RCA Date Codes

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RCA Date Codes

Post by annaloog » Sun Aug 17, 2008 4:10 am

Before 1955 RCA used the first 2 characters of the 4-character master no. prefix of both company issues and custom pressings* to encode the year -- this is either the year of the actual recording, or the year the master disk was cut. The first character is a letter to indicate the decade (since 1900): C = 1930; D = 1940; E = 1950. The second character, a numeral, indicates the year within the decade. For example:
  • D8 = 1948
    D9 = 1949
    E0 = 1950
    E1 = 1951
    E2 = 1952
    E3 = 1953
    E4 = 1954
If the code indicates a date before 1949, we can be reasonably sure it refers to the original recording date.

Beginning in 1955 only the first character of the prefix was reserved for the year. Some letters were skipped, likely to avoid ambiguity. The numbering system was abandoned in 1974.
  • F = 1955
    G = 1956
    H = 1957
    J = 1958
    K = 1959
    L = 1960
    M = 1961
    N = 1962
    P = 1963
    R = 1964
    S = 1965
    T = 1966
    U = 1967
    W = 1968
    X = 1969
    Z = 1970
    A = 1971
    B = 1972
    C = 1973
    D = 1974
For further details of the master no. prefix see under the heading, RCA Victor Number-Letter Codes (1950­1974) toward the bottom of this page: http://www.ronpenndorf.com/labelography4.html

N.B. Many early RCA Victor records from 1949-early '50s do not observe this numbering system, for example RCA Victor 48-0001, "Texarkana Baby"/"Bouquet Of Roses" by Eddy Arnold. This record's sides are numbered 48-0001-A and 48-0001-B, and do not offer a hint to the date.

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* For some custom pressings RCA used the client's master no. Date information for these records is thus unavailable.

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RCA custom pressing example

Post by annaloog » Sun Aug 17, 2008 4:33 am

Example of a custom pressing. Note that, in this case, besides the "B" date code there are other indicators that this record was issued in 1972.
Attachments
SW72-6460.jpg
Camaro SW72-6460 (1972)
Every Where I Look I See Your Smiling Face // Mexican Banjo
Mark Peek & Vic Hillyard And The Bluegrass Trio
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RE: RCA custom pressing example

Post by gbfrank » Sun Aug 17, 2008 5:18 am

Great info, annaloog. Thanks
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RE: RCA custom pressing example

Post by Global_Dog_Productions » Mon Aug 18, 2008 2:55 am

I sampled my box set collection and didn't find any letter codes. A couple EPs yielded nothing, EPB-1229 Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra "Yes Indeed!" had in the dead wax and on label "G2PH-2738", doesn't appear to be in wide spread use in the beginning of the 45s and EPs. Is this an LP thing?

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RE: RCA custom pressing example

Post by LoneStarStomp » Mon Aug 18, 2008 4:02 am

Thank you so much for posting this Annaloog.
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Re: RCA Date Codes

Post by annaloog » Mon Aug 18, 2008 5:41 am

Global_Dog_Productions wrote:... doesn't appear to be in wide spread use in the beginning of the 45s and EPs. Is this an LP thing?
See my note (N.B.) above which refers to the Eddy Arnold example. This numbering scheme may have been introduced about the time RCA Victor issued its first LPs.

The example below is a 10-inch 78-rpm label from about 1954 (judging by the multicolor Nipper logo) that uses both the older (A/B) and newer numbering schemes. Since there are 2 cuts on this side, I'd think the 1951 (E1) date refers to the master disk rather than the individual recordings.
Attachments
45-5037.jpg
RCA Victor 45-5037 [E-80] (1954?)
Humoresque / Andante (from "Surprise Symphony")
RCA Victor Orchestra; Ardon Cornwell
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Post by Global_Dog_Productions » Thu Aug 21, 2008 6:56 am

The first RCA numerical catalog that cross-references to LPs is 1951. Before that I have 1947 and 48 numericals. Having now looked through many more box sets I have a feeling the system Annaloog is talking about started in 1951, probably at the end of the year, for a couple reasons.

In 1942 Victor Records was running out of numbers because they offered 78 albums in a number of packages which meant some albums might use up as many as 12 numbers depending on how many configurations of the album were issued. See...

http://www.globaldogproductions.info/rca-78s.jpg

So in 1942 Victor Records became RCA Victor and introduced it's two digit prefix. At first they went crazy trying to catergorize everything with it's own prefix but in the end gave up. For example the 40 prefix series began as "Hot Jazz" 78s which ended up incorporated in the 20 prefix series of 78s and in the end the 40 prefix series ended up being a bunch of 78s on how to speak Spanish.

At the end of 1951 RCA ended in the US it's 48 and 51 prefix series (C&W and R&B) and folded them into their already existing 47 prefix series of popular singles (in Canada the 48 series on Bluebird ran another 4 years to 1955, see my website.) Likewise at the end of 1951 was the demise of the 45 box set and the first emergence of EPs.

I have a feeling that RCA in scaling back on prefixes as they were becoming too complicated adopted a secondary system annaloog has mentioned above to keep a handle on things while not confusing record sellers. In comparing RCA singles to Stak-O-Wax I found numerous times 78rpm numbers as "fills" in the 47 prefix series which were incorrect having owned the correct 45rpm numbers. I surmise RCA eliminated some prefix numbers in the US at the end of 1951 to prevent ordering confusion and added the dating codes as a means to track.

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Post by gbfrank » Thu Aug 21, 2008 12:23 pm

Thanks, Global. Between the two of you guys, we should have a much easier time with the RCA discs.
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Post by annaloog » Sun Aug 16, 2009 11:17 pm

Global_Dog_Productions wrote:... I have a feeling the system Annaloog is talking about started in 1951, probably at the end of the year, for a couple reasons....
These two April Stevens singles might help narrow the 1951 date a little bit more precisely*. Unfortunately, I don't have actual production or release dates for them.

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* Absent official documentation from RCA, of course.
Attachments
474283.jpg
RCA Victor 47-4283 (1951)
"Aw C'mon"/"And So To Sleep Again"
April Stevens with Henri René and his Orchestra
474283.jpg (33.8 KiB) Viewed 638 times
474208.jpg
RCA Victor 47-4208 (1951)
"Dreamy Melody"/"Gimme A Little Kiss, Will Ya Huh?"
April Stevens with Henri René and his Orchestra
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Post by Global_Dog_Productions » Mon Aug 17, 2009 6:31 pm

Well this is interesting, from my RCA catalogs the second April Stevens was released in September of 1951. This record was released in October of 1951 and doesn't have the "new" matrix number system. Admittably box sets were almost always later than the record numbers around them, in the case of 47-4245 the singles right next to it were released in August of 1951.

This is a Canadian single but I don't think that would change anything.
Attachments
rca47-4245-a.jpg
rca47-4245-a.jpg (22.16 KiB) Viewed 622 times

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