Last Updated: December 29, 2019
UPDATED July 5th: new reference material added to the Prestige Boot Camp and a QUICK LOOK UP REFERENCE TABLE for Prestige NY label has been added to the permanent pages of LJC Guide to Record Labels/ Prestige and New Jazz.
If you have any questions, our fully staffed professional 24-hour multi-lingual Prestige Collectors Support Centre is waiting to take your calls. HaHa. Who do you think we are, Microsoft?
Record Collectors, Prestigiously Yours…
This post brings together the Collector’s Information Research Project and my own Internet-based proxy research. It has moved on a long way from the first attempts and been a lot of time in the making, there are bound to be imperfections somewhere, chase them, call me out.
Why Prestige originals?
Money! However auction prices are also often influenced by descriptive language (lovely… superb… insanely rare) which should be taken with a grain of salt, except when true. More importantly, true first pressings are sometimes undersold, and consequently better value for collectors.
Premium prices are always dominated by the claim of virgin status (” looks unplayed, near-mint, still sealed, storage find “) It’s the way of the premium collector’s world. What you value is up to you, it’s good with me.
The LJC Guide will help you navigate the tricky waters of original Prestige’s 12” 7000 series titles issued on the N.Y. label, between 1956 and 1958. It’s unique and its free. Of course if you want upgrade to the exclusive Executive Deluxe Pro Collector Edition , I accept Paypal and most major credit cards….
Chapter 1: Prestige Boot Camp: what to look for in Prestige
The Record Label
Yellow/black fireworks label with 446W address, always, but not all 446W labels are the same. With early catalogue, look for label text with extra-condensed narrow font (see exceptions) and Lemon Yellow label tint (see exceptions)
In typography, fonts are narrowed in width and increased in height to squeeze in more text, slimming from regular to condensed, extra condensed, compressed, and ultra compressed. There was rarely a need to get less text in – expanded font. The Prestige narrow font is most likely Erbar Condensed, immediately recognisable once you become aware of it.
Below right, the font Erbar Light Condensed as used by Columbia’s Bridgeport Conn. plant and subsequently Pitman NJ. It looks most like the typesetting seen on narrow font Prestige.
Below left, the geometric sans-serif round font is Intertype Vogue, typesetting by Keystone Printed Specialties for Blue Note and supplied to Plastylite. It looks most likely the source of the Prestige round font labels.
Two copies of 7007 below, to the left, regular medium font, to the right, narrow font. Narrow font is early, simple? Not so fast, rookie! The left copy is pressed by Plastylite (P) the right an unknown plant, but all our collectors copies have a 7E etching, no ear.
Both are equal candidates for original status. The Plastylite is very rare and considered by Tokyo’s Disk Union as the original, and generally Tokyo knows best. I too lean towards the Plastylite due commonalities with 7001 and 7003.
Another possible interpretation is that Prestige worked with both Plastylite AND another plant. Plastylite supplied the metal plates to the other plant from its plating department, (hence custom code 7E, Prestige) but pressed only a small batch themselves. Labels were from two suppliers, a regular Prestige supplier (narrow font typesetting, HI FI text). Plastylite retained the historical “Non Breakable” text from its 10″ Prestige pressing. They are both “original”
(Wake up at the back!)
Both copies of 7024 below could be described by sellers as “yellow/black fireworks label, 466 W 50th St. N.Y.C.” However the 1st is narrow font, lemon yellow, and refers to Remastering by Van Gelder. Its later issued neighbour has regular medium font-style for artist and title, egg-yolk yellow tint and bears the standard text “HI FI” . Now you are a Prestige “Font Expert” and a Colour-Master.
You will often find other discrepancies in the back cover detail that corroborate later manufacture, such as a 447 address.
Narrow font is a discriminant for about only the first three dozen 7000 series titles. After around 7037, fonts appear more or less random, copies of the same title appear with different type spacing and layout of artist, title and tracks, different capitalisation, whatever the printer of that batch chose that day.
Record Label Text
Text at 3 o’clock position: “HI FI” or “Remastered by Van Gelder”, later “High Fidelity”
Text at 9 o’clock position: PRLP 7 # # # catalogue number. See exceptions add “Custom molded by Plastylite”
That early Plastylite connection
Below are examples of original labels with unique characteristics indicative of first pressing for that title, which stand out from surrounding titles, by virtue of text, font and colour tint, closely linked to Plastylite manufacturing.
The Plastylite (transposed and inverted) cursive letter P more familiar to Blue Note collectors, seen above in the run-out of 7026.
Mastered by Van Gelder
All but one NY release were mastered by Van Gelder. Look for RVG-hand-etched early, later stamped. Where “Custom-molded by Plastylite” add +P stamp and or “7E” etching. The two RVG forms are a chronology unique to their respective titles, the stamp replacing the hand-etched at 7088.
At least fifteen of the first fifty 12″ titles originate from 10″ Prestige records, which were remastered by van Gelder or “engineering by van Gelder”, originally recorded for Prestige by other engineers. Look for ” Remastered by van Gelder” text at the label 3 o’clock position, where the normal text is HI FI.
