Monthly Archives: March 2010

Silver Elvis

 

There is a precious metals store just a few miles from my home, so I dropped in to see what they had for sale.  I quickly learned that silver comes in little 1 oz. bars and rounds produced by dozens of independent mints around the country.   And they come with every conceivable image minted on them.  Even Elvis!!

The store didn’t have any Elvis silver items, so when I got home, I Googled “Elvis silver bars” to see what would come up, and here is what I found.

 

This is a special commemorative set put out by the U.S. Postal Service in 1993 as part of their promotion of the Elvis stamp.  There are two 1 Troy oz. silver bars minted with the stamp image.  Both bars are Sterling Silver (.925 pure), and one has been gold plated.  The owner was asking $65 for the set, which seems pretty reasonable because of the collectible value.  Here is a close-up of the front and back of the silver bar.

     

Elvis Stamp Silver Bar

Perhaps because the photos were taken with the bar inside the protective plastic sleeve, the minting doesn’t look as good as others I saw at the store.  For example, there is a series of US Presidential bars that look like miniature works of art.  However, some of the other Elvis silver items available on-line had even worse images than the Postal Service bars.   Here is a terrible one.

         

Elvis Bear Silver Round

Elvis looks kind of spooky, doesn’t he?  The teddy bear on the reverse side looks a little better.  This is a Australian product called the Elvis Bear for obvious reasons, and the owner was asking $35 for it.  These are referred to as rounds, not coins, because they have no currency value.   Note that the reverse side states 1oz .999 Silver, which is the industry standard and something silver collectors always look for.

The next bar is called The Day the Music Died, which is a phrase more commonly associated with Buddy Holly.  Again, the photo was taken with the bar inside the plastic sleeve, so the minting might look better without it.

           

The Day the Music Died Elvis Silver Bar

This Elvis bar certainly gets the award for the most information minted on it.  There is his first name plus his birthday, Jan. 8, 1935, and the date of his death, Aug. 16, 1977, (Presumably The Day the Music Died), and a litany of Elvis’ achievements – 400 million records, 35 films, and 100 million fans.  With all that on the front, the mint put nothing on the reverse side but their name.  What’s missing is the notation 1 oz .999 Silver.  With an asking price of $75, people buying this one will have their fingers crossed..

The owner of this next Elvis silver round chose not to show the reverse side, so we don’t know if the weight and silver content are spelled out on it.  The text accompanying the picture says it is 1 oz .999 Silver.  The King Lives On round is listed at $28, which makes it the cheapest item I found in my search, but I wouldn’t buy it.  That Elvis image just doesn’t cut it.


 

The King Lives On Elvis Silver Round

 

I like the King of Rock and Roll bar much more.  It has a pretty good image of Elvis on the front and has the weight and silver content on the back along with the mint’s name.

                   

King of Rock ‘n Roll Elvis Silver Bar

It has a limited mintage of just 150, which must be part of the reason the owner is asking $200 for it.

The next Elvis silver round does not has a catchy phrase minted on it, so it is referred to by the image on the front side.  Here is Elvis Two Poses, a very good bargain at $29

                     

Elvis Two Poses Silver Round

It has to be one of the better two-sided Elvis rounds, with the gates of Graceland minted on the back.  Also, please note the “Silver Trade Unit” at the bottom.  Phrases like this and “Official Barter Unit” appear on a few silver rounds, a reference to the belief held by some people that America is on the road to financial collapse and that precious metals will become the de-facto currency.

 

We’ll follow one of the best items in Elvis silver with one produced by a mint whose minting is considered inferior by some silver sellers.  The Dahlonega Mint is in Georgia where there was a minor gold rush in the 1800s.  There are still a couple of tourist-trap “Gold Mines” with wooden sluices where you can pan for gold.  My wife and I tried it there once, and we found a tiny flake of gold.  They put it in a little vial of water which you can shake up and watch the gold float around.

