this german EP album is one of the rarest elvis records in the world!

Es­ti­mated reading time is 7 minutes.

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.

 

German EP Album: front cover of US version of EPA-4325, Elvis Sails, from 1958.

German EP Album: back cover of US version of EPA-4325, Elvis Sails, from 1958.
RCA Victor EPA-4325, Elvis Sails, was is­sued in the US with Elvis’ 1959 Cal­endar on the back cover. The jacket had a die-cut hole at the top so the owner could hang the jacket on the wall and see the cal­endar daily.

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: front cover of first German version of EPA-4325, Elvis Sails, from 1958.
The first German print­ings of the jacket for EPA-4325 fea­tured a less-than-flattering photo of Pri­vate Presley. The first print­ings of the jacket for EPA-4325 in West Ger­many were pulled from circulation.

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.

 

German EP Album: back cover of German version of EPA-4325, Elvis Sails, from 1958-1959.
In­stead of fea­turing Elvis’ 1959 Cal­endar, the back cover for the German EPA-4325 (above) ad­ver­tised other Elvis records. This back cover was used with the re­place­ment cover (below) and kept in print for sev­eral years.

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? 

Later?

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.”

 

FansStarLibrary ElvisInTheArmy 800
At least when RCA West Ger­many de­cided to alter the cover of EPA-4325, they kept the orig­inal de­sign and se­lected an­other photo of Pri­vate Presley. What if they had at­tempted a cover that looked some­thing like this British fan mag­a­zine from 1959?

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.

 

German EP Album: front cover of second German version of EPA-4325, Elvis Sails, from 1959.
RCA then switched to the stan­dard photo for all sub­se­quent print­ings of the jacket. (These German jackets were made of a lighter board than the US jackets but were lam­i­nated on the front, which can be seen when you en­large the im­ages on the page.)

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? 

$10,000?

$20,000?

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 . . .

 

Elvis EPA 4325 ElvisSails Germany 1 800 copy

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.

 

photo of Elvis from early 1957 in his full gold suit by Nudie of Hollywood.

Postscript

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.

 


 

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