The Beatles US and UK Record Labels
Quick Reference Guide

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US Label Quick Reference

When collecting Beatle LPs, the condition of the vinyl is obviously important however the record's label plays a significant role in determing the overall value of the LP. In fact some labels are so collectible, that the condition of the vinyl is a secondary factor. Below is a quick reference guide for US and UK Beatle label identification. I will also include links to sites that offer expanded reference material for those wishing to pursue additional research (see the bottom of the page).

The Vee Jay (VJ) Labels

In the beginning, the very first US Beatle LP came out on the VeeJay (VJ) label. VJ entitled the album Introducing The Beatles and is one of the most counterfeited LPs in history. There are many ways to tell the real deals from the counterfeits and the links below will take you to sites that go into great detail on how to tell the difference, but in the end one of the best ways to quickly identify an authentic pressing from a fake is the LP label.

The first three labels below are authentic . There are two key characteristics: 1) "The Beatles" is above the spindle hole, and 2) for the VJ colorband labels, the colors are uniform and include the green color in the band (around the 7 o'clock position). Fakes printed "The Beatles" below the spindle hole (see scan #4 below) and the fake colorband versions (not shown) excluded the green color in the band and in some cases the band was not proportionate all the way around the label.

Some clever colorband fakes did place "The Beatles" above the spindle hole but the colorband around the label is of poor quality.

VJ Labels
1 - VJ Oval - Authentic Label
VJ Labels
2 - VJ Bracket - Authentic Label
VJ Labels
3 - VJ All Black - Authentic Label
VJ Labels
4 - VJ All Black - Typical Fake Label

In general, the VJ "oval" label (top left) is more valuable then the bracket version. The bracket version is more collectible than the black & silver label. The labels above are the mono versions. You will see many counterfeits for sale that claim to be "stereo". Stereo copies of Introducing The Beatles are rare. The mono pressings far out number their stereo counterparts. All true stereo copies have the word "stereo" printed on the label. If a seller claims to be selling a stereo copy and the word "stereo" is not printed on the label, it is a fake stereo copy. Other characteristics that determine value are the label fonts, whether the text is left aligned or center aligned, etc.

The Capitol Labels

Subsequent to VJ Beatle LPs were pressed on Capitol records. Below are three versions of the famous Capitol colorband label. The first label represents an original pressing. The second, which is commonly known as the "subsidiary" label was pressed in 1968 and the third is the 1983 re-issue where Capitol took a trip down a memory lane and replicated the original colorband label. There are ways to tell the three apart and I will call them out below. For Capitol LPs, record numbers beginning with "T" or "M" were mono recordings. Those beginning with "ST" or "SM" are stereo pressings.

Capitol Labels
1 - Original Colorband Label
Capitol Labels
2 - "Subsidiary" 1968 Colorband Label
Capitol Labels
3 - "Retro" 1983 Colorband Label

The top left label (#1 above) is the original colorband label. Along the bottom of the label and above the colorband you will see the print "Mfd by Capitol Records Inc...". The top right label (#2 above) is the "subsidiary" label which at first glance looks identical to the original label. However, look closely at the rim print at the bottom of the label. This time the print states "Mfd by Capitol Records Inc. A Subsidiary of Capitol Industries..." and the print runs half way around the label. Last is the third iteration of the coloraband label (#3 above). Again it looks very similiar to the original except the rim print is now printed INSIDE the colorband (in both the top and bottom of the band). In order of value, the original labels are worth the most, then the "subsidiary" label and last the 1983 "retro" label

There were two other labels Capitol pressed during the Beatle period (i.e., when the band was together). Both are often referred to as the "target" labels due to the design of the Capitol logo at the top of the label. The green target label was pressed for one year in 1969. The red target label came after its green counterpart and technically no Beatle LPs in the US were supposed to be pressed on the red label since the Beatle catalog was either now on Apple or being re-issued with the familiar orange Capitol label. Any Beatle US Capitol pressing on the red target label is very rare. In my years of collecting I have located but one Capitol US Beatle red "target" label and it is Revolver which I own and is shown below.

Needless to say the US Capitol red "targets" are very rare and highly collectible. Capitol in Canada did press on the red label and therefore the Canadian pressings are not as collectible as the US version.

Capitol Labels Capitol Labels

The Apple Labels

Last but certainly not least is the Apple label. This is the label that is most often associated with the Beatles due to its distinctive design. There were three iterations of the Apple label. The one that represents a first or early pressings (either new Beatle records at the time and subsequent re-issues) is the version with the "Capitol" logo along the bottom of the "sliced" (side 2) label. The first Beatle LP to debut on Apple was the White Album. The very first record on Apple was George Harrison's solo LP Wonderwall Music.

