Updated: December 31, 2007

Recognizing proper labels for respective pressings is critical to the particular Rolling Stones LP record collector. Either by uneducated error or fraudulent omission, record items may be incorrectly represented by some as being other than what they are. This section reviews the vast differences in labels pressed in the U.S.A., some which strongly influence the value of a particular LP, others which make no difference at all, and how to distinguish them.

 

May 1st, 1964

The Rolling Stones first U.S. LP was entitled England's Newest Hit Makers. For this album only, a unique aspect of the cover design clearly identified it as a 1st pressing**. A mention of the free color poster included in all first editions will be located on the lower left-hand side (on Brian's elbow) of the front cover.

 

Much like a book has a first edition, the term first (1st) pressing is **used to describe the initial print run of a particular record album. Further pressings (2nd, 3rd, so on) may be issued by the same company to satisfy a growing demand. In other cases, additional pressings indicate a change in a musician's (or band's) record label affiliation.

 

And now for the disc labels ...

Phase ONE: The First Four LPs & "ffrr"

First of all, a 1st pressing of one LP may differ greatly from that of another, even from the same production year. Upon the initial success of the Rolling Stones in 1964, London Records (the US equivalent of Decca U.K.) offered mono, then later stereo (electronically re-processed) editions of their first four (4) albums. The Long Players released in this period were:

1. "England's Newest Hit Makers" [released: May 1, 1964]
2. 12x5 [Oct. 24, 1964]
3. Rolling Stones Now! [Feb. 13, 1965]
4. Out of Our Heads [Jul. 30, 1965]

note: The Rolling Stones debut album was initially introduced to U.S. customers by way of export from the U.K. These were promotional copies and differed in label design from what we now regard as official first pressings.

Track listings for the first four (4) U.S. LPs differed from their U.K. counterparts, and two of these titles were in fact never issued within the U.K. as official LPs.

The major distinguishing factor featured on these 1st pressings will be the boxed LONDON ffrr (full frequency range recording) logo. A lesser-known and oft-overlooked factor is the mention of 'Made in England by the Decca Co. Ltd' at the top of each disc label. This is important, because a LONDON ffrr label does not guarantee a U.S.-market first pressing unless it denotes 'Made In England.' The U.K. exclusively exported the first ffrr label Stones albums to the U.S. Later pressings would feature a 'Made In The U.S.A.' note, but would still be considered first pressings since the same plates were used. A common variation of the ffrr label is the Canadian issue which clearly states Made In Canada.

1. "Made In England by the Decca Record Co. Ltd."
2. London ffrr design.
3/C. Common Canadian issue.


 

Rare Variations of London ffrr labels:

More than a few variations of the mono label have been reported.
The true rarity or even origin of these variations may never be factually revealed. Generally speaking, the
mono labels should appear in some form of red, brick, or maroon color. It has been reported that a few editions of the Stones earliest ffrr LPs were pressed in the U.S. for export to other countries and some for the express use of the U.S. military. Directly below you will find a simplified informational grid which contains the known variations for each of the first four LPs discussed. The term 'unlikely' is used to describe a variation which has no known copies, nor is there likelihood that any exist. The term 'possible/unknown' describes a variation of which there is no record but very possibly exists ... 'yes' is self-explanitory.

LABEL VARIATION England's Newest Hit Makers 12x5 Rolling Stones NOW! Out Of Our Heads
FFRR Mono 'Made in England' Print yes yes yes yes
FFRR Mono 'Made in USA' Print yes possible/unknown yes unlikely
FFRR Stereo 'Made in England' Print unlikely yes possible/unknown yes
FFRR Stereo 'Made in USA' Print unlikely unlikely unlikely yes
Unboxed Maroon Mono yes yes yes yes
Unboxed Red Mono unlikely unlikely unlikely unlikely
Unboxed Stereo yes yes yes yes
Boxed Maroon Mono yes yes yes yes
Boxed Red Mono yes yes yes yes
Boxed Navy Blue Stereo yes yes yes yes
Boxed Light Blue Stereo yes yes yes yes

The commonly used stereo editions of ffrr (known as ffss - full frequency stereophonic sound), were not used on any known Rolling Stones U.S. LP release. This was due to the fact that early LPs were not true stereo, but electronically re-processed from mono recordings.

