Elvis GoldSuit

the avid record collector’s price guide to A Touch Of Gold albums

HARD UP FOR NEW RELEASES while their cash-cow was in the Army, in 1959-1960, RCA Victor is­sued three vol­umes of EP al­bums ti­tled A TOUCH OF GOLD. I had al­ways liked that title and had sub­se­quently used it as the title for my second Elvis Presley price guide. And now it is re­cy­cled yet again as the title of this blog for Elvis fans and col­lec­tors.

The TOUCH OF GOLD al­bums were com­pi­la­tions con­jured without ap­parent rhyme, as the song se­lec­tions make little sense. Each record had two le­git­i­mate A-sides that were million-sellers, one flip-side of a million-seller (that was it­self a Top 40 hit), and one side that didn’t make any na­tional survey any­where or sell any­where near a mil­lion.

As the first two were def­i­nitely gold and the third ar­guably gold, I sup­pose that RCA could claim that the fourth was touched by that gold!

There may not have been rhyme, but there was a reason: the three al­bums were re­leased to keep ‘new’ Presley Product on the shelves. The TOUCH OF GOLD se­ries were pot­boilers of a sort and while they were not big selling items then, they have been fan faves and col­lec­tables for decades. 1

Below find a discog­raphy and price guide for those three records. 

 

ATOG_1_blue

EPA-5088 Touch Of Gold, Volume 1

This record shipped on April 21, 1959, and fol­lowed the re­lease of FOR LP FANS ONLY in Feb­ruary and (Now And Then There’s) A Fool Such As I / I Need Your Love Tonight in March. Ac­cording to Ernst Jor­gensen, this first volume sold “a re­spectable 130,000 copies.” 2

Jackets with two dif­ferent cover de­signs can be found with first pressing records and both were ap­par­ently is­sued in the first half of 1959. The idea that RCA Victor paid for two sep­a­rate de­signs is rather odd, as that could lead to con­fu­sion among buyers. So the two de­signs are pre­sented below as si­mul­ta­neous first print­ings.

 

ATOG_1_blue2

First printing jacket, or the 3-line title cover. The title on the front cover is on three cen­tered lines as “A / Touch / Gold” with “of” set off to the left. Presley stands against a medium blue back­drop, and the print on the album title and the logo box and song ti­tles on the ma­roon border is in a darker blue. This is ar­guably the most vi­su­ally at­trac­tive of the cover vari­a­tions and could rea­son­ably be tagged ‘the blue cover.’

•  The back cover has “© by Radio Cor­po­ra­tion of America, 1959” in the lower right corner.

•  This is def­i­nitely a first printing and may, in fact, be the sole first printing.

Vari­a­tions in the im­ages that can be found on­line (like the two above) may be ei­ther fluc­tu­a­tions in the ac­tual printing of the cover slicks in 1959 or less than per­fect pho­to­graphic and com­puter re­pro­duc­tion on the In­ternet fifty years later. This is a topic for fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

 

ATOG_1_J_4lines

atog2

First printing jacket, or the 4-line title cover. The title on the front cover is on four cen­tered lines: “A / Touch / of / Gold.” Presley stands against a neu­tral back­drop with a hint of blue, and the print on the album title and the logo box and song ti­tles on the ma­roon border is in a darker blue.

•  The back cover has “© by Radio Cor­po­ra­tion of America, 1959” in the lower right corner.

•  This may be a first printing is­sued si­mul­ta­ne­ously with the 3-line printing above.

Vari­a­tions in the im­ages that can be found on­line (like the two above) may be ei­ther fluc­tu­a­tions in the ac­tual printing of the cover slicks in 1959 or less than per­fect pho­to­graphic and com­puter re­pro­duc­tion on the In­ternet fifty years later. This is a topic for fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Later print­ings of this jacket used through the ’60s have “© 1959, RCA, New York, N.Y.” in the lower right corner of the back cover. There is no dif­fer­ence in the value as­signed to any of the jackets above at this time.

