Information about shaped vinyl recordings

Shaped vinyl, shaped records, shaped lps, and shaped picture discs are terms that are used somewhat interchangeably to describe these unique collectible sound recordings. Many, though not all, do have photos or artwork on one or both sides of the album, while some are simply colored vinyl that has been die-cut, or in many cases hand-cut into a specific shape. Most shaped records were manufactured in England or in the United States, though there are some that were made in other countries. The production of shaped vinyl recordings was at its peak in the mid 1980s, but new ones are still being made on occasion. In fact, one way to tell the difference between which recordings were manufactured in the US rather than elsewhere is fairly simple. If it is on anything other than clear vinyl and is from the 1980s, it was made in the US. There are a very few exceptions to this rule, which I hope to list more specifically at some point in the future. The primary appeal of these recordings has always been more to those interested in them for their art and collectibility rather than for the actual recorded material they contain, and so it's no surprise that the sound quality, especially on the picture discs, has never been particularly good, whether they are shaped or not. The variety of shapes into which they have been cut is amazing to say the least. There are a large number of squares, rectangles, hearts, and circular sawblades, but quite a few are incredibly unique in their shapes. In fact, some of them are so unusual, they can only be described as "irregular"! Some recordings were released in different colors or with different pictures. I've tried to note, whenever possible, any different versions or variations that I've discovered. The list of recordings that I've gathered is not a complete one, but it's getting very close. I do add new listings and information as I become aware of them, so check back for more if you're interested. If you happen to have info on more titles, please email me!
You may also note some discrepancies from time to time. If I don't have the album in my possession, the track listing or title may not be exact, though most of my sources for this information are very reliable. As well, there are a few items, for example, the live version of the Police shaped album Roxanne (Live) that clearly states on the cover that it's recorded at 33 1/3rpm, when in actuality, it's recorded at 45rpm. The same is true of Fuzzbox's Your Loss My Gain. All albums that are in my collection have been played to determine whether the information provided is accurate. This is also true of the song listings themselves, which are occasionally listed incorrectly on a label.
There are a number of shaped records that were only printed in a limited quantity. I have noted the number printed with the company and recording number identification whenever I have that information. Sometimes these numbers are clearly marked on the recording with a sticker, while some of them have been made known to me by the manufacturer. The later is particularly true of some of the very small pressings.
Please note that I do not sell any of the recordings listed on my site.
For those interested in collecting these unique shaped albums, your best bet to obtain them are the various online auction sites. There are a few album collector shops and some of them can be found online as well. Many shaped records can be acquired for around $10-$15. A few cost a little less, and there are some that will run a bit more. Shaped lps from artists like The Beatles, Madonna, The Police, and other similarly popular or collectible artists will typically be priced closer to $25-$30. There are a few rare gems like the Quincy Jones hexagonal release and the three versions of Toto's square Hydra lp that will also be worth a little more. Sometimes people will pay a good deal more, and I've seen a few listed at over $100, though with few exceptions, the real value will rarely exceed $25-$30 at this point in time. Price guide values are determined by the price that most collectors will pay for an item, not by the highest price ever paid for it by someone who didn't know any better or who just had the money to spend. To my knowledge, the highest price paid for a shaped record was $760 for the square shape of The Police's "Can't Stand Losing You", actually worth closer to $500. The value can be slightly higher if the packaging is original. Some shaped picture albums come with plinths (cardboard stands that fold to display the record in a standing position), backing cards or posters. Sometimes they are advertised as "mint condition, still sealed". Be aware that many of these were never sold in truly sealed condition. Some of them were distributed in plastic covers that had a flap with a strip that it tucked into, while others simply came with a circular sticker or two that functioned as the only seal. It's more important that the record was stored in an appropriate manner that has kept it from warping or discoloring. That brings up another point. I have come across a few listings by individuals that claim to have an extremely rare amber colored version of a shaped picture lp. They may try to convince you by saying that the lettering isn't discolored, so the record "can't" be sun damaged, and they may refer you to other collector's sites to back up their claims. I have talked with several record dealers, with the author of a book on shaped records, and with a shaped record producer and they do not support the claims of these individuals. There are a few amber colored record releases, but not as a limited edition subset of another one pressed on clear vinyl. The discoloring occurs due to the acidic content of the paper and can happen with or without exposure to the sun, though sunlight may increase the severity or have additional effects.
It's not unusual for items to be listed at a price higher than their value as the seller wants to make more money and hopes to find someone who doesn't know the true value. Collectors who know the value are sometimes willing to pay more than an item is actually worth in the hope that the value will later increase, or because their collection is nearing completion. Some people may pay more simply because they haven't seen the item before and believe it to be scarce or believe the seller when they talk about how valuable the item is. I don't know how many times I've seen listings calling a recording "rare", "never seen anything like this", or some similar comment, only to see the same item listed a few weeks later at a lower price. Sometimes it's available at the same time. One example of this is a listing I saw for the "infamous v-cut 1st pressing" of Iron Maiden's The Trooper. The item fetched a price of over $110 despite the fact that there were two other listings on Ebay for other copies that clearly also were the same first pressing with the v-cut. They both sold for less than $20 and all three looked to be in very similar condition. Also, be aware that just because something has been printed in a limited quantity doesn't automatically make it worth more. If you only print 100 copies, but nobody wants them, they aren't really worth very much. Be cautious about believing statements about a record being appraised at some high value as well. The odds are very good that either it was appraised by someone unfamiliar with shaped records or (even more likely) that the claim is just a fabrication rather than a fact.
The trick to not paying more than the recording is worth is to be patient. Know what you're willing to spend and be aware of the approximate real value. If you have to pass an item up, don't worry. The odds are very good that another copy will show up later. This is even true of uncut shaped lps which are even more rare. The uncut versions aren't supposed to leave the processing area without being cut. A few of them do, and they are more scarce than shaped versions, though there are uncut versions available for almost every shaped record. I only list the ones I own or have seen photographs of, but almost every single title has uncut copies available. As well, you may come across some that appear to be uncut shaped picture discs that are not, they are simply 12" singles that were recorded on clear vinyl with a cut picture inside. The way to tell the difference is by noting whether or not the recording itself is near the outer edge of the record. If it is, then it isn't an uncut picture disc. There are also uncut pictureless shaped records which appear to be even more rare. Rather than being mistakes, as they are often referred to, they are simply test pressings. They are definitely harder to find, but their value is usually not much more than other copies of the same recording.
There are very few album price guides that list any shaped lps at this point, and they are typically treated more as a curiosity than as a collectible. Part of the reason for the information provided here is to help fill that vacuum, and I hope it has helped answer at least some of the questions you may have had. Special thanks to both Dave Richards and Peter Bastine for their help with some of the details about this rather unique collection of recorded music. At some point, I may have pictures of each record available... when I have time... meanwhile, for those who would like to see a few to have a better idea of what I've been talking about, click here for a picture of some shaped vinyl, and here for a picture of some shaped picture discs. And the full listing of shaped records that are known to exist is here. Happy collecting and be sure to check out the companion pages for shaped cds and cardboard records too!


FURTHER RESOURCES (These can be hard to find too...)

The Book of Shapes: Art in Records, by Peter Bastine, 1986
The Gimmix Book of Records, by Von Frank Goldmann and Klaus Hiltscher, 1981
Picture Discs of the World Price Guide, edited by Joe Lindsay, Pete Bukoski, and Marc Grobman, 1990
Shapes, by Ted Elliott, 1993

Record Collecting Resources