Blue Note inner sleeves – deep dive, for vintage vinyl collectors.


Professor Jazz

Professor Jazz

Blue Note Geek Alert! Blue Note vinyl detectives at work, sifting the evidence for original pressings through the Blue Note inner sleeves. Followers of the evil silver disk, downloaders, and proud owners of modern repros may wish to look away, we will get back to the music shortly.For the rest of us, get stuck in.
Blue Note inner sleeves can be helpful fixing the provenance of Blue Note records as original pressings, despite obvious limitations which are, I think, incorrectly dismissed. Often over-looked due to sometimes being missing and the possibility of mixed up inner sleeves, having examined the evidence in my own collection, I conclude that they are a useful diagnostic tool, in the same class as vinyl weight. Not perfect, but helpful circumstantial evidence.

Fred Cohen’s Guide to Blue note First Pressings points to nine different  inner sleeves, each identified by a unique cover thumbnail, of a record which does not appear on any other inner sleeve, in any of the total 72 covers displayed front and back. Each variation is  linked to a run of Blue Note releases, which themselves can be linked to approximate release dates, aidentifying the approximate time that sleeve was in use.


(Updated September 12, 2014)

The main value of these sleeves is for identifying probable date of manufacture of a particular copy of a record during the four years of the  NY label 1962-6. In this period, hundreds of titles were released and hundreds more re-pressed.  The label remains exactly the same, but you now have eight discrete changes in inner sleeve during those four years. You may think you have the 1962 “original” pressing. Then why has it got a 1966 inner? Yeah yeah,sure,  “people mixed them up”, sure, but how else do you know?

When I went through my Blue Notes, the first thing I noticed was the number of Blue Notes below catalogue number 4045, when sleeves were plain, that a seller had added a “real” later Blue Note inner sleeve to make it look “more authentically Blue Note”. Now there is no excuse. The knowledge is here now, and freely available.

Each inner sleeve in the Cheet sheet can be viewed individually in the guide below.

Chronology of Blue Note inner sleeves

Prior to 1962, Blue Note inner sleeves were a simple plain white, now yellowed with age. I have only  a few originals in the 1500 series and so could not say with any confidence how early “original” plain inner sleeves can be identified.

Between 1962-6, inner sleeves were used to  promote the Blue Note catalogue, 72 thumbnail covers in total, headed simply “Blue Note” for 1962-3, and bearing the legend “27/26/25 Years of Blue Note” for the years 1964, 65 and 66 respectively.

Within this broad structure – no mention of year, and the years 25-26-27, there are nine variations which Fred Cohen has identified in his Guide to Blue Note  First Pressings – differences I was unaware of before acquiring Fred’s book (a kind gift from a reader, hat tip, DaveS).

Most interesting, Fred asserts different inner sleeves were linked to the release of specific catalogue numbers. How this worked in practice is intruiging. We know stocks of labels and covers were used for many years after printing, until stock ran out and more needed to be printed. Hence labels and covers are “lagging indicators” of provenance. I have Liberty pressings with no “ear” but 47 West 63rd labels, even Lexington labels.

The inner sleeve is a generic consumable item, designed to promote the latest releases. It isn’t tied to any particular title, so it could be used for any pressing, and is therefore potentially a leading indicator. The business rationale is to use the most recently printed inner sleeve to promote the most recent releases, as the record sails out the factory gate. It is, I am beginning to think, a more accurate date-stamp of manufacture than labels or covers (used with caution, as may be different due to unknown circumstances.)

An original pressing should have a matching inner sleeve. If not, that  record may have been pressed much later than the labels or jacket indicate.

When I started to check, I found a disproportionately large number of later inner sleeves with what appear to be earlier pressings. If the mismatches were a result of Blue Note afficionados “mixing up” sleeves during play, there should have been an equal number of later pressings accompanied by earlier inner sleeves, but that was not the case. Very few Blue Notes which had an accompanying inner sleeve (around half in my collection have a corporate inner sleeve) had the “correct” inner sleeve, and in the majority of cases it was a later inner sleeve than the labels suggested. This is the Devil’s work, I tell you.