STEREO LABELS - The distinguishing elements are much the same as mono, including the boxed LONDON ffrr (full frequency range recording) and the mention of "Made in England by the Decca Co. Ltd" at the top of each disc label. The color this time is a pale blue of which a fine example can be seen below.


Robert L. Vogelzang

You will find that these 'made in England, ffrr' editions do not list the album title on the label.

The first mass-produced Stones LPs pressed in the U.S. do not have the ffrr logo. The Made In US/ffrr variation does exist, but was reserved generally for export and limited release.

<< Reflective navy-blue LP label indicative of the 1st mass-produced U.S. Stereo pressings.

As for most artist's recordings in the period of 1964-65, more mono records were pressed than stereo, thus the higher value today for early stereo editions. The Rolling Stones' mono U.S. LP releases become more rare and valuable as the years progressed, culminating in the 1967 release of Their Satanic Majesties Request, which far outweighs the stereo edition in current market valuation.

Unboxed London Long Players

1. Unboxed silver London.
2. "Long Playing" printed.



rare unboxed stereo variation.

If you had become a Stones fan after they first hit it big in 1965, then you would be quite familiar with the unboxed London labels, which were generally reserved for mono labels, but do exist in a far more rare Stereo form. It did however, represent the first true 100% U.S.A.-pressed editions. Unlike the ffrr labels which were pressed alternately in the U.K. and U.S.

Moving into the post-Satisfaction era... the boxed LONDON ffrr is no longer present. Since it was first used in late 1965, these unboxed labels represent 2nd pressings for only the first four (4) Rolling Stones monophonic albums.

In terms of valuation, the "2nd pressing" unboxed logo labels
are worth 20-25% of boxed ffrr editions imported from England.

Important to note - 'made in U.S.A.' LPs (which did not have ffrr labels) featured deeper colors. Mono-maroon with silver type (instead of pale red), and stereo-navy-blue & silver type (instead of pale blue) would help to identify the earliest pressing of this label variation, as subsequent pressings returned to the pale colors seen on most ffrr labels.

By this period, stereo pressings outnumbered mono by about 2:1 or 3:1. This changing of the guard (thanks to Satisfaction) caused mono editions to be quite rare, and only become more so in the following two years.

 

Phase TWO: Boxed Silver, then Gray, London & the End of Mono

1. Silver boxed London label.
2. Hyphen " - " after LL instead of space or period.
3. First mention of "Made in U. S. A".



The last of the mono labels.

For albums beginning with the 1966 compilation Big Hits (high tide and green grass), and ending with Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out in 1970, the deep reflective blue stereo label with boxed London logo represented an initial (1st) pressing. The only ffrr logos to be found on these later albums most often originate from Canada but were produced in other far-flung continents as well. The maroon labels for mono quickly faded in this period, but not before a few titles made it in. Subsequent mono pressings had a bright red label.

The most significant change in this period is not widely discussed, nor is it known by many. After two years of Electronically Reprocessed Stereophonic albums, the first ever TRUE STEREO Rolling Stones album would be 1966's Aftermath. By this time, the mono labels were usually of the bright red kind (though maroon labels do exist), the last of which was 1967's Their Satanic Majesties Request.

To this point in Stones LP history, stereo albums had a PS- prefix, whilst mono albums had an LL-3 prefix. Beginning with Big Hits (high tide and green grass) (rel. Apr. 2, 1966), NP- (mono) and NPS- (stereo) were included in the Stones LP catalog. This new LP catalog prefix did not last beyond the Decca/London contract however, and its run ended with 1970's Get Yer Ya Ya's Out (NPS-5).

1970's



1980's

Beginning in late 1970 after the initial press run of Ya-Ya's, stereo albums (which represented almost all Stones albums old and new), would have light blue labels with gray lettering. No matter what someone may tell you, this is always a second or later pressing. In the period of 1978-85, London returned to a darker (yet flat, not reflective) blue label which had a small number printed askew on the lower left-hand side.