7105 for example is found with both yellow and red versions, ( the red is more rare) and both fetch a high price, both found on NYC label.
Below the original cover design for 7053 was replaced by a Warhol design cover, more sought-after by collectors, and therefore more valuable, but not the original. Note the Warhol cover’s later 447 address.
Attention should also be paid to the tell-tale presence on the back promoting other titles which significantly post-date the first release.
Needing extra space, Prestige took additional offices across the road from 446 West 50th Street, at number 447. The label address remained 446W, but the back cover address changed from 446 to 447, and remained 447 until the move to Bergenfield, New Jersey in August 1958.
Original cover early titles look for 446 address, no “Printed and Packaged by G E M Albums Inc., N.Y.” and no “Printed in USA” at bottom left and right corners.
Like many Prestige suppliers, G E M Albums Inc. came and went, but in its day manufactured covers for both new releases and repressing of earlier Prestige titles. The GEM cover attribution on titles below 7062 (save 7044 and 7057) is an instant tell-tale of a later pressing. My impression is that Blue Note over-ordered and stockpiled covers and labels for use with further pressings. In contrast, Prestige ordered “on-demand” in small batches, shopping around for printers, appearances changing each time.
Pressing Plant Etchings
Abbey Record Mfg Co.
Many Prestige NYC titles have the mark of Abbey (AB) in the run out, though some have no record plant identifier (possibly AB hidden under the label, which is not uncommon) or other. Five are Plastylite (7001, 7007, 7026, 7030 and 7050) after which Plastylite disappears forever.
The first thirty to forty Prestige titles have no plant indicator or other. Abbey appears for the first time (according to our hard core collectors) on 7034, consistently after 7043 until 7129 at which point there are brief appearances of “Other” (That Weinstock again!) but the association continued into the NJ era. Abbey was more or less the equal of Plastylite in ’50s pressing quality, and both often with Van Gelder behind the engineering controls, created similar audio quality results.
Some early Prestige pressings have a 7E etching, which is the Prestige equivalent to Blue Note’s “9M” etching, one of a number of custom codes unique to a range of record labels around the mid ’50s, probably related to metal plating production services.
Some Prestige records have an “8J” hand-etching, the source or significance unknown.
How to use The Guide
That’s enough poking around under the hood, you have graduated from Boot Camp with flying colours, to mix metaphors, we have the vocabulary, we have the syntax ( they tax that now?) We have learned to speak Original Prestige, you are now ready to take the plunge into The Guide. Think of it as passing a driving test, you are now let loose on the road.
Prestige is a complicated label, perhaps more so than Blue Note, with its steadfast Plastylite relationship. Bob Weinstock was forever chopping and changing his suppliers, with little continuity regarding manufacture, and an active schedule of repressing and reprinting of earlier titles to squeeze further revenue from those recordings. Alfred Lion was an enthusiast, Bob Weinstock a businessman. As a result many ill-founded claims to “original 1st pressing” in auctions. At LJC we support well-informed choice: first consult The LJC Guide. May the Facts be with you.
You can simply scroll though the screens, go to a title you are interested in, enlarge up to full screen 2,000 pixel-wide, things are more-or-less readable, though not the quality of dedicated high resolution images usually found at LJC. You have to sacrifice depth to achieve width, get with the programme.
Note :Colour fidelity is not reliable on many internet-sourced pictures.Some tainted by colour casts, ranging from red through to green. Prestige yellow tint has been reproduced here approximately, with a little retouching help by LJC.
Complete Visual Reference Guide to NY Prestige (1956 – 58)
7001 – 7005
Exceptions: 7001 and 7003 are found with egg-yolk tint/regular font/ text “non breakable” (associated with Plastylite), but also found in lemon tint/narrow font/”HI FI” text. We believe but can not prove the first (Plastylite, shown here) is the earlier manufacture. It is entirely possible Bob Weinstock was running with both Plastylite and Abbey Manufacturing simultaneously, producing different editions of the same title, no one knows.
7006 – 7010
Exceptions: 7007 as 7001 and 7003, regular font/egg-yolk tint, “non breakable “and Plastylite P. Hereafter up to 7037 the lemon tint/narrow font/HI FI text is indicative of earliest manufacture, but with exceptions like 7007 below.
(7007 revised pictures courtesy of Aaron W)
7011 – 7015
7021 – 7025
7026 – 7030
Exceptions: 7026, a James Dean “bad-boy” lookalike Zoot Simms cover, rare and exceptionally valuable, both remastered by Van Gelder and custom molded by Plastylite, with characteristic egg-yolk/regular font label.
7029 first cover the notorious 7020 misprint. (Art department, my office, now!)
7031 – 7035
7036 – 7040
Exceptions: 7038 the purple/red cover is found with both 446 and 447 addresses, and also found with a white and black “punchcard” alternative cover with the earlier 446 address. Consensus is that purple/red is the original, though I would qualify – purple red with 446 address is the original.
