the “record bulletin” picture sleeve for rca’s first elvis record is fake

Es­ti­mated reading time is 8 minutes.

A REL­A­TIVELY RE­CENT AD­DI­TION to the world of Elvis col­lectibles is the “Record Bul­letin” pic­ture sleeve, re­put­edly made for 47-6357 from 1955. It doesn’t look like any­thing as­so­ci­ated with Elvis or RCA Victor and comes with an origin story as odd as its ap­pear­ance. Still, many col­lec­tors be­lieve it’s an au­thentic piece of Pres­ley’s history.

When RCA Victor re­leased their first Elvis Presley record, the com­pany sent out a memo (the RCA Record Bul­letin) with the head­line, “Biggest C&W Record Of The Year.” This memo was dated No­vember 28, 1955, and ex­plained the re­cent ac­qui­si­tion of the young singer and what it would mean for the company.

This ar­ticle is one in a se­ries about col­lecting Elvis records from late 1955 and early ’56.

The newly dis­cov­ered sleeve is known as the “Record Bul­letin pic­ture sleeve” be­cause it used a scan of the le­git­i­mate RCA Record Bul­letin as the basis for its de­sign. Ap­par­ently, the sleeve’s de­signers and man­u­fac­turers meant for the item to ac­com­pany copies of RCA Victor 47-6357, I Forgot To Re­member To Forget / Mys­tery Train.

This rel­a­tively new col­lectible al­ready has a com­pli­cated his­tory that begs to be ques­tioned (and I love to ques­tion just about everything everybody ac­cepts as gospel). For example:

•  It was found by someone who re­mains anonymous.
•  It was hailed as a major find by a known expert.
•  It was sold for a few thou­sand dol­lars a few years later.

At least, that’s the story most col­lec­tors be­lieve. But the more you read about this item, the more likely you are to find your­self like Alice in Won­der­land and finding it curi­ouser and cu­ri­ouser.

 

A-side of "Record Bulletin" picture sleeve.
The front cover of the Record Bul­letin pic­ture sleeve in­cor­po­rates an RCA Victor memo along with a crudely cropped photo of Elvis from April 1956.

The Record Bulletin sleeve

The Record Bul­letin pic­ture sleeve first came to the at­ten­tion of the Elvis col­lecting world in 2007. The sixth edi­tion of Pres­leyana de­clared the sleeve to be au­thentic and de­voted space to de­scribe it. Photos of the sleeve were said to be taken from the re­cently dis­cov­ered and only known copy of the sleeve that had been found shortly before.

De­spite no sales of this sleeve or, ap­par­ently, no of­fers for it should it be­come avail­able, Pres­leyana as­signed an es­ti­mated value of $6,000 to this item. This cat­a­pulted it to the upper realms of valu­able Presley vinyl.

In 2011, the owner of this sleeve ad­ver­tised the only copy of this sleeve that anyone has claimed to be au­thentic for auc­tion on eBay. Here is the sell­er’s de­scrip­tion of the sleeve (slightly edited for grammar, punc­tu­a­tion, and readability):

“This is con­sid­ered to be the biggest pic­ture sleeve find of the 21st cen­tury ac­cording to Jerry Os­borne in Pres­leyana VI. This is the first-ever pic­ture sleeve to fea­ture a photo of Elvis! Re­leased in De­cember 1955. This is the only one known to exist. This is the exact one (not a repro or fake) that was fea­tured in the book. Please see [Pres­leyana] to read the his­tory of this item. It is very interesting!

This pic­ture sleeve and 45 were ob­tained through an es­tate. They were found framed along with other Elvis Sun 45s. Not much is known about the person who these be­longed to. As the ex­pert’s best guess was this was a trav­eling sales­man’s pro­mo­tional item. 

Valued at $6,000.

An­other one of these has never sur­faced until now! This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to own an au­thentic, proven piece of rock­a­billy, Elvis, and RCA history.”

 

Elvis photo ChetAtkins SteveSholes ColonelParker 12 01 1955 1000
This is a photo of Colonel Parker, Chet Atkins, Elvis, and Steve Shole at RCA’s recording studio in New York City taken on De­cember 1, 1955.

