the start of the Christmas buying season. I would think that RCA would have geared its ma­chinery to­ward pressing those records most likely to be pur­chased as gifts, and I don’t think of the GS 45s or the EPs as normal gifts.

So 1969 was prob­ably the year of tran­si­tion from the black to the or­ange label for a line of reissue sin­gles and there­fore the year in which a small load of or­ange la­bels was most likely to be found lying on a shelf. And why de­stroy thou­sands of per­fectly good la­bels that had al­ready been paid for?

 

Elvis 1969 Vegas PressConference 1500 crop

HEADER IMAGE: In Au­gust July 1969, Elvis gave an in­formal press con­fer­ence at the In­ter­na­tional Hotel in Las Vegas to an­swer ques­tions from jour­nal­ists about his re­turn to live per­forming. As this photo il­lus­trates, Presley was trim, fit, and plainly happy.

 

Elvis 1957 goldsuit standup 1000

POSTSCRIPTUALLY, “Those Bloody Rare Or­ange Label Gold Stan­dard 45s” is a teaser to an eight-part se­ries ad­dressing the col­lecting of Elvis Presley Gold Stan­dard Se­ries 45s and the sleeves as­so­ci­ated with them. Part 6 of that se­ries will be an overview of the or­ange label ti­tles and will in­clude a discog­raphy and price guide. For now, I wanted this in­for­ma­tion to stand on its own.

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

1. The Elvis Presley Gold Stan­dard 45s Part 1 (Fore­word)
2. The Elvis Presley Gold Stan­dard 45s Part 2 (Com­pany Sleeves)
3. The Elvis Presley Gold Stan­dard 45s Part 3 (1958–1965)
4. The 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   By the middle of the 1980s, O’­Sul­livan Wood­side pub­lished in­di­vidual price guides for rock & roll 45s, rhythm & blues 45s, country & western 45s, rock & roll LPs, orig­inal cast and sound­track LPs, and Elvis records. All of these were as­signed to me as ed­itor. There were also books on the Bea­tles and books planned for David Bowie and jazz LPs, but they were not in my baili­wick.

2   As stated, Don Wood­side wanted me to take the pre­vious edi­tions of each book and a) write new text for the front, b) add some new photos, and c) simply fi­nesse or fiddle with the fa­miliar values, and hand in a “new” book in eight weeks. He got his first two wishes along with a com­plete over­haul of the values, and each book took six months to com­plete. But that’s an­other story for an­other ar­ticle.

3   As stated above, these books caused sticker-shock throughout the col­lecting world—especially to those buyers and sellers who didn’t re­ally know the market and re­lied on the guides for ac­cu­racy. Cu­ri­ously (hah!), other price guide ed­i­tors ig­nored my value rev­e­la­tions; the In­ternet and es­pe­cially eBay ac­tions have proven me right time after time (hah again!).

4   And it is for “raising the price” of these re­ally rare records—a few hun­dred out of a book with more than 20,000 listings—that I de­vel­oped a rep­u­ta­tion and earned the so­bri­quet “Neal F*cking Umphred” among some of the hob­by’s cognoscenti. Ac­tu­ally, the moniker was as­signed to me by a well-known dealer in Los An­geles who was used to using the low values as­signed to records to his ad­van­tage when buying col­lec­tion. But that’s an­other story for an­other time.

5   These im­ages are cour­tesy of Keith Flynn and taken di­rectly from the ac­tual RCA order forms from 1969.

 

6
COMMENTS

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jerry [wurlitzer]

great ar­ticle neal, i’m just now taking the time to read it thor­oughly.

Dj Science (Dave)

I have a RCA or­ange label with cat­alog # 447-0709. The artist is Skeeter Davis. The A side is ‘I can’t get mad at you.’ The B side is ‘The end of the world.’ I have the orig­inal 45 RCA sleeve dated 1971. It’s listed in my record col­lec­tion on Discogs with pic­tures.

One seller is selling this very same 45 on Discogs for 6,000 USD. It has a gold label, and not the or­ange. I hope this helps with the cat­alog con­fu­sion.

Dave

The 45 record sleeve I have isnot the orig­inal sleeve with my or­ange label re­lease. The sleeve is dated 1971. As for that Discogs seller with the tan label selling for $5000. That label may have been a 10th an­niver­sary re-release in 1973 ? I also have the promo re­lease,
How much is the or­ange label 1969 may be worth.

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