THE GOLD STANDARD SERIES of reissues of Elvis Presley’s 45 pm singles ran for more than forty years. During this time, ninety-five records were released, including thirteen unique picture sleeves! Some of these records went through five label changes, meaning each has five major variations of interest to must-have-it-all Elvis collectors, of which there are more than a few.
Despite the fact that these records have been around this long and have been listed in hundreds of discographies, a great deal of confusion surrounds them. Until now and this series of articles on the Elvis - A Touch Of Gold website.
This is part 1 of the most complete discography and accurate price guide to Elvis’ Gold Standard 45s on the Internet.
The Gold Standard Series of reissue singles with which Elvis fans are familiar (the 447-0600 series) did not begin until late 1958. And it is these records that I will address in this article, the first of a series on the Gold Standard Series 45s. But first, let’s get back to the original Gold Standard releases.
In 1955, RCA Victor launched the Gold Standard Series, apparently to present a variety of Glenn Miller sides to the public in the 45 rpm format. RCA favored the artist by printing generic sleeves for the records with photos, art, and text—including a list of the seventeen Miller titles then in print (0031–0047).
Gold Standard 45s and EPs
In 1955, RCA Victor inaugurated the Gold Standard Series with the release of a series of 45 rpm singles (447−0000 series). Several hundred titles were released, mostly reissues of 78s of the swing music so popular with previous generation of record buyers.
This series was notable for its dedication to the music of such stars as Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey but especially RCA’s biggest big band star, Glenn Miller.
In 1957, the Gold Standard Series introduced a line of 45 rpm extended-play albums (EPs). These albums also collected previously released 78 rpm sides by popular jazz and big band musicians: the first number, EPA-5000, was by Louis Armstrong, who was still going strong in the ’50s. Other selected artists included such lesser lights as Charlie Barnet and Bunny Berigan and the brightest light of them all, Edward ‘Duke’ Ellington.
Each of the EPs from 1957 was a good-looking package: each featured a tasteful full-color photo on the front cover. The back cover usually featured recording information on the album tracks, a very nice and very unusual touch for collectors and historians in the ’50s. There was also a statement of a declaration at the bottom of each back cover:
“The designation Gold Standard Series indicates a collection of memorable performances which are now available for the first time in a 45 EP economy package. Selected from outstanding RCA Victor single releases, these recordings are some of the finest ever made by RCA Victor artists.”
This new series of EPs was obviously aimed at an older group of customers (parents, not teens), offering them “memorable” recordings from their past. I haven’t a clue as to how well these albums sold; fortunately, it is of little import to this article. 1
In 1958, RCA followed up the initial release of ten EPs with several dozen new titles, all EPs, all old 78 sides of jazz and big band music. The bit of braggadocio on the back covers of the album was modified:
“The aim of the Gold Standard Series is to reproduce, on 45 EPs, performances of enduring musical value that cannot be duplicated today. Reprocessing by the latest recording techniques has enhanced the sound of these original performances by RCA Victor’s greatest artists.” 2
When RCA Victor launched the Gold Standard 0600 series in late 1958, nineteen of the first twenty numbers were Elvis titles from 1955–57! In the early ’60s, RCA began adding more Elvis titles to the series. Most of these records remained in print to the end of RCA’s manufacturing of 45 rpm records in the early ’90s.
In 1957, the first Gold Standard Series EP was EPA-5000, simply titled Louis Armstrong. As this series was aimed at an older audience wanting familiar music in the new 45 rpm format, each record was packaged appropriately: each album came in an attractive cardboard jacket with excellent full-color photographs adorning the front covers.
Gold Standard 447-0600 series
In late 1958, RCA introduced the Gold Standard 447-0600 series that focused almost exclusively on reissuing Elvis singles! Despite the fact that this series has been with us for more than fifty years, there is still confusion about the records. Most of it centers around two topics:
• As there were five label designs between 1958 and 2000, which numbers were released with which label designs?
• As the press runs for each number varied dramatically from one design to the next, which numbers are the rarest in what design and how much are they worth?
With the eight parts of Elvis’ Gold Standard 45s here on A Touch Of Gold, I answer those two questions, although not to the degree that I would like.
A little historical background
RCA is an abbreviation for the Radio Corporation of America, which was formed in 1919 in a strange marriage involving the American Marconi wireless company with General Electric and Westinghouse, among other players. The original intention was for private corporations to work with the US government on wireless communication, but one thing led to another and capitalism prevailed.
In 1929, RCA purchased the Victor Talking Machine Company, then the world’s largest manufacturer of phonographs and phonograph records. With this acquisition, RCA acquired the rights to Victor’s famous trademark, the dog Nipper cocking an ear at the horn of an antique phonograph. This image is forever associated with RCA Victor to generations of music lovers.