 

ATOG_2

EPA-5101 Touch Of Gold, Volume 2

This record shipped on April 21, 1959, fol­lowing the re­lease of A Big Hunk O’ Love / My Wish Came True in June and A DATE WITH ELVIS in July. Ernst states that it sold, “close to 100,000 copies,” or ap­prox­i­mately 20% fewer than the first volume.

•  First printing jackets have “© by Radio Cor­po­ra­tion of America, 1959” in the bottom right corner of the back cover.

•  Later printing jackets have “© 1959, RCA, New York, N.Y.” on the bottom of the back cover. 

There is no dif­fer­ence in the value as­signed to these jackets at this time.

 

atog3

EPA-5141 Touch Of Gold, Volume 3

This record shipped on Feb­ruary 23, 1960, weeks prior to the re­lease of Elvis’ first post-Army single Stuck On You / Fame And For­tune in March and ELVIS IS BACK in April. Ac­cording to Ernst, it sold “little more than 50,000 copies,” or ap­prox­i­mately 60% fewer than the first volume.

•  First printing jackets have “© by Radio Cor­po­ra­tion of America, 1959” in the bottom right corner of the back cover.

There were no fur­ther print­ings of this jacket. (Ap­par­ently, enough jackets were printed in 1959 or ’60 to last fora al­most ten years.)

 

Elvis 1956 Record Ad EPA 992 1

RCA Victor EPA-992, ELVIS VOLUME 1, be­came the first extended-play EP album to sell more than a mil­lion copies and it reached that number in do­mestic sales alone. It achieved these num­bers due to Love Me be­coming a huge Top 10 hit as the fea­tured track of an EP. Had it been re­leased as a single, it might have ri­valed Hound Dog / Don’t B Cruel as Elvis’ biggest hit and seller of the decade.

Elvis EPs were consistently big sellers

AS A MEDIUM, a hit EP rarely matched the suc­cess of a hit 45 or LP, and that in­cludes most of the best-selling artists of the ’50s. The Presley EPs of 1956-57 were an ex­cep­tion: they were con­sis­tently big sellers, nine of them selling in ex­cess of 500,000 copies in the US alone. Even rel­a­tively poor sellers topped 250,000!

So when Ernst claimed that the first TOUCH OF GOLD’s sales of half of that number were “re­spectable,” he must have been using a stan­dard other than those of Pres­ley’s ear­lier EPs. Sales de­clined even more with the suc­ceeding vol­umes: the second barely reached six fig­ures, while the third volume sold con­sid­er­ably less than half that of the first.

 

None of the records have the title “A Touch Of Gold” on the la­bels. I could make the as­sump­tion that when the records were pressed, RCA Victor had not set­tled on a title for them.

 

As these records re­mained in print for ten years, sales in the years 1961-68 ap­par­ently re­flected ini­tial sales, and this is born out by the number of copies avail­able on the col­lec­tors market.

As I write this, 360 copies of EPA-5088 have sold on eBay in the past ten years, fol­lowed by 250 copies of EPA-5101, and 200 copies of EPA-5141. So, there are con­sid­er­ably fewer copies of the second and third num­bers and they sell for con­sid­er­ably more money.

Oddly, none of the records have the title “A Touch Of Gold” on the la­bels: they list the song ti­tles and artist credit only. I could make the as­sump­tion that when the records were pressed, nei­ther RCA Victor nor the Colonel had set­tled on a title for them, but I won’t.

 

ATOG_2_sealed

Copies of extended-play al­bums from the 1950s and early’60s can be found still sealed in a lo0se baggy-like wrapper. As shrinkwrap­ping did not be­come the in­dustry norm until 1964, these wraps usu­ally in­di­cate that the jacket holds an early pressing of the record. (See “Still Sealed EPs” below.)

The records and labels

RCA Victor’s ‘pop­ular’ or ‘pop’ music records in the 1950s and ’60s were known for two things: the high-finish, glossy black paper used for their la­bels, and the pres­ence of the com­pany mascot—a dog named Nipper lis­tening to an old record player—on those la­bels. With few ex­cep­tions, every Elvis record re­leased in the US be­tween 1955 and 1968 were is­sued with that fa­miliar label de­sign. 3

For ease in col­lecting, first press­ings are gen­er­ally dif­fer­en­ti­ated from later by the label de­sign. During the ’50s, RCA had three pri­mary pressing planets: in Rock­away, New Jersey, in Hol­ly­wood, Cal­i­fornia, and in In­di­anapolis, In­diana.

