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

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Label Sizes

Paper labels for 7-inch Gramophone and 10-inch Gramophone Concert records vary in overall diameter, as well as in the diameter of the outer ring. Both black and red labels from 10-inch recordings made in Paris during September 1901 and in St. Petersburg in October-November 1901 have outer rings about 100 mm in diameter, with overall diameters between 105 and 108 mm.

The precise periods of usage for the various sizes used are difficult to determine, since the various manufacturing plants undoubtedly used stocks of labels until they were exhausted. The first paper labels for 10-inch discs were used for a very short time, probably not earlier than January 1, 1902 and not later than March 31, 1902. These first labels all appear to have the raised The variant, which was dropped some time before April 1902. Nevertheless, the first five issued first stamper pressings of Caruso’s April 1902 recordings appear to have this variant. The Chaliapin was probably issued in early February 1902, having been recorded between January 23 and 28, 1902. Battistini’s first recordings made in February 1902 also show the variant.

Renaud, Sep 1901 Vialtzeva, Dec 1901 Casini July 1901
November 1901 December 1901
Chaliapin, Jan 1902
Feb 13, 1902
April 1902
March 1904!

One of the earliest known 10-inch labels is shown below for a recording made by Fred Gaisberg in London in April 1901. It is a first stamper pressing with a flush label 107 mm in overall diameter. The matrix number under the label is extremely faint.

G.C-7943, London, April 1901

The first change in label size occurred when the label was placed on a raised plateau, which was about 95 mm in diameter, and the label size was reduced to fit. Later labels (1902-1903) have an overall diameter between 86 and 88 mm. This size was used between February 19, 1903 and July 29, 1905, the so-called CO. marking period, but toward the end of it the label size was reduced to 90-92 mm in overall diameter, with an 80-81 mm outer ring. In general the overall diameter of labels was about 10 mm. greater than that of the outer ring. Labels for 7-inch discs were about 60 mm in overall diameter in 1903. These were considerably smaller than the label used by the Victor Company in November 1901, which were 75 mm in diameter.

Labels with an overall diameter of 96-100 mm were in use by April 1902 and as late as April 1904, but seem to have changed after July 29, 1905. During that time the diameter of the outer ring varied between 80 and 83 mm. These differences are not seen on any 12-inch labels, which did not appear until June 1903, after which the outer ring diameter was reduced to 80-83 mm on all sizes.

Outer ring 107 mm, July 1901
72 mm diameter, February 1902

Both labels above were produced between February 19, 1903 and July 29, 1905, the so-called CO. marking period, and both have flush labels. The label on the left is a stamper II pressing and is raised, while that on the right is a stamper III pressing; it is flush to the record surface and a mere 72 mm in diameter. Several other sizes are found later, chiefly in conjunction with the introduction of the DOG trademark after 1908. Further changes reduced the ring to as little as 67 mm. An exception is the black and gold label 107 mm in overall diameter, seen at the left below on a stamper II pressing of a June 1901 recording, G.C.-52323, on a raised platform of the same diameter, with a CO. marking at 3 o’clock.

outer ring 87 mm
March 1902
outer ring 80 mm
after July 1905

Label sizes were reduced during the acoustical era, probably in an attempt to provide increased recording time on the disc. One can calculate that a 10-inch disc with a label 108 mm in diameter with a recordable area approximately 65 mm wide from a rim 5 mm wide to the central runoff area 10 mm wide, at the early recording speed of about 67.92 rpm will have an available recording time less than 3 minutes and 30 seconds. (Author’s note: had the turntable speed been the "standard" 78.26 rpm, the available time would have been reduced to just about 3 minutes.) Such labels were used well into the CO. marking period. Reducing the overall diameter of the label to 92-97 mm, might have achieved an additional 30 seconds of recording time. Shortly after July 1905 the overall diameter was reduced to about 85 mm, and the recording time for a 10-inch record could be extended to as much as 4 minutes at the prevailing recording speed. If one applies these calculations to a 12-inch disc, the recording time would have been about 4 minutes and 45 seconds, or just over 4 minutes at the higher "standard" speed.

Pressings from stampers I and III of Gramophone Concert Record G.C.-52368 with a label raised on a plateau and a pressing from stamper III II with a flush label within a raised ring all have outer ring diameters of 88 mm. On pressings from stampers VI and VII of the same recording with a sunken or flush label surrounded by a raised ring, the outer ring diameter is 80 mm.

