THE BEATLES B.C. -- Before Capitol

Part Four

First Edition 01 My 02

Fakes and Fantasies


A counterfeit or fake record is one that attempts to pass itself off as a genuine record that was actually issued by a legitimate record company at one time. Sometimes, counterfeits do not look exactly like the genuine copies that the mimic but are slightly different.


A fantasy record or sleeve is one that pretends to be a rare and otherwise unknown item. However, no legitimate record company ever pressed or printed an item like that one.


A pirate copy of a record is a counterfeit that is made while the legitimate record is still selling. These lower quality "knock-offs" are intended to dupe people into buying them at a lower price than the genuine record album would cost.

While Vee Jay and Swan were still producing Beatles records, there was certainly no need for anyone to make "pirate," "counterfeit," or "fantasy" records on those labels. However, during the late 1960's demand arose for Beatles records on those two labels. Counterfeiters filled that void, making counterfeit copies of Introducing the Beatles and of the Swan "She Loves You" single. The 1970's and '80's saw even more counterfeits being circulated. Since there were no legitimate copies selling, these counterfeits are -- strictly speaking -- NOT "pirate" copies, even though they were not being sold as "collectors' items."

"She Loves You"/"I'll Get You" (Counterfeit) Swan 4152

"She Loves You"/"I'll Get You" (Counterfeit) Swan 4152
white label with red print OR black label with silver print
It has been believed for some time that "thin print" copies with quotation marks were reissues available in 1966 and 1967 (just before Swan Records folded in 1967). These rumors are false, for Swan had a contract to release the single for two years and stopped pressing "She Loves You" in 1965. There are two common issues of these fakes:
1. The matrix numbers are stamped into the trail-off by machine. Unlike the genuine Swan issues, the matrix numbers are only 1/16" high, and neither the "Reco-Art" nor "Virtue Studio" company information appears in the matrix.
2. The matrix numbers are etched by hand, otherwise as above.
On both of these fakes, the words "DON'T DROP OUT" do not appear on the label. Style 3 labels, with quotation marks.
The "stamped matrix" fakes have been promoted as reissues. Even though these fakes are almost as common as the 'black label' issues and are not genuine, public opinion for years that they were genuine has caused them to sell for $40 to $50 each. The "etched matrix" fakes have been recognized as counterfeits and usually sell for under $10.
Some counterfeit/fantasy copies of the white and red label "She Loves You" were pressed in red vinyl. These tend to sell for about $20, twice as much as the more common black vinyl counterfeits.

"Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand"/"How Do You Do It?" (Fantasy) Swan 4197
Swan Records never had a license to press singles containing the "other" song that the Beatles had recorded in German. Since Capitol Records had released the English version of "I Want to Hold Your Hand," the license went to them. Capitol did release the German-language song on their Something New album in 1964.
This fantasy Swan label was made during the 1970's. The font used on the label is nothing any of the genuine Swan variations. In case you were curious, the real record numbered Swan 4197 was "Gee Baby (I'm Sorry)" by the Three Degrees, a song that stayed in the top 100 for a few weeks in 1965.

"Please Please Me"/"Ask Me Why" (Fantasy) Vee Jay 498 sleeves
Since the Beatles were complete unknowns in the USA in early 1963, Vee Jay Records never issued a picture sleeve for their first release. Bootleggers have filled the void by producing fantasy sleeves. Each of the above sleeves first appeared after 1980.
The first sleeve, shown above, features an early photo of the group. Like the actual single, the sleeve misspells "Beatles," using two T's. There are promotional markings on the reverse side, as though the sleeve had accompanied original white/gray label promo copies. In reality, the sleeve came about 20 years too late.
The second sleeve sports four drawings of the Beatles that Vee Jay actually did produce. These are the drawings that appear inside Songs, Pictures, and Stories, on the Souvenir ... EP, on the poster to Beatles vs. the Four Seasons, and on the picture sleeve to "Do You Want to Know a Secret". On this fantasy sleeve, the brackets logo was used, even though Vee Jay hadn't come up with it in early 1963. The group's name is also spelled correctly.

