WHILE ELVIS WAS IN THE ARMY during 1958-1960, RCA Victor did a reasonably good job of keeping Presley’s career alive and well. They released five new singles and several EP and LP albums. While all of these records sold well and are familiar, a few rarities from this time exist—especially a certain German EP album.
This article addresses a foreign pressing of an Elvis record. Most American Elvis collectors collect American Elvis records exclusively. Lawdy, Miss Clawdy, but there’s enough of them to keep most of us busy for at least one lifetime.
Is the original German version of “Elvis Sails” the rarest Elvis record in the world?
Elvis – A Touch Of Gold almost exclusively addresses US pressings of Elvis records but occasionally I take a look at something interesting from another country. In the previous article posted on this blog, I explained how to easily tell the difference between an actual RCA Victor pressing of EPA-4325 and the bootleg reproductions that were issued twenty years later.
To spice that article up, I included a look at three other interesting variations on this EP: two from Japan and one from West Germany. It wasn’t until after I published the article that I realized that this record deserved its own article so that more people might read it and become aware of its rarity and value.
Elvis talks to his many fans
EPA-4325 was first released in the US in November 1958, just in time for the Christmas market. ELVIS SAILS featured snippets from a press conference and interviews that Presley did just before leaving for Germany.
Most of the text and images below originally appeared in that article. I was not aware of the rarity of the original West German version of EPA-4325 until I wrote that article.
To read more on this record, refer to “Elvis Talks to His Many Fans (EPA-4325, Elvis Sails).”
German EP album rarest Elvis record?
There is not a lot about this record on the internet, but here is what I know. In West Germany, EPA-4325 was initially issued with the same cover design (a photo of Elvis bursting through a newspaper with the headline “Elvis Sails”) as the American version but with a different photo of Elvis. A different and less flattering photo.
I am not qualified to dub this “the rarest Elvis record in the world.” But there is someone qualified: Paul Dowling (Worldwide Elvis Rare RCA Vinyl) has been buying, selling, collecting, and documenting Elvis records from around the world for decades.
Here are his (slightly edited) remarks on the first German version of EPA-4325:
“Forget about any claims from anyone that any US records are super rare! This unique German EP is, in my opinion after forty-seven years of collecting Elvis records worldwide, the rarest Elvis record in the world!
This is one of the most mysterious Elvis records ever. Only a handful are known to exist and why it was made is pure speculation. Most likely the printing plant simply made a mistake and used the wrong picture.”
To read more about EPA-4325, try Paul’s Facebook page.
When was it pulled from circulation?
Why did RCA in West Germany pull a fine photo of Private Presley and replace it with a different photo while keeping the US design? The photo of Elvis not only wasn’t kind to Elvis but it didn’t work nearly as well with the newspaper design.
(At least they used another Army photo; what if they had substituted a shot from King Creole instead?)
No one seems to know but ‘theories’—rumors might be more accurate—about why a different photo was used and why it was subsequently replaced abound. The EP album jacket was apparently pulled from circulation and replaced with the standard photo. It retained the same catalog number and the same back cover.
When was it pulled from circulation?
In early 1959?
No one seems to know for sure.
The Colonel had no control over RCA Victor!
Here is Paul again (this time via email with me) on the most popular rumor—er, theory (again, slightly edited):
“Please ignore the age-old story about the Colonel objecting to the photo and therefore having [the original German EPA-4325] canceled. People used that story for the GOLDEN BOY ELVIS from Germany as well as records from Argentina, Egypt, Greece, Turkey, Venezuela, and probably twenty more countries. Believe me, it is simply not true.
I went up to BMG’s offices in New York every other week in January-May 1992. I asked the same question to probably thirty people, all of whom had been working at RCA for a long time and knew Parker well.
The Colonel simply had no say or control over what RCA released, especially in other countries. He might have had some say [about] the US releases, although [even] that’s debatable.
We all know what his job really was regarding Elvis and, trust me, going over every Elvis picture cover for singles, EPs, and LPs from every country in the world was not one of them.”
Avid Record Collector’s price guide
There have not been any sales of the first German version of EPA-4325 on Discogs and only three copies of this record have sold on eBay.
In early 2004, a copy graded VG++/VG++ sold for $1,522.
In late 2004, a copy graded VG+ sold for $1,231.
Thirteen years is a long time in record collecting and allowed more people to learn about this album’s rarity So, in 2017, a copy graded VG sold for $6,211. (The photo included in the ad shows a jacket heavily yellowed with age that would cause some of us to consider it VG-.)
That’s it! There have certainly been sales of this record that are not documented on Discogs of eBay but those two sites are what we have to work with and, so, only three copies have sold on them in twenty years.
What is it worth today?
So, there hasn’t been a copy sold on eBay in the past seven years and it was the only copy sold there in the past twenty years! This copy was listed as being in less than what many collectors think of as desirable condition. Nonetheless, it sold for more than six grand!
Via email, I asked Paul Dowling if he had any new information about this baffling record. He responded:
“Remember the old days, when things like SPD-23 were called ‘rare’? I have had at least fifteen copies of that album and have seen hundreds for sale!
I consider the first German version of EPA-4325 to be the rarest Elvis record because, since I started collecting in 1973, this is the only record that I could never get.”
Only time will tell
What would a NM record in a NM jacket fetch today if offered by a reputable dealer?
It should probably sell for a lot more but as so many Elvis collectors are as unaware of it as I was, it would not have as many interested/potential buyers as better-known but easier-to-find US records.
Only time will tell.
Maybe . . .
FEATURED IMAGE: The image at the top of this page was cropped from the first German version of EPA-4325, ELVIS SAILS. I tweaked the image—mostly saturation and contrast—and added a dark sepia-like tint to make it a bit more eye-catching.
Thanks to Paul Dowling for the information and his opinion, to Benny Vejlby for his coöperation, and to Bryan Bradley for proofing the final draft of this article.
Hope this article turns a few readers on and makes them want to add a certain German EP album to their collection.
Mystically liberal Virgo enjoys long walks alone in the city at night in the rain with an umbrella and a flask of 10-year-old Laphroaig who strives to live by the maxim, “It ain’t what you know that gets you into trouble; it’s what you know that just ain’t so.
I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn, and a college dropout (twice!). Occupationally, I have been a bartender, jewelry engraver, bouncer, landscape artist, and FEMA crew chief following the Great Flood of ’72 (and that was a job that I should never, ever have left).
I am also the final author of the original O’Sullivan Woodside price guides for record collectors and the original author of the Goldmine price guides for record collectors. As such, I was often referred to as the Price Guide Guru, and—as everyone should know—it behooves one to heed the words of a guru. (Unless, of course, you’re the Beatles.)