Pres­ley’s records were pressed in each of these lo­ca­tions. Also, as the de­mand for Elvis records was often be­yond the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the three plants to meet, RCA hired other com­pa­ny’s plants and in­de­pen­dent plants.

As each of these plants used local printers to make their la­bels, there are many pos­sible vari­a­tions on the RCA Vic­tor’s basic, pre­ferred look. But that is more than I will be dealing with below. For this ar­ticle, each of the three al­bums has four dis­tinct press­ings as de­ter­mined by label styles:

 

ATOG_3_nohf

ATOG_1st

First pressing records from early 1959 (EPA-5088 and 5101) have glossy black la­bels with “RCA Victor” at the top and Nipper above the spindle hole. This label vari­a­tion is often re­ferred to as dog on top or Nipper on top.

•  The tiny print in the perimeter at the bottom of the label be­gins with “Trade Marks” on the left (8 o’clock) and in­cludes “Camden, N.J.” on the right (5 o’clock). 

•  This first pressing of each of the three vol­umes of this EP is the most common pressing, as ini­tial sales in 1959 would have been the biggest. The first press­ings are also the most sought after, as each and every proper record col­lec­tion fo­cuses on first press­ings.

Vari­a­tions for this label exist: RCA Victor’s three pressing plants used three dif­ferent com­pa­nies to print their la­bels. Each plant’s records can usu­ally be iden­ti­fied by the pe­cu­liar­i­ties of each plant’s printer. This can be also be done by looking at the iden­ti­fying code of each plant that is etched into the trail-off vinyl (or ‘dead wax’ among older, aging, de­crepit col­lec­tors like my­self) of each record.

Most of the dif­fer­ences are in the choice of type-face and the sizing of that type. There are a few bigger dif­fer­ences: for ex­ample, copies can be found with and without RCA Vic­tor’s trade­mark “New Or­tho­phonic High Fi­delity” motto printed on the right side of the label.

So far, no vari­ance in value has been es­tab­lished for these dif­fer­ences.

 

ATOG_1st_maroon_NOHF

ATOG_1st_maroon

First pressing records from early 1959 (EPA-5088 and 5101) have glossy ma­roon la­bels with “RCA Victor” at the top and Nipper above the spindle hole. This label vari­a­tion is often re­ferred to as dog on top or Nipper on top.

•  The tiny print in the perimeter at the bottom of the label be­gins with “Trade Marks” on the left (8 o’clock) and in­cludes “Camden, N.J.” on the right (5 o’clock). 4

Vari­a­tions for this label exist: RCA Victor’s three pressing plants used three dif­ferent com­pa­nies to print their la­bels. Each plant’s records can usu­ally be iden­ti­fied by the pe­cu­liar­i­ties of each plant’s printer. This can be also be done by looking at the iden­ti­fying code of each plant that is etched into the trail-off vinyl (or ‘dead wax’ among older, aging, de­crepit col­lec­tors like my­self) of each record.

Most of the dif­fer­ences are in the choice of type-face and the sizing of that type. There are a few bigger dif­fer­ences: for ex­ample, copies can be found with and without RCA Vic­tor’s trade­mark “New Or­tho­phonic High Fi­delity” motto printed on the right side of the label.

So far, no vari­ance in value has been es­tab­lished for these dif­fer­ences.

Vari­a­tions in the im­ages that can be found on­line (like the two above) may be ei­ther fluc­tu­a­tions in the ac­tual printing of the la­bels in 1959 or less than per­fect pho­to­graphic and com­puter re­pro­duc­tion on the In­ternet fifty years later. This is a topic for fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

 

ATOG_2nd_black

Second pressing records from late 1959 have glossy black la­bels with “RCA Victor” at the top and Nipper above the spindle hole. This label vari­a­tion is often re­ferred to as dog on top or Nipper on top.

•  But the tiny print in the perimeter at the bottom of the label was changed in late 1959: it be­gins with “TMK(s)” on the left (8 o’clock) and does not have the Camden, N.J. ad­dress on the right.