 

Alternate Font / Other Variations [pre-1970's]

1. Larger, fancier "LL" prefix / Side "2" instead of "two".
2. "Arranged by... " information added.

Collectors have reported label font variations like the one above, but these variations do not indicate specific origin or pressing beyond what is known by the color and design of the logo. There is no known label font variation known to influence value as of this time.

Note (seen above) - A rare edition of the Big Hits Vol. 1 album cover, had a unique title font variation pressed. Most of us are familiar with the bold-type, five-line title, but this rare pressing had the group name and title on two lines with alternate, italic type.

 

Debates: Their Satanic Majesties Mix-Up
& Rev. Beggar's Banquet

 

1967-Their Satanic Majesties Request:

If you think you've figured out how to make the distinction between Mono and Stereo pressings, then this shall surely throw you back a little.

As mentioned earlier, a Stereophonic title will clearly be listed as such. Concerning U.S. LP's, these Stereo pressings will be printed exclusively on a blue label. A Monophonic LP would be identified by its red (or maroon)-colored label with the words "Long Playing" written below the LONDON company logo.
In regards to Their Satanic Majesties Request, released in late 1967, a uniquely different quality was applied to the Mono and Stereo editions - Mono labels had the sides presented as "Side 1" and "Side 2", while the Stereo labels had sides represented as "Front Side" and
1-"Back Side".

However, a not-so-uncommon label variation of this title fuses qualities of the Stereo label, with elements of the mono label. What you have is a Stereophonic LP which makes no mention that it is indeed Stereo, with exception to the NPS-2 catalog number. The label is blue, yet the label states "Long Playing" under the company logo, as well as "Side 1" & "Side 2", both indicative of a Monophonic label.

 

1968-Beggar's Banquet:


Upon its initial release to the public (Dec. 7, 1968), the Beggar's Banquet LP credited Jagger/Richards as composers of Prodigal Son (two variations of the error are featured on top), when it was indeed Rev. Wilkins' musical work based on biblical lore. Later pressings (correction featured) gave the credit where it was due. However ("don't let 'em fool ya" as Bob Marley would say) - be aware that the label is not what you should be looking at, for proof of its value.

The original back cover for Beggar's Banquet (featured above/left) was changed far sooner than the disc label. "Written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richard", and "All Selections Gideon Music-B.M.I.", would no longer be present (as seen above/right) in later pressings. This is significant because most of the value is in the original disc AND jacket, which is often overlooked, not the disc alone.

 

Who Is "Shelley"?

Could it be a reference to famed poet Percy Shelley?, a poet whose 'Adonais' Mick Jagger recited in memory of Brian Jones at Hyde Park, London? Perhaps it was for the Rolling Stones' French press agent June Shelley? In fact, it's neither. This notation is indicative of an item from the Shelley Products Ltd. pressing plant (closed in the mid-1980's) of Long Island, NY and it makes a big difference on the double-album Hot Rocks 1964-1971.

On the master plate used for the initial pressing (Nov. 18, 1971) of the album Hot Rocks, alternate versions of Brown Sugar and Wild Horses were featured. These versions first appeared in the brilliant 1970 documentary Gimme Shelter. Since there was no clear indication on the album cover, sleeve or label, one must look at the trail-off vinyl (the smooth vinyl located nearest the disc label) and look for the word Shelley and the date 11-18-71 to determine if it is indeed a true first pressing and that these alternate takes are present.




Brown Sugar sample [Shelley 11-18-71 version]


Wild Horses sample [Shelley 11-18-71 version]

The identifying mark is not easy to locate or read, but the mystery does not end if and when it is found. It seems that this "alternate pressing" was soon pulled in favor of a set which contained the single versions of Sugar and Horses. However, Shelley wasn't quite done, as the name reappeared for a short time afterwards with either a later date or no date at all.

The original Shelley 11-18-71, with the alternate takes, may fetch $1000 USd in Near Mint condition. A second pressing with the word Shelley, with or without a later date, will still get you double ($25-30) a regular pressing ($12-15). Thus far, reports of 11-18-71, 12-3-71, and 12-6-71 have been clearly identified.

