Ask AT: X-ray flexi disc plays to the tune of $150; 1993 Elvis postage stamps worth $40 to $60

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Scarce supplies meant that x-ray films were often turned into audio records, sometimes to smuggle music past communist government censors. X-ray records emerged at the time of the Stilyagi as an underground medium for distribution of jazz music, which was prohibited in the Soviet Union after World War II.

Q This record, if you notice, is made from an X-ray film. It was sent to me in the early 1960s form a pen pal. The X-ray was used as a raw material to make this record.
It was smuggled out of the U.S.S.R. This was considered Jazz because it represented Western Imperialist “Bally hoo” as my pen pal called it.  The song on the record is “Tweedle Dee Dee,” which was popular in the 1960s. It plays clearly on 78-RPM mode on a standard phonograph. How valuable do you think this item is and do you think it is saleable? — H.B., Brooklyn, N.Y.

A During the late 1930s and early 1940s the prevalent sound recording apparatus was the wax disk cutter. As a consequence of the lack of materials in the war-time economy, some inventive sound hunters made their own experiments with new materials within their reach. The name of the inventor who first utilized discarded medical X-ray film as the base material for new record discs is unknown; however, the method became so widespread in Hungary that not only amateurs, but the Hungarian Radio made sound recordings on such recycled X-ray films.

Owing to the lack of recordings of Western music available in the USSR, people had to rely on records coming through Eastern Europe, where controls on records were less strict, or on the tiny influx of records from beyond the iron curtain. Such restrictions meant the number of recordings would remain small and precious. But enterprising young people with technical skills learned to duplicate records with a converted phonograph that would “press” a record using a very unusual material for the purpose; discarded X-ray plates. This material was both plentiful and cheap, and millions of duplications of Western and Soviet groups were made and distributed by an underground roentgenizdat, or X-ray press, which is akin to the samizdat that was the notorious tradition of self-publication among banned writers in the USSR. The records were all simply called “roentgenizdat,” or “X-ray pressed” records.

According to rock historian Troitsky, the one-sided X-ray disks costed about one to one and a half rubles each on the black market, and lasted only a few months, as opposed to around five rubles for a two-sided vinyl disk. By the late 1950s, the officials knew about the roentgenizdat, and made it illegal in 1958. Officials took action to break up the largest ring in 1959, sending the leaders to prison, beginning an orginization by the Komsomol of “music patrols” that later undertook to curtail illegal music activity all over the country.” (Attribution, József Hajdú)

The flexi disc (also known as a phonosheet or soundsheet) is a phonograph record made of a thin, flexible vinyl sheet with a molded-in spiral stylus groove, and is designed to be playable on a normal phonograph turntable. Flexible records were commercially introduced as the Eva-tone Soundsheet in 1960, but were previously available in the Soviet Union as “roentgenizdat,” “bones” or “ribs,” underground samizdat recordings on X-ray film.
At present, to a vintage collector, records of this type an era will retail from around $150 and up. You could contact them or perhaps offer a listing on eBay if you wish to sell. Most dealers will offer about 50-60 percent of retail value at present.

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Elvis stampsThese 1993 Elvis Presley postage stamps are worth as much as $40 to a stamp collector.

Q In your Dec. 22, 2010, issue on page 16, a sheet of 10 mint condition Audrey Hepburn postage stamps sold for $606,000. Enclosed is a photo of Elvis Presley mint, never licked, 29-cent stamps – 40 in total. Any idea on their value or what my avenues are? — D.Z., Luxemburg, Wis.

A The “Elvis” stamps you have were issued by the US Postal Service in 1993 as a Commemorative Edition dedicated to the Legends of American Music series. A full sheet such as what you have currently retails between $45 and $60 to a collector.

 

Will Gorges is the owner of Civilwarshop.com, a website for mail order and show business buying and selling authentic general antiques and collectibles as well as vintage American and worldwide militaria (1760-1970). In addition, Gorges answers questions on JustAnswer as one of thousands of experts in more than 150 categories (including antiques and collectibles) who provide fast and reliable information to users. His specialties on JustAnswer include general antiques, firearms, clocks and watches.

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