This article presents the numbering systems used by various record companies for single (mainly 7" 33 1/3 and 45, and 10" 78 rpm) records.

Capitol Edit

Capitol Records began with number 100 when it started in 1942.[1] About 1947, the series was temporarily ended at 503[2] and a new series, beginning with 15000, was begun. After reaching the number 15431[3] (in early 1949), the old series was resumed, at 542, though 15000-series numbers were used for album sets.[3] (The numbers from 504 to 541 were not used for 78s, but the associated numbers 54-504 to 54-541 were used on 45 rpm records.)[2] By 1950 the number series had reached the 700s, and crossed the 1000[4][5] mark in the latter part of that year. There was a separate series of 40000s for country 78s.[6] This series continued to 5999 in late 1967, when it resumed with 2000. It then continued uninterrupted to somewhere in the 5600's (about 1987) when it was changed again to the 44000s. The 'Starline' series used the 6000s.

45rpm records originally used the prefix 54- added before the 78rpm number; at some point this was changed to a letter F.

CBS/Columbia (Sony) (Europe) Edit

CBS Records (the name given to American label Columbia Records in Europe, so as not to be confused with EMI's Columbia label) began as a separate label distributed by Philips only from around 1961, using the prefix AAG and three digits, its artists having for some years previously been issued on Philips itself. CBS broke away from Philips in or around 1966, and changed to a simple four digit sequence, beginning with CBS 1001. It distributed other American labels, including Epic with the prefix EPC, and Portrait with the prefix PRT, which CBS owned, and Philadelphia International Records also known by its prefix PIR, and A&M (1970s), prefixed AMS.

In 1981, the first series of four digits ran out (with CBS 9999), after which CBS simply started all over again but this time adding an "A" before the four digits. Thus the new sequence read CBS A 1000, EPC A 1000, etc.

By this time, twelve-inch singles were indicated with a "12" before the four digits for the 7" single: CBS A 12 1000.

In 1986 CBS changed its sequencing by abandoning the four digits system and introducing a new, seven digit system. Catalogue numbers now started with 65, followed by a four digit sequence and finishing with an added digit indicating the format. For instance, 650001 7 was a 7" vinyl single, 650001 4 a cassette single, or 650001 1 for the 12" single. Later, the 2 and 3 were added for 5" and 3" CD-singles.

This system was used until the merger of Sony Music (as CBS was known after 1990) and BMG Records in the early 2000s.

The final UK number one carrying the old four digit code was the appropriately titled 'The Final Countdown' by Europe in December, 1986 (Epic EPC A 7127), however the number one which preceded it, 'Take my breath away' by Berlin, had a higher code: CBS A 7320. The first UK number one under the new seven digit system was 'I just can't stop loving you' by Michael Jackson & Siedah Garrett in August, 1987 (Epic 650202 7). (Earlier, 'I knew you were waiting (for me)' by George Michael & Aretha Franklin on the Epic label had also reached number one, but this carried the personalised catalogue number Epic DUET 2).

Columbia (US) Edit

For Columbia in the UK, see EMI, which controlled the Columbia label in that country.


In 1908, Columbia started a series of 78s with an A prefix and 4 digits, going from A0001 to A4001, which was reached in 1923.[7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14] The series reached A1000 in 1911, A2000 in 1916, and A3000 in 1920. Other letter prefixes, like E for Ethnic, were used, but the E-series continued past 1923, unlike the A-series.

A different series, beginning with A5000 in 1908, was used for 12-inch 78rpm records.[15][16][17] This series had reached A6000 in 1917, and A6233 when the A-series was terminated in 1923.

Some early Columbia 78s were given numbers in the A7000 series.[18]

1923-late 30sEdit

In 1923, the Columbia numbering system was entirely changed, along with the label design and recording process (this all occurred after Columbia went out of receivership). Instead of a 4-digit number with an A prefix, numbers were given a D suffix; there were no prefixed zeros as there had been in the 1908 series.[19][20][21][22][23][24][25] This series had reached 1000D in 1927, 2000D in 1929, and 3176D when the D-series was terminated in 1937 (though some of the last numbers were of performances recorded much earlier).

A different set of numbers, but still with the D suffix, was given to "race" records (the term used in those days for records by and aimed at African Americans). These started in the 13000s in 1923,[26] but after only reaching 13007D the numbers skipped to 14000D.[27] Country and western singles were numbered in the 15000D series,[28] and this series was a very short one, not getting beyond 15782. There was also a (mostly) "Hawaiian" series in the 40000's,[29] used only from 1929 to 1931.