This would be a second pressing for EPA-5088 and 5101 but a first pressing for EPA-5141.

Vari­a­tions for this label exist: RCA Victor’s three pressing plants used three dif­ferent com­pa­nies to print their la­bels. Each plant’s records can usu­ally be iden­ti­fied by the pe­cu­liar­i­ties of each plant’s printer. This can be also be done by looking at the iden­ti­fying code of each plant that is etched into the trail-off vinyl (or ‘dead wax’ among older, aging, de­crepit col­lec­tors like my­self) of each record.

Most of the dif­fer­ences are in the choice of type-face and the sizing of that type. There are a few bigger dif­fer­ences: for ex­ample, copies can be found with and without RCA Vic­tor’s trade­mark “New Or­tho­phonic High Fi­delity” motto printed on the right side of the label.

So far, no vari­ance in value has been es­tab­lished for these dif­fer­ences.

 

Circle transparent 250

Second pressing records from late 1959 have glossy ma­roon la­bels with “RCA Victor” at the top and Nipper above the spindle hole. This label vari­a­tion is often re­ferred to as dog on top or Nipper on top.

•  But the tiny print in the perimeter at the bottom of the label was changed in late 1959: it be­gins with “TMK(s)” on the left (8 o’clock) and does not have the Camden, N.J. ad­dress on the right.

Does this label vari­a­tion exist?

 

ATOG_3rd

Third pressing records from 1965 have glossy black la­bels with “RCA Victor” on the right side of the spindle hole at 3 o’­clock, and Nipper on the left at 9 o’­clock. This label vari­a­tion is often re­ferred to as dog on side or Nipper on side.

Label vari­a­tions for these EPs may not exist, as all press­ings of the records for the three ti­tles ap­pear to have been done solely at the In­di­anapolis plant.

 

ATOG_4th_orange

Later pressing records from 1968 have or­ange la­bels with “RCA” on the left side of the spindle hole and “Victor” on the right. Those of us buying RCA records in 1968-1969 missed the faithful form of Nipper on the rather ugly or­ange la­bels.

Label vari­a­tions for these EPs may not exist, as all press­ings of the records for the three ti­tles ap­pear to have been done solely at the In­di­anapolis plant.

 

Beatles VeeJay EP 903 Souvenir 600 1

EP sales for every artist plummeted

By the time of the British In­va­sion of 1964, sales of EPs for every artist plum­meted in the US. Ex­cepting the Vee-Jay Bea­tles EP (which was priced as a single at 98¢), EPs were not selling well at all. The Bea­tles and the Beach Boys each had EPs is­sued by Capitol make the carts in 1964, but sales were a frac­tion of that of a single for those two groups.

By 1968, the LP be­came the medium of choice for rock music and sales of EPs were so min­imal as to be in­con­se­quen­tial. Con­se­quently, copies of most Elvis EPs with the black Nipper-on-side la­bels (1965-68) and or­ange la­bels (1968-69) are rather rare records in­deed.

In fact, the or­ange records are so scarce that they may have been pressing plant er­rors! They are far rarer than the other press­ings above and com­mand the highest prices from col­lec­tors.

 

NU ATOG book 600 1

I ti­tled my second Elvis book (A Touch Of Gold – The Elvis Presley Record & Mem­o­ra­bilia Price Guide) after these lovely EPs.

Avid Collectors Price Guide

The values below are ex­pressed in United States dol­lars (USD). They are a com­bi­na­tion of my in­ter­pre­ta­tion of sales on eBay and else­where on the In­ternet as re­ported on Pop­sike and Col­lec­tors Frenzy—and un­der­standing what the sales fig­ures ac­tu­ally mean is not as easy as it may sound. This data is com­bined with forty years of ex­pe­ri­ence in the hobby and busi­ness of buying and selling used and col­lec­table records.

Due to a va­riety of factors—new people coming on eBay daily with little knowl­edge of what they are selling, and the con­tin­uing bad rep that many sellers have for not un­der­standing grading—prices paid for these records on eBay over a 24 month pe­riod can vary dra­mat­i­cally.