Capitol Labels
1 - US Apple Label
Capitol Labels
2 - 1st Pressing w/Capitol Logo Along Label Rim
Capitol Labels
3 - 2nd Iteration "Mfd By Apple Records, Inc" Label.
Capitol Labels
4 - 3rd Iteration "All Rights..." Label

Note the Capitol logo along the bottom of the label on scan #2. This is your clue as to the vintage of the Apple pressing. Subsequent labels dropped the verbiage and logo and replaced it with "Mfd. By Apple Records Inc." (second iteration - scan #3 above) and then the last label added "All Rights Reserved..." text (third iteration - scan #4 above). Beatle records were pressed on the Apple label from 1968 through 1975.

After Apple - Back To Capitol

After Apple was no longer, Capitol re-issued the Beatles catalog on the orange (1975 through 1978), purple (large Capitol dome logo - 1978 through 1983), the retro-colorband (1983 through 1988) and back to the purple label (this time with a small Capitol dome logo (1988 on). The re-issues are normally inexpensive and many are in excellent condition. So if you are not looking to spend a bunch of money and wish to rebuild your Beatle vinyl collection, the re-issue route is a smart way to go.

Capitol Labels
1 - Orange Label 1975 - 1978
Capitol Labels
2 - Purple "Large Dome" Label 1978 - 1983
Capitol Labels
3 - "Retro" Colorband Label 1983 - 1988.
Capitol Labels
4 - Purple "Small Dome" Label 1988 - RIP


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UK Label Quick Reference

In my opinon, the old Parlophone pressings were some of the best pressed records during the era of vinyl. Their deep grooves and heavy weight construction ensured years of great playback and fidelity even with ample play time (i.e., scuffs and scratches). I am constantly amazed at how quiet a VG condition Parlophone LP will play. From a collectors perspective there is a lot to know about the Parlophone pressings. My intent is to get you familiar with the labels so you have a point of reference and then you can click the links below or search the web if you wish to explore some more. Parlophone record numbers starting with PMC are mono and PCS are stereo pressings (PMCO and PCSO respectively for Australian (OZ) pressings). Also a matrix beginning with XEX is a mono recording and YEX denotes stereo. The matrix can be found at the 6 o'clock position in the dead wax (area between the end of the last song and the beginning of the label).

VJ Labels
1 - Famous Black & Gold Label - OZ Version
VJ Labels
2 - Y&B 3rd Pressing w/o Published in 1963 Text
VJ Labels
3 - Y&B 4th Pressing w/Published in 1963 Text
VJ Labels
4 - Rare 1 Box EMI "CBS" Pressing
VJ Labels
5 - 1980s "Retro" Yellow & Black Label
VJ Labels
6 - 2 Box EMI - Standard Re-issue Label

Some Beatles LPs are considered highly collectible. One is the Butcher Album, others are an orginal UK White Album recorded in mono and Please Please Me on the Parlophone "Black & Gold" label. Picture #1 above (top left) is the Australian (OZ) version of the Black & Gold label. Almost identical to its UK counterpart, this is the very first Parlophone label that introduced the Beatles to the world. Although the mono version (pictured) is very collectible, the stereo version is even more so. This is because stereo pressings were not the norm back in the early '60's. If you have a stereo Black & Gold, you have a highly collectible record. The Black & Gold label had a short Beatle life span and soon after the first pressings of Please Please Me Parlophone revamped the label to what is commonly known as the Yellow & Black (Y&B) label.

Below is a description of the above labels:

  • Label #1 - Australian (OZ) mono version of the Black & Gold label.
  • Label #2 - First Yellow & Black (Y&B) pressing was the 3rd pressing of Please Please Me. A 3rd pressing can be identified by the exclusion of "Recording First Published 1963" to the left of the spindle hole.
  • Label #3 - Y&B 4th pressing. This pressing includes "Recording First Published 1963" to the left of the spindle hole.
  • Label #4 - In 1969, Parlophone had a transition label that is commonly referred to as the "1 Box EMI" label (scan #4). So named because the EMI logo at the bottom of the label is framed in a box. These were high quality, thick vinyl pressings with great fidelity, much like its Y&B predecessor. This label was pressed for only one year and has its niche collector community. The label pictured above is the rarer "CBS" label which is denoted by the inner rim inside the label. When Parlophone required increased production and did not have capacity, they (like Capitol) subcontracted to other record companies such as Decca or CBS.
  • Label #5 - Y&B re-issue from the 1980's. At first glance it looks identical to an original Y&B label. Three quick ways to tell the difference is: 1) the word "mono" is printed above "O" in the word Parlophone (large yellow print), 2) the rim print on the re-issue does not include the wording "The Parlophone Co, LTD..." or the "The Gramophone Co, LTD..." which would be located at the beginning of the silver rim text on the left hand side of the label, and 3) re-issues exclude the "Made In Great Britain" print at the bottom of the label. Be aware that stereo re-issues on this label also have the word "stereo" above the "O" but so did the original pressings! There are quite a number of the re-issues selling online. Be sure to scrutinize the details before bidding or buying because you can easily end up buying a re-issue when you were hunting for an original/early Y&B pressing.
  • Label #6 - The last label is the "2 Box EMI" label. This label is commonly associated with all Parlophone Beatle UK re-issues and the least collectible.
  • Early Parlophone LPs contained the wording "The Parlophone Co, LTD..." in silver print along the left hand side of the label. In 1965, Parlophone replaced this wording with "The Gramophone Co, LTD...". Early Parlophone Beatles LPs that contain the "The Parlophone Co, LTD..." are: Please Please Me, With The Beatles, A Hard Days Night and Beatles For Sale (the Beatles' first four UK records). Starting with Help!, the wording was changed to "The Gramophone Co, LTD...". Any of the first four LPs with the "Gramophone" text instead of "Parlophone" are later pressings and not worth as much as their earlier counterparts. Starting with Help! you will not see the "Parlophone" wording. Here is an illustration:

