In the wacky world of record album collecting, you are bound to run across some strange items related to records along your journey. Some are strange because of the passage of time, making them basically unlistenable with more modern turntables. Others are just downright unusual. Here are a few of the oddball items I have run across over the years.
Souvenir Record of Jamestown Postcard
You can run across record-related items in the strangest places. One day, while rummaging through a box of old postcards in an antique shop, I ran across this souvenir postcard which also contains a mini 78 rpm record, originally distributed by Souvenirs, Inc., New York City, date unknown. It is the size of a typical postcard (roughly 3 ½ inches by 5 ½ inches) but contains “a delightful travelog-recording about this famous scenic attraction” discussing the settlement of Jamestown Island, Virginia.
Most modern day record players, mine included, refuse to play this little gem, because most automatic return record players return their tone arms to the cradle when it reaches the point where this record begins, not to mention the fact that many turntables no longer play records at the 78 rpm speed. So while you may not be able to play this record, you can still enjoy it in your collection as a novelty.
I have seen similar postcards out there, but I haven’t bought them for one reason or another. Some, due to age, have the plastic coating, which contains the record grooves, separating from the postcard; others have been damaged in other ways. But remain vigilant, and you will run across stuff like this.
The Pledge of Allegiance as Reviewed by Red Skelton
This was a promotional item from Burger King, produced by Auravision/ CBS Records. The narrative is from the Red Skelton Hour from January 14, 1969, with Red patriotically telling what the Pledge of Allegiance means to him. It was produced just like the postcard, but on a 6”x6” cardboard square. These “records” tended to curl up over time.
Sports Illustrated Flexible Disc Recordings for the Blind
I ran across a stack of these flexible disc recordings (flexi-discs) some years ago, I think at an estate sale. I’m sure many magazines were produced in record format years ago to enable blind people to enjoy their contents, but I had just never seen any. These were produced by Eva-tone out of Deerfield, Michigan, for the Library of Congress, and were mailed directly to libraries or to subscribers. The one pictured, for the October 9, 1978, Sports Illustrated, was mailed to a nursing home. They were produced on multiple pieces of paper thin plastic, and mailed with a cardboard filler to prevent damage in the mailstream. As thin as they are, they were 2-sided records, believe it or not. Originally recorded at a 16 2/3 rpm, in 1969 magazines began being recorded at 8 1/3 rpm, which allowed for twice the material to be recorded on one disc. These required a special phonograph, which for years were supplied by the Library of Congress, who retained ownership of the machines.
In 1994 flexi-discs began being phased out in favor of cheaper cassette recordings. This change was completed in 2001, when all audio books, magazines, and program materials were produced on cassette only.
However, flexi-discs for music and some other uses continued. You may have seen the promotional flexi-discs used to promote the Beatles’ red and blue compilation albums (those pictured were promo items from Musicland), or others used as magazine inserts. I remember some in National Geographic. They have also been used by political candidates to get their messages out to the public. There is much information on the internet about the history of these discs, so that’s all I will say about them.
Edison Record – Minuet in G / Souvenir by Frederick Kinsley
Every record collector should own one of these 10-inch records. Another estate sale find, most of these don’t really have any meaningful monetary value, but being almost a quarter of an inch thick are pretty cool to look at. Edison Records was one of the earliest record labels, a pioneer of sound recording and reproduction. These thick records replaced the company’s cylinder disc recordings. At one point the Edison discs were the third best selling brand in the United States, behind Victor and Columbia Records. These were typically played at 80 rpm. The discs and phonographs were more expensive than its competitors. Sales of Edison discs peaked in 1920, declining thereafter until the company ceased record production in 1929.
Look Sharp – Be Sharp featuring the Boston Pops Orchestra, Arthur Fiedler, Conductor, “specially prepared for the Employees and friends of The Gillette Company”
This is a 78 rpm 10-inch record produced, as the label states, for the employees and friends of the Gillette Company. I found this at a church estate sale. It is still in its original, but torn, mailing envelope, and record sleeve. This semi-flexible disc was “PRESSED BY RCA VICTOR DIVISION OF RADIO CORPORATION OF AMERICA”, according to the label. But I did not buy this record for the commercial message it contains. I bought it for the artsy RCA Victor logo design formed/pressed into side 2 of the disc. How cool is that?
High In-Fidelity Album Covers (Birthday/Other Occasion Cards)
Twelve gag record/birthday/other occasion cards were released by a company called Kanrom between 1962 and 1963, designed to be given as humorous cards for someone’s birthday or other occasion. These are the same size and are made just like a standard record jacket. The photography, mostly risqué, on all twelve, was done by R.A. Cantu. Instead of a record inside, each sleeve contained a round card which read, “I bought this Album for you as a gift…sorry, I couldn’t afford the record!” written on both sides of the card, along with a heart-shaped “from” area to write the giver’s name.
I first saw one of these years ago when a former coworker gave me her husband’s small record collection and one of these novelty covers was included. From that point, the search was on. I first found a few cheap, usually beat up, copies in thrift store bins, but over time replaced those with better copies from eBay. They range in price from a few bucks to around $20 each for a couple of the more desirable covers. Also pictured here is an original ad from the early 1960s, where you could order the entire set of 12 from the company for a mere $10 postpaid, or individually for $2 each, or discounted for 5 to 12 for a $1 each. What a deal! I’m sure that one day someone will run across a hoard of these in some long forgotten warehouse, eventually making their way to eBay for a reasonably priced mint set. But until then, you will have to get them piecemeal from eBay, used record shops, flea markets, and thrift stores. They are getting harder to find, despite few record collectors seeming to know about them.
Reportedly there is a second series that was produced, but they are very scarce, and there is very little information about the second series on the internet. I have never run across any of the second series in my decades of searching.
Well, that’s about it for now. Hopefully I have shown you a few novelty items that you haven’t seen before, and hopefully have expanded your horizons into other record-related collecting areas. There are plenty of novelty items out there - advertising related records, how-to records, and more, so I suspect I have barely scratched the surface. Good luck hunting!