                     

Elvis Autograph Silver Bar

This Elvis bar doesn’t look so bad to me, and it does have something on it that none of the others have.  Elvis’ autograph is minted on it, so I will call it by that name since no other was used.  The owner was asking $40 for it, which may be a little pricey..

The next does have a name:  A Great American.  I think you may find that used on silver bars and rounds with other images as well. 

                

A Great American Elvis Silver Round

I’m not real crazy about the Elvis image, but I like the mini-star flags on each side.  At $30, this might be a fairly good item to buy.

Finally, we come to my favorite Elvis silver collectible.  Elvis Lives has the best minted image of Elvis; it is 1.5 ounces of .999 silver; and only 150 were produced.

           

Elvis Lives Silver Bar

The reverse side is a complete mystery to me.  Why would they put an outdoor scene on it?  There is some wording above the rising sun and under the word mint, but zoom-in just makes them too fuzzy to read.  However, that is not why I would have to pass on Elvis Lives.  $250 is just too rich for me.

There are fewer Elvis bars and rounds available in gold than silver.  However, I’ll keep checking the on-line offerings, and as soon as I find enough for a blog article, we’ll take a look at Gold Elvis.

©  2010    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net

Elvis, Elvis Presley, and Graceland are registered trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

So, Was “Hound Dog” A Number 1 Hit, Or Not?

If you were asked to guess what Elvis’ ten biggest hits were, would you have “Hound Dog” on your list?  Certainly.  How about one of his five biggest hits?  Very likely, as well.  So, it may come as a surprise to you that “Hound Dog” was never credited as a Number 1 hit on the esteemed Billboard list generally considered the official word on this sort of thing.  How can that be?

I asked myself that question when a recent article appeared on the Elvis-History Blog, written by my friend Alan Hanson.  It was titled, “Elvis's #2 Recordings Help Make Him #1 on the Charts.”  Alan started his wonderful blog two years ago.  He read a number of ElvisBlog columns as part of his research in deciding to start his own site, but he did not go back to my June, 2007 article titled “Elvis – King of the Number 2 Hits.”   So, in our efforts to come up with another new topic each week, we both thought of the same idea — independently and years apart.

The weird thing was that Alan’s list of Elvis’ Number 2 hits and mine had different songs on them.  We both agreed on four songs:

“Burning Love”
“Return To Sender”
“Can’t Help Falling in Love”
“A Fool Such as I”

I had two Number 2 songs in my blog that Alan did not:

“Wear My Ring Around Your Neck”
“Love Me”

And he had three songs in his list of Number 2 hits that I had at Number 1.

“Hard Headed Woman”
“Too Much”
“Hound Dog”

Here’s why this occurred.  On August 4, 1958, Billboard magazine first published their Hot 100 chart, and it has continued for more than a half-century to be the industry standard for reporting hit songs.  However, Billboard originally got into ranking the hits on January 1, 1955, when it started publishing three lists:

Best Sellers in Stores
Most Played by [Disc] Jockeys
Most Played in Juke Boxes

I found a complete copy of the January 26, 1957 issue of Billboard magazine on line, Here is a look at these three charts

These were short charts, containing just 20 or 25 top hits.  Do you remember, in the movie Jailhouse Rock, what job Judy Tyler’s character had when she met Elvis?   She went around and collected the statistics about song plays on jukeboxes.  Although she was reporting to a record company, I imagine it was people like her who provided Billboard with the data they used to compile their Most Played in Juke Boxes chart.

On November 12, 1955, a little more than ten months after the first three lists were born, Billboard added a fourth: the Top 100 chart.  Gradually, over the next few years, this became the most definitive list, because it generally reported the aggregate positions of songs on the other three lists combined.

By the time Billboard changed the name of the Top 100 chart to the Hot 100 chart in August 1958, the other three charts were either recently eliminated or would be soon thereafter.  However, they lasted long enough to confuse the tally of Elvis songs that made it to Number 1.