Four weird things

Four weird things jump out of the state­ment above (each fol­lowed by my four ex­clam­a­tory responses)

1.  This is the “biggest pic­ture sleeve find of the 21st century.”

Whoa, Nelly—that sure sounds like a bit of hy­per­bo­la­tioning!

2.  This is “not a repro or fake.”

Why would anyone make such a claim for the only known copy of an item?

3.  This is a “trav­eling sales­man’s pro­mo­tional item.”

This is the first time I have heard of such a thing!

4.  “An­other one of these has never sur­faced until now!”

Huh? Does that qualify as word salad?

De­spite these weird state­ments, the (re­put­edly au­thentic) Record Bul­letin pic­ture sleeve sold for $2,224.

 

RCA Victor's "Record Bulletin" from November 28, 1955.
This is RCA Vic­tor’s in-house Record Bul­letin from No­vember 28, 1955. It an­nounces that “disc jockey records” of the first Elvis record were going to be shipped to 4,000 “destinations”—which mostly means at least 4,000 copies of this “rare” record were ini­tially manufactured.

A timeline

Using the in­for­ma­tion above, here is a con­densed time­line of the his­tory of the (re­put­edly au­thentic) Record Bul­letin pic­ture sleeve:

1.  Some­time be­fore 2006, the sleeve was pur­chased at an es­tate sale.

2.  Some­time be­fore 2007, the owner sent ei­ther the sleeve or a high-quality re­pro­duc­tion of the ac­tual sleeve to the staff at Pres­leyana.

3.  Some­time in 2007, the sixth edi­tion of Pres­leyana de­clared the sleeve to be au­thentic with a value of $6,000.

4.  Some­time in 2011, the owner sold the sleeve for con­sid­er­ably less than $6,000.

 

Record Bulletin: photo of Elvis on stage with Bill Black iin Houston, Texas, in April 1956.
This photo of Elvis on stage with Bill Black was taken on April 21, 1956, at the City Au­di­to­rium in Houston, Texas. It was used on the fake “Record Bul­letin” pic­ture sleeve which was meant for a record re­leased in No­vember 1955.

The Avid Record Collector’s Price Guide

Aside from the sale of the sole (re­put­edly au­thentic) Record Bul­letin pic­ture sleeve, I found other sales. But these were of un­de­ni­ably inau­thentic Record Bul­letin pic­ture sleeves; that is, coun­ter­feits (or bootlegs, as some people in­cor­rectly call them).

The first such sale was in 2010 when a copy was ad­ver­tised as a “bootleg sleeve.” This bootleg sold for $41. (I found eleven more bootleg sleeves that sold for an av­erage of $30.)

The weird thing is that means that be­tween the time the new owner pur­chased the (re­put­edly au­thentic) Record Bul­letin pic­ture sleeve and sold it—a pe­riod when he was sup­pos­edly the sole owner of the sole au­thentic sleeve—someone boot­legged it. That someone used either the ac­tual sleeve or a high-quality re­pro­duc­tion of the ac­tual sleeve as a tem­plate to make the bootleg. 

So, when the owner of the (re­put­edly au­thentic) Record Bul­letin pic­ture sleeve ad­ver­tised it for sale in 2011 and wrote that it was “not a repro or fake,” he knew what he was talking about.

The pre­ceding 900 words are as far as I got: thinking that there were some weird things about this item that made me sus­pi­cious. But, as I had other projects in the works, I just put all this aside for a fu­ture article.

 

B-side of "Record Bulletin" picture sleeve.
The back cover of the Record Bul­letin pic­ture sleeve in­cor­po­rates the end por­tion of an RCA Victor memo along with a photo of Colonel Parker, Chet Atkins, Elvis, and Steve Sholes from De­cember 1955.

It gets weirder

Then, I was re­fer­ring to the Elvis Records site for an­other project—and I refer to it often (that’s a plug)—when I saw that an alert re­garding the Record Bul­letin sleeve had been posted. The listing there reprinted some of the facts about the sleeve. I had for­gotten about it and seeing these “facts” caused me to pause and ponder a few things.