Like every other record company at the time, Victor manufactured 78 rpm singles: 10-inch records with one song per side, each less than three minutes in length. Made with a shellac-like compound, these fragile records were easily broken by less-than-careful handling.
Nonetheless, the 78 remained the primary medium for recorded sound for more than fifty years, far longer than the 45, the LP, the cassette tape, or the CD!
In 1948, Columbia revolutionized the record business by introducing the 12-inch 33⅓ long-playing LP record album. The slower speed and larger size allowed almost twenty minutes of music per side! They were also made with a vinyl-based compound that was effectively unbreakable in normal use!
Rather than take Columbia head-on, RCA Victor countered with another new format: a 7-inch record that played at 45 rpm. While it did not improve on either fidelity or playing time, the 45 was also made of a more durable, vinyl-based compound which gave the records a less noisy playing surface.
And the 45 was considerably more convenient than the 78: to carry a stack of 78s required two hands and a reliable sense of balance. But with the 45, any fool with one hand with an opposable digit could carry a stack of the latest hits—even if he had two left feet!
The 45 was a hit, but not big enough to offset the sales of the LP for Columbia. So in 1950, RCA Victor began issuing LPs. By the time of the ascension of rock & roll in mid-decade, every record company in the US was issuing 45s and most were also releasing LPs.
In early 1899, artist Francis Barraud sold the rights to Dog Looking At And Listening To A Phonograph to the British Gramophone Company. By 1901, the painting was the trademark for the Victor Talking Machine Company. From then on, most Victor record labels featured the dog and gramophone. Because of the billions of records sold by RCA over the past hundred years, Nipper may be the most well-known dog in the world.
Pop music for now people
The market for recorded music prior to the ’50s was essentially a market for adult buyers. The ‘youth market’ was non-existent, as kids had little or no pocket money (just like most of their parents). And teenagers tended to listen to the same type of music as their parents: big band music was hip with kids in the ’30s and ’40s, and then the bobbysoxers went gaga for the singers when they quit their favorite bands to pursue success as a solo act, notably the young Frankie Sinatra.
In the early ’50s, white teenagers began listening and dancing to and then buying rhythm & blues records by black artists. A handful of white disc-jockeys pied-pipered the new music to the white kids in the cities by playing ‘race records’ on several large radio stations. 3
And these kids were blessed by the emerging age of prosperity in the US: due to their receiving an allowance from working-class parents, they had the pocket money to buy lots of those records. 4
When Elvis issued his first single in 1954, American youth was already primed for a new sound. But as new and refreshing as Presley’s music and message were, and as much as there may have been a market primed to receive his message, Sam Phillips’s itty-bitty Sun Records did not have the clout to move that message out of their regional markets. 5
In late 1955, Colonel Tom Parker convinced RCA Victor to buy Elvis Presley’s contract for an unprecedented sum. The former truck driver from Memphis was in the Big Time in New York and on the new-fangled contraption called television and things started happening and things haven’t been the same for anybody anywhere ever since but that’s another story.
The designation Gold Standard Series indicates a collection of memorable performances selected from outstanding RCA Victor single releases.
Back to back hits for other artists
In the overwhelming majority of cases, when a 45 rpm single has run its course as a catalog item (that is, it is ‘in print’), and its time is up, it’s up! This applies whether it was a massive hit for a new pop artist who may have nothing left in them after this moment in the sun, or it’s the latest chart entry by an established country artist who will keep his audience even after death.
Even big hits have little value after their fifteen minutes of fame, and most record companies delete the title and move on to the next round of releases and hopeful hits. Few records that were more than three months old had any viability on the market.
But a few do and record companies often established a separate series for those records. The most common series is a back-to-back hits approach: instead of reissuing the original record, the hit sides of two records are combined so that the record is more appealing to customers looking for just the hits.
With Presley’s records on the Gold Standard Series, RCA Victor just decided that there was too much demand for the flip-sides to ignore them and simply reissued the original records exactly as they were, with the original A- and B-sides. That is, the flip-sides were treated with the same weight as the featured sides. This kept Presley’s canon alive and well into the 21st century.
Gold Standard label designs
The Gold Standard Series of Elvis 45s lasted from 1958 through 2000, after which RCA stopped manufacturing singles. During this time, RCA changed the look of their product several times. For this series of Elvis’ Gold Standard 45s articles, each of the label designs has its own chapter that includes a lengthy introduction and as complete a discography and price guide as can be found anywhere. This is an outline of the designs. 6
Part 3 (1958–1965)
Glossy black labels with “RCA Victor” and Nipper at the top above the spindle hole (both at 12 o’clock). Many collectors refer to these as dog-on-top (DOT) pressings; I prefer to refer to them as RCA-Victor-on-top pressings.