 

EPA-5088 Touch Of Gold, Volume 1

Black label, Nipper on top, “Trade Mark”:      $    75 - 125
Black label, Nipper on top, “TMK”:                   $ 100 - 150
Ma­roon label, Nipper on top, “Trade Mark”:  $ 100 - 150
Ma­roon label, Nipper on top, “TMK”:              $ 150 - 200
Black label, Nipper on the side:                         $   
75 -  150
Or­ange label:                                                          $ 100 - 200

 

EPA-5101 Touch Of Gold, Volume 2

Black label, Nipper on top, “Trade Mark”:      100 - 150
Black label, Nipper on top, “TMK”:                  $   125 - 175
Ma­roon label, Nipper on top, “Trade Mark”:  $ 150 - 200
Ma­roon label, Nipper on top, “TMK”:              $ 150 - 200
Black label, Nipper on the side:                         $   
75 -  150
Or­ange label:                                                          $ 100 - 200

 

EPA-5141 Touch Of Gold, Volume 3

Black label, Nipper on top, “TMK”:                  150 - 200
Ma­roon label, Nipper on top, “TMK”:              $ 200 - 300
Black label, Nipper on the side:                         $     75 - 150
Or­ange label:                                                          $ 200 - 300

The values above are an ap­prox­i­ma­tion of what an es­tab­lished dealer with a sound rep­u­ta­tion for grading and hon­esty should ex­pect to sell these items for in NM con­di­tion. Should you choose to sell your copies of these records any­where, you should not ex­pect to re­alize these num­bers.

In my pre­vious books, I used a rule-of-thumb scale for as­cer­taining values of records and sleeves in less than nearly mint con­di­tion. An item graded VG+ was valued at 40% of the NM value, while a copy graded VG copy was 20% of the NM value.

That is a 2.5/1 and a 5/1 ratio, re­spec­tively, and that was the largest such spread be­tween NM and the lesser grades that had ap­peared in a price guide. I am in­clined to say that the vast amounts of records for sale on the In­ternet has made the spread even greater.

As my books pre­dicted decades ago, the number of re­ally de­sir­able items in re­ally de­sir­able con­di­tion (NM or better) is far fewer than most col­lec­tors be­lieve.

 

There are more records out there than ex­pected, but fewer of them in NM con­di­tion than ex­pected, hence col­lec­tors have adopted the ral­lying cry, “Con­di­tion! Con­di­tion! Con­di­tion!”

 

Con­versely, the number of copies in VG-VG+ con­di­tion is con­sid­er­ably greater than anyone be­lieved at the time. That is, there are more copies of each title in the hands of col­lec­tors and dealers than we ex­pected, but fewer of them are in NM con­di­tion than we ex­pected.

More and more col­lec­tors have adopted the ral­lying cry, Con­di­tion! Con­di­tion! Con­di­tion!

As an ex­ample, let’s take the last record listed above: an or­ange label pressing of the third volume (EPA-5141). With a $200-300 value as­signed to a NM copy, I would sug­gest a VG+ value of $80-120, and a VG value of $40-60.

If you check Pop­sike’s listing, I be­lieve that you will find the ma­jority of the copies of this record that are sold on eBay are less than NM and sell in the areas I just sug­gested.

So, should you own the records above in less than NM con­di­tion and want to eval­uate their value, start at ap­prox­i­mately 40-50% of the as­signed NM value above and then work your way down from there.

Please keep in mind when re­viewing these values that the In­ternet is not the best place to sell Elvis records. True rar­i­ties often sell for much more via word-of-mouth or through an es­tab­lished record dealer’s set-sale list.

And those dealers who spe­cialize in Presley product get prices that you would not be­lieve.

The list­ings above are for US press­ings; the first two vol­umes were is­sued else­where, no­tably Eng­land, but they are not in­cluded in this ar­ticle.

 

ATOG(cardEP)

Still sealed EPs

In 1959, some Amer­ican record com­pa­nies began ship­ping EPs and LPs to whole­salers in a loose, baggie-like wrapper that was heat-sealed on one side to pro­tect the jacket and the record within. This wrap­ping was not shrunk with heat so that it clung to the album. The process of what is called the shrink-wrapping al­bums in thin plastic sleeves was not widely adopted by the Amer­ican record in­dustry until 1963–64.