The two labels below show considerable differences, although the overall diameters are identical. The outer ring on the left measures 83 mm in diameter, while that on the right is 87 mm. The words TRADE and MARK on the left are placed close to the trademark, while those on the right are widely spaced. The word TOSCA measures 24 mm on the left, and 28 mm on the right. While the angels are the same size, the distance across the two PATENTED is 55 mm on the left and 50 mm on the right, which is in a smaller font size. Both discs were pressed from stamper VI of G.C.-52349.

The "TRADE" and "MARK" spacing on earlier labels, e.g., November-December 1901 until some time after July 1905, is narrow, while those on later pressings are wide, as are the measurements across PATENTED. Note the change in the font from serif to nonserif for the former but not for the latter. The names of both the artist and the selection are more widely spaced on later pressings. The catalog number on early pressings is slightly raised, while on later pressing it is quite prominent. Earlier pressings show the embossed matrix number about mid-way between the label and the grooved area at the 6 o’clock position, usually in a different font from that of later pressings, where it is next to the grooved area. The latter usually has the engineer’s suffix added, while earlier pressing do not.

Label Colours

Color differentiation can be quite perplexing, due in large extent to differences in batches of ink used by the various printing companies. Bennett lists violet, violet-red, and red, but apparently distinguishes them from the double-sided plum labels. He lists the Melba issues as lilac-red, while they are actually lilac, and assigns pink-red to Farrar and Schumann-Heink, but violet-red to Gluck. These all apply to recordings listed in the English Catalogue. Bennett makes no label color assignments in his Italian Catalogue, other than orange for Battistini. He also assigned orange to the Chaliapin pre-DOGS issues in the Russian Catalogue. At a later date Clara Butt and John McCormack received dark blue and purple HMV labels, respectively.

Photos of Gramophone Company labels in various colors may be found throughout this paper. Many labels may appear more than once, since they are the best representation of several categories listed in the Outline provided below.

A. black with gold lettering Jan 1901April 1925

B. Red with gold lettering Jun 1901April 1925

C. Pink with gold lettering (pre-DOG) 1906?Aug 1910

D. Violet red with gold lettering Feb 1906July 1919

E. Caruso (pale blue, pale green, pink) Sep 1907Aug 1908

F. Caruso (white, blue, green, pink) Aug 1908April 1925

G. Dark green with silver lettering Jan 1910 Sep 1928

H. Dark blue with gold lettering Aug 191010 Nov 1914

I. Plum with gold lettering the "B" and "C" series Sep 1912 1948

J. Black with gold lettering the "D" and "E" series 1917 1948

Whereas Victor indicated their various price categories according to the catalog number series, the Gramophone Company assigned label colors according to the number of artists, as well as their price. In fact, the number and category of the artists often determined the price, and hence the label color. The Gramophone Company used eight distinctly different label colors during the acoustical era. Black labels with gold lettering were used throughout the entire acoustical era from December 10, 1900 to March-April 1925. Double-sided black label discs on ten- and twelve-inch discs appeared in September 1907.

Further color and price variations were based on the number of artists participating in a recording. Thus, the Rigoletto Quartet with Caruso, Abott, Homer, and Scotti was priced at 31.25 lire (pale blue), duets (on pale green) at 25 lire, and his solos on pink labels at 16.50 lire. Pricing for other celebrities varied accordingly. The listings below are random selections, and by no means indicate a complete survey of label colors used during the acoustical era.

The Gramophone Company used various label colors at different periods of its development to indicate the artist’s stature and the price category of the issues record. The following extract from John Bennett’s 1957 Italian Catalogue will serve to indicate the colors, prices, and standings of the artists and their records during the first two decades of the last century. The dollar values in brackets have been added by the author, and are based on an estimated exchange rate during the period of approximately L. 6.25 per one U.S. dollar. It is probably a unique reference to the prices of Gramophone’s various record issues for that early period.

"In March 1903 Black Label "Piccoli" (7") and "Concerto" (10") were catalogued at L.3.50 [56 cents] and L.6.25 [$1.00]. In the same list were Red Labels of Pinto, Bruno, Sammarco, Caruso, De Lucia, Garbin, Battistini, and Giraldoni at L.12.50 [$2.00]. In November "Monarch" (12") Black Labels were priced at L.9.50 [$1.52], with some Celebrity Red Labels of Joachim, the famous violinist, at L.18.75 [$3.00].