"From Me to You"/"Thank You Girl" (Fantasy) Vee Jay 522 sleeves
As with the above single, there were no original picture sleeves accompanying the Beatles' second single for Vee Jay. Bootleggers have produced at least two fantasy sleeves for the record. Again, both sleeves are of recent origin.
The first sleeve is a pale imitation of the genuine sleeve to Vee Jay 581, with the photograph flipped around.
The second sleeve uses the photo from the 1982 re-release of "Love Me Do." This second-generation picture is blurry.

"Please Please Me"/"From Me to You" (Counterfeit) Vee Jay 581 sleeves
The first of these sleeves is actually a counterfeit/fantasy item, not intended to fool someone but to simply occupy the missing place of a rare item in someone's collection. The sleeve is clearly unlike the genuine sleeve, for the group's name appears here in green and in red on the original sleeve.
The sleeve on the right is a different matter! Look at the top (opening) of the sleeve. Genuine copies of the VJ 581 sleeve have the slick cut so that the corners at the top are slightly rounded; copies that have the corners cut square are counterfeits.

Introducing the Beatles (Counterfeit) Vee Jay SR 1062
All genuine stereo copies of Introducing the Beatles play in true stereo and have the word "STEREO" on the label. Since true stereo copies are hard to find, they have been widely counterfeited, beginning in the 1960's. First, here are a few tips:

Clearly Counterfeit Covers

Let's first look at some fakes that are clearly identifiable just from the cover:

The cover is ugly and yellowed. The photograph is clearly a second generation copy. The word "STEREO" is printed on the front cover (since the counterfeiters did not actually own a stereo cover). These fakes date to the late 1960's.

Here's another "easy loser." There are no genuine copies of the LP with a brown border around the album. Most likely, these were semi-fantasy items that were never intended to pass themselves off as genuine. Since they first appeared in the mid-to-late 1970's, some people have forgotten that they are fakes.

This fake, from the late 1970's, was supposed to resemble the genuine article. Apparent problems in picture quality made the counterfeiters decide to airbrush the background. George Harrison has a shadow behind him on all genuine copies -- and even on most fakes -- but not on this particular counterfeit. Another "easy to spot loser."

Clearly Countefeit Back Covers

In a few cases, the back cover, too, can tip you off that you're looking at a phony copy of Introducing the Beatles

The printing of the columns and back cover information should be sharp and clear throughout. Here's a back cover from the mid-1970's where the "H" in "HONEY" has some printing defects. This particular cover is even easier to detect as a fake because the front cover does not wrap around to the back properly:

The front cover SHOULD wrap completely around, underneath the back cover slick. Most counterfeits made after the late 1970's do wrap properly, but this earlier one does not. Notice that the front cover slick suddenly "becomes white". This is because the counterfeiters made copies of an LP cover while it was still contstructed. Later counterfeiters actually unfolded an original cover before making a copy, so those later ones are better fakes than the one shown above.

One problem with many later fakes, like this one from the late 1970's, is that they were shot off of other fakes. The printing problems that the earlier one was having are now more accentuated. The word "HONEY" is now missing a few chunks. The vertical bars across the label don't have sides that are truly straight, either. Throughout the back cover printing, there are bleed overs and little bits missing.

Clearly Counterfeit Labels

The vast majority of counterfeit copies of Introducing the Beatles cannot be easily identified by their covers alone. Chances are, though, if it claims to be in stereo and claims to have "Love Me Do" in the titles on the back, it's a phony. The best test to determine whether your item is genuine is to look at the symbols that are stamped into the matrix of the record. Since this can be difficult -- even confusing for some -- we'll take the next best route: to look at the labels. On page two of this series, we examined genuine labels, so now let's look at a few counterfeits:

This is an all black label with large brackets. These were first introduced in the late 1970's, along with fakes of Songs, Pictures, and Stories and Hear the Beatles Tell All. The label is of higher quality than some of the "rainbow label" fakes, but since the artist name and title are separated by the spindle hole, it's a clear fake. Also, during the 1960's, Vee Jay never released a "large brackets" version of an "all black label." Finally, these usually come in covers claiming that the record is in stereo; the label does not say "STEREO" -- another sign of a counterfeit. Some "all black" counterfeit labels from the same period list "Ask Me Why" and "Please Please Me" -- since the counterfeiters did not own copies that had "Love Me Do" and "PS I Love You" on them.

