Record Collecting: Everything You Wanted To Know But Were Afraid To Ask….Part 7: Vinyl Records Terms & Abbreviations

For those new to record collecting the huge array of abbreviations and terminology can be bewildering to say the least, so if you don’t know your acetate from your elbow or your promo from your die-cut sleeve, fear not! We’ve put together this short summary of some of the most commonly used terms and abbreviations…..

Acetate/Lacquer: Is usually a reference cut that is made on ultra high-grade methyl cellulose sprayed onto thick aluminium discs. Reference acetates are primarily to make certain the record will sound somewhat like the tape. Often they are also made to allow a club or radio disc-jockey to play the music on turntables before it has been pressed as a normal record. Acetate is a misnomer (but frequently used!). It is actually a Lacquer. In record collecting terms acetates/lacquers can be highly collectable, especially if they are by known (and collectable) artists.

U2 Angel Of Harlem: Rare US A&M Mastering Studios single sided metal based ultra high-grade methyl cellulose lacquer 12″ acetate reference disc for the single release, custom studio reference label with artist, title, length and speed in a plain die-cut card sleeve, more info here

Catalogue numbers: Almost every commercial release has a unique catalogue number. This can be a combination of both letters and numbers. Promotional items very often have different catalogue numbers to the commercial release and are often easily spotted as the catalogue number will be prefixed “PRO”, “DJ” or “PR”. There is however no set pattern at all and catalogue numbers are rarely issued in sequence for a particular artist. Our descriptions often use the abbreviation “cat#” or “cat no.”.

The catalogue number for this Beatles single R5200 has no special significance in regards to the Beatles, this number was simply assigned to it as part of Parlophone’s sequence of catalogue numbers…
…quickly followed by this Adam Faith single which bears the catalogue number R5201…

Coloured vinyl Any colour in the spectrum other than black. Can be a single primary colour, or a mixture of colours, e.g. “splattered”, “marbled” etc. Occasionally vinyl which appears, at first glance, to be black may well be pressed on translucent coloured vinyl, hence when held to a strong light source the disc will appear
brown or red.

…many 7″ singles in the late ’70s and early ’80s were released on coloured vinyl as a means to helping them get in the charts…
….however, keep your eyes peeled for things like this Joy Division classic Unknown Pleasures – 1st presses were actually on ruby red vinyl, you need to hold them up to the light to get the full effect…

Custom sleeve A picture or title sleeve that is unique to the promotional pressing and is not used for the commercial release.

…this promo US 12″ vinyl for Madonna’s Die Another Day has a custom made sleeve, finished copies looked like….

Cut out A deleted item that has been saw cut, clipped or drilled by the record company to prevent it
being sold as full price product. These are found mainly on old US/Canadian releases.

…the thin line visible on the top left hand corner is the deletion cut..

Double pack A set of two CD or vinyl discs. The term is usually associated with promotional double 12″ releases issued for DJ purposes, double 7″ single sets or two part CD singles.

Die-Cut A sleeve with a custom cut area or hole, usually intended to reveal a picture disc, coloured vinyl disc or the label, without having to remove it from the sleeve.

…New Order’s legendary Blue Monday features one of the most famous examples of die cut sleeve, with the cut out areas made to resemble a floppy disc (ask yer Grandad!), legend has it the sleeve was so expensive to make that the biggest selling 12″ of all time actually lost money!

Foxing Foxing is the condition where aging has led to the formation of light brown ‘freckles’ on the paper of a sleeve. According to the Library of Congress; “Foxing is often caused by high humidity and temperature extremes where items are stored. Other common culprits are certain ingredients found in older inks. Also, metals such as copper and iron, left over as trace contaminants from paper-pulping methods widely used in the late-18th and 19th centuries, can cause foxing as well.” The causes of foxing are not well understood. One theory is that foxing is caused by a fungal growth on the paper. Another theory is that foxing is caused by the effect on certain papers of the oxidation of iron, copper, or other substances in the pulp or rag from which the paper was made. It is possible that multiple factors are involved. It is believed that high humidity contributes to foxing.

