Of Yellow and Other Labels

Another day, another batch of jazz records on eBay. Here are a few we’re watching: Lester Young, Pres, Norgran 1072. This is an original yellow label pressing. The record is VG+, the cover is VG and the picture accompanying the picture is dark and now so clear. Surprising to see that the bidding has already reached more than $130 and there have been eight bids. Maybe there’s life in those old Norgrans yet.

This one looks nice: Tina Brooks, True Blue, Note Note 4041. This looks to be an original pressing, with the original cover. The seller describes them in EX+ condition, which strikes me as just a step below M-. The price for this is in the $1,400 range and the bidding closes later today.

I’m assuming this is an original pressing, but perhaps not a first pressing? It’s an odd one: Sonny Clark, Sonny’s Crib, Blue Note 1576. It has the deep grooves and all the markings of an original pressing, but two different labels, both with the West 63rd address. One side has the New York 23 label, the other doesn’t. So what does that make this record? It is listed in M- condition for the record and VG++ or better for the cover. Bidding is in the $180 range and it has yet to meet the seller’s reserve. Normally you’d expect this record in this condition to sell for close to $2,000. But the labels will definitely impact the price, right?





  • Richard Connerton

    Cohen’s guide has documented the existence of 1576 with NY23 on both sides. This record was recorded and released in the midst of the the changeover to the W63 labels. The truth is it’s been very difficult to detect any kind of consistency regarding the way Plastylite slapped these labels on records, so, in my research, I have found no hard evidence in an instance like this that a copy with NY23 on both sides was actually manufactured *before* copies with NY23 on one side and W63 on the other.

    In the case of Blue Train, some collectors might prefer the mismatched labels because it suggests–ONLY SUGGESTS–that those copies were manufactured earlier since the NY23 label was implemented first. Personally, I like the idea of the address on the labels matching…but to each his own! =)

  • Thanks, Richard. You’ve been offering valuable contributions. Did it take you this long to find us, or were you just laying low for awhile?

  • The interesting thing about that Norgran is it’s probably one of the worst Lester Youngs out there. Always nice to have an original Norgran yellow label of the President, but I think $158 can get you a much better Lester record in nicer shape.

  • Richard Connerton

    Hi Al!

    I’ve been a vinyl collector since I was in high school but I didn’t start collecting jazz until about five years ago. Last year I caught the “original pressing” bug for the big jazz labels (Blue Note, Prestige, Riverside, you know). Since then, I’ve pretty much been addicted!

    I have met Fred Cohen several times at his store in NYC, and the last time I was there he suggested your site to me. I already knew about it, however, as the kind members of the Steve Hoffman forum sent me over here!

  • I see the 1576 as a 2nd pressing as I need to have a guide of some sort when it comes to deciding what’s a 1st pressing, and I’ve made Fred’s book my guide and I follow it to the full. If it says a 1st have NY23 on both sides then that’s it. I can’t buy a 2nd pressing (according to Fred’s book), it just feels wrong. Only a 1st will do. A 2nd is worth close to zero to me, and a 1st is worth a ridiculous amount to me in M- condition. That’s the curse of collecting only 1st pressings. Still, I listen to my records every day. I’m not just leaving them on the shelves. I enjoy and love the music and choose only collectibles that I think are top notch music wise. That’s the most important thing of course, but I’ve come to a point where, like I said, a 2nd just won’t do. As expensive as it is, I rather have a smaller amount of selected records, all 1st pressings in great condition than the complete 1500 series for example where some records are not 1st pressings and some are in poor condition. But that’s just me.

  • Bud Powell’s Piano Interpretations on Norgran MG-N 1077 recently went for $ 51. Condition vinyl VG++, sleeve VG+. This is vintage bop piano, a terrific DSM cover. If it is really VG++, it is a bargain and makes a happy buyer.

  • …Just to further Richard Connerton’s comment above on mismatched labels, especially on classics like Blue Train: There is still one more level of “complication” to add fuel to the debate… That is, variations in cover tone also noted in Fred’s book. But even this too can be an uncertainty when trying to establish vintage, as who is to say for sure if the early tone variations were in fact paired up with the early label variations? For all we know, they were just piled up in no particular order during the manufacturing process, and intermingled them with variations in covers, labels and vinyl stampers (Another topic altogether). At that point, we as collectors naturally try to establish benchmarks for ourselves, as did Fred, like pairing up the early cover tones, with the earlier DG label variations, mix-matched addresses or otherwise to establish an order under the assumption that companies like Blue Note and Plastylite would most likely want to use up the oldest stock first whenever possible.

    It’s always been a frustrating thought that we collectors might at some point have to accept the fact that at the end of the day, perhaps Michael Cuscuna was right in his comment from Collectors Weekly back in 2010… “all that means is they ran out of one label and not the other and then the plant reprinted the labels, and when they got an order for more ‘Blue Trains,’ they grabbed a box of labels. There was no thought involved in this. It’s just all physical stuff.” (Personally, I prefer to think there is some sort method to the madness…)

  • I don’t think the “physical stuff” issue was limited to Blue Note. By coincidence, I was recently thinking of this very issue because I picked up a few Prestige / Status albums, which have mismatched covers and records. For example, one has a Status cover (which is really just a regular Prestige laminated cover with a Status sticker on the front and a slightly amended Status liner pasted on the reverse), but inside is a (lovely) Bergenfield fireworks pressing. The other, meanwhile, has the standard Swingville cover, but inside is a pressing with the (horrid) orange Status labels. (They both sound glorious, by the way, and, given from where I purchased them, I know they are not mashed-up covers and labels, but were rather purchased as such). In short, I don’t think these economically-challenged companies thought much about making sure everything matched up – so long as the cover and labels generally matched the pressing, out the door it went, thus to eliminate as much waste as possible.

  • 1576 is my favorite Sonny’s record and my heart is beating fast when I see an original NM copy, regardless NY23 is on both sides or one side only… Obviously DG, no R and “ear” are a must.
    I believe there is a high four-digits reserve on this one and it may not sell…

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