In this blog post, I will be guiding you through that daunting process of deciding whether a rare vinyl record is an original or not. There are plenty of telltale signs that give away a fake vinyl, you just need to know what you’re looking for. Let’s take a look.
Starting To Compare Your Vinyl Records
First things first, we are going to look at two records, side by side, one being a counterfeit and one an original. Today I’ve chosen Gloria Jones – Come Go With Me. Unfortunately, if you didn’t have the two together, it would be extremely difficult to tell which is the original copy and which is the counterfeit.
Quality of the Vinyl Sleeve
When taking them out of the sleeve, you can tell straight away which is more authentic simply by the look and quality feel of both the vinyl and the label.
Remember, a counterfeit record can easily be presented in an authentic company sleeve that corresponds with the release in question. However, as the world of copied vinyl is growing, working out which is the original copy requires looking directly at the vinyl.
Definition of the Text on the Vinyl
The text on the original vinyl looks a lot sharper with precise edges and no bleed or fuzziness. You should also notice that it doesn’t just lay on top of the paper, it is actually ever so slightly embossed by the printing process.
For help with identifying whether the text is in fact embossed or not, you can angle your vinyl when analysing it, the difference is very minimal, but noticeable when the two are held together.
It’s important that you take care when analysing this, as this original vinyl holds a value of around £400 at present, whereas the counterfeit holds a value of around £30. That makes a difference of £370 – money you will not want to lose out on.
With such great potential financial expense at stake for collectors, it’s become imperative for me to promote awareness of how to identify original vinyl.
NOTE: This description applies to this specific Gloria Jones record, all counterfeits and bootlegs will have their very own defining characteristics to determine authenticity.
The Matrix Details and Dead Wax Width
One important aspect to note when comparing your vinyl records is that a counterfeit record will find it near impossible to mimic the dead wax width to be the same as the original.
Time to get measuring! Using the clever tool that is the micrometer, you can get a reasonably accurate reading of how wide the dead wax is. This tiny detailing is what sets the fakes apart from the originals.
Steps to Using a Micrometer
- Turn the micrometer on and make sure it reads zero.
- Make sure the micrometer is giving results in centimetres rather than inches. This will help with getting you a precise, easy to understand measurement.
- Pick up your record and placing the micrometer at the edge of the label to the beginning of when the turn comes away from the recording and into the dead wax.
- The micrometer will at this point tell you the dead wax width.
- Repeat steps 1 to 4 to generate a second recording.
NOTE: Label placement can vary slightly on each press so ensure the label has not been placed on the record face askew.
For the first record, the dead wax width measured at 10.6 millimeters. For the second record, the dead wax width was considerably bigger at 14.6 millimeters. The counterfeit, in this case, has a much wider dead wax.
As technology improves, it’s critical for collectors to look further into the detailing of vinyl records to sort the fakes from the originals. In the Manship Collectors Guide 7, there are multiple example comparisons of the dead wax width, the number of dead wax turns and all of the matrix details.
The Thickness of an Original Vinyl Record
The Gloria Jones Come Go With Me vinyl was created or counterfeited in the 70s when the vinyl was slightly different in makeup to the original 1966 press. Unlike some today, collectors will find they must take extra precautions when looking after older Northern Soul originals as they are fragile and any bends could cause it to crack or snap. Again, this is another key feature that helps indicate a classic in this case and many other Rare Northern Soul vinyl.
Let’s Go In-Depth Spotting Bootleg Vinyl Records
As each vinyl was created in different decades and had different creators, it’s important to look at more records in order to find all of those important details that make a vinyl original.
Susan Coleman – The Age of The Wolf
Learning The “Fake” Vinyl Terminology
With the Susan Coleman vinyl, there are 2 records worth looking at to understand the different terminology. One of the records is known as a “counterfeit” which is the term used to describe a record that works to replicate the original. The second fake is known as a “bootleg” which is obviously not the same as the original due to the different sleeve packaging.
The Original’s Nashville Matrix Stamp
Looking at Susan Coleman’s vinyl, in particular, anyone who tells you the matrix stamp is just above the ‘R’ on the remix is incorrect. All of the labels that go on the vinyl are put on at different angles. You can confirm this by checking the front and back of the vinyl to see the difference. This is no indication of an original. An actual indication of an original is a clear-cut Nashville Matrix Stamp, that is vivid and sharp to the eye.
The Counterfeit Age of The Remix Vinyl
Just like the original, this counterfeit has a Nashville Matrix Stamp, although it is a very poor replica. It’s faint looking and is hard to identify, even though the scratching has in fact been attempted. If it must be angled to try and identify the stamp, odds are it isn’t an original. It will also be a lot more flexible making it super easy to bend without it snapping.
The Bootleg of Age of The Remix Vinyl
This was created in order to meet the demand for the record. It is slightly flexible, though a tad thicker than the counterfeit.