ATOG_2_sealed

ATOG_2(ss)

Some RCA wrap­pers had a gold box printed on the front that ad­ver­tised the album as “Gold Stan­dard Se­ries - Only $1.29” (above top). Others had a more generic $1.29 or $1.49 printed on the front (above middle and bottom). Need­less to say, sealed copies are very dif­fi­cult to find fifty years later and can sell for con­sid­er­ably more than NM copies.

 

ATOG (card)

Copies of EPA-5088 (the first volume) can be found with a bonus Elvis fan iden­ti­fi­ca­tion card in­side the wrapper (above). It is 2 x 3 inches with a black and white photo from King Creole that be­gins, “I am a loyal Elvis fan.” There is a line at the bottom for a sig­na­ture.

This card has been coun­ter­feited many times. A value of $50–100 is rea­son­able for a NM card; it would be higher if not for the re­pro­duc­tions. As to how one how can tell the dif­fer­ence be­tween a real one and a fake: orig­i­nals have rounded cor­ners, whereas most of the fakes have an­gled cor­ners. And most re­pro­duc­tions will ap­pear to be new be­cause they are new!

 

Elvis 1957 goldsuit standup 1000

POSTSCRIPTUALLY, you can see your name in print: make a cor­rec­tion or an ad­di­tion to this or any other ar­ticle on my Elvis – A Touch Of Gold site and I will praise thee unto the Heavens (and thank you in print as an ad­dendum to the ar­ticle).

And spe­cial thanks to Frank Daniels for his con­tri­bu­tions to this ar­ticle! His input helped in dif­fer­en­ti­ating first and second printing jackets, and first and second pressing records above.

 


FOOTNOTES:

1   One reason for this is that the image of Elvis is at­trac­tive and the de­sign by RCA’s graphics de­part­ment is so damn pleasing. This is not some­thing that I would say about many—if not most—of the Presley pic­tures sleeves and album jackets is­sued by RCA Victor in the US. I could pick a dozen re­leases from the ’50s and present an ar­gu­ment that the Colonel was con­sciously playing down Pres­ley’s looks! And some of RCA’s pack­aging is just plain am­a­teurish. It would only get worse in the fol­lowing decades …

2   Sales fig­ures are taken from those that Ernst Jor­gensen sup­plied for the book Elvis: Day-by-Day that was co-authored by Peter Gu­ral­nick (Bal­lan­tine Pub­lishing, 1999).

3   This logo was of a dog named Nipper with his head damn near stuck in the horn of an old gramo­phone, sup­pos­edly lis­tening to his master’s voice. This image was taken from a painting by Eng­lish artist Francis Bar­raud, and was orig­i­nally used by an­other record com­pany, the Gramo­phone Com­pany of Eng­land, later His Master’s Voice (HMV). It was also used in the US by the Victor Talking Ma­chine Com­pany, later a part of RCA Victor. Also, RCA’s records had other colors of pa­pers de­pending on the genre: blue, gray, green, ma­roon, and red la­bels were also used.

4   It was long as­sumed by most col­lec­tors that the ma­roon label EPs were a man­u­fac­turing error where the pressing plant used the wrong la­bels or simply ran out of the black ones. This was be­cause RCA’s clas­sical al­bums had red/maroon la­bels. such may not be the case: RCA may have in­tended ma­roon la­bels for the Gold Stan­dard Se­ries EPs. The case is not closed.

 

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Hi, I have a Elvis touch of gold volume 11 and it has not a ma­roon label but ac­tu­ally looks brown,i think they were shooting for a gold look ‚when it hits the light it is gold,have you seen this or know any­thing about it,can send pics of you want,thanks so much Lisa

Hi Neal, well they did not sell but, he has re-listed them for $89,000 ($3,400 per record!). The seller is selling his whole vinyl col­lec­tion for $395,000. He has in­di­vidual records on sale, Blue Label Cana­dian pressing for Elvis Presley LPM-1254 is sev­eral thou­sand dol­lars. - An­thony

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