This led me to con­tact Paul, the web­master of Elvis Records, and ask a ques­tion about the item: The description/facts are rather neb­u­lous. Do you have any other info?

Paul replied, “I’ve got to admit that I got caught up in the hype of that ‘find.’ I have my doubts about this sleeve. It doesn’t meet any cri­teria for any other sleeve I have seen of that era or any other era for that matter.”

This tripped off an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by Paul in which he un­cov­ered “many in­con­sis­ten­cies in de­sign and con­tent.” This im­pelled him to do an about-face about the sleeve’s bona fides and write a new page about this sleeve, “The RCA Victor Record Bul­letin Record Sleeve Is Fake.” Paul’s ar­ticle in­cludes this disclaimer:

“This ar­ticle does not sug­gest that there has been any wrong­doing in any part of any sale re­lated to this sleeve or even in its in­clu­sion into any pub­li­ca­tion as de­scribing this sleeve as au­thentic. This ar­ticle does more than sug­gest that this sleeve cannot be any­thing more than a fan­tasy sleeve.

This clicked with me, causing me to say to my­self, Doncha’ think it’s time I started asking more ques­tions about this sleeve and its origin? And that led me to write the first 900 words above.

But, whereas Paul does not sug­gest wrong­doing, I imply it.

This ar­ticle about RCA Vic­tor’s ‘Record Bul­letin’ pic­ture sleeve is one in a se­ries about col­lecting Elvis records from late 1955 and early ’56. Share on X

Elvis 1956 fans close up 1000

FEA­TURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page is cap­tioned “Fans watch Elvis Presley per­form at the Sam Houston Col­i­seum in Houston [on] Oc­tober 13, 1956.” (Cred­ited to Keith Hawkins/Chronicle file.) I found this photo in the ar­ticle “1956: The year that made Elvis Presley a staron the Chron site. You will find out why a chose a photo from Houston in 1956 when you read the ar­ticle on the Elvis Records site.

Elvis GoldSuit 1959Postscriptually

The first four­teen ar­ti­cles in this se­ries are al­most com­pleted and listed below with links to each. Should you ac­cess one of these ar­ti­cles and re­ceive an Error Page, try back a week later.

01  RCA Vic­tor’s “SPDSeries of Spe­cialty Records
02  What Was the First Elvis Record That RCA Victor Released?
03  The Biggest Country & Western Record News of 1955
04  The First RCA Elvis Record Was “I Forgot to Re­member to Forget”
05  The RCA Victor Car­toon Pic­ture Sleeves of the ’50s
06  The Elvis “This Is His Life” Car­toon Pic­ture Sleeve
07  RCA Victor 47-6357 Bootleg Pic­ture Sleeves
08  The “Record Bul­letin” Pic­ture Sleeve for RCA’s First Elvis Record Is a Fake
09  Did RCA Re­lease Other Ver­sions of Elvis’ Songs to Com­pete With Elvis’ Records?
10  A New Kind of Hit Re-run With Elvis Presley
11  Was “E-Z Pop Pro­gram­ming 5” the First LP to Fea­ture an Elvis Track?
12  Was “E-Z Country Pro­gram­ming 2” the First LP to Fea­ture an Elvis Track?
13  Was SPD-15 the First EP to Fea­ture an Elvis Track?
14  Is the Country & Western Jukebox Pro­mo­tion Kit a Fake?

More ar­ti­cles ad­dressing the early RCA Victor re­leases are planned. Each will con­tain the block­quote, “This ar­ticle is one in a se­ries about col­lecting Elvis records from late 1955 and early ’56,” like the one at the be­gin­ning of this article.

To find all the ar­ti­cles in the se­ries, copy the block­quote, paste it into the Find op­tion (the mag­ni­fying glass in the nav­i­ga­tion bar at the top of each page), and then press Re­turn or Enter on your keyboard.

Fi­nally, thanks to Paul Combs (Elvis Records), Frank Daniels (Frik­tech), Dave Reynolds (Elvis Rare Records), and Joe Spera (Elvis Presley Tapes) for their input in some or all of these articles.

 


 

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