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The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

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Stamper X
Stamper IX
Stamper VIII
Stamper IX

The record on the left above is from stamper VIII, and shows French tax stamps. That on the right above is actually the retake G.C.-52369x, although none of the issued records bore labels showing the complete catalog number. This may always be seen, however, on the record itself at the 12 o’clock position. The record above shows 5 2 3 6 9 X IX at the 12 o’clock position outside the label. This stamper had a relatively long life compared with its predecessor, which is probably the scarcest of all of the Caruso 1902 recordings, all other claims to the contrary. One notes further that both issues above bear the phrase Importé de Hanovre. The exact significance or necessity of the phrase is not known at this time, but was probably related to commercial or fiscal affairs. It may be noted that a G.C.-52419 stamper V pressing with a pink G&T label exists (courtesy Lawrence Holdridge).

Three Caruso issues from the second session are known with early HMV labels. The figure on the left below is G.C.-52418 from stamper XII of matrix 2876. The central figure shows G.C.-52440 from stamper XXVIII. That on the right is G.C.-52442, a stamper V pressing from matrix 2882, the last of Caruso’s 1902 recordings. It is exceedingly rare, being almost unknown except to a very few collectors and dealers. It was discontinued and never doubled until the historic VA series around 1950.

Pink HMV Gramophone Concert labels 1909 - 1910
Yellow label for duets
B&W trademark
Yellow label for duets
trademark in color
Dark green label for
white HMV label for
large ensembles
before 1916
white HMV label for
Feb 1919 - Sep 1926
HMV 02585
test recording
unframed trademark

framed trademark, sepia

quadrants added


The label on the left below shows one of the last two recordings made by Caruso on March 14, 1910, that might have been issued with the HMV Gramophone Concert label shown. The other is its complementary recording from the opera Germania, i.e., No, non chiuder gli occhi, issued on HMV 7-52014. These were the only ten-inch recordings made during that session. The label on the right shows the style used for the twelve-inch discs made during the same period.

HMV Concert label
HMV Monarch label
Feb 1909 - Aug 1910

Caruso made four recordings with the eminent violinist Mischa Elman, as had Nellie Melba made earlier with Jan Kubelik, and John McCormack with Fritz Kreisler. All of the Caruso-Elman recordings were issued with orange labels, both as single-and double-sided discs, as shown below. The two upper discs below were recorded on March 20, 1913, while the two lower discs were recorded on February 6, 1915. The double-sided disc was pressed in Barcelona, and shows tow different styles of labels used by the Spanish processing plant. Since the quadrants were not added until February 1918, the double-sided disc was not issued until after that date.

The two discs above show pre-DOG labels used for duets and large ensembles, respectively. Many stampers from Caruso’s recordings, as well as those of other artists, apparently found their way to the processing plants in Riga, Paris, and Barcelona. Russian pressings of at least two of Caruso’s first recordings are known, with REPRODUCED IN RUSSIA on the reverse, viz., a stamper VI pressing from matrix 1786 and a stamper V pressing from matrix 1790, shown below.

Russian pressings
Stamper VI
Stamper V

The two labels shown below were made in Riga from Caruso stampers. The label on the left shows the company designation in Russian, while that on the right is overprinted with the same information.

Russian company
March 10, 1908
Russian overprint

The recording shown below was originally assigned a Catalog number in the Italian series. Since the selection was actually sung in French, a new catalog number was assigned in the French series, with corrections to the stamper and the label as shown above. The corrected catalog number shown in the center is on the disc at the right.

Italian series catalog
number error, sung
in French
showing the correction
of the HMV catalog number and the Victor number
French series catalog
number, sung in French
Paris pressing
Barcelona pressings

The two labels below are from a double-sided disc manufactured in the Aprelevsky factory in the Soviet Union from pirated metal parts, possibly obtained from the Gramophone Company factory in Riga. All traces of Gramophone Company identification marks have been obliterated. The disc on the left is Caruso’s recording of Recondita Armonia, recorded in November 1909; that on the right is Donna non vidi mai, recorded in 1913.


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The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

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