Just because a record is old, doesn’t mean it’s a first pressing. In fact, many records were made well after the first pressing. So how can you tell if a record is really a first pressing? There are several things to look for.
This guide will help you determine whether or not that “vintage” record in your collection is the real deal.
What is a reissue pressing?
A reissue pressing is a new pressing of an album that has already been released. Reissue pressings can be done for various reasons, such as to correct errors on the original pressing or to make more copies of a famous album available to the public.
Telling if a record is the first pressing
Check out the look of the vinyl
One of the easiest ways to tell if a record is a first pressing is by looking at the vinyl itself. First pressings will often have thicker, higher-quality vinyl than later pressings. You can also look for any surface imperfections on the record. These are usually more common on second and third pressings, as the molds used to make the records wear down over time.
Check the label for printing differences
If you’re still unsure, another way to tell if a record is the first pressing is by checking the label for any printing differences. For example, first pressings will often have different fonts, colors, or designs then later pressings. You can also look for any errors on the label, as these are usually corrected on subsequent pressings.
Check edition numbers
If the record is part of a limited edition release, you can usually tell if it’s the first pressing by checking the edition number. The edition number will be higher on first pressings, as they are usually pressed in smaller quantities. For example, if a record is part of a limited edition of 1000, then the first pressing will have edition numbers 1-250, the second pressing will have edition numbers 251-500, and so on.
Barcode numbers can also help
Barcode numbers can also help identify first pressings, as they are usually different on each pressing. You can find the barcode number on the back of the record jacket or the label itself.
Catalog number prefixes can indicate the pressing
Another way to tell if a record is the first pressing is by looking at the catalog number. First pressings will often have different prefixes than later pressings. For example, the first pressing of a record might have the catalog number “RLP-1”, while the second pressing might have the catalog number “RLP-2”.
Check the presence of the initials of the master engineer
The initials of the master engineer are another way to tell if a record is the first pressing. These initials are usually etched into the runout groove of the record, which is the area between the end of the music and the beginning of the label. The initials will be different on each pressing, so you can use them to track which pressing is which.
Listen for quality differences
Another way to tell if you have the first pressing is by listening for any quality differences between that record and a reissue. First pressings will often have better audio quality, as they are made with higher-quality materials. There may also be subtle differences in the mix of the album.
Check the runout matrix
The final way to tell if a record is the first pressing is by checking the runout matrix. The runout matrix is the etching on the vinyl itself that includes information such as the album’s catalog number and the engineer’s initials. First pressings will often have a different matrix than later pressings.
Comparing first and second pressings
Now that we’ve gone over some of the ways you can tell if a record is the first pressing, let’s take a side-by-side comparison of a first and second pressing. As you can see, there are some subtle differences between the two pressings. The vinyl on the first pressing is a bit thicker, and the sound quality is slightly better. The matrix numbers on the first pressing are also lower than on the second pressing.
Of course, these differences will vary from album to album. For example, some albums will have more pronounced differences between the first and second pressings, while others will be nearly identical. In general, though, the first pressings will be of higher quality than the second ones. As a result, they’ll usually sound better, and they’ll often be more valuable as well.
So, if you’re looking for the best possible copy of an album, a first pressing will always be your best bet. Remember, though, that first pressings can be very hard to find. They’re often highly sought-after by collectors and can be pretty expensive. If you’re starting out collecting vinyl, you may want to focus on second pressings instead. They’ll be more affordable, and they’ll still sound great.
Does sound quality change over the years?
One of the common misconceptions about vinyl is that the sound quality degrades over time. It is, however, not true. Vinyl records are made to last and will sound just as good decades from now as they do today.
Of course, this assumes that you’re taking proper care of your records. If you don’t clean them or store them properly, they can start to degrade. But as long as you’re taking good care of your vinyl, the sound quality will remain excellent for years to come.
However, if the vinyl is of lower quality, then the sound quality of the records may deteriorate over time. That’s why buying first pressings on high-quality vinyl is important if you’re looking for the best sound possible.
There’s no wrong way to collect vinyl. If you find a first pressing that you love, don’t hesitate to buy it. After all, there’s nothing like owning a music history piece. First pressings are the original copies of an album, and they’re often highly sought-after by collectors.
But if you’re starting, you may want to focus on second pressings instead. They’ll be more affordable, and they’ll still sound great. Whichever way you choose to go, happy collecting!