Twelve Tips To Collecting Blue Note

One of our Jazz Collector readers found a blog post somewhere on the Internet with some advice about collecting Blue Notes. It was written by Allan Songer. We don’t know Allan personally, but we’ve dealt with him many times on eBay as both a buyer and a seller. We’ve found him to be quite reputable and a very nice guy. In any case, this is interesting information and we are taking the liberty (slight pun intended) of cleaning it up and reproducing it here for our Jazz Collector community, but we happily give Allan full credit. Allan, if you’re out there and see this, please feel free to comment:

Twelve Tips To Collecting Blue Note

1. First: You can’t tell the vintage of the pressing by the label alone or even if it has deep grooves.

1a. First: ALL “original” (not FIRST, but original pre-Liberty) pressings have the little “ear” mark in the dead wax. It looks like a cursive “P” because that is what it is! It’s “P” for Plastylite, the pressing plant that pressed ALL original Blue Notes.

2. The deep groove is present on first pressings of every Blue Note LP from the beginning through Blue Note 4058.

3. Starting with Blue Note 4059, Plastylite BOUGHT NEW EQUIPMENT that did NOT press in the deep grooves! 4059 (Kenny Drew, “Undercurrent”) is an anomaly because EVERY KNOWN COPY has the deep groove on one side only–that means Plastylite used the newer equipment for one side only! This is also a VERY rare title that most likely went through only ONE pressing!

4. Starting with 4060 ALL “first” pressings have NO deep groove! If you find a copy of any number AFTER 4059 that has a deep groove in one or both sides, it’s a SECOND pressing–the new equipment was ALWAYS used for the first run! This has NO EFFECT on value however!

5. If you find a title EARLIER than 4059 with only one or NO deep groove, but still has the “ear,” this is a later pressing!

6. The “Lexington” labels were used up through BN 1543, Kenny Burrell vol. 2–even LATE pressings of many of these titles still used the left over Lexington labels–you have to look for the deep-grooves AND the edge of the record itself! ALL OF THE LEXINGTON TITLES HAVE FLAT EDGES IF THEY ARE TRULY FIRST PRESSINGS!

7. Starting with Blue Note 1544 Blue Note introduced the “47 W. 63rd New York 23” label which was used on MOST titles from 1544 through 1577–some titles have this on ONE side only (like 1568 and 1577). Because Blue Note DID NOT release their titles in the order they were cataloged, MANY titles prior to 1577 have the LATER “47 W. 63rd NYC” labels (BN 1560 for example).

8. The “47 W. 63rd NYC” was used up through Blue Note 4017 (Horace Silver “Finger Poppin'”). Starting with 4018, an “INC” was added and a “R” registered trademark at the bottom. That means, if you find any record with a number from 4017 on back that HAS the “Inc” and the “R” it is a SECOND PRESSING even if it is Deep-Groove on both sides!

9. The last title with the “47 W. 63rd” labels was BN4080, Hank Mobley’s “Workout” and this one has these labels only on ONE SIDE! Again, there are titles with numbers EARLIER than 4080 that have the later “New York, USA” labels because they were released out of order.

10. Starting with 4081, every single original Blue Note has the “New York, USA labels” right up to the FINAL original release, Don Cherry’s “Complete Communion” (BN 4226). The label was sold to Liberty and EVERY SINGLE RECORD WITH A CATALOG NUMBER HIGHER THAN 4226 is a “Liberty” pressing! Again, there are EARLIER titles that were released AFTER the sale to Liberty as well (Andrew Hill’s “Andrew!” being a good example– BN 4203).

11. Liberty continued to use the left-over “New York, USA” labels for a few months–that’s why you see the “New York” labels on titles as high as “The Jody Grind” from Horace Silver!

12. If you find ANY record with an early catalog number WITHOUT the little “ear” it is a LIBERTY pressing no matter WHAT the label or jacket says! I have seen LIBERTY pressings that had “New York 23” and even “Lexington” labels! Liberty USED UP OLD STOCK including jacket slicks and labels!!!

There is a HUGE difference in both value and sonics between an ORIGNAL pressing of a record like Jackie McLean’s “Swing Swang Swingin'” and a Liberty with the original labels! An original will fetch about $700 in NM condition while the “Liberty” version might only bring $150 in the same condition!


  • It’s this kind of attention to detail that can drive you nuts-but that I’m grateful someone ELSE has put in the hard work to authenticate. When I put on the a truly great sounding original BN LP/track,for example Donald Byrd’s “Free Form”-Nai Nai- or “Live At The Half Note”-Kimyas-you appreciate the magical alchemy at work. Great performances by skilled artists in their prime with a brilliant engineer. It makes ‘the hunt’ for your NEXT pricey BN sonic marvel seem almost,well…rational! Because it really doesn’t get any better than that.

