A great record is a great record isn’t it? Well, yes it is to a lot of people. However, a different pressing of a great record is a thing of beauty to a lot of vinyl collectors. This can determine exactly when it was pressed, where it was pressed or even how it was pressed.
“Beatles” collectors can tell you all about ‘contract’ pressings, when the demand got so high that the EMI pressing plant couldn’t handle all the work they used to license other pressing plants to press the records for them. Decca, Oriole, Pye and CBS all handled “Beatles” pressings at some point in the 1960’s and the differences in the pressings can make serious collectors and record buffs weak at the knees. You have to know what you’re looking for though, some of the discrepancies are very minor indeed.
Other examples of the ‘same record but different pressing’ scenario are much much easier to spot though. A lot of times when record labels commissioned the first run of a release the labels would be lovely printed paper ones. Then, again, when the demand got high so that another pressing was needed the label would commission much less desirable plastic injection moulded style middles. These, in-turn can become heavily collectable though. Jerry Dammers’ mighty “2 Tone Records” label that headed the ska-revival movement in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s were big on this. The paper label versions of all their singles are the ones that most collectors seek out, but just try hunting down a silver plastic injection moulded version of the first “Specials” singles ‘Gangsters’ (TT1) or the much under-rated “Swinging Cats” only 7” ‘Mantovani’ (TT14) and you’ll be amongst many who cannot even find them let alone afford them, particularly the latter.
Nearly all of a particular record labels’ mould injection releases would be one colour (silver for Polydor Records, blue for Chrysalis Records and so on) so when the companies deviated from that and pressings were released with out-of-the-ordinary colours this now sends collectors in to a frenzy. Collectors of “The Jam” are a prime candidate. All things mod revival and Paul Weller connected are still heavily sought after. Copies of their singles that were re-issued in the early 1980’s but had red injection mouldings instead of the normal silver now fetch high sums when they sporadically come up for sale. There can’t be many of them around. It must have been a mistake at a pressing plant, or a lack of the right colour ink at the time they were needed.
Meanwhile, fans of “The Sex Pistols” will go all out to find a copy of the ‘Pretty vacant’ 7” single (VS184) with a push-out centre as opposed to the normal solid centre. Only a few seem to exist. This kind of action was fairly random by all accounts. Most factories had a mixture of solid centre presses and four-prong push-out centre presses. It all depended on who got the next job as to which machine they were pressed on. It’s as simple as that. This explains why some variants are so few and far between.
To collectors who try to collect everything of certain genres, or by certain artists, this means the world. A minor discrepancy can push up the value as online bidders try to out-do each other to complete their collections.
So, what difference does it make? To the music it means nothing. To the collection it means everything.