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Lot 25: Original 1954 Record Stamper for Sun Records 209, Elvis Presley's "That's All Right"

The Auction at Graceland - October 29, 2016

by The Auction at Graceland

29 October 2016

Memphis, TN, USA

Live Auction
Past Lot
  • Original 1954 Record Stamper for Sun Records 209, Elvis Presley's
  • Original 1954 Record Stamper for Sun Records 209, Elvis Presley's
  • Original 1954 Record Stamper for Sun Records 209, Elvis Presley's
  • Original 1954 Record Stamper for Sun Records 209, Elvis Presley's
  • Original 1954 Record Stamper for Sun Records 209, Elvis Presley's
  • Original 1954 Record Stamper for Sun Records 209, Elvis Presley's
  • Original 1954 Record Stamper for Sun Records 209, Elvis Presley's
   
Looking for the realised and estimated price?

Description:

From a New York State Collection

CLICK HERE to read more about this collection which includes The Record Stampers for Sun 209 and a group of Sun Record Co. Checks - LOTS 25–30.

What is a record "stamper"?

The simplest explanation is that these are the actual "plates" that were used to produce the records in the factory. In a bit more detail, the stamper is the culmination of a process that starts with a song's acetate, or master disk, that is created after recording. Acetates have an aluminum core that is coated with vinyl. The core makes acetates more rigid and heavy, but at a glance, they appear to look like a normal record. The acetate is then coated, or "plated," with silver and nickel, and this plate is in turn separated from the acetate. The resulting plate is called the "father" or "master plate." The original acetate gets destroyed in this process. The father is then plated again, creating a metal version of the original acetate. This "mother" plate is an exact copy of the acetate, and can be played to confirm quality. From this mother plate, another plate is created that becomes the stamper, while the mother is put aside for making future stampers. Stampers would normally only be good for creating a relatively small number of records, perhaps several thousand depending on the production plant's procedures. When the stampers wear out, a number of others can be made from the mother plate, and when the mother wears out, the whole process starts over again from a new master acetate.

That the offered stampers were saved at all is a stroke of luck, to be sure. After their tenure in the record plant, they would have been returned to Sun, but they had no functional use, and would have been filed away, if not discarded. There are many stories of record collectors stumbling upon stampers strewn among stacks of old, unsold stock years later, but generally no one gave them much thought. The offered artifacts would be considered incredibly rare, if not terribly important, even if they were just any old songs from a source as important as Sun Records. But because of the fact that they are responsible for pressing what many consider to be the first record in rock and roll history, their significance to music history cannot be overstated.

YOU ARE BIDDING ON: Original 1954 Record Stamper for Sun Records 209, Elvis Presley's "That's All Right"

The offered metal stampers were used to produce some of the very earliest pressings of Elvis Presley's first 45 RPM record release with the songs "That's All Right" and "Blue Moon of Kentucky." The recording of these two songs is widely considered by many to be the birth of rock and roll. When Elvis exploded on the Memphis airwaves, changing popular music forever, Sam Phillips charged into the future and had his records on the shelves only days later, on July 19, 1954. The initial copies were pressed by Plastic Products in Memphis, and Elvis himself is said to have visited the plant to watch the record being made. There is no way to know for sure if these stampers were part of the initial production run in mid-July, but pencil notations on the storage sleeve indicate that they were in use no later than August 1954. Either way, some of the first records Elvis fans ever played were pressed from these very stampers. They pressed together upon the waiting "hot wax" and, one copy after another, helped change the world forever.

Key attributes of the stampers include the matrix numbers visible in what would be the "dead wax" portion of the final pressed records, the "Audiodisc" logo around the center circles, and, of course, the three small indentations around the center holes. The matrix numbers, which read, in reverse, "U-128-45" on "That's All Right" and "U-129-45" on "Blue Moon of Kentucky," match exactly to the matrix numbers which appear on the period copies of Sun 209. Both numbers are also followed by "72" a short distance away. (See photos presented above.)

The three 1/4" indentations, used to hold the stampers in place by connecting with three opposing pins during pressing, are what created what are known to collectors of early Elvis records as "delta" marks. They form a triangle (or the Greek letter "delta") of marks on the Sun labels. These marks are the tell-tale sign that a record is a "delta pressing," pressed at the Memphis record plant. Copies pressed at other plants in Philadelphia or Los Angeles do not have these marks. The marks appear on all of Elvis' Sun 45s except for his final release, "Mystery Train." By the time of that release in 1955, the stamper production method had been adjusted.

The original paper sleeve in which the stampers were stored, which is included with THIS LOT, the "That's All Right" stamper, has handwritten pencil notations on one side, including "Sun 209" and "45-U-128," which is a slightly transposed version of the final record's side A matrix number, U-128-45. Most interesting, though, are what appear to be notations of nine different pressings of the record between August 1954 and November 1955, with the earliest listed as August 27, 1954, mere weeks after the record's release. The complete list reads as follows, with indecipherable entries listed with (?):

8/27/54 - 400
10/26/54 - 300
1/31/55 - 250
6(?)/28/55 - 100
8/(?)/55 - 100
9/(?)/55 - 150
10/13/55 - 100
11/3/55 - 150
11/25/55 - 200

It is certainly possible that the stampers were employed prior to the first date that was written on the sleeve, but there is no way to tell for sure. Additionally, the final date is interesting, because it likely represents the very last copies of Sun 209 to be pressed. Just four days earlier, on November 21, 1955, Sam Phillips had sold Elvis' contract to RCA. The deal stipulated that Sam was to turn over all recordings of Elvis and stop all sales and distribution of his records by the end of the year. In fact, RCA started selling their own pressings of Elvis' Sun singles only weeks after the signing, but not before the offered stampers made one last run at pressing just a little more history.

At this writing, only one other stamper for "That's All Right" has ever been seen offered publicly, and that copy was discovered together with a stamper for "Mystery Train" in the late 1960s. These are held in a private collection in England. To our knowledge, no stamper for "Blue Moon of Kentucky" has ever surfaced, and the one offered here may be the only one in existence. Furthermore, that the stampers offered here, for both sides of Sun 209, were discovered stored together in the same sleeve with notated pressing dates and quantities from the first few weeks of distribution is an indication that they are in a special category all to themselves. A truly remarkable and undeniably historic offering. Accompanied by a letter of authenticity from Graceland Authenticated.

YOU ARE BIDDING ON: Original 1954 Record Stamper for Sun Records 209, Elvis Presley's "That's All Right"

Condition Report: The stamper shows expected signs of wear and use. Excellent condition.

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