One final, important note on determination is thus: you should find Shelley on all four sides of the 2-disc set, but the date (if there is one) of 11-18-71 need only be on side four. It is possible to come across a set that has that specific date on any of the other three sides except the fourth, yet that is meaningless. Reports tell of an edition which has Shelley 11-18-71 on the first three sides, but not on the crucial fourth side. Again, this indicates a later edition and it will not include the alternate takes. Also, the name will may not be written in the same precise manner as in the image shown above. Though it is more common to see script, there are editions that have Shelley in block print. Of all known 11-18-71 (side four) editions, Shelley (though it appears as 'Shlley') is written in script. This should also help defeat the notion that Shelley was a person with access to the master plate and the cause of this first pressing issue. Even if someone inconsistently spelled their name Shelley, Shlley or Shelly, they would not do it in strikingly different handwriting.

 


Milking the Cow:
The Abkco Story (1975)

The first three Abkco label titles were all produced in 1975; Greatest Hits (DVL2-0268 mail order only) 2LP set, followed by Metamorphosis (ANA-1), and the extremely rare Songs of the Rolling Stones (MPD-1). The first Abkco label was a boring light blue with an even less interesting logo. The only significant change came in 1986, when to coincide with Stones titles finally released on CD, "digitally remastered" (not really) re-issues were offered on vinyl bearing the boxed London logo which overshadows the Abkco moniker to the left. It was a nice change however, to a strong red & black label. The discs were printed on 100% virgin vinyl, which is very expensive to produce, and I suppose to make up for not truly being a digitally remastered audio improvement. note- All virgin vinyl discs are partially transparent - holding a disc in front of a light source will allow light to penetrate.

 

Rolling Stones Records (1971-84) & the Return of Mono?

1. The catalog # began with 'COC'.
2. The year is printed below the side.
3. The word " E A S T " may sometimes be present (the T is circled).

The longest running Rolling Stones album label is the one featured above. After first appearing on 1971's Sticky Fingers, it ended its run with the Rewind album from 1984. The clearly recognizable Tongue & Lip design is present on the left side, while the catalog number appears above their name. On many of the early editions, the word E A S T can be spotted circling the inner-most vinyl of side two, and penetrating the label in that area.

In 1977, all Stones LPs from 1971-73 began their second life represented by the catalog number beginning with 391 instead of 591. The 391 albums actually first appeared on 1972's pseudo-Stones album Jamming With Edward, but for the other 1971-73 albums with '391', it represented a post-1976 edition. The 791 numbers began with 1974's It's Only Rock and Roll and ended with 1976's Black and Blue.

Third Pressings (beginning in 1985) of 1971-84 LPs

1. No more "COC" prefix.

Later pressings of the yellow label have an alternate font type, as well as a new form of catalog numbering. Oddly enough, this does not lessen the value in most cases by more than 25%, but there is a difference. The unedited Star Star from the Goat's Head Soup album can be heard only on 1980's pressings.

 

The Return of Mono?

During the Stones 'yellow label' seventies, London continued to re-issue their catalog of 1964 to 1970 albums. It is still uncertain why this took place, yet select pressings of their 1967 Flowers LP which were labeled as stereophonic, were in fact mono.

 

Alternate Font / Other Variations [1971-84]

Font variations in most cases usually represent a change in contract from one company to another. For the Rolling Stones, there were many changes, thusly there were many font variations of their album labels.


Above you will notice variations in labels for the Rolling Stones first two post-London albums. To the left is an insignificant difference in font type and presentation of the Exile On Main Street label info. To the right would be a slightly more important difference between an original Sticky Fingers (59100), and its counterpart (39105) below, printed five (5) years later. To the less particular Stones collector, as long as the album is accompanied by the original zipper cover, it matters none. Incidentally, a 1971 promotional issue of Sticky Fingers was pressed in mono, making it the last official mono edition of a Stones album.

Between 1971-84, all but one US Rolling Stones Records LP contained the Lip & Tongue trademark. The 1975 compilation Made In the Shade did not feature this mark, and was one of only two albums in this period which did not have yellow disc labels.