Exceptions: 7044 Miles Collectors’ Items always found with GEM cover, out of series and indicating probable later date of manufacture.
7041 and 7042 “custom molded by Plastylite”, two of the only five Prestige titles with this designation.
7046 – 7050
Change point: 7046 first cover with 447 address, also found on 7047, 7048 and 7049, and permanent from 7055.
7051 – 7055
Exceptions: Four titles 7041 to 7054 are the last with the 446 cover address. From 7055 the cover address when present is 447, through up until the change from the NY label to the NJ label, at 7142.
7056 – 7060 (updated 7057 cover photo)
7057 first GEM cover.
7061 – 7065
Exceptions: 7061 often found with GEM cover but copies are found exists without. Possibly Prestige farmed out cover manufacture to several manufacturers, or GEM is of later manufacture.
Except for 7064, a long unbroken run of GEM covers follows from 7062 to 7116 and 7118 the last GEM. On 7062, the GEM attribution is uniquely at the bottom left rather than the usual bottom right of the back cover. Prestige frequently repressed recordings from its earlier catalogue, and GEM covers are found on many earlier titles.
Collectors must decide for themselves the meaning of a later manufactured cover. An 446W NYC label is not of itself proof of original first pressing, and an original pressing should have a matching original cover. It is not unknown for sellers to crop the back cover photo, if any photo is provided at all, to omit cover provenance. Cover detail is almost never mentioned in descriptions, and often barely legible in pictures. Collectors should ask.
7066 – 7070
Change point: 7068 introduces the first presence of “Printed in USA”on bottom left of the back cover, which remains closely associated with GEM manufactured covers, continuous through to 7106, with 7118 the last GEM/Printed in USA.
Jazz’s most unappealing record title: 7066: The Dual Role of Bob Brookmeyer. What were they thinking of? Hey Bob, go see Stella in Human Resources and ask her to update your job description, you’ve got a new role. No, sorry, no raise.
7071 – 7075
7086 – 7090
Exceptions: until now hand-etched, 7088 is the first RVG stamp, followed by 7091. From 7093 the stamp is the only RVG format. Simply a change in working practice by Van Gelder, it is not of itself a variation – each title bears the chronological form of van Gelder mastering. Only one title in the NYC label series – 7100 – is not RVG mastered.
7096 – 7100
Exceptions: 7100 is of “alien” origin: the only NYC title not RVG mastered, and bears a machine-stamped matrix code instead of hand-etched like all others.
7106 – 7110
7116 – 7120
Exceptions: 7118 the last GEM cover.
Also disappearing, the label text “HI FI” is replaced on non-GEM covers with “High Fidelity”. Fidelity was not Prestige’s strongest business suite, chopping and changing suppliers, and this change appears related, as we have promo samples “Not for Sale” with the first appearance of the new “High Fidelity” text. Unhelpfully, the earlier form “HI FI” is used on later reissues/repressings, so it doesn’t help in identifying originals.
7126 – 7130
7131 – 7135
7136 – 7140
Exceptions: The first, last and only Prestige cover to feature a man in pyjamas. The only way to tell if its an early or a later pressing is by the laundry ticket on his collar.
Many of the titles at transition are often found on the later NJ label, consistent with Prestige’s business approach of manufacture on demand. Originals on NY label shown below are fairly rare, though not insanely rare ™
7141 – 7142
Professor Jazz says:
At the end of this process I found I had only three genuine Prestige NYC originals (along with my ninety Esquires) . However I felt extremely proud of them.
My thanks to the many collectors who generously shared the details of their private collections, but for them we would be still going around in circles. Special thanks to Roudolf F from Savoia, Hiromasa N from Tokyo, Dottorjazz from Milan (who supplied many original photos) Alexander P from Moscow, Bang from South Korea, Frederik from Sweden, the two Greggs, Aaron W, JoeL and Dave K. from USA, Lander L, Peter de J and Mattyman from Netherlands, Reinhardt H from Germany, Patrick C from UK, Marcial and Mario from South America, Michel from La Belle France, and everyone else who shared their time, too many to mention, take a bow. Extra special thanks to Diego S who has tirelessly tortured the numbers until they confessed, and helped give the project a backbone of evidence.
The QUICK LOOK UP REFERENCE TABLE for Prestige NY label has been added to the permanent pages of LJC Guide To Record Labels/ Prestige and New Jazz. It’s not perfect but our best shot.
A permanent copy of this Guide will also be found under on the permanent page of LJC, under Guide To Record Labels/ Prestige and New Jazz/ Prestige Scrapbook
( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) LJC
Footnote (Update July 19, 2015)
Diego took his camera up town (or is it down town? We Brits don’t understand these things)
The legendary 446W and 447W store-fronts as they look today. No blue plaque on the walls, no Former Headquarters of the Prestige Records heritage sign, no statue to Bob Weinstock (made with recycled marble, naturally) Just Steve’s hair salon, and an empty shop front, to let.
446 West 50th St. NYC
447 West 50th St NYC
An inauspicious end to the First Chapter of the Prestige Records story. My thanks to Diego and his all-seeing eye.