Alan and I used different references to come up with our reports on Elvis’ Number 2 hits.  He actually went to his local library and accessed the microfiche records for every weekly Billboard Top 100/Hot 100 chart from 1956 to 1977 and recorded the rankings of the Elvis songs.  It took him almost a year to gather all this information.  I simply used a book titled The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits by Joel Whitburn.  Every singer or group who ever had a hit is listed, along with a discography of their hits.  In the book, Whitburn acknowledged that for the period 1955 through July 1958, the highest chart position indicated for each song was its highest on any of the four Billboard charts.

So, to determine the highest rank that Elvis’ early records reached, I referenced all of the Billboard charts.   Alan referenced only the Top 100 chart, which is reasonable because it ultimately morphed into the Hot 100 chart that endures to this day.

                 

Original 1956 Picture Sleeves

I wouldn’t argue adamantly about the proper top ranking for most of the records where Alan and I had it different, but I would for “Hound Dog.”  As you may know, it was half of the biggest two-sided hit record in history.  Depending on how you look at it, “Hound Dog” was on the flip-side of “Don’t Be Cruel,” or vice-a-versa.  For this reason, Whitburn’s book went into great detail about how long both songs stayed at Number 1 on all four lists.  “Hound Dog” was Number 1 for four weeks on the Jukebox chart and five weeks on the Stores chart.

So, I rest my case.  “Hound Dog” spent nine weeks as Number 1 on two of the Billboard charts in operation during the period of its run.  They were well-established charts that had over a year-and-a-half of pedigree behind them.    In the summer of 1956, the Top 100 chart was only nine months old, and it is uncertain where it stood at that point in its ultimate elevation to top dog status.  So, if a song achieved Number 1 then on any of the four charts, it should be enough to claim that rank.  “Hound Dog” made it to the top on two of the charts, so that settles it for me.

If you aren’t convinced, call the folks at Graceland and see if they count “Hound Dog” as a Number 1 hit for Elvis.  They will probably laugh that you would even have to ask.


 Re-Release from 1959

[Editor's note:  Alan Hanson has since published a difinitive history of the chart positions of “Hound Dog” and “Don't Be Cruel” on his Elvis-History-Blog.  Check it out.]

 

©  2010    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net

Elvis, Elvis Presley, and Graceland are registered trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

Highlights of the Latest Elvis Memorabilia at Auction

It has been a lot of fun following the most recent batch of Elvis goodies that were offered at auction.  Bidding closed last Wednesday night on 278 Elvis items at the Gotta Have Rock and Roll Auction, and as usual there were several interesting developments.  Let’s take a look at the hits and misses, as well as my choice for the biggest bargain.

Highest Bids:  Although there was no jumpsuit headlining the offerings at this auction, Elvis’ clothing still attracted the highest prices, as usual.  Winning bidders were able to purchase two items for the same price of $41,434. One was the denim jacket, pants and yellow shirt from the 1968 MGM movie Stay Away Joe.  It had an expected price of $15-20,000, so it did considerably better than estimated.

                                           

Denim Jacket, Blue Jeans and Yellow Shirt from Stay Away Joe

The other top item at $41,434 was the red suede jacket Elvis wore on the picture sleeves of two hit records: “Jailhouse Rock” and “I Got stung.”  The jacket was expected to bring between $20-30,000, but beat that range handily.  When auctions include pictures showing Elvis wearing the articles of clothing, it always seems to punch up the bidding.

 

             

Red Jacket on the Picture Sleeves of Two Hit 45s


Other Clothing:  The next highest bid on Elvis clothing was for  pair of black pants featuring brass stud work down the flared legs and a white silk shirt with pointed collar, circa early 70s.  The auction site included a fuzzy photo of Elvis wearing these items which brought in a high bid of $18,681.  This was followed by a kaftan trimmed with gold embroidery and beading.  The bidding closed at $9,124, which was four times the estimate.

