How to Tell if a Record Is an Original Pressing

How to Tell if a Record Is an Original Pressing

For the discerning music lover, owning an original pressing is not just about listening to music – it’s about possessing a unique piece of history. But with so many reissues flooding the market, how to tell if a record is an original pressing?

Fear not, vinyl enthusiasts! This guide will equip you with the knowledge and tools to confidently identify original pressing or reissue, unlocking the secrets hidden within your grooves.

How to Tell if a Record Is an Original Pressing or Reissue

To tell if your vinyl is an original pressing, check the label design, presence of a barcode (pre-1970 indicates reissue), matrix code and runout etchings, vinyl weight (thinner for originals), condition of the sleeve (originals show wear), and online resources like Discogs and vinyl communities.

When it comes to collecting records, discerning an original pressing from a reproduction can be tricky and time-consuming. Being able to spot the difference between an authentic record and a counterfeit one is crucial if you want to make sure your record collection is as complete and valuable as possible.

Whether you’re just getting into buying old albums or have been around for ages, this article will help you learn the best ways of determining which albums on sale are likely to be originals.

Basic Indicators of an Original Pressing

VinylClean and glossy surface, free from deep scratches, warping, or excessive wear. Light surface marks or hairline scratches may be present.
Sleeve/CoverOriginal label and catalog number associated with the release. Compare design and typography to known examples from the same period.
JacketSturdy and in good condition, not excessively worn, torn, or damaged. Legible text on the spine and relevant graphics from the release.
Label and Catalog NumberCheck for inscriptions, etchings, or matrix numbers engraved in the space between the recorded music and the label.
Inner SleevesInspect for tears, stains, or damage. Additional artwork, lyrics, or information may be present.
Run-off Groove and Dead WaxWell-preserved and intact, with minimal wear, tears, or damage. Essential for the album’s artwork and overall presentation.
PackagingAssess the overall packaging, including inserts, posters, lyric sheets, or bonus content.
Sleeve ConditionWell-preserved and intact, minimal wear, tears, or damage. Essential for the album’s artwork and overall presentation.
BarcodesMachine-readable symbols printed on the sleeve or record label that contain product information.
Bonus ContentAdditional material or exclusive features included with the release, such as bonus tracks, extended liner notes, posters, stickers, etc.

1. Find and Authenticate Catalog and Serial Numbers

Identifying and distinguishing the first pressings of vinyl records heavily relies on catalog and serial numbers. These numbers play an essential role in authenticating records, determining their edition and release details, and even pinpointing the specific pressing plant and mastering engineer. By comparing and interpreting these numbers, collectors can accurately identify first pressings and gain valuable insights into their vinyl treasures.

For example, the Beatles’ iconic album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” has a catalog number of “PCS 7027” on the Parlophone label. This number, along with the serial number etched in the dead wax, helps collectors identify the specific pressing and edition of their record. By comparing these numbers to online databases and reference materials, they can determine the record’s authenticity, value, and historical significance.

2. Analyze the Barcode to Determine Release Date

Barcodes on vinyl records can offer valuable clues when determining the pressing period or approximate release date. While not a direct indicator, barcodes can be used in conjunction with other information for a more informed assessment. Researching label history, comparing release dates, analyzing barcode format, considering industry adoption, and cross-referencing with release information are all helpful strategies. However, it’s important to remember that barcodes alone may not be definitive, as other factors can influence their presence or absence. A comprehensive approach considering various aspects is key to accurately identifying the pressing period of a vinyl record.


3. Examine the Center Labels

Meticulously examining vinyl record labels unlocks a wealth of information about the release’s history, edition, and potential value. Variations in center label color, copyright notices, and inscribed names can offer clues about different pressings, and reissues, or even identify rare editions.

By comparing labels side-by-side and referencing resources like discographies and forums, collectors can gain valuable insights into the record’s journey. Label examination is not just about authentication and rarity assessment; it’s about preserving the historical context and appreciating the artistic choices that shaped the release.

So, next time you hold a vinyl record, take a moment to delve into the story hidden within its label and discover the fascinating history it holds.

4. Interpret the matrix numbers on The Dead Wax

The dead wax, that silent space between the record’s music and label, holds whispered secrets about its journey. Within this blank expanse, etched matrix numbers offer clues to the record’s origins, revealing its edition, pressing plant, and even the mastering engineer who shaped its sound.

Learning to read and interpret these hidden messages requires careful observation and knowledge, but the rewards are vast. By meticulously comparing dead wax information with trusted resources like discography databases, collector communities, and label-specific references, collectors can unlock a deeper understanding of their vinyl treasures.