"It is interesting to note the Company’s assessment of probable demand for an artist at a particular time by the prices fixed. For example, in August 1904 a 10 inch Tamagno sold at L.25 [$4.00]; other celebrities were "Monarch" L.18.75 [$3.00], "Concert" L.12.50 [$2.00] and "Piccoli" L.7.50 [$1.25]. Ruffo "Monarch" were L.15.75 [$2.52] and "Concert" L.10.00 [$1.60]. In April 1905 a 12 inch Tamagno was listed at L.25 [$4], Caruso, Giorgini and Boninsegna at L.18.75 [$3]; Melba slightly surpassed Tamagno at L.26.50 [$4.25]. The following month Sembrich "Monarch" stood at L.12.75 [$2.05]. In December 1906 Ruffo was priced at L.18.75 [$3]; Patti was placed a little below Melba at L.25 [$4]. In May 1906 Caruso advanced to L.25 [$4]; in October three Red Label artistsCucini, Sembrich and Eames were sold at L.18.75 [$3]; De Lucia "Concert" were L.12.50 [$2] and Monarch" L.18.50 [$2.80]. In January 1907 Battistini, Ruffo and Galvany joined De Lucia at his level. Melba, Patti and Tamagno Red Labels were L.26.50 [$4.24], L.25 [$4], and L.25 {$4}, but Caruso at L.25 [$4] was accorded Pink Label status, as was Patti a little later.

"September 1907 witnesses the probable first appearance of the double-sided Black Label "Concert" L. 6.25 [$1]; "Monarch" L.9.50 [$1.50]. The name of Calvé was added to the Celebrity band at L.15.75 [$2.50] for 12 inch Pink labels. The previous month Caruso, Abott, Homer and Scotti appeared in the "Rigoletto" Quartette at L.31.25 [$5] (Pale Blue); Caruso duets on Pale Green Label at L.24 [$3.85]; Battistini’s Orange Label, Patti’s Pink and Melba’s Lilac all realized L.15.75 [$2.50], as distinct from the slightly lower Reds of De Lucia, Giorgini, Ruffo, Journet, Boronat, Galvany, Cucini, Frascano, and De Tura at L.11.25 [$1.75]. In 1908 Ruffo, De Tura and Tetrazzini were upgraded to Pink; Marconi, Scampini, Pareto and De Cases were Red. In August 1908 Caruso’s list issued white at L.35.50 [$6],

Blue L.31.25 [$5], Green L.25 [$4], Pink L.16.50 [$2.75], andL.11 [$1.75], whereas a year earlier his list had read Blue L.31.25 [$5], Green L.25 [$4], and Pink L.15.75 [$2.50] and L.10 [$1.75], there being no White label.

"The Angel Trademark was still in used in February 1910; in March the Dog appeared on the back page of the catalogue, in November on the front page. In the following year the Angel and the Dog represented the official Trade Mark, both featured on the from page of the February list and finally, in November 191, attention was drawn to the Dog as representing the principal Trade Mark of the Company..

"In December 1916 all new Black Labels went over to double-sided form and from the 15th October 1917 new wartime prices came into effect with "Red Concert" advancing from L.8 to L.9 and "Monarch" from L.12 to L.13.50, Pink and Lilac fro L.11 to L.12 and from L.16.50 to L.17.50, Violet fro L.6 to L.7 and from L.8.5 to L.10. The new double-sided Black Label advanced from L.6.75 to L.8 and from L.10 to L.12. The prices of the dearer records remained unchanged White (Sextette) 12 inch L.37.50, Pale Blue (Quartette) 12 inch L. 31.25, Pale Green (Duet) 12 inch L.25 and Buff 10 inch L.16.50, 12 inch L. 21. On the 1st of August 1919 Black Label rose to L.12.50 and L.19.50, but two years later, from the 1st of July 1921, the ceiling prices of the ware began to return to more normal levels, so that Black Label, Red and Violet from L.30 to L.25 and from L.44 to L.35; Buff L.36 to L.27 and L.48 to L.38; Pale Green 12 inch from L.50 to L.40; Pale Blue 12 inch from L.55 to L.45; White 12 inch from L.58 to L.42. The higher ranking Battistini, Chaliapin and Patti 12 inch L.58 also fell to L.42, while the 10 inch Tamagno at L.63 were reduced to L.50.

"In 1918 His Master’s Voice records were issued through the Italian Catalogue for British and American troops in Italy under the well known "B" and "C" English series; both the Angel and the Dog marks made an appearance in these lists.

"The name of Gigli appeared in a supplement dated the 1st of February 1919, Dragoni in August, Schipa in January 1920, Heifetz and Elman in March, Poli-Randacio in September, Besanzoni in May 1921, Zenatello in June.

"On the 1st of August 1924 Celebrity catalogue records were first given DA and DB letters. Together with the old single-sided numbers, but the General Catalogue of the 1st June omits the old numbers altogether. Prices for these new issues on the 1st December were L.35 for the "DA", L.45 for "DB", L.35 for "DJ", L.46 for "DK", L.48 for "DM", L.53 for "DO", L.54 for "DQ".


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

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