RCA VICTOR’S “GOLD STANDARD SERIES” launched in 1955! The series is known for keeping Elvis Presley records in print since 1958. Dozens of Presley numbers went through as many as five major label designs, with many now selling for hundreds of dollars! But it was not conceived of as a resting place for Presley oldies.
In fact, for many years, I thought that the Gold Standard Series was inaugurated by RCA sometime in the late ’50s simply to keep Presley’s product current! But other researchers uncovered evidence that the reissue series predates Elvis even being with RCA Victor! In fact, before there was the Gold Standard Series, RCA Victor had another series for reissuing older recordings on 45 rpm records.
The initial Elvis Gold Standard 45s probably reached retailers no sooner than late October 1958.
In 1951, RCA Victor started releasing sides from the Big Band Era as part of their Collectors Issue series. The first batch of records in this series had “Collectors Issue” underneath “RCA Victor” on their silver-gray labels. Sometime later in the year, that was changed to “45 RPM Collectors Issue,” which lasted until the demise of the series a few years later.
In 1955, RCA Victor introduced its Gold Standard Series, which remained a part of the company’s regular output for more than fifty years. Below are three articles from Billboard magazine addressing this series and giving collectors and historians an accurate set of dates for several aspects of the records that were released.
RCA Victor 447‑0043 featured one of Glenn Miller’s signature songs, In The Mood. Miller was still so popular in the’50s that RCA had an omnibus sleeve that read “Glenn Miller Plays His Favorite Recordings,” which could be used on the many 45s that were released on the Gold Standard Series.
Gold Standard Series launched (1955)
RCA Victor’s new Gold Standard Series was first mentioned in the December 31, 1955, issue of Billboard. Datelined New York, December 21, 1955, the article was titled, “RCA Single Catalog To Be All-Time Hits.” Here is the entire article:
“Beginning with the New Year, RCA Victor’s single record back-catalog will consist mainly of a refurbished selection of all-time hits to be grouped and marketed as the Gold Standard Series. The launching of this line is the culmination of a year’s work in which the biggest sides in the line have been recoupled and their sound ‘enhanced radically’ by Victor engineers. Special gold sleeves have been designed to house the disks.
The Gold Standard line for the coming year will number only 208 disks, pressed on both 78 and 45 rpm.  Of these, 146 will be pops, 17 Red Seal, and 45 C&W. The company plans to review its singles catalog once a year henceforth to determine which newer disks have earned Gold Standard status. Ordinarily, Victor revises its pop singles line twice a year to cut out regular pop deadwood. The regular singles line, apart from the new series, will now contain current live sellers up to a three-year age limit.
According to Harry Jenkins, who, as merchandise manager of the Victor singles division, is overseeing the new project, all ‘dogs’ have been eliminated from the perennial couplings by such artists as Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Fats Waller, etc. For example, Dorsey’s I’ll Be Seeing You now is to be coupled with I’ll Never Smile Again. The same artist’s Boogie Woogie—his all-time best seller—is to be backed by Opus I, etc.
At the outset, Victor plans no special promotion for the series and will solicit orders in the ‘routine’ way, according to Jenkins. Jenkins recently took over the Gold Standard administration from Bob Yorke, who inaugurated the project. In the recent company realignment, Yorke was upped to sales and merchandise manager of the album department.”
RCA Victor EPA-5000 was this Louis Armstrong album. Typical of Victor EPs, the record does not have a title so, technically, the title of the album is the title on the jacket, which is “Louis Armstrong.” To differentiate it from other, similar untitled Armstrong EPs, collectors refer to this as the “Rockin’ Chair” album. EPs in this series can be found wit black and maroon labels, the latter usually being the rarer.
Gold Standard EPs (1958)
An article titled “Victor Pushes New EP Series With Tie-In” in the May 5, 1958, issue of Billboard announced a new line of seven-inch, 45 rpm, extended-play (EP) albums on the Gold Standard Series.