Using Fred as a guide, I  identified all the nine inner sleeve variations except one, which I could not find, for which I created a placeholder. The titles have approximate dates of release originating from Schwann catalogues. They are a bit all over the place as it took anything from just a month to several years from recording date to release, so consider everything as approximate. All inner sleeves are pictured as seen from the front with the opening to the fore and the Blue Note Address at the bottom (the reverse taller side has no address)

Sleeve 1: BLP 4050 – 4078 (releases mainly in 1961)




Unique Identifier

BLP 4046 Duke Jordan Flight to Jordan

Column 1 Row 2


Sleeve 2: BLP 4079 -4088 (releases in 1962)




Unique identifier:

BLP 4058 Hank Mobley Roll Call

Column 4, row 5




Sleeve 3: BLP 4089 – 4114 ( late 1962 early 1963)



Unique identifier:

BLP 4084 Baby Face Willette Stop and Listen

in column 4 Row 5

(Sleeve picture courtesy of DottorJazz)



Sleeve 4: BLP 4117 – 4131 (mostly 1963 releases)




Unique Identifier:

BLP 4107 Don Wilkerson Preach Brother Preach

Column 1, Row 5


Sleeve 5: BLP 4134 – 4158 (late 1963 – through 1964)




Unique identifier

BLP 4136 Solomon Ilori African High Life

Column 1, Row 5



Sleeve 6: 25 Years – BLP 4159 – 4177 (late 1964 – mid 1965)




Unique Identifier:

BLP 4144 Johnny Coles Little Johnny C

Column 1, Row 5


Sleeve 7: 26 Years –  BLP 4178 – 4201 (releases mainly 1965)

Inner-Sleeve-26-years-Andrew Hill Judgement 4178-4201



Unique indentifier:

BLP 4159 Andrew Hill Judgement

Column 1, Row 4



Sleeve 8: 27 Years 1st variation BLP 4202 – 4226 (mid – late 1965)




Unique Identifier:

BLP 4187 Larry Young Into Somethin’

Column 6, row 4


Sleeve 9: 27 Years 2nd variation – BLP 4227 and higher ( early 1966 )

Inner-Sleeve-27 years -Dexter-Gettin-around-4227-and-up

Unique Identifier:

BLP 4204 Dexter Gordon Gettin’ Around
Column 6, row 4

This is the last and final Blue Note inner sleeve.



I went further and compared the two final “27 Years of” inner sleeves photographically head to head. I found seven different titles slipped into the mosaic of covers, always in the same row/column positions, indicating a fixed and variable template used by the designer/printer. Ominously, this last inner sleeve  “27 years of”  is the one found I  found most often among my Blue Notes. I thought they all “looked the same” but I thought wrong. Highlighted are the changes.


This was all unknown to me until I took a long hard look at the basic forensics. It’s enough to drive you crazy – if you weren’t there already.

Blue Note First Pressing Fundamentalist update

For those who may not have caught up with it, Dottorjazz has updated his Illustrated Guide to Blue Note First  Pressings, the second edition is here:

September 3, 2014 – Blue Note Illustrated Edition 2

With new content AND a new photo of the good Dottorjazz!

BNI v2


(262mb Acrobat pdf)

Note: there are a few production problems in Edition 2 where pictures are mis-matched, which will be corrected in Edition 3 shortly. Mega don’t seem to like heavy traffic.

UPDATE September 15, 2014: Edition 2 now available in handy bite-size pieces, starting with Introduction and 1500 series. Copy and Paste the whole link into your browser (not just the hyperlink, which requires the decryption key end part)

21 thoughts on “Blue Note inner sleeves – deep dive, for vintage vinyl collectors.