…’foxing’ is visible on both sides of this Japanese issue of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here…

Gatefold A sleeve folded down the centre to create a double pocket. Often abbreviated to “g/fold” or “g/f”.

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…Sgt Peppers, probably the gatefold sleeve that most people are familiar with…

Gold stamped Regular or promotional sleeve to which an embossed gold “stamp” has been applied stating that it is a promotional or advance copy. Does not necessarily mean the actual disc will be a promotional copy.

….this copy of Supertramp’s Breakfast In America has the gold promo stamp on the reverse of the sleeve, these were most probably supplied to reviewers, radio stations, industry employees just prior to the official release…

Limited edition Limited pressing or issue where a strict number of units has been manufactured & distributed, usually with no likelihood of a repressing once sold out. Differs from a regular issue, which is intended to be available for a longer period and may be repressed to meet demand. Usually abbreviated to “ltd” or “ltd edn”. May sometimes be individually numbered.

Matrix number The number or numbers in the run-off groove of a record or around the centre ring on the playing side of a compact disc. Identifies a particular pressing from other pressings of the same item. For example, the only way to tell which mix of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s ‘Relax’ 12″ you may have (there are three different ones with identical labels) is purely by the matrix in the run off groove.

…this 1st press of the Beatles Rubber Soul is known as the ‘loud cut’, the backing instrumental is louder and more aggressive than subsequent pressings, it can be identified by the matrix number ‘XEX-579-1’ written into the run-out groove

Maxi-single European term for an extended play 12″ or CD single.

Obi-strip The outer paper band around Japanese vinyl releases or the strip affixed to Japanese CDs. These give Japanese language information concerning the item and are usually decorative and highly attractive. Obi-strips are very rare on Japanese items dating from before the late 1960s.

…the Obi-Strip, this is the piece of paper that is used on Japanese editions of vinyl LPs and CDs, it is used to convey sales information 9plus a whole host of other details) to the Japanese consumer…

Shaped picture disc or CD A disc which is custom cut to whatever shape required! Vinyl discs are cut with a 7″ or 10″ playing area. Usually a collectable limited edition pressing.

…Gary Numan’s 1983 single Warriors was given the shaped picture disc treatment, must have looked weird spinning round the turntable…

Shellac Shellac isn’t polystyrene or a type of vinyl. Shellac is a commercial resin marketed in the form of amber flakes, made from lac, the secretion of the family of lac-producing insects, most commonly found in South East Asian forests. Until the advent of vinyl in 1938, phonograph records were pressed from shellac compounds. This use was common until the 1950s, and continued into the 1970s in some non-Western countries. Shellac “78s” are brittle, and must be handled carefully. Not least their fragility, another problem with Shellac was that the size of the disks tended to be larger due to the fact that it was limited to 80-100 groove walls per inch before the risk of groove collapse became too high, whereas vinyl could have up to 260 groove walls per inch.

Elvis+Presley+King+Creole+567714 (1)
…Elvis King Creole 10″ 78rpm shellac disc…

Test pressing A pressing made to test quality in advance of a longer run or for use as promos prior to finished promo or commercial product being available. Some test pressings have studio labels or just plain white labels instead of record company labels. Some test pressings have different catalogue numbers to domestic releases. Sometimes abbreviated to “T/P”.

…white label test press for the Smiths ‘What Difference Does It Make’ 7″ single…

Uncut picture disc An item which when commercially released was a shaped disc, but for test pressing purposes has been left circular with either a clear or coloured surround around the actual picture. Only ever a handful in circulation.

…uncut version of iron Maiden’s ‘Evil That Men Do’…

White label A promotional pressing with a completely blank label denoting it is promo only. May also have unique black on white printed labels with just artist & title information or “A” & “B” symbols. Some white labels have different catalogue numbers to domestic releases.

…white label promo for the Pet Shop Boys ‘Flamboyant’ 12″…
…with finished copies looking like this…

don’t forget to check for a huge range of rare vinyl, imports, test pressings, promos, in fact all things vinyl related! To see more click here

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