“RCA Victor is kicking off its new 45 EP Gold Standard series with a big Procter & Gamble promotional tie-in involving Gleem toothpaste and Pace Home permanent. Details of the tie-in were handled by George Parkhill and were designed to create heavy traffic at the dealer level. Product in the new series includes 30 albums, all established sellers.
Each EP contains four hits by such names as Benny Goodman, Perry Como, Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Kay Starr, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Harry Belafonte, etc. Tunes are top pop favorites. Packages are polyethylene wrapped and specially designed.
To promote the series, P&G will offer a special 45 EP All Time Golden Hits for 50 cents, plus a coupon from either Gleem toothpaste or Pace Home permanent. This Highlighter disk includes six of the top selections from the entire series.
P&G promotion includes a full page ad in Life Magazine, week of June 2, featuring the Highlighter album; network radio campaign on NBC’s Monitor and Bandstand shows; point of sale displays in 23,000 supermarkets, drug and variety stores. (Over eight million order coupons will reach customers via these displays.)
RCA Victor has prepared large four-color streamers plugging the six EP’s represented in the Highlighter disk; an attractive browser box to showcase the entire series; a special consumer supplement on the series—eight pages in black and gold colors and a big ad campaign.”
Despite Don’t Be Cruel being the much bigger hit in the US when RCA Victor released this Gold Standard record, Hound Dog was the designated A‑side. Most of Presley’s biggest hits would go through several changes in label design as part of the Gold Standard Series with some of the later pressings being among the rarest commercially released domestic Elvis records.
New Gold Standard 45s (1958)
The first notice of the new line of Gold Standard Series appeared in the October 20, 1958, issue of Billboard in a short piece titled “Victor Adds to Gold Standard Singles List.” A similar article showed up in the October 25, 1958, issue of Cash Box. In an article titled, “Victor Adds To Single Gold Standard Series,” the Cash Box editor noted:
“RCA Victor is releasing an additional 38 Gold Standard Singles within the next few weeks, it was announced by Ray Clark, Manager, Planning and Merchandising Single Records. The Gold Standard series consists of the biggest single hits by top artists.
Included in the release are 18-million-copy sellers by Elvis Presley, among them, Heartbreak Hotel, Hound Dog, and All Shook Up, as well as Harry Belafonte’s, Mary’s Boy Child, which has racked up well over a million sales all over the world.
Other artists whose records will be released are Perry Como, Lou Monte, Hugo Winterhalter, Jaye P. Morgan, Jim Reeves, Porter Wagoner, Chet Atkins, Ames Brothers, The Three Suns, Eddie Fisher, and Hank Locklin.
First issued in 1952, the Gold Standard Series has received widespread public acceptance. Over the years, RCA Victor has continued to add the best selling hits by its stellar artists to the series. There are now 235 Gold Standards in the catalogue.”
The article does not mention that RCA Victor began a new numbering series for these new Gold Standard singles in 1958, starting with 447‑0600. As the article mentions, Victor included eighteen Elvis titles in this new series.
Of the initial releases in the 0600s, only 0606 wasn’t a Presley title. It remained all Elvis into 1962 when 0632 and 0633 were not assigned to Presley records.
From then to the end of the 0600 line in 1973, the Gold Standard Series was, by default, the “Elvis Presley Gold Standard Series.”
FEATURED IMAGE: The image at the top of this page is of the two sides of the omnibus company sleeve that RCA Victor used for all its Gold Standard singles from 1958 into 1965. For more information on the Gold Standard sleeves, read “The Elvis Presley Gold Standard 45s Part 2 (Company Sleeves).”
POSTSCRIPTUALLY, the Cash Box article above was not datelined but news items in the entertainment world usually appeared in both Cash Box and Billboard magazines two weeks after they occurred. This would mean that the initial batch of Elvis Gold Standard 45s reached retailers no sooner than late October 1958 and possibly not until November.
Finally, for a history of the Collector Series and more information on the Gold Standard Series, refer to Frank Daniels’ piece on the Gold Standard Series on his Friktech site.
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.)