Joe Douglas on Playhouse
The next three records we are going to look at I know have recently been attempted to get passed off as originals. Sadly more than a few collectors have bought these “originals” to find they are in fact bootlegs.
The Original Playhouse Vinyl
This is a very rare record, a great double sider and currently very sought after. The original vinyl is a three turn dead wax, that has virtue within it and Lou Caldwell’s signature lightly cut into the dead wax in between the second and the third one.
The Counterfeit Playhouse Vinyl
Having recently been sold as the original, it’s key that we look into the detailing of this to understand the features that show it’s fake. Like the original, there is a copy of virtue in the dead wax which is not the neat and tidy virtue that you’d expect. It’s rather scratchy looking and very large in comparison.
It also has an extremely faint Lou Caldwell signature, that is hardly readable. There is a tiny kangaroo down sport effect and when holding the counterfeit against the original, it is clear to see that rich blue on the original is not mimicked, nor is the text quality. Both of these areas fall short for the vinyl, uncovering it to be a fake record copy.
Little Eddie Taylor – I Had A Good Time On Peacock
The Original Vinyl
This is an authentic, unplayed original. The fine detailing of the vinyl on the label really makes it a beautiful record that to counterfeit will be rather difficult. The design and colour being so bold will be more than likely result in it being blurred in the copy.
To begin with, you can see ‘L R S 1165 – RE2’ in the dead wax. It’s good to note that “RE” does not stand for re-issue and this is the original vinyl.
The Bootleg Version
The bootleg version of the I Had A Good Time On Peacock was made from roundabout 1977. This bootleg’s label has been created on a plain label which people are trying to pass off as a test press. If you look in the dead wax, the number is ‘UV 1165’ with a ‘2’ in a circle. This vinyl is also a lot more bendy.
The Counterfeit Vinyl
The ingenuity of counterfeit records is highlighted in this case, on the label with the promotion of it being original using two little ‘x’s on the label. It has a very narrow dead wax which reads ‘MM-1023-1’.
The way in which we validate originals and counterfeits is using the stock copy which is exactly the same width dead wax and identical standard press (matrix) that comes off the master plate. Some fakes will simply cross out all of the text for the promotion of the original to try and show that it is, in fact, the original – when it’s not.
6 key steps to spot a bootleg vinyl:
In summary, there are many different signs to look out for on each vinyl record to determine whether or not it’s original.
- Look at the quality of the vinyl and compare the definition of the text. This should look a lot sharper on the original.
- Use a micrometer to measure your rare vinyl record’s dead wax width. More often than not, these measurements can never be mimicked to the correct centimetre!
- Analyse the thickness of your rare vinyl record. Odds are, if you don’t feel as though you must take extra precautions with it, it’s likely to be a bootleg vinyl. Remember that original vinyl are fragile and easily snapped if you do the “wobble” test – this is NOT advised for folks at home.
- The matrix stamp on your original vinyl will be sharp, clear and easily identified. Replica vinyl will usually be faint-looking and some, almost impossible to read.
- Compare the matrix on each vinyl. Even if they look just a sharp as one another, the sizing and layout of each may differ. Usually, the matrix on either the bootleg vinyl or counterfeit vinyl tends to be larger.
- Look at the labels, ingenious marker pen X’s or blacking out of “Promotional Text” are not indications of authenticity. Neither are BB drill holes, often administered by the counterfeiter to give the appearance of authenticity. The ingenuity of the counterfeit seller has no boundaries.
- EVERY bootleg & counterfeit will have its own identifying characteristics, there is no ‘one-rule-fits-all’.
For full details to knowing if a rare vinyl record is original, you can check out the Manship Collectors Guide Edition 7.
A Bit About Manships Collectors Guide
This rare vinyl collectors guide is a limited edition with only 1,000 of these guides ever been published. It is a substantial publication that sadly weighs a little too much for you to carry around with you at record fairs. It is approximately 4 kilos in weight and costs £75 which calculates to around $100.
What’s Inside The Vinyl Guide?
Within the guide is all of the information you need for identifying, authenticating and comparing prices, labels and their colours, vinyl colours and DJ to stock copy.
Aside from all of the “how-to’s” there are hundreds of beautiful label scans with some scans from the most influential collectors and DJs within the Northern Soul scene, including Soul Sam and Mr. Fish.
There is also features from Motown collector, Barry Simpson, dedicate Detroit soul collector Richard Johnson and the one and only John Ridley who is the world expert on deep soul. Plus trail-blazing Rare Soul DJ’s like USA’s Greg Belson, Uk’s Mick Heffernan and Australian ady DJ Miss Goldie.
Each collector & DJ has kindly given their most treasured records labels scans from the inside of their “Off-Limits” DJ boxes and memorabilia to be featured in this guide.
With the limited stocks of this guide, I’m here to dive deeper inside this book, to help save many collectors from wasting their money on worthless counterfeits and copies of northern soul. With the hundreds and hundreds of fake copies out there, using this guide, you’ll be able to identify original vinyl from bootleg vinyl.