WHILE I CONTINUE TO SLAVE AWAY over the rewriting of the nine previously published articles (with discographies and price guides) for the Elvis Gold Standard Series catalog, I do occasionally take a break and pay attention to other things. Such as Quora. The question that just appeared there is “How many Elvis albums are there.” Believe it or not, that is a rather difficult question to answer.
The topic was made more difficult by the fact that the first person to attempt to answer the question dragged sales figures into his answer. So, my answer addressed the actual question that the first answer’s misinformation.
This article is being updated in April 2021. Data from 2019 is struck through with the updated data following one line below the old data.
Anyone who was old enough in 1977–1978 and was paying attention to the brouhaha on the media concerning the demand for Elvis Presley records in just about every corner of the world in the wake of the singer’s death in August 1977 should be astounded that RCA has apparently lost all the proof of those sales. And if they could lose that, believing that they lost paperwork from the ’50s and the ’60s is pretty damn easy.
Now here is my answer to the Quora question (and it is neither well-researched nor intended to be definitive):
Elvis’ Christmas Album was originally issued in 1957 as RCA Victor LOC-1035. This was a gorgeous package for a rock & roll album: A gatefold jacket that opened like a book to a set of pages with full-color photos promoting the Jailhouse Rock movie. Despite it’s being the most famous version of Elvis’ Christmas Album, sales were probably under 500,000 before it was reissued in 1959 with a new jacket and a new catalog number.
Likely more than 400
Here are six facts regarding Elvis Presley albums in the US that address the original Quora question “How many Elvis albums are there?” and the data given by the first (and thus far) only other answer offered to that question:
The total number of all-Elvis alums issued in the US between 1956 and 2019 is well over 300 and may likely be over 400. (I have heard others speculate that it tops 500.)
The total number of all-Elvis alums issued in the US between 1956 and 2020 is over 400 and may approach 500.
2. No one knows the exact number of units that all these albums have sold, and that includes the RCA, the RIAA, and the Elvis Presley Estate.
Of those 300–400 albums, only 85 have been certified by the RIAA for individual sales of more than 500,000 units. It is these 85 titles that account for the 139,000,000 figure that you read in 99% of the articles on the internet.
Of those 400–500 albums, only 84 have been certified by the RIAA for individual sales of more than 500,000 units. It is these 84 titles that account for the RIAA figures that you read in most of the articles on the internet.
4. RCA has reputedly lost thousands of pages of documentation of Presley’s sales over the years, going back to 1956. This apparently includes documentation of the sales of tens of millions of units following his death in 1977.
The RIAA’s figure of 139,000,000 only measures the sales that RCA can document of those 85 titles, so millions—maybe tens of millions—of sales for the “official” tally for those 85 titles are unaccounted for.
The RIAA’s figure of 139,000,000 only measures the sales that RCA can document of those 84 titles, so millions—maybe tens of millions—of sales for the “official” tally for those 84 titles are unaccounted for.
6. Most of the articles written about Elvis’s album sales that can be found on the internet were written by people who don’t know some or most or all of the facts listed above.
My boy my boy, but I haven’t a clue as to what kind of responses my answer is going to generate if any at all. If you are interested in following them, click here.
This is the first reissue and repackaging of the twelve tracks from Elvis’ Christmas Album (RCA Victor LOC-1035, above). This version was issued in 1959 and remained in print until 1969. Combined with LOC-1037, this version sold more than 3,000,000 copies in the US. In 1970, it was replaced by another album with the same title but with a slightly different track line-up. This was released on their Camden budget imprint (CAL-2428). In 1975, RCA leased this title to the biggest manufacturer of low-priced budget records in the world, Pickwick Records. Between the Camden and Pickwick pressings, this version of the album sold more than 10,000,000 copies in the US.
This will probably get sorted out
So, we’re not certain of exactly how many Elvis albums have been released in the US and we’re not even exactly certain what to count. Are LOC-1035 and LPM-1951 the same album or different albums? This will probably get sorted out as there are a lot of interested Elvis fans on the internet and many of them are researching the topic.
As for the total number of records that Elvis has sold both domestically and internationally, that will almost certainly not be known. Unless, of course, someone in Heaven has been keeping track of Elvis’s career sales and has copies of the paperwork that RCA lost and wishes to bless we humans with that data.
Alas, the best we humans can do is keep making our estimates more accurate.
FEATURED IMAGE: I found the photo at the top of this page as part of the article “Ghosts Of Christmas Past” on the Herc’s Hideaway website. In his article, Herc wrote:
“Like aluminum trees glazed with shiny tinsel and stockings filled with oranges as well as assorted nuts still in their shell, Elvis’s Blue Christmas has been a fixture of my Christmas memories for much of my life and he’s been a fixture in the Christmas Music section of the record store for much much longer as ELVIS’ CHRISTMAS ALBUM was first released in 1957 and was later followed by ELVIS SINGS THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF CHRISTMAS in 1971.
And the songs on those albums have been repackaged, remastered and reissued with alternate versions and updated additional instrumentation for going on sixty years now. The gallery of cover art above is just the tip of the iceberg as far as Elvis Presley Christmas music albums that have been released through the years.” 1
He reviews the recent ELVIS CHRISTMAS WITH THE ROYAL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA album in both its “normal” and its deluxe editions. Edge of cynicism required by so many releases from RCA/Sony. To read the complete reviews, click here.
POSTSCRIPTUALLY, to give you an example of how clever and redundant RCA’s recycling of Presley Product has been, listen to this: Elvis recorded a total of twenty Christmas songs in his career: eight in 1957, one in 1966, and eleven in 1971. RCA has managed to package and repackage and repackage the repackages into at least seventeen albums in the US. Of those, eleven have been certified for Gold, Platinum, or Diamond Record Awards for 27,000,000 sales.
The number of all-Elvis LP and CD albums issued in the US between 1956 and 2019 is well over 300 and may be over 400. Click To Tweet
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.)