  • & that’s just the vinyl indicators! Do you know if the kakubushi (or ‘frame’) covers correspond to the Lexington pressings only or continue past 1543? Regarding cover addresses: does Lexington address on covers correspond with labels? How long was was 47 West 63rd used? When was 43 West 61st introduced? And what about the titles with no address?.. When did titles first appear on spines? And then there’s the inner sleeves….!?!?

  • will need time to process this information, but thank you!

  • I’d like to take exception to tip number three. I own a copy of the Kenny Drew record with the West 63rd St. address, but without the deep groove on side 2. Just had to put my two cents in…

  • for those who are obsessed this is a wonderfull list.

  • Only 12 tips?

  • Here’s a real interesting one on Blue Note that we posted a few months ago, in case you missed it.

  • Al, Michel, Rudolf, Others:

    Does the above information look correct?

  • yes, it does

  • This is a question on tip no. 8, BN 4017: I´ve never seen a copy of that title without the “INC” and the registred trademark. Does the first pressing of that title really have no “INC” ond no registred trademark sign ?


    My Blue Note Record labels do not match!. The Lee Morgan 1575 City Lights Record, I HAVE a copy that has the 23 address

    on side 1 only! (Side One-: “47 west 63rd new york 23?!, My side two says-: “47 west 63rd nyc” is it true “it looks

    very,very,very rare??,even with no cover??? -,BUT I DO HAVE THE COVER that goes with it, The back of the Jacket Cover has the side 1 address too (with new york 23). I’m asking is this the “rare” address on side 1 copy that I own?

    I read in blue note notes:
    “This is one of several original Blue Notes for which the labels do not match: *Side 1 has the “47 West 63rd NEW YORK 23 label while *Side 2 has the “47 WEST 63rd NYC” label with the centering mark over the “i” (in “Microgroove”).
    While many versions of this record have been seen with West 63rd NYC labels on both sides, no copies have been found to have the New York 23 address on both sides or Side 1 alone. so if your copy has the 23 address on side 1 only,looks very,very,very rare,even with no cover.”

    My City Lights copy also has RVG & EAR, with no ‘R’s under the ‘E’ in blue notE. Would someone, anyone Please let me know!, any info is appreciated ! Thank u!

  • Reinhard: my 4017, bought in 1960, has INC and trademark. 47W63rd, NY23 on rear of sleeve.

  • KB, give me your email and I’ll be give you some info on the pressing.

  • Question… I have a copy of Lee Morgan “Lee-Way” on Bluenote 4034. The labels have 47 West 63rd St. NYC on both sides. The dead wax has the “ear” and RVG stamped in. The record and cover are in M- cond. What do you think the value would be on this LP? I believe this is a 1st press. Thanks!

  • What about the RVG vs. “Vangelder” in the dead wax? Was that change made when Liberty took over Blue Note?

  • No much earlier, anyone know which title was the first with VAN GELDER vs. RVG? Also when he went from an hand-etched RVG to machine stamped RVG?

  • To answer my own question about when the RVG in the dead wax was changed, I consulted a number of different sources and found out some tentative conclusions. RVG cursive style was used up until about 1957, not in 1958 and after. From 1958 to 1961 the RVG stamp was used. From 1962 on the “VANGELDER” stamp was used. Of course there would have been some overlap with using already pressed records with the previous style, but this is what I found. Anybody have any comments?

  • I have lp with RVG stamped, but no “ear”. Confused if stamped stopped in 1961, but ear used until 1966, any info would help. Thanks

  • Larry the Plastylite Guy

    Don’t know where you get your info. from, but the “deep groove” vs “no groove” is ALL B.S….And Plastylite buying “new” equipment??? NOPE!! (and using “new” equip. on one side and not the other…???…no idea what that’s even supposed to mean…More B.S.) …Generally speaking, a new, or newer stamper has its center retaining ring/lip intact, and a well-used stamper may not have its ring there, it being removed after splitting away from the stamper, with a different center retaining die being used (giving a deep groove, or a 2 7/8-inch or so depressed area in the label.) The center stamper retaining ring/lip could fail early, later, or never at all. On MANY occasions one stamper (on the same run) would have its ring there, and the other would be missing. There’s no way to tell by groove/no groove if a record was a “first pressing” [whatever that is supposed to be] or not. (I pressed at Plastylite from ’64 to ’66, my brother was there ’61 to ’62.)

  • Interesting info thanks for sharing

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