Replica sleeves

One of each pair of sleeves is an original. The other is a brand new replica.
Check it out … the “newness” isn’t the only factor

Gallery … Soldier Boy … click to enlarge

1 Soldier Boy: The Shirelles, HMV, 1962. Original sleeve, some fading and creasing. Intact. Enhances value
2 Soldier Boy: The Shirelles, HMV, 1962. Same disc in crisp replica sleeve. Brighter, but the real one was brighter when it was new

Galleries: … Maudie … click to enlarge

Maudie: Chicken Shack, Blue Horizon 1970

1 As found in a shop. Totally wrong sleeve, but at least it’s blue. I mentioned it, and the guy said, ‘Yeah, well, Decca distributed Blue Horizon.’ Oh, no, they didn’t. CBS distributed Blue Horizon (though producer Mike Vernon used to work for Decca).
2 In plain white modern sleeve.
3 In a replica Blue Horizon sleeve.
4 Finally, in the correct Blue Horizon sleeve for the date and catalogue number.

Replica sleeves can be bought on the net or at record fairs at about 50p each (2020) . I’d rather have a replica sleeve than a plain white sleeve, but only if it’s the precise sleeve. All serious collectors would prefer an original sleeve to a replica, but  the degree of wear and tear dictates a point where a replica is preferable. Judicious switching would put the most valuable discs in the best quality original sleeves, saving replicas for less valuable stuff. Some sleeves are so rare…  Triumph, Planet, Red Bird, Pama, Sue, Blue Horizon … that a replica is the best, or only, bet. Finding that rarity is a huge task. Finding it in an original sleeve racks the price right up, and you’ll wait a long time.

In three years, I have seen one original UK Planet sleeve on a £75 single. I’ve seen no more than four or five Planet singles altogether and two were in replica sleeves, the rest in plain white.

Some dealers go overboard and apply the sleeves with too much enthusiasm and too little thought, putting American sleeves on British releases, or coloured company sleeves on discs which were originally sold in plain white.

Atlantic (black or red centre) and Stax (blue centre) suffer particularly from this, having post-1970 red Atlantic or dark blue EMI distributed Stax sleeves applied.

Wrong ones … click to enlarge

I recreated these. They’re all wrong. All three should be in plain white sleeves from new. They’re all examples I’ve seen at record fairs more than once. Yes, they look nice.

1 Sweet Soul Music – Arthur Conley. 1967 Polydor pressing in 1970s UK WEA (Warner Elektra Atlantic) sleeve.
2 See Saw – Don Covay & The Goodtimers, 1965 Decca UK pressing, in an American Atlantic sleeve.
3 Soul Finger – The Bar-Kays, 1967 Polydor pressing in 1970s Stax EMI sleeve

Sue is another frequently misapplied one. Real Sue sleeves are rare. They list all the major artists who were on Sue and if you think about it, they didn’t know the contents of that list until right near the end. The majority of Sue discs came in white sleeves. Mismatches are pointed out in the label sections. For example, while there are several Parlophone sleeves available, they don’t help with matching the correct back adverts to the right discs. You can get close, but not exactly right. In other cases, the choice of which replica to produce seems odd. You can get the white circular A&M, but not the equally common, but earlier, black circular A&M.  If you’re into the Embassy budget label, all three sleeves are available. There are seven different Columbia replicas. With many sleeves you can specify a straight or wavy top edge.

Availability is the issue. There are 220 odd replica sleeves available, but half are American. There is for instance just the one Immediate replica sleeve, the early Philips one with logos filling the front. It can be seen stuck on on post-Philips discs, as well as later 70s and 80s reissues from NEMS and Charly.

Some desirable sleeves are not replicated. Marmalade, Uni, Mountain, Radar, F-Beat, Jive, Transatlantic, Beacon … the list is long. 

Colour matching is problematic with existing replicas, and blue shades suffer more than other colours. Also some (Rak, Stax) have a fold over flap printed on them rather than folded over, glued and correctly applied. Older replicas are properly glued, later ones printed on. 