Part 5 (1965–1968)
Glossy black labels with “RCA Victor” on the right side of the spindle hole (at 3 o’clock) and Nipper on the left side (at 9 o’clock). Many collectors refer to these as dog-on-side (DOS) pressings; prefer to I refer to them as RCA-Victor-on-the-side pressings.
Part 6 (1968–1979)
Glossy orange labels with “RCA” on the left side of the spindle hole and “Victor” on the right side. Poor ol’ Shep—I mean, ol’ Nipper—was unceremoniously dumped from the label!
Part 7 (1970–1976)
Glossy red labels with “RCA” on the left side of the spindle hole, and “Victor” on the right side. Still no Nipper.
Part 8 (1976–2000)
Non-glossy black labels with “RCA” only at the top (12 o’clock) and Nipper returned but to the upper right (1 o’clock). Many collectors refer to these as dog-near-top (DNT) or new black pressings; I prefer to refer to them as RCA-on-top pressings.
The discographies in these articles are listed in order by catalog number. With each label design change, the entire series is listed from 0600 on. The year of release is based on Keith Flynn’s Elvis Presley Pages, a website that lists the month, day, and year for the first appearance of every Gold Standard Series record (along with the standard catalog of singles, EP and LP albums, tapes, and CDs). It is one of the premier Presley sites on the Internet and you owe yourself a visit there!
Gold Standard company sleeves
Each of these records was shipped in a paper sleeve; some were plain white or brown sleeves, devoid of print. Most, however, had printed information on them, usually the company logo and “Gold Standard Series.” These generic sleeves are known as company sleeves and are covered in more detail in The Elvis Presley Gold Standard 45s Part 2.
On assigned values and grading
Determining the rarity of each number with each label design is difficult: the press run for any given number on a specific label design was based on how many copies were still in inventory on the previous label design. Unless someone unearths RCA documentation from the ’60s and ’70s on orders placed to Indianapolis for new 45s, the only way we have to know today is through the marketplace.
The values assigned in these discographies/price guides are estimates—that should be obvious, as each record is not assigned a single value but a spread between two figures.
Example: a record may be assigned a value of $15-30, which is a rather generous spread. It simply means that this record can sell for as little as $15 or as much as $30, and both would be reasonable prices to pay. 7
The figures should tell you the approximate range of prices that a buyer should expect to pay a knowledgeable seller for a record in near mint (NM) condition. I arrived at the values by consulting three websites that collect data regarding online record sales:
Keep in mind when buying on eBay—where the blind often lead the blind—that most of the sellers do NOT know how to grade accurately!
Popsike collects data on records that sold at auction on eBay with a minimum price paid of approximately $22. The problem with collating only auction results is obvious: if ten copies of a record sell on eBay with a Buy It Now price of $100 each, they are not listed on Popsike. If the only sale of that record from an auction was $26, then that will be only one listing on Popsike. That is, if you rely solely on Popsike, then a $100 record can appear to be a $26 record.
Conversely, if a hundred copies of a record sell on eBay with a Buy It Now price of $10 each, they are not listed on Popsike. If the only sale of that record from an auction was $260, then that will be only one listing on Popsike. That is, if you rely solely on Popsike, then a $10record can appear to be a $26 record.
Discogs is an independent site that collects data for a massive online discography of every kind of record imaginable. It also serves as the primary online swap meet for people to sell and buy new, used, and collectable records.
Gripsweat started out as BINFrenzy, listing the Buy It Now sales from eBay that Popsike ignored. Like Collectors Frenzy, it lists both auction and sale results from various sites with a minimum price paid of approximately $15. The criticism here is the same as that for Collectors Frenzy.
I have been buying records for resale since 1970. I have sold records at flea markets, swap meets, and collectors conventions in eight states and British Columbia. I have advertised records for sale in three magazines and several online venues.
Keeping my criticisms of each in mind, I added a dollop of common sense to the mix based on my own experiences of buying and selling Elvis records since 1977.
A rule-of-thumb: Those numbers that do not show up for sale with regularity may be the only indicator we have of that number’s rarity.
While most Gold Standard Series records were released exclusively in the US, they did pop up in other countries. This is the Japanaese picture sleeve for a single that coupled Jailhouse Rock with Heartbreak Hotel (RCA SS-2031), probably issued in the mid-’60s.
Values are based on condition
The values refer to records in near mint (NM) condition. That is, records with both labels and the vinyl/grooves on both sides in damn near NEW (DNN?) condition! Records in less than NM condition are worth considerably less than the values assigned here!
A record listed here for $25–50 might be a tough sell at $10 in VG+ condition. And always keep in mind when buying on the Internet that many (if not most) of the sellers there are amateurs. They are NOT full-time record dealers. They do NOT know how to grade accurately!
