Old 78 record sleeves

Rare record sleeves from around the world
 Graham McDonald

The NFSA gets a lot of collection offers of material from deceased estates. These can be anything from a few old records under the radiogram to a whole room full of treasures in a house that has to be emptied by the weekend or the whole lot goes to the tip. Twenty years ago when the collection was in its early stages of development, staff were rather more generous in bringing in such offers to the NFSA warehouse. Inevitably there would be some things that would not be selected to be formally included in the collection and for one reason or another were overlooked and left untouched for some time.

A few weeks ago we were going through several boxes of what we call ‘non-selected’ left-overs and found a box of a couple of hundred paper sleeves that once held 10 inch 78 rpm shellac discs. These were sleeves from record companies, distributors and retail shops both here in Australia and overseas. A look through the database showed that there are a few in the collection, but not the variety in this mysterious and anonymous box. A search across the web didn’t bring to light much wider interest in these record sleeves, which seem to have become a forgotten artifact in the world of record collecting. The art of the early record sleeve has an allure all of it’s own that speaks of simplicity and charm that might not of interest only to the record collectors but to music enthusiasts, historians, designers and those fine purveyors of pretty things.

These sleeves tell their own stories about record labels, distributors and the shops that sold them. We thought it was worthwhile to extract a few of the interesting and intriguing gems from the box and expose them to the wider world.

See our Flickr set The art of the early record sleeve