Record Collecting: Everything You Wanted To Know But Were Afraid To Ask….Part 5: Picture Discs

Picture Discs

What do we mean by picture discs? Well, at the risk of stating the obvious, it’s where an image or graphics are incorporated into that of 7”, 10” or 12” record, usually round, but not always!

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Michael jackson’s ‘Thirller’ picture disc version, manufactured by adding to the record a base layer of PVC (poly vinyl chloride), surrounded on both sides with a photographic layer, and finished up with a clear layer of PVC, again on both sides of the disc

When did they start?

Unbelievably they can be traced right back to the 1920s, with one of the most famous early practitioners being Say-Way Industries in the US. Issued under the ‘Vogue’ name, they created a catalogue of over 70 picture discs recordings as far back as the 1940s

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This Vogue picture disc, features Shep Fields and his Orchestra (also known as Shep Fields) and is an early example of the picture disc

The 1970s

For companies like Vogue the picture disc were a commercial venture, designed to boost sales, by the 1970s the major (and minor) record companies were beginning to use the picture disc as a means to ‘hype’ their record, they might be used as promos, pressed in very small quantities, all designed to create a buzz around a forthcoming release.

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Toto’s ‘Hydra’ released in very small quantities as a picture disc..

At the beginning of the ’80s, more and more picture disc editions were being manufactured, now no longer the preserve of the ‘hyped promo’ they were now being used in more direct ways to increase sales. In the UK records were increasingly manufactured in multi-formats with staggered release dates, in an attempt to ensure that die-hard fans might buy multiple copies of essentially the same record (believe me they did!) and also to create impulse buys. In short the market became flooded resulting in a common misconception that all picture discs have real value.

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Short-lived early ’80s combo Jo Boxers received the picture disc treatment…
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…as did Sam Fox!….

However, thankfully not all picture discs were devoted to, how shall we say, lesser artists. The labels realised the inherent collectability of a limited edition picture disc if devoted to one of their more ‘quality’ brands….

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Rare 1978 US limited edition 13-track PICTURE DISC vinyl LP
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PINK FLOYD The Dark Side Of The Moon: 1978 US 10-track Picture Disc LP

Are Any Picture Discs Really Valuable?

Yes! As with other areas of record collecting there is no hard and fast rule but choose your artist well and you could well have found yourself a nice little investment opportunity!

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This Japanese promo Abba picture disc is rare and collectable for a number of reasons, firstly it’s a promo but this version also contains 42 seconds of uncensored dialogue which was later removed – investment opportunity alert! More info here

Uncut Picture Discs

For the ultimate in collect-ability look no further than the uncut picture disc, uncut picture discs are generally used as ‘test pressings’, just a handful made of each release to check the image alignment and print quality before the final run is cut to the desired shape – needless to say these rarely come up for sale and when they do they can achieve eye-watering prices.

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Mega-Rare 1989 UK uncut ‘Eddie on a motorbike’ shaped picture disc, also including Killers [both tracks recorded live]. This superb rarity has not been cut to the finished shape but remains as a 12″ disc with clear vinyl surrounding the central image.
At eil.com we have an incredible range of picture discs/shaped discs, visit our Picture Disc Collector’s Store, to see the store click here

 

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