1939 and onwardEdit

Beginning in 1939, Columbia 78s used 5-digit numbers in the 35000s (for some reason, the series began with 35200.[30] The series had reached 38600 around 1950 and continued into the 1950s, passing the number 40000 in the middle of the decade.[30][31][32][33][34][35][36][37][38][39][40][41][42]

As in the previous series, numerical groups for "race" (30000-30243)[43] and country (20000-21571)[44][45][46] singles were reserved outside the regular range. These series were, however, discontinued eventually.

In the late 1940s, Columbia introduced 7" 33 1/3 rpm singles, which were numbered in their own series, with a prefix 1- before a low number, not exceeding 3 digits. Columbia originally resisted issuing 45 rpm singles, as that was a speed originated by competitor RCA Victor Records. However, eventually Columbia began to issue 45s with numbers identical to the corresponding 7" 33 1/3 singles, except for the prefix 6- instead of 1-.

Early in the 1950s, the system was changed to give singles at all speeds the same numbers except that the 33 1/3 rpm records had a prefix, now 3-, and the 45 rpm records also a prefix, now 4-, added to the number of the 78.

Eventually the only speed issued was 45 rpm, and the 4- prefix was dropped. By 1960 the series reached 41000, by 1970 it reached 45000. In 1974, shortly after passing 46000, the numbering series changed, beginning again with 10000. By 1980 the numbers reached 11000.

Decca (UK) Edit

UK Decca used a system of 4 and 5-digit numbers with an F prefix.

Decca (US) Edit

Decca 78s were originally given 3-digit numbers,[47][48] going to 4 digits in 1936[49][50] and passing 2000 in late 1938[51][52] and 3000 about 1940.[53] The sequence grew quickly[54] and passed 4000 in 1941.[55] As late as 1944, 4-digit numbers were still used, but somewhat later the series was terminated.[55]

The 1941 Decca Popular Record Catalog lists the following designations for its numbering series: Series 3500 and under,[47][48][49][50][51][52][53] "Popular, Dance, Vocal, etc."; Series 5000,[56][57] "Hill Billy"; Series 10000,[58] "Mexican"; Series 12000,[59] "Irish"; Series 14000,[60] "Scotch"; Series 15000,[61] "12-inch Popular"; Series 18000,[62] "International Repertoire" - Album Sets; Series 20000, "Classical"; Series 23000, "Personality"; Series 25000, "Classical" (12-inch), and Series 29000, "Personality" (12-inch). There was also an 8000 Series,[63] "Sepia", which is not listed in this catalog.

By the start of the 1950s, numbers were still in the 20000s, with 45s given corresponding numbers with the prefix 9-. The series reached 24700 around the beginning of 1950. Just before 1960 the numbers reached 30000; Decca's issues in the 1960s apparently came much more slowly, as by 1970 the numbers had only gone to about 32600.

Another series of Decca singles wes numbered in the 40000s,[64] apparently mostly devoted to country records.

The subsidiary label Coral used numbers in the 60000s, and Brunswick Records used the 50000s.

EMI Edit

In the 1950s and early 1960s, EMI issued singles in the United Kingdom under the Columbia, HMV and Parlophone labels.

  • Columbia singles generally had two letter prefixes such as DB, followed by 3- or 4-digit numbers. In the most common series, the DB series, numbers reached 4000 in 1957 and approached 5000 in 1963. At about that time, a jump in the sequence occurred to 7000-series numbers.
  • HMV issued 78rpm singles with the prefix B and a 5-digit number in the early 1950s. HMV 45rpm singles in the popular genre generally had numbers with the prefix 7M and 3 digits until 1956, changing in that year to POP prefixes, starting at 239. The B 5-digit numbers and the 7M 3-digit numbers were unrelated.

For its European branches, EMI changed at the end of the sixties to a uniform numbering system using the pattern xx xxx-xxxxx.

  • The first two digits represent the country (eg 1C is Germany, 2C is France, 3C is Italy, etc).
  • The second three digits are mostly 006, but sometimes 004 or 008 was used for repressings, while 000 is used for jukebox pressing.
  • The last five digits are the unique single reference for the single.

In the 1980s, this system was abandoned. The current European system consists of 7 digits, mostly beginning with 86 and ending with 2 to indicate it is a CD single, e.g. 868384 2. (For the international EAN code, the standard 74321 number precedes the 7 digits and the 0 is added after the code).

Groove (US) Edit

Groove Records, a product of RCA, used a system of 4-digit numbers with a G prefix for 78 rpm records.

London (US)Edit

London began about 1950. It was owned in the US by UK Decca, but was operated independently. Numbers began at number 500 on 78s and 30000 on 45s. There was no relationship between the two sets of numbers.

