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About the Label Guide

The record companies that are shown all had multiple label styles. Keep in mind that when a company switched labels, there were often a few releases made in both styles during the transition, due to different pressing plants using up their back stock of blanks. It's interesting to note that the original label styles were almost always more artistic and classier than the "upgrades." One use for this guide is to help determine if you have an original pressing or not.

In the last few years there's been a spate of LP reissues as vinyl enjoys a renaissance. Some try to duplicate the originals. However, one of the "tells' is that the covers are a little slicker these days and have no seams on top or bottom. Back in the day an album slick was pasted on the cover and folded over onto the back. A separate slick was pasted on the back, creating some noticeable seams (called "old style tip on"). For new releases, there has been a surge in limited issue vinyl especially for alternative rock, punk, metal and electro. Most were released on CD with maybe 2000 pressed on vinyl, which quickly sold out. So many bands like "Death Cab For Cutie," or "Sigur Ros" have instant $30-50 collectible albums.

I use "DJ" to denote albums that were sent out to radio stations to promote a new release. The labels were often white and many believe the pressings are superior because the stampers were crisp for these first pressings. I use "promo" to describe an album that was never released to the public. It was usually a unique album that grouped an artist's best songs, and was sent to radio stations with the hope of getting airplay. I also don't show "custom" labels, unless a company made a few of them in a certain style. In the '80s, many companies started designing record labels specifically to match the album cover of a particular release. The dates listed in red indicate the year that a label style was introduced. Lastly, I'm only covering U.S. releases for this list.

I'd like to thank Joe Lindsay, who published the first comprehensive label guide in 1986. Another good resource for determining label progressions is "Both Sides Now" (, the wonderful discography site. They do a much more in depth overview of most of these labels. Thanks to Neil Umphred, the father of modern price guides, whose books have yet to be surpassed for content, organization and clarity. Thanks also to Scott Brizel at Saturn Records for sharing some obscure record labels, and Matt Osborne for help with the photos. Finally, if you love record album covers, Mr. Chadwick's walls of album cover Amoeba blogs are amazing.

Here are some collectable labels that have gone through style changes over the years. Click on the letters to see the labels that are included.