All but two Rolling Stones Records (RSR) releases had the common yellow label with of course, varying title and credit information. The exceptions were Made In the Shade (above) and 1976's Black and Blue.

1983's Undercover LP wasn't the only label that listed front side and back side tracks, as Their Satanic Majesties Request was the first to feature those distinctive references. Undercover was however, the first (along with Rewind from 1984) not to be represented with a COC prefix, but a series of numbers (90120-1 & 90176 respectively.)

 


What do all those numbers and letters at the bottom of many RSR record labels signify? Though there is unlikely any Stones collector out there whom has bothered to collect all variations of all album labels, for those that care, these numbers will tell you when and where the master disc was pressed. Please see the chart directly below, respectfully submitted by William Brown for your reference. The first two numbers after the letters ST-RS describe the year. In the case of Sticky Fingers (featured above), the numbers are 71, thus representing the year 1971. The following set of numbers give a more precise (month & day) record of when the master disc was pressed. Three variations are found above, as you will notice, the Record Club of America (RCA) edition does not have the set of numbers on the bottom. For those

LOC CODE PLANT LOCATION
AL Allentown Record Corp. PA, Allentown
BW Bestway Products, Inc. NJ, Mountainside
CP/P CP (Atlantic)/P (London) - Columbia Record Prods. NJ, Pitman
CSM/SM CSM (Atlantic)/SM (London) - Columbia Record Prods. CA, Santa Maria
CTH/TH CTH (Atlantic)/TH (London) - Columbia Record Prods. IN, Terre Haute
GL Decca/MCA MFG NY, Gloversville
LY/SH LY (Atlantic)/SH (London) - Shelley Products, Ltd. NY, Huntington Station
MO Monarch Record MFG CA, Los Angeles
PK Decca/MCA MFG IL, Pickneyville
PR Presswell Records NJ, Ancora
RI/PH RI (Atlantic)/PH (London) - PRC (formerly Philips) Recording Corp. IN, Richmond
SP Specialty Records Corp. PA, Olyphant

When the Rolling Stones signed to CBS, and released albums beginning with Dirty Work in 1986, the entire album label would be unique to that title. Even the highly recognizable Tongue & Lip design would be altered for the Steel Wheels release of 1989 - the first, but not the last, time that was done.

 


(1994-2005)

Virgin hasn't bothered to press US versions of the Stones more recent LPs,
but in this age of communication, it doesn't really matter.

Though alternative Tongue & Lip designs were introduced back in 1989, only once was this famous image altered physically. The spiked-tongue variation was a one-shot for the 1994 release of Voodoo Lounge LP and singles from that album.

The labels for Voodoo Lounge (white & gray) & Stripped (black) are rather boring, but the excellent packaging of each double-LP set more than makes up for it. Bridges to Babylon (featured above) however, has a nice label design to go along with beautiful packaging. No Security was a disappointment in a sense, as it comes with only plain white inner sleeves. This was though to have been the end of vinyl however, as no standard vinyl edition was produced for Forty Licks. Continuing the long-running trend, A Bigger Bang was released on vinyl on the 27th of September, 2005.

 

A Note to Collectors of New LPs

In 1987, it was a widely-held belief that within 5 years, new vinyl records would no longer be embraced by the public. By 1993, the prediction seemed to be realized as numbers of units shipped, as well as total dollar value, diminished to all-time lows. Even in 1990, LPs & EPs were outselling long-form music videos. Yet throughout the year of 1993, only 1.2 million LPs were shipped from manufacturing plants, with an estimated value of $10.6 million US.

With much help from bands such as the Rolling Stones, Pearl Jam, and countless Hip-Hop and Punk groups, vinyl records made a steady comeback in the late 1990s. Beginning in 1994, and with exception to only 1997, the vinyl album has posted double-digit percentage gains in units shipped, as well as total dollar value. In this same period of time, CD singles and Cassette singles & albums, had seen double-digit losses.

The final numbers from 1998 showed an incredible 25.9% increase over fiscal 1997 in total new LP/EP items shipped. The dollar value of these titles had more than tripled from the deplorable $10.6 million US in 1993, to an impressive $34 million. Comparatively, full-length CD titles had only seen a 12.5% increase in units shipped in that period.

