The Joy of 45 Collecting:
Gallery of Eye-Catching 45 Picture Sleeves
Record companies were slow to start releasing picture sleeves with their 45s in the 1950s. Early picture sleeves primarily "decorated" childrens records and holiday 45s, but when Elvis Presley burst on the scene in 1956, RCA prepared a picture sleeve for each of his 45 releases by default, and other record companies began the practice with their biggest stars. Still, use of picture sleeves was hit-and-miss throughout the 1950s-70s. Only in the 1980s did virtually all U.S. 45s come with picture sleeves. Because companies printed many fewer sleeves than records, most 45s — even those that did have a picture sleeve — were purchased with either a generic white or brown sleeve, or with a factory (company) sleeve, unless you were among the ardent few who grabbed new 45s the day they were released. As a result, picture sleeves for collectable artists are generally worth much more than the 45 itself, especially for pic sleeves from the 1950s-60s.
This page provides a leisurely scroll through a gallery of picture sleeves from all decades, chosen in part for their artistic or design merit. Although 1980s sleeves are ubiquitous and typically not worth more than the record they contain, the 1980s saw a quantum leap in the quality of sleeve design, and independent labels still pressing 45s since the 1990s often take great care in their sleeve design, often choosing a heavier-duty paper than the relatively flimsy stock used in the past. The sleeves are presented in roughly alphabetical order by artist name (though that would be first name rather than last for individual artists).
Last Updated 2/23/17, this page shows 836 unique picture sleeves.