This style counterfeit label was very popular -- some copies date back to the 60's. Notice the thin print on the catalog number. Like the other fakes, the mono catalog number is shown on the label; the bootleggers did not have stereo copies to copy from. That's why the songs are in mono, too. Here, we see again the telltale sign -- that the word "STEREO" is absent, and the title and artist name are separated by the spindle hole. Either one of these is the sign of a fake.

By the late 1970's, some copies of the same style fake as the one above were being made sloppily. Notice that the label is not the right size. Part of the color band is missing around the label's edge. Otherwise, it exhibits the same counterfeit characteristics as the label above.

This counterfeit, from the early 1980's, looks slightly better. The colors in the color band are more realistic. However, the word "STEREO" is still missing, and the cover this record came with claimed it was in stereo. It's also got the title and artist's name separated. Another fake.

Here's another fake, again slightly more professional-looking. This one came out during the mid-1980's. Once again, though, we have a brackets label copy without "STEREO" (and the cover promised us stereo). And even more clearly, the title and artist's name are separated by the spindle hole in the middle. A disappointing effort.

This counterfeit was color photocopied from a genuine MONO copy of the LP, so the title and artist's name are in the right place. The colors are strange, but it would fool most people. It came in a "stereo" cover, though, so again something is wrong. Notice that the color green is missing from the label. The record also lists "Please Please Me" and "Ask Me Why," since that's the kind of genuine copy that was being photocopied. The label also has a large pressing ring, a kind not found on genuine 1964 releases.

NOTE: Quite a few counterfeiters didn't even own copies of the LP with "Love Me Do" on them. Instead, they were just copying covers that other fakers had made. They did own copies of the LP with "Please Please Me," so they simply used a recording with PPM and labels that read LMD. The result: copies that claim to have "Love Me Do" on them but do not. Copies that do not play the correct songs are typically counterfeits. And of course, the above rules for the label identification apply.

NOTE 2: Counterfeit copies DO exist that list "Ask Me Why" and "Please Please Me" on the back cover. Many of those fakes are of the earlier, easy to detect variety. Once again, copies with covers that claim to be stereo need to have labels that say STEREO and records that actually play in stereo.

Songs and Pictures [sic] of the Fabulous Beatles (Counterfeit) Vee Jay LP 1092
When counterfeiters began to reproduce the Songs, Pictures, and Stories album, they found that reproducing the 3/4 fold-open cover was difficult. Some of them, beginning in the mid-1970's thought it would be clever to remove the "stories" and shorten the title of the LP. All copies of the album without the original gatefold cover are counterfeits. Some copies of this fake have their labels corrected so that the title and number match this LP; all genuine copies had regular (genuine) Introducing the Beatles records in them.

"Do You Want to Know a Secret?"/"Thank You Girl" (Counterfeit/Fantasy) Vee Jay 587 sleeve
There were no genuine promotional sleeves for VJ 587. Any such sleeves that exist -- like the one above -- are fantasy items. The graphics on the sleeve were taken from the regular commercial sleeve.

"Twist and Shout"/"There's a Place" (Fantasy) Tollie T-9001
Copies in colored vinyl, like the one above from the 1980's, are obvious fakes. There are other fakes, too, with similar label styles. Since the labels resemble genuine copies of the single, it is best to look at the trail-off. Genuine singles have one or more pieces of information stamped into the matrix by machine. These may include the Monarch Records (MR) logo, the words "AudioMatrix," or other letter combinations. Counterfeit copies do not have these machine-stamped symbols but instead have the entire matrix etched in by hand.