Also, many of the photos in eBay ads are NOT of the item for sale; they are images pulled from another site on the Net. So what you see ain’t necessarily what you get!
Smart buyers are often willing to pay a respected dealer more for a record knowing that they will be getting exactly what was advertised and what they paid for!
For more on grading, refer to “On Grading Records.”
A copy of 447-0644 graded near mint was auctioned on eBay and sold for $6,000 in 2011! I believe this sale to be bogus, one of those stunts that people pull off for attention on the Internet. Why? Because subsequent sales of this record have been for $114 and $32 in 2012, $79 in 2013, and $100 in 2014!
Misprintings and mispressings
Errors can occur in the manufacturing of records: the most common are incorrect information printed on the labels, such as a misspelled word or some bit of incorrect data. Occasionally a record is pressed that has the correct recording on each side but has the wrong label on one or both sides. The incorrect label may be from another Elvis record or maybe by another artist altogether.
The above are obviously misprintings.
Many collectors ignore these records, considering them of negligible value. Other collectors consider them legitimate rarities and pursue them, paying premium prices for them. Here are two examples of misprintings:
• There are red label pressings of 447-0601, That’s All Right / Blue Moon Of Kentucky, with PRESLEY correctly spelled on one side, but misspelled as PRESELY on the other side. This is rather unusual and makes such a record a fun addition to any collection.
• There are orange label pressings of 447-0644, Kissin’ Cousins / It Hurts Me, that play the two Presley recordings, but has the orange It Hurts Me label on one side, and an orange label for My Cup Runneth Over by Ed Ames (447−0784) on the other side! A copy graded VG- sold for $279 on eBay in January 2015.
Far rarer are mispressings, where a record has the correct recording on one side and an incorrect recording on the other side. The correct side is determined by the labels: if there are two Elvis labels but only one Elvis recording, then it is a mispressing of an Elvis record.
The opposite is true: if it was an RCA Victor pressing with an Elvis recording on one side and an Eddie Arnold recording on the other and the record has two Arnold labels, it would be an Eddy Arnold mispressing. (Of course, Elvis collectors would still pay far more for it than an Arnold collector!)
This type of production error usually attracts more attention from more collectors and will fetch a healthy price in an open auction.
HEADER IMAGE: By the time of his mustering out of the US Army in March 1960, Pfc. Presley had advanced up the ranks and displays the three stripes of a sergeant on his sleeve. By this time, his entire ’50s catalog had been reissued as part of RCA Victor’s Gold Standard Series of 45 rpm singles.
POSTSCRIPTUALLY, “The Elvis Presley Gold Standard 45s Part 1 (Foreword)” is the first of a planned eight articles addressing the complete run of Gold Standard singles as collectable records. When it is completed, I will include a list of the articles with hyperlinks here at the bottom of each article for easy access.
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)
1 The abbreviation EP stands for extended play, just as LP was an abbreviation for long play. A 45 rpm EP extended the playing time of a normal 45 rpm single from one track per side to two or more tracks per side. The statement by RCA on their Gold Standard Series EPs confused some record buyers that EP was an abbreviation of economy package.
As collectables, they have only a nominal value: copies in VG+ or better condition can usually be found on the Internet for around $10. This usually means that the supply is considerably greater than the demand, which may indicate that the records sold moderately well in the ’50s.
2 Note that RCA brags of “Reprocessing by the latest recording techniques has enhanced the sound of these original performances.” Was this the company’s first use of the term reprocessing to refer to messing with the sound of master tapes? Of course, the term reprocessed would become synonymous with ghastly fake stereo when RCA brought that into the industry in 1961. That, too, is another topic for another time.
3 Did you know that the pied in pied piper is an adjective meaning “of two or more colors in blotches” and refers to the magic musician’s motley attire, not his dessert preferences?
4 Large numbers of clean-cut white kids buying uncouth black music were something new in the marketplace. Black musicians had been modifying dance music for years, heading towards a simpler music with a back beat, you can’t lose it, any old time you use it.
Were they leading the way and the presence of the emerging white audience merely coincidental? Or were the musicians responding to the demands of the youth (black and white) and giving them easier music to dance to? I dunno …
5 And here I mean message in several senses, including that of “the medium is the message” (Marshall McLuhan), which can be applied to both the 45 rpm record and the minuscule black & white TV sets beginning to find their place in houses across the country.
6 The term price guide is misleading to new collectors in all fields: projects such as this one should be called approximate value guides. But of course, they won’t because that phrase ain’t sexy—it lacks zest appeal!
7 If you were to use the values assigned here as estimates for the value of your collection for the sake of ensuring that collection, then use the mid-range number in each spread. For an assigned value of $15-30, use $22.50.