American replica sleeves present more of a problem with accurate matching but some are so attractive that they get applied to British singles, let alone the right era of American disc.

There are also some modern reggae sleeves, white with the centre label logo on. These are modern creations, and not even replicas. Just nice inauthentic bags to put the records in.

Rolling Stones Records and Apple replica sleeves

There has been a problem with the advertising of replicas in magazines. EMI objected to some, and seems to keep adding more. Apple and Rolling Stones Records apparently objected too. They are two of the best replicas … Apple reproduces the high gloss sleeve, and Rolling Stones Records has the die-cut centre that must be hard to do. I know from my own purchases that Rolling Stones were sparing with die-cut sleeves and a some 70s singles were in plain white when I bought them new. At least two Paul McCartney singles with Apple centres were bought new by me in plain white. These are two very tempting ones to use.

As none of the replicas are of currently used labels, it’s hard to see that they cause any material harm. They will only be applied to old records, most of which are between twenty and sixty years old. They’re not passing off as current designs, nor benefitting counterfeiters. Even if you can’t see the differences, they’ll be too clean and are on better quality, thicker paper stock than most originals.

At the end of the day, a collection in carefully applied replicas is a lot more appealing than white sleeves, very tatty originals or the wrong sleeves altogether. 

American replicas … click to enlarge

Lovely, pin them on the wall as art, but none should be on British releases. None of these designs were used in the UK, but they often appear on used British discs. 

Because Atlantic and Capitol had lengthy plain white sleeve eras in Britain, they’re the ones you see most often wrongly applied. Labels that operated in the UK like Liberty and Mercury also pick up stray American sleeves on British discs.

Hitsville USA sleeves seem especially popular, wrongly attached to British Tamla-Motown. With labels like Cadence or Imperial, which never had their own UK outlet, it’s hard to see why they’d be used, but I have seen them on appropriate London-American records. If it gives the owner aesthetic pleasure, fine. It certainly will not enhance value.

Tell It Like It Is: Billy Vera and Judy Clay, Atlantic USA, 1969
A genuine Atlantic sleeve, and it came on a cut-out disc (see the punched out hole above the N in Atlantic)
A Ray of Hope: The Rascals, Atlantic USA 1969 … in a replica sleeve

American sleeves are authentically slightly smaller than UK sleeves, with the curved top that was used in preference to the British wavy top. The curve or wave helps you find the hole. Because American discs are a snugger fit in the sleeve, the original sleeves tend to get battered faster, especially if of the brown paper bag variety, so if you’re picking up American originals, replicas are a solution. If you look at The Rascals one above, it is obviously a replica, not an original. It’s whiter and on thicker paper, but it’s a decent compromise if you don’t have an original.

Replicas are available from: Big Boppa, Covers 33 and Sleeve-It-Out, as are plain sleeves, plastic sleeves, cleaning materials and record cases.

Original sleeves

There is a market in second-hand sleeves which is growing up next to the replica sleeve market. Sleeves go on eBay, and specialist dealers sell sleeves at 50p to £5, but there is a restriction. Dealers don’t accumulate rare sleeves, they keep them and re-use them. American sleeves are traded more than British ones.

The illustrated selection cost mainly 50p each at a record fair (where replicas were then 42p … they’ve shot up 20% to 51p to 52p in two years). The red Roulette sleeve was £2, allegedly because it’s rare. Not that rare as there were four in the box. A sensible way to price secondhand sleeves is the chance of applying them to rare and valuable releases. This would put a premium on the British Pye International sleeve (top left, light blue) as the early yellow centre 45s in the R&B series often came in that sleeve new before the matching yellow sleeve appeared. The Soul Train is the most attractive sleeve and pristine, but not many of the records on the label are valuable. The US Capitol sleeve is great but early, and the records it might have appeared on are mainly falling in value.

The Liberty sleeve differs from the British one, by adding a slogan, but is not rare as they had a lot of hits in that era.