                                 

Black Studded Pants/White Silk Shirt                   Gold Embroidered Kaftan

 

So, we have two items of Elvis’ personal clothing, and one brought twice the price as the other.  Why?  I believe it was because the kaftan did not come with an accompanying photo showing Elvis wearing it.  The item description says Elvis loved wearing kaftans and owned a number of beautiful ones.  This may be so, but none of my thousands of Elvis pictures show him wearing one.

Jewelry:  What would an auction of Elvis memorabilia be without rings and watches?  He must have gone through many dozens of both in his lifetime.  This time, a lucky bidder now owns Elvis’ 14KT gold ring featuring a beautiful huge crystal opal surrounded by diamonds.  The auction site has a very fuzzy photo supposedly showing Elvis wearing this ring, but I couldn’t make it out. However, there is also a letter of provenance from Elvis’ wardrobe manager Richard Davis, so the ring brought in $20,060, more than double the estimate.  It also had the most bids of any Elvis item in the auction.

 

               

Crystal Opal Ring                                                             50s Elgin Watch

There were two Elvis watches in this auction, but the vintage Elgin watch above is the more spectacular looking.  It went for just $10,560, well below the estimate of $15-20,000.  Perhaps this is because Elvis was so taken with this watch that he purchased several of them to give away to friends.  In fact, because of his fascination with this model, it became known by the name “Elvis” in the trade.

 

Biggest Busts:  There were a number of no-bid items, indicating that Elvis collectors just weren’t willing to pay the minimum bids stipulated.  Here is one that had a minimum of $35,000 and an estimate of $45-50,000.  It is a set of never-before-seen 3D color slides accompanied by a 3D viewer.  The item description says they were taken with a special camera at a February 1971 Elvis concert at the International Hotel in Las Vegas: “You literally feel that you can reach out and touch Elvis, an incredible experience.  It is the closest you’ll ever get to seeing Elvis live.  The 3D images truly capture his electrifying, high energy performance.”

3D Slides of 1971 Elvis Concert

Frankly, I am surprised EPE didn’t buy these slides.  With their intent to provide more inter-active exhibits at Graceland, this would seem like a natural.  Remember those old arcade machines where you looked in the viewer and saw 3D pictures?   What fan would go to Graceland and not pay a few bucks to look at incredible, electrifying color images of Elvis in concert?

The next biggest no-bid item was Elvis’ 1956 contract with the William Morris Agency, which he signed in two different places.  Nobody thought it was worth the $11,000 minimum, and that’s not a surprise considering the other auction item with two Elvis autographs on it.  That is an insert from an American Airlines ticket envelope that Elvis signed on both sides for two young girl fans.  It had a minimum bid of $800 and went for $3,019.  I think this is a bargain because this came from the December 19, 1970 flight Elvis took to Washington, DC, to see President Richard Nixon.

                            

I found one other no-bid item to be quite interesting.  It is an 8×10 black and white wire service photo showing Elvis, Priscilla, and Lisa.  Like many other Elvis photographs from news sources in this auction, this had a minimum bid of $100 and an estimate of $150-200, but there were no bids.  The reason had to be that the photo is made up of three separate images that were cut out and pasted together.  Look closely and you can see that the head sizes are not quite in proportion.  Even decades before Photoshop, some newsmen were creating false photos.

Biggest Bargain of the Auction:  I wish I weren’t so dedicated to not buying any more Elvis stuff, because I would love to have bought this lot.  I’ve blown up the picture as large as it would go and counted the contents:  23 magazines, 4 tabloids, 8 TV Guides, 5 newspapers, 4 postcards, and 5 paperback books.  In addition, there is a CD, a branch from a tree at Graceland (wrapped in cellophane), and a copy of Elvis’ will.  Plus, there is a surprise in the mailing tube at the bottom, and the unidentified text at the bottom right.  Only two people bid on this lot, and one of them got all this cool stuff for $300.

©  2010    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net

Elvis, Elvis Presley, and Graceland are registered trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

Caption Contest # 20 — NO Winner

 

For the first time since I started doing the Elvis Caption Contest, we have no winner.  In fact, there were no submissions.  Apparently, this publicity still from the movie The Trouble with Girls stumped everybody.  I thought I'd give it a try, too, but this one is really tough.  The photo for the next Caption Contest will go back to Elvis in real life situations. No more staged images in period costumes with props.