From 1998-2002, shipments of LPs and EPs had dropped off to around $20 million net annually. They did for the first time however, surpass CD singles in total net dollar value in this time. Since then, though the number of [LPs/EPs] units shipped has dropped to the lowest point since 1993, total dollar value had increased from 2002 to 2003 by $1.2 million.

The vinyl single, consistent for some time, saw a major increase in shipments for 2001 - 5.5 million units for a total net of $31.4 million, though has steadily dropped since, posting 3.8 million units shipped in 2003, a decrease of over 14% from the previous year.

 

Unsorted Left-Over Goodies
(a quick fix)

Color vinyl editions, club editions, picture discs,
test pressings, & promotion-only releases for US LPs.

No official LP color vinyl (other than black) pressings were ever offered for the US market (singles are a different story). There exists legend that a single copy of 12x5 printed on transparent blue vinyl exists, yet it is of questionable authenticity. A 'Thank You' goes out to Gary Johnson of Rockaway Records whom informed me of his sale of the only known blue-vinyl edition of 12x5 for $8,000.00, although to whom it was sold remains a mystery. Also noted, was the existence of a multi-colored pressing of Let It Bleed which was reportedly sold to Tom Grosh [Very English & Rolling Stone] for an undisclosed amount.

The first US picture disc was a rare test pressing of Through the Past, Darkly (big hits volume two) (1969), maybe only a dozen copies exist, and will be recognized by the cover design of the first Big Hits release. A variation of this same disc contains tracks by Ten Years After on the one side. The first official commercial picture disc was for Still Life in 1982.

White Label Promos of Stones LPs have a value of as much as ten times that of regular pressings. The further back you go, the higher number you multiply by. To identify these items, the name speaks for itself. All white label promos are just that - white label versions of otherwise 'color' labels. The word promotion will clearly be printed as well.

Columbia Record Club (CRC) and the Record Club of America (RCA), have been around far longer than the Stones. It wasn't until 1965 when the first "club" editions of Stones albums appeared in select catalogs, yet they remained until the final stock sold out in the mid-1990s. Though record club editions are not often considered by collectors as having any significant value, they are indeed far more rare than regular pressings. Yes, even a Sticky Finger Zipper LP is available in club edition - yet you are not likely to have to pay more for a copy (until??).

Songs of The Rolling Stones (MPD 1) was an odd promotional compilation (reviewed in RS PT III) which contained 30 songs crammed into a single disc. It had an estimated press run of 1,000 copies. The cover shows the Mick Taylor lineup standing in a field, with the Brian Jones lineup inset above and taken from the Between the Buttons photo sessions. A far more rare variation of this title has a cover variation (orange & white) which shows the Stones as they were performing on The Rock and Roll Circus T.V. special.

The Rolling Stones Promotional Album was printed for both the US (RSD-1) and UK (RSM.1). The number of copies pressed has been a topic of debate. It has been a widely held belief for many years that it had a total press run of 400 copies, 200 for US and 200 for UK. Both of these estimates may be incorrect. Though Decca officially announced a press run of 200 for RSM.1, and we can agree there are no more, there may be less. As far as RSD-1, there may be more. It's been suggested that there may be as many as 1,000 but this claim has not been supported with hard evidence. The US version often fetches over $500 even in Very Good condition. The UK version however, often sells for over $5,000 in Very Good Plus condition. Despite the differences in US (stereo) and UK (mono) discs, both covers were printed in the U.S. and show the Stones in studio during the Let it Bleed sessions.

Be wary of two important issues:
1. Produced in the U.K. for export, the Stones Limited Edition Collectors Item LP has an almost identical jacket design (sans the small-type promo info on the original) and does not contain Love In Vain, Route 66, Everybody Needs Somebody To Love, Around and Around, Off The Hook, Under My Thumb, or Sympathy For The Devil - and includes Doncha Bother Me, High and Dry, No Expectations, Dear Doctor & Flight 505.
2. Be wary of any edition, as many counterfeits exist of this title.

 

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