This process validates variations, verifies authenticity, and contributes to the preservation of vinyl history. Ultimately, deciphering the dead wax is more than just identifying a record; it’s a journey into the past, a connection with fellow enthusiasts, and a profound appreciation for the artistry etched within the grooves.

5. Identify the Pressing Date and Value of the Record

Determining a vinyl record’s release year involves a detective’s work, piecing together clues scattered across various sources. Scrutinize copyright dates, delve into label and catalog numbers, analyze cover art and design for era-specific trends, research historical context, consult discography resources, and examine the dead wax’s matrix numbers for clues.

While the exact year may remain elusive for some records, combining these methods and conducting thorough research unveils a fascinating journey of discovery, adding another layer of appreciation to the joy of vinyl collecting.

6. Identify Special Editions and Collector’s Items

Identifying special and limited vinyl editions requires a detective’s work, combing through artist websites, forums, and databases to familiarize yourself with known special releases. Closely examine artwork, packaging, and numbering for clues like unique designs, individual numbering, “Limited Edition” statements, colored vinyl, special pressing features, and exclusive bonus content.

Don’t overlook labels hype stickers, or official documentation and certificates, as these can verify exclusivity and enhance the collectibility of your vinyl treasures. Remember, special editions can vary greatly, so consult official resources, engage with collector communities, and gather information from reliable sources to ensure authenticity and maximize your vinyl exploration.

7. Use Reliable Resources and Tools

Reliable resources empower vinyl collectors with accurate information, enabling them to verify records, authenticate releases, avoid counterfeits, assess market value, build community consensus, and continuously learn. Leveraging trusted platforms like Discogs, collector communities, artist websites, and label websites allows collectors to access a vast amount of data, engage with a community of enthusiasts, and enhance their ability to identify and understand the records in their collections.

By verifying information from multiple sources, cross-referencing details, and remaining critical, collectors can ensure the accuracy of their research, build a valuable collection, and contribute to the ongoing preservation and documentation of vinyl music history.

Whether you’re a vinyl enthusiast looking to spot fakes, identify original pressings, grade records, or inspect used ones, our comprehensive vinyl record guides have you covered.

How to Spot Fake Vinyl Records: Discover expert tips and techniques for identifying counterfeit vinyl records and safeguarding your collection’s authenticity.

How to Grade Vinyl Records: Learn the art of vinyl record grading to assess the condition and value of your records accurately, whether you’re a collector or looking to sell.

How to Inspect a Used Vinyl Record: Dive into the essential steps for inspecting pre-owned vinyl records, ensuring you make informed choices when expanding your music library.


Identifying original pressings requires attention to detail and a comprehensive approach. It’s important to rely on trusted resources, cross-reference information, and consider multiple factors such as label variations, matrix numbers, release history, and sound quality.

While visual indicators can provide initial clues, appearances alone are not sufficient to determine original pressings. The process of identifying records should be approached with a sense of enjoyment and curiosity, as it involves uncovering the history and value of vinyl records.

However, it’s crucial to acknowledge the complexity of record identification and the absence of quick and foolproof methods. By investing time, research, and expertise, collectors can enhance their understanding and appreciation of vinyl records while building a valuable and authentic collection.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I rely solely on the catalog number to identify an original pressing?

While catalog numbers can provide helpful information, they should not be the sole determining factor. Some catalog numbers are reissued or used across multiple pressings, so it’s important to consider other indicators such as label variations and matrix numbers.

2. Are colored vinyl records always indicative of an original pressing?

Not necessarily. While colored vinyl can be associated with certain original pressings, it’s also commonly used in reissues and special editions. It’s important to verify other identifiers to determine if a colored vinyl record is an original pressing.

3. Are all first pressings of an album considered original pressings?

While first pressings are often considered original pressings, it’s important to note that subsequent pressings made shortly after the initial release can still be original pressings. Factors such as label variations, matrix numbers, and other manufacturing details should be taken into account to determine their authenticity.

4. Are promotional or DJ copies always original pressings?

Promotional or DJ copies can be original pressings, but it’s not always the case. Some promotional copies are reissued or specially produced for promotional purposes. It’s necessary to examine the specific identifiers associated with the release to determine if a promotional copy is an original pressing.

5. Are records with shrink wrap considered original pressings?

Shrink wrap alone does not guarantee that a record is an original pressing. Shrink wrap can be applied during the manufacturing process or by subsequent sellers. It’s important to consider other indicators such as label variations, matrix numbers, and release details to determine if a shrink-wrapped record is an original pressing.

Kenneth Haney


Kenneth Haney is an ardent collector and (self-proclaimed) scholar of vinyl records, with extensive knowledge ranging from production roots to pressing nuances and audio equipment. His favorite record is “Untitled Unmastered” by Kendrick Lamar.


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