London (UK)Edit

On Decca's British London label, which began in 1949, HL was at first used alone, but from 1957 there was usually a following letter denoting the original American label; thus Atlantic and Atco were HLE, changing in 1960 to HLK, Sun Records was HLS, Jamie (Duane Eddy's label) was HLW, and Big Top Records (Del Shannon, Johnny and the Hurricanes) was HLX; while HLU was used for a number of labels including Phil Spector's Philles, and Monument, home to Roy Orbison. Notably in 1957 two versions of Ain't That A Shame were released simultaneously, the original by Fats Domino (from Imperial, HLU 8173) and the cover by Pat Boone (from Dot, HLD 8172).

Pre-1955 the numbering system was L or HL 1001 to 1250. The numbering systems was changed in 1955 to start at HL 8001 and ran through to 10582.

Mercury Edit

Mercury popular 78s were numbered with 4-digit numbers in the 3000s in the late 1940s,[65] and in the 5000s in the late 1940s and early 1950s.[66][67] This series got up to 5912, but in 1952, 5-digit numbers in the 70000s were assigned.[68]

A series in the 1000s[69] was in use for Latin and jazz singles in 1945-47. During that same period there was a 2000 series,[70] apparently for "race" (African-American-oriented) records.

A separate series in the 8900s,[71] subsequently changed to the 89000s,[72] was issued consisting of jazz singles. Some jazz singles were also issued with numbers in the 11000s.[73]

Additional series were a 6000 series of country & western singles,[74] a 7000 series for children,[75] and an 8000 series for rhythm and blues.[76]

45s were given the same numbers as the 78s, with a suffixed "x45" added.

MGM Edit

MGM began with the number 10000 shortly before 1950.

By 1960 the numbers had reached just over 12800. It continued to over 14800, which is where it ended in the mid-1970s.

45 rpm records were issued with the K- prefix.


EMI's British Tamla-Motown label had the prefix TMG, presumably standing for Tamla-Motown-Gordy, the first three, in order of creation, of their American labels. The first release, in March 1965, was given the number TMG 501 (The Supremes' Stop! In the Name of Love).

RCA Edit

RCA Victor Records went in the mid-40s to a complex system, in which all records had a 2-digit prefix denoting the type of music and a 4-digit specific number. Most popular 78s had the prefix 20, but other prefixes existed.

When the 45 rpm record was originated in the late 1940s, a prefix was set up for each type of music, with 47- for the popular records whose 78 rpm version was given a 20- prefix and 48- for the country records whose 78 rpm version was given a 21- prefix. At first the numbers of the two versions were not similar, but in 1950 the system was changed to provide the same numbers after the hyphen for both speed versions of a single record.

As the 1950s proceeded, most prefixes other than 20- for 78s and 47- for 45s were eliminated, except for subsidiary labels. And of course, 78s themselves did not last long into the 1950s.

In 1969, a new prefix, 74- was introduced for stereo 45s, starting with 74-0100. Although it has been asserted that this series was primarily for rock acts, several of the earliest 74- issues are in fact by easy listening and country performers. RCA issued singles in both series until the 47- series became 48-1000 after issue 47-9999 in 1971. The 74- series continued into 1973 when it was replaced by an APB0- series, again with low four-digit numbers after the hyphen. This series was short-lived; in 1974 the prefix was changed to PB- (and sometimes GB-), with numbers starting at 10000. During the BMG era, the mid-1980s, various series were used - 5000-5100s (1984), 8600s (1988)- and 2500s (1990). The 62000 series began in 1991.

Virgin Edit

The Virgin label had a simple catalogue number sequence, beginning with VS101 for Mike Oldfield's debut single in 1974 (simply titled 'The Mike Oldfield single'). Other formats were indicated by added prefixes, such as VST for a 12" single or VSEP for EPs. The more formats were in use, the longer the prefixes would become - the 1993 UK number one I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That) by Meat Loaf had the catalogue number VSCDT 1443.

In various European countries, Virgin Records was distributed by BMG/Ariola, which meant its catalogue numbers were in BMG/Ariola's sequence. From 1979, this was a six digit code beginning with 100 001, in later years culminating in numbers beginning with 115 (e.g. 115 001). 12" singles had the first 1 replaced with 6 (e.g. 615 001), and CD-singles had the second digit replaced by a six as well (e.g. 665 001). This sequence changed in 1992 when BMG adopted the EAN-coding (e.g. 74321 23445 1).

