A short guide to collecting classical records
SXL Wide-Band ED1
Decca SXL Series
Very sought after by collectors, these offer many of the best performances on record and also offer superb sound quality.
The earliest "wide-band" label is the most sought after. An illustration of the very earliest label is provided above. They have a wide silver band just above the spindle hole, an "FFSS" logo, an indented groove 1 cm in from the edge of the label, and "Original Recording by" at 11 'O' Clock. This is an "ED1". If the words "Made in England By" appear at 11 '0' Clock, along with the groove, this is an "ED2". If the words "Made in England by" appear but there is no groove this is an "ED3".
The later "narrow-bands" are less valuable on the whole and technology by this time had moved on to transistors. The highest serial number wide-band is SXL 6448, though there are lower numbered records without a wide-band version.
The "SET" label (mostly box sets) are also highly valued.
The collectible records were mostly produced in England. The later 80s Dutch pressings are less sought after. However, there are a number of Decca SXL records only available as Dutch pressings.
EMI (HMV) ASD Series
Also renowned for high quality pressings. Most famous perhaps for the HMV "Nipper" logo. This was painted in 1898 by Francis Barraud based on a photo of his dog Nipper (part Bull Terrier, part Jack Russell). This picture was sold to the Gramophone Company (now EMI) for £100 in 1898, and first appeared on an HMV label in 1907.
The early "white-gold" label is again very collectible, and offers superb valve-produced recordings. This label is illustrated above. The highest numbered white-gold is ASD 575. The second ASD series has a label which contains a red/black semi-circle. Also highly sought after and offering valve recordings. This is the first label for records numbered up to around ASD 2477.
Later records have a variety of "dog-in-stamp" labels, the earliest having a colour "Nipper", followed by a black and white version, followed by another colour version with the addition of a white circle around the rim of the label. All of these are high quality collectible records on heavy vinyl. 80s ASDs (which revert to a semi-circle design, larger than the original) are on light floppy vinyl, and unfortunately represented a lowering of the high standards of the series.
Columbia SAX Series
Also produced by EMI, and also highly sought after valve recordings. The earliest label (illustrated above is the "blue-silver" series. The highest is SAX 2538. The second label has a semi-circle design, with a "magic notes" logo in a red circle within a black semi-circle. The third label has the "magic notes" logo in a box rather than a semi-circle.
English pressings are most sought after.
Sought after for the quality of their performances more than the pressings, the German produced records are in this case more sought after than English ones. The most sought after series are the SLPM and SLPEM 136, 138 and 139. The earlier records had large blue tulips on the label, and heavier vinyl than later pressings, and are the most collectible.
Some of the early Living Presence Mercurys sound superb. The earliest had dark maroon or plum labels.
Many of the earliest Living Stereo records are amongst the finest records ever produced. Many of the best were actually pressed at Decca pressing plants in the UK.
There are many other highly collectible records notably the early original mono recordings which can be found, for instance on the Decca LXT label, Columbia 33CX label and the HMV ALP label. The earliest LXTs have gold writing on the label (later ones have silver text). The earliest 33CXs have a blue label, while the earliest ALPs have a semi-circle containing Nipper, and gold writing.