  1. Ah… The inner sleeves. Whenever I make photo sets of the Blue Notes that I have, I always try to do my utmost to picture the ‘inners’ as well. And I do have a few copies that most certainly contain a non-matching inner sleeve due to misplacement of the previous owner.

  2. I took some time to compare ALL back BN inner, and here my conclusions: 9 different FRONT, as stated, couldn’t find one more.
    for a given FRONT, BACK is identical: I mean all sleeves #1 have the same back, and so on.
    ALL BACKS are different, related to a given front: so as we have 9 different front we have 9 different back. Before Liberty, BN printed inner sleeves 9 times only for about 200 records.
    I would have expected some more.
    interesting that on sleeve #2 4052 is shown: Tina Brooks Back to the Tracks.
    this number remained unissued for decades.

    • As noted above, paste the whole of the link into the browser, including the long string of characters extending beyond the hyperlink. They are the decryption key. I just tested it again and it worked fine, took me straight through to the commence download screen

  3. Nice work! Superbly researched.

    I am curious do most people consider a collectable LP that doesn’t have the original company inner sleeve to be something they’d pass on? From what I gather reading various collector blogs people don’t place much value in them at all. I know I don’t, but having them is a bonus, I’ll leave them behind the jacket inside the poly outer sleeve when the record is shelved.

    • It’s all part of the physical period artefact, so it’s a bonus when it is present, though I don’t think anyone would turn down a record because it’s missing. Where it is “valuable” is in confirming the probable date of a pressing – especially those titles that went on to have further pressing runs through the early to mid ’60s. The NY label ran unaltered for four years, 1962-6, always the same label, but eight different inner sleeves in that time. It’s not always entirely reliable, but its the best we have got. I take a little more pride in having the correct inner sleeve now I know.

    • You fine fellows are my heroes, thank you for all your hard work and attention to details. You make Blue Note record collecting easier and more fun!!!!!!


  4. Regarding Dottorjazz’s updated guide: thanks for it, but I noticed that a lot of photos are mixed up in this edition. Possibly a problem with Word (or the program used to create this) connecting to the wrong files on the hard drive. For example p. 126 John Jenkins, 3 of the 4 pictures are from other records. I’m not trying to criticize anybody here, I just think it’s too bad given all the effort that Dottorjazz has put into it.

    • apologize for mixed pictures: I encounter problems in assembling different heavy files into one pdf, so I’ve decided to split up the entire file into five parts:
      intro, 1501-1600, 4001-4100, 4101-4200, 4201-4300.
      daily I come across a picture better than mine and substitute it: a da capo work, often more than once each day.
      a new info MUST be inserted, back again.
      there are moments I would like to throw it all away, angry with all the world.
      then I start again.
      next edition, # 3 will be all right, I hope.
      I will let Andrew have the new ones in some days and he will publish them.

      • Technical issues aside, I really really enjoy the photos of dottorjazz holding his records in this new revision–gives it a really great personal touch. I cannot thank you Dr. Sarchi and LJC for all the work you have done not only to advance our ability to collect well, but to add depth and perspective to the music we love.

  5. Just e-mailed you a photo of sleeve 3, with the Baby Face Willette record. From my copy of 4086.

    Excellent post, thanks! I also find the inners a very handy piece of circumstantial evidence. Sadly, it is usually to confirm that the W. 63rd label pressing I found that is missing the ears is, in fact, a Liberty, and not an original!

  6. tough to say if you have the original inner sleeve, though. i get tons of records that have generic inner sleeves, sleeves from other companies, sleeves promoting releases that weren’t even recorded yet, etc.

    your detective work is astoundingly valuable though. i like to learn from it.

    • Impulse! are the ones that usually throw my head for a spin. They updated their sleeves so frequently for the same release.

  7. my favourite Blue Note inner sleeves are the thin papered white ones with faint traces of blue ink from the labels Inside. The later ones, roughly post Lex Ave, are still plain white but with heavier paper and still traces of blue Inside. Later label ink quality during the final thumbnail period left no traces.

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