References Edit

  1. Capitol Records discography, numbers 100-499
  2. 2.0 2.1 Capitol Records discography, numbers 500-999
  3. 3.0 3.1 Capitol Records discography, numbers 15000-15431
  4. Capitol Records discography, numbers 1000-1499
  5. Capitol Records discography, numbers 1500-1999
  6. Capitol Records discography, numbers 40000-40289
  7. Columbia Records discography, numbers A0001-A0499
  8. Columbia Records discography, numbers A0500-A0999
  9. Columbia Records discography, numbers A1000-A1499
  10. Columbia Records discography, numbers A1500-A1999
  11. Columbia Records discography, numbers A2000-A2499
  12. Columbia Records discography, numbers A2500-A2999
  13. Columbia Records discography, numbers A3000-A3499
  14. Columbia Records discography, numbers A3500-A4001
  15. Columbia Records discography, numbers A5000-A5499
  16. Columbia Records discography, numbers A5500-A5999
  17. Columbia Records discography, numbers A6000-A6233
  18. Columbia Records discography, numbers A7000-A7579
  19. Columbia Records discography, numbers 1D-499D
  20. Columbia Records discography, numbers 500D-999D
  21. Columbia Records discography, numbers 1000D-1499D
  22. Columbia Records discography, numbers 1500D-1999D
  23. Columbia Records discography, numbers 2000D-2499D
  24. Columbia Records discography, numbers 2500D-2999D
  25. Columbia Records discography, numbers 3000D-3176D
  26. Columbia Records discography, numbers 13000-13007
  27. Columbia Records discography, numbers 14000 to 14680
  28. Columbia Records discography, numbers 15000 to 15782
  29. Columbia Records discography, numbers 40000-40036
  30. 30.0 30.1 Columbia Records discography, numbers 35200 to 35499
  31. Columbia Records discography, numbers 35500 to 35999
  32. Columbia Records discography, numbers 36000 to 36499
  33. Columbia Records discography, numbers 36500 to 36999
  34. Columbia Records discography, numbers 37000 to 37499
  35. Columbia Records discography, numbers 37500 to 37999
  36. Columbia Records discography, numbers 38000 to 38499
  37. Columbia Records discography, numbers 38500 to 38999
  38. Columbia Records discography, numbers 39000 to 39499
  39. Columbia Records discography, numbers 39500 to 39999
  40. Columbia Records discography, numbers 40000 to 40499
  41. Columbia Records discography, numbers 40500 to 40999
  42. Columbia Records discography, numbers 41000 to 41499
  43. Columbia Records discography, numbers 30000 to 30243
  44. Columbia Records discography, numbers 20000 to 20499
  45. Columbia Records discography, numbers 20500 to 20999
  46. Columbia Records discography, numbers 21000 to 21571
  47. 47.0 47.1 Decca Records discography, numbers 100 to 499
  48. 48.0 48.1 Decca Records discography, numbers 500 to 999
  49. 49.0 49.1 Decca Records discography, numbers 1000 to 1499
  50. 50.0 50.1 Decca Records discography, numbers 1500 to 1999
  51. 51.0 51.1 Decca Records discography, numbers 2000 to 2499
  52. 52.0 52.1 Decca Records discography, numbers 1500 to 1999
  53. 53.0 53.1 Decca Records discography, numbers 3000 to 3499
  54. Decca Records discography, numbers 3500 to 3999
  55. 55.0 55.1 Decca Records discography, numbers 4000 to 4499
  56. Decca Records discography, numbers 5000 to 5499
  57. Decca Records discography, numbers 5500 to 5999
  58. Decca Records discography, numbers 10000 to 10529
  59. Decca Records discography, numbers 12000 to 12283
  60. Decca Records discography, numbers 14000 to 14033
  61. Decca Records discography, numbers 15000 to 15074
  62. Decca Records discography, numbers 18000 to 18499
  63. Decca Records discography, numbers 8500 to 8673
  64. Decca Records discography, numbers 46000 to 46397
  65. Mercury Records discography, numbers 3000 to 3072
  66. Mercury Records discography, numbers 5000-5497
  67. Mercury Records discography, numbers 5500-5912
  68. Mercury Records discography, numbers 70000-71696
  69. Mercury Records discography, numbers 1000 to 1442
  70. Mercury Records discography, numbers 2000 to 2098
  71. Mercury Records discography, numbers 8900 to 8999
  72. Mercury Records discography, numbers 89000 to 89098
  73. Mercury Records discography, numbers 11000 to 11101
  74. Mercury Records discography, numbers 6000 to 6419
  75. Mercury Records discography, numbers 7000 to 7059
  76. Mercury Records discography, numbers 8000 to 8310

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