    UK Beatle Labels
    Original/early Beatle UK pressings will contain the "ParlophoneCo, LTD..." in silver text along the label rim.

    UK Beatle Labels
    Starting with Help! (1965) all Parlophone Y&B will show the "Gramophone" text.

    Starting in 1964, Parlophone added the verbiage "Sold in the UK Subject To Resale Price Conditions, See Price Lists" above the spindle hole. Only early pressings of the Beatles first two albums, Please Please Me and With The Beatles excluded this wording. Later pressings of these two LPs and subsequent Beatle LP releases all included this text (through 1968). Here is an example:

    UK Beatle Labels_UK Beatle Labels

    Note the "Subject To Resale..." wording above the spindle hole on the Sgt Pepper (scan on the left) and the exclusion of the wording on the early Please Please Me. Starting with the 5th pressing of Please Please Me and the 3rd pressing of With The Beatles, all future pressings and releases contained the "Subject To Resale..." wording.

    Last discussion point will deal with the Parlophone "martix", "mother stamps" and "tax codes". I have yet to come across a concrete explanation of whether the last digit in a Parlophone matrix represents or is analogous to a pressing number. For example, the matrix which is located in the dead wax (the section of vinyl between the last song and the beginning of the label) at the 6 o'clock position has the following format for a mono pressing: XEX-###-#. The first three alpha characters identify whether the record in mono (XEX) or stereo (YEX). The next three numerics identify the record (e.g., Sgt. Pepper is 638) and the last numeric most assume is the pressing (for example, Sgt. Pepper mono is XEX-638-1). However, the last number is baffling because some Beatle records like Pepper and Please Please Me always end in -1 when other Beatle records have -1, -2, -3 and so on. I opened this question up to the Beatle forum at the Record Collectors Guild (many years ago) and the answers were inconclusive. There were two theories from resident Beatle expert "BeatleHarb":

  • "...the matrix numbers (to my knowledge) were altered whenever something to do with the contents were changed. This is why XEX 606-1 was changed to XEX 606-2 when Tomorrow Never Knows was altered. Also when Loud Cut pressings of Rubber Soul went from -1 to -4 to correct the tracks", or...
  • "...another theory could be that the matrix number was increased whenever the LP master tapes had to be brought out to create a new set of mother plates for the vinyl. That would explain why on some pressings (i.e. With the Beatles) the songs never change but the matrix numbers still rise.".

    Both these theories are logical, but because Sgt Pepper and Please Please Me always end in -1, the mystery lives on. I have concluded it appears that the last digit in the matrix is somewhat analogous to a pressing for most Parlophone Beatle record with the exception of Pepper and PPM. Therefore, it is safe to state: the closer the last digit in the matrix is to "1" (with -1 being optimal) the earlier the pressing (again with the exception of Sgt Pepper and Please Please Me).

    In order to really determine how early a pressing you have, especially with the two aformentioned anomolies, you need to also investigate the tax codes and stampers (which includes the mother plate code at the 9 o'clock position and the pressing stamper code at 3 o'clock. The stamper letter code is believed to have changed every 300 presses and used the letters GRAMOPHLTD (Gramophone Ltd) where G=1, R=2, A=3, M=4, O=5, P=6, H=7, L=8, T=9 and D=0. If you can find a Beatles LP with the codes 1/G then it's one of the first 300 off the press!

    For a better understanding of "tax codes" and "stampers" head over to The Beatles Collection and The Beatles Records Collection.

    Here are some additional links for research and reference:

    Identify & Date Your Beatles Parlophone Records | Australian Parlophone Beatles Albums | Beatle Counterfeit Records - Before Capitol | Beatles Singles and EP Discography | About The Butcher Cover | Beatle Autographs | More Parlophone Information


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