"Twist and Shout"/"There's a Place" (Fantasy) Tollie T-9001 sleeve
Tollie Records issued no picture sleeve with the "Twist and Shout" single. There have been several attempts to create fantasy sleeves for the record. The one on the left is a crude effort from the 1970's. Its cover image was copied from Hard Day's Night album photos. The fantasy sleeve on the right is from the 1980's. Its graphics were borrowed from the sleeve to VJ 587.

"Love Me Do"/"PS I Love You" (Counterfeit) Tollie T-9008
There is a genuine Tollie label style that has "Tollie Records" drawn in a box. However, these counterfeits (from the 1980's) have the word "TOLLIE" in thick, block letters. The genuine "hand drawn box" labels have "TOLLIE" in thin, curved print.

"Love Me Do"/"PS I Love You" (Counterfeit) Tollie T-9008 sleeve
This fake is recent (1990's). It can be distinguished from the genuine sleeves by the "curve cut" thumb tab at the top. Genuine sleeves do not have this feature.

Their Biggest Hits (Fantasy) Tollie TEP 1-8901 EP
These fantasy EP's were manufactured during the mid to late 1970's. Some copies have labels that seem to resemble genuine Tollie labels. However, ALL copies of this EP or not, regardless of how genuine the labels look, are fantasy items. There were never any copies of any Beatles EP issued by Tollie Records.

Souvenir of Their First Trip to America (Counterfeit) Vee Jay EP 1-903
The Vee Jay EP has also been subject to counterfeiting since the 1970's. ALL copies of the EP that are "picture discs" are fantasy items.
The EP label on the left doesn't look remotely similar to a genuine Vee Jay label, so it is easy to identify as a counterfeit.
The EP on the right has a label similar to the scarce "black label with oval logo"; however, the label is white. None of these white label copies are genuine, but this particular record is attractive looking.

The Beatles and Frank Ifield on Stage (Counterfeit) Vee Jay LP/SR 1085
Counterfeits have been made of both the more common ("old man") cover and the rare (Beatles portrait) cover. The counterfeit labels (above) usually resemble a genuine label style -- all black label with "VJ". The label print is almost imperceptibly different from the genuine article. The label itself is a lighter (gray) shade than the genuine label, which is black. Also, the print on the label is slightly fuzzy on the counterefeit.
The covers are more easy to distinguish. SOME counterfeit covers have no printing on the spine.
Some portrait covers, like this one, do not have the word STEREO at the top or the mono number at the bottom. In other words, the front cover does not identify whether the record is in mono or stereo.
The most common counterfeit "old man" cover has the word "STEREO" printed in the lower right hand corner. Original copies have a large STEREO at the top. The colors are also slightly different than on the genuine LP cover.

"Do You Want to Know a Secret", "Love Me Do",
"Please Please Me", "Twist and Shout"
(Counterfeit) Oldies OL-149, 150, 151, 152
Every one of the Vee Jay reissues on their Oldies label was counterfeited, beginning in the early 1970's.
Some fakes, from the late 1970's, are easy to identify because the Oldies logo has been changed to black from white. All copies with "OLDIES" in black are cheap counterfeits.
More common, though, are counterfeits whose labels resemble the originals. The records themselves do not have the appropriate machine stamping. All genuine copies have the Monarch Records (MR) logo stamped in by machine; many genuine copies have the "AudioMatrix" stamp. The counterfeits lack these. Some counterfeits even have a fake (MR) logo etched in by hand.
The labels are a good way to spot most fakes quickly. Since most counterfeits are made by duplicating genuine label styles, their second generation graphics are not as sharp as the real thing. In particular, the registered trademark symbol, ® is clearly visible on the real single above the large number "45" on the label. On most fakes (see above), it is almost completely missing or is very faint.
Also, all genuine labels are glossy; many counterfeits have labels that are flat.

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The Beatles Before Capitol
Articles © 2002 by Frank Daniels