 

Elvis in the Army — By the Numbers

It’s a natural for Elvis websites and fan magazines to do something to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Elvis’ discharge from the Army on March 5, 1960.  But, what could you do that would be different.  How about a list of significant (or at least, interesting) numbers relating to his two years in the Army?

 

0:

The number of Elvis hits on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts during the period from October 5, 1959 to March 27, 1960.  Elvis had recorded a number of songs  before entering the Army, and these were released about one every three  months during his tour of duty.  When “A Big Hunk O’ Love” went off the charts,  there was nothing left in the vaults.  Finally, after Elvis returned from Germany  and recorded new material, “Stuck on You” broke the long draught and shot up to  Number 1.  The King was back.

8: 

The number of times Elvis had to carry his duffel bag up the gangplank to the  USS Randall before departing for Germany.  There were so many news film  crews and photographers there to record the event, that seven extra takes were  necessary to accommodate them all.

13: 

The number of cents royalty Elvis received for each copy of the album Elvis Sails, which contained no music, just his press conference with newsmen at New  York harbor before entering the USS Randall.

14: 

Priscilla Beaulieu’s age when she met Elvis in Germany in 1959.  Her birthday is May 25, 1945.

25: 

The last birthday Elvis celebrated while in the Army (January 8, 1960).  Two months later he was out of the service.

55: 

The number of reporters witnessing Elvis getting his Army haircut at Ft. Chaffee,  Arkansas on March 25, 1958.

170: 

Elvis’ weight when he was discharged from the Army.  Two years earlier, when  he started his service, he weighed 185 pounds.

1,289: 

The dollar total of out-of-pocket cash spent for a trip Elvis took to Paris in January, 1960 while on leave.  The hotel and transportation costs were paid separately.  Accompanying Elvis on this six-day vacation were Joe Esposito, Cliff Gleaves, Lamar Fike, and karate instructor Jurgen Seydel.  Elvis picked up the whole tab, which would equal $9,336 in 2010 dollars.  Over 2/3 of the money was spent in night clubs.  It sounds like Elvis and the guys had a lot of fun.

1,500:  

The approximate number of screaming fans who greeted Elvis leaving the USS Randall after it docked in Bremerhaven, Germany on October 1, 1958

3,000:  

Pieces of mail sent to Private Elvis Presley at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas during the few days he was stationed there.  It has not been reported how many letters Elvis received at Fort Hood, Texas, where he did his basic training.

5,000:  

Miles that Elvis was away from Anita Wood.  In an October 28, 1958 letter, less than a month after he arrived in Germany, he referred to himself as a “lonely little boy 5,000 miles away.”  He also wrote he would never love anyone in his life as much as he loved her and he looked forward to their marriage and “a little Elvis.”

Anita Wood visiting Elvis at Ft. Hood

25,000: 

The dollars Col. Parker demanded from Life magazine for a cover feature story it wanted to do on Elvis’ return from the Army.  This backfired, as Life dropped the idea. 

60,000: 

Total copies of Elvis Sails that were sold.  The mini-album contained just 5-1/2 edited minutes of Elvis’ embarkation press conference.

100,000: 

Sympathy cards and letters Elvis received after his mother’s death on August 14, 1958.  Gladys Love Presley was 46 years old.  Elvis had arrived to Memphis from Fort Hood two days earlier to be by her side.

1,001,728: 

Elvis’ income in dollars for the year of 1958, nine months of which he served in the Army.  He paid $360,000 income tax that year.

Elvis’ Army pay was a bit less than $1 million a year

18,000,000: 

The total number of records Elvis had sold in his career to date, as reported in Billboard magazine just two days before he flew out of Germany to end his Army career.  He would sell a lot more.

©  2010    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net

Elvis, Elvis Presley, and Graceland are registered trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc