Homophone & Invicta Date Codes.

 

The Homophone codes were first written up by Peter Hulpusch. (“Dating Homophone Records”: Record Collector Vol. 24 Nos.3/4, June 1979, pp80-1). In addition, a Homophone dating article by Peter Copeland appeared in ‘The Historic Record’ – I have a photocopy, but the number of the magazine is not known. Thanks to the late Arthur Badrock for supplying the reference & photocopy. What follows is merely an informal ‘gossip’ on the topic – with particular reference to the early and short-lived period (1912 – 1914) during which Invicta records bore a confusingly similar code. As on all pages of this website, accuracy is not guaranteed – alas, I make frequent errors… 8^)   

 

Unfortunately for us, very few 78 records carry dates to indicate when they were recorded, plated or pressed. But the German Homophon Company was a notable exception. Indeed, between about 1905 and 1926, their discs actually carry two dates: as it were, a gift to future Discographers! But what the dates actually mean is, as far as we know, still open to question.

 

Description: Description: homophone741

 

Here is a typical early Homophone as sold in Britain – and doubtless in other countries as well as Germany, each with suitable repertoire. The contrast has been exaggerated to show the numbers ‘in the wax’ (as it has been in all the other scans on this page). At the top we find 741. This is a master number or control number, unique to each recording. At the bottom appears 2577A. This is a date in the form: day-month-year. 2577 may appear rather inscrutable, but it can only yield one plausible date, viz., 25th July 1907. Of course, it could be 2nd May 1877 or 1977, but both of those are obviously absurd. What the ‘A’ suffix means is not known to us. So what happened on 25th July 1907? Perhaps is it a recording date?

 

Well, let us look at the other marking to the right of the label, which is G10V. Thanks to the pioneering work by Peter Hulpusch, we know that is a date in the form month-day-year. The number in the middle is clearly the day of the month, confirmed by the fact that no number larger that 31 is ever found. The first letter had to be the month, because only the twelve letters A to M (omitting ‘I’) are ever found in this position. (It has been assumed that A is January, B is February and so on). The final letter, inevitably, was the year. To cut a long story short, it is known that these letters run backwards, and seem to be based on Z representing 1901. It is true that no Homophone disc record dates back to 1901, but it must be admitted that 1901 is a logical starting point.

 

Here is a table in accordance with Peter Hulpusch’s findings:

 

Letter

Month

Day

Letter

Year

A

January

1

Z

1901

B

February

2

Y

1902

C

March

3

X

1903

D

April

4

W

1904

E

May

5

V

1905

F

June

6

U

1906

G

July

7

T

1907

H

August

8

S

1908

J

September

9

R

1909

K

October

10

Q

1910

L

November

11

P

1911

M

December

12

O

1912

 

 

13

N

1913

 

 

14

M

1914

 

 

15

L

1915

 

 

16

K

1916

 

 

17

J

1917

 

 

18

H

1918

 

 

19

G

1919

 

 

20

F

1920

 

 

21

E

1921

 

 

22

D

1922

 

 

23

C

1923

 

 

24

B

1924

 

 

25

A

1925

 

 

&c.

 

 

 

 

So G10V gives us 10th July 1905. The other date, 25th July 1907, is long afterwards. A side cannot be recorded after it has undergone another process later on! Therefore the later date must refer to something that happened after the recording date.

 

It might be: (a) the plating of the matrix from the original wax master; (a) the plating of a mother from the matrix; (c) the plating of a stamper from the mother; or even (d) a pressing date?

 

But before delving deeper into these esoteric matters, let us study a few more Homophones – or Homophons, or Homochords, Homokord, Homocord; the name evolved over the years – in order to look for general trends in these dates.

 

We’ll begin with the other side of the above record….

 

Description: Description: homophone518

 

we see that the date at the bottom is the same as the other side: 25th July 1907. While the date at the right, E21U, decodes to 21st May 1906. Now here are the 2 sides of a later disc:

 

Description: Description: homophon1101a      Description: Description: homophon1101b

 

 

The only possible date to be derived from 22713 is 22nd July 1913. On the other side, 1813 might, I suppose, be construed as 18th January 1903; but as we are pretty certain that Homophone did not make disc records at that time, let us choose something more plausible: say 1st August 1913? As to F20O and F22O, they yield 20th June 1912 and 22nd June 1912 respectively. The ‘plain dates’ are after the ‘letter code’ dates’; and this is always the case.

 

When the Great War of 1914-1918 broke out, these German-pressed records naturally disappeared from the British market. But they continued to be made in Germany for many years. Homophone were extremely conservative in their record manufacturing practices, and the manner which they pressed the details into their discs, as you will see as we pick up the story in Germany, with a Homokord from 1922 and a Homocord from 1925.

 

 

Description: Description: homkord8092     Description: Description: homocordb8626a

 

 

Apart from the fact that the ‘A’ has shifted to the front of the ‘plain date’, and the digits slightly spread to make it even more obviously a date, nothing has visually changed on these pressings since 1913 – and twelve years was a long time in the Record Industry in those days! Compare these to the right-hand black label above. The same double run-off groove still originates at the top of the label, and sweeps swiftly, within half a revolution, to the same double locked groove. As to the dates, the plain date on 8092 reads 26th July 1922; the code G17D gives us 17th July 1922. On 8626, we have 28th April 1925 and D21A = 21st April 1925.

 

It’s time to sum up. We can read these dates, for sure. But what events do they refer to? The fact that the ‘letter code’ date is always before the ‘plain date’ has led to the suggestion that it may be the recording date.

 

And that the later one is probably the date when the stamper was ‘grown’, or electrotyped, from the mother. The possibility that the later date is the date of pressing can, I think, be firmly ruled out. A big selling record would probably require a press or presses to work for several days to satisfy the demand for it; and to change the date code on the metalwork for each new day would be frankly, ludicrous.

 

So is the G11P-type date the recording date? Just possibly. But it has been reported that two copies of the same side may have different codes of this type. There are two possibilities which might account for this. One explanation is that a ‘re-make’ was necessary. This would obviously have a later date. Or (and IMHO, more likely) the G11P-type code indicates the date on which the mother was plated from the matrix. And after having several stampers produced from it, that first mother was worn out. Accordingly, a second mother would need to be plated from the matrix. So the later date might indicate when that second mother was plated. And of course, if a third or fourth &c. mother was required, each would have a different and ever later date. This latter, we increasingly believe, is probably the correct interpretation.

 

Where does this leave our ‘plain date’, which is always later than the ‘letter-code’ date? There aren’t many options left. As we have ruled it out as a pressing date, it is most probable that it is the date the stamper was plated from the mother, just as has always been surmised.

 

We now move on to the second part of this inordinately long & boring web-page, which concerns the label Invicta. This was initially a product of the German company Berolina G. m. b. H, and the sole agency for these discs in this country was taken up by a company run by William Barraud. Later it became W A Barraud Ltd., and later still he created the Invicta Record Co. Ltd. (He was the brother of Francis Barraud, the artist who created the ‘His Master’s Voice’ painting: but that’s not important right now.)

 

These Invicta records bore a letter code date. But although appearing exactly the same, i.e. ‘letter-number-letter’, it has proved the bane of many – including the present writer – who have tried to interpret it.

 

Our first fundamental mistake, was to combine long lists of Homophone letter codes with Invicta letter codes. It seemed the obvious thing to do: they must have been made by the same company: and the more statistics, the more accuracy of analysis & prediction, surely?

 

But no. Only confusion resulted from studying these mixed codes. Eventually it emerged that a variant letter code was in use on Invicta. And to cut a long story short, it looks like a complete inversion of the Homophone code. (a) Instead of being in the form ‘month-day-year’, they were ‘year-day-month’. (b) Instead of the months being A to M (omitting I), they were O to Z. (c) Instead of the years starting at Z in 1901 and going to A in 1925( omitting I), they were A for 1901 and Z for 1925 (omitting I).

 

Anyhow, once this enchantingly logical process of code inversion was grasped, the rest was easy. It was of course the years that ‘gave the game away’. For unlike Homophone itself, which made disc records from 1905 until after its letter code had expired in 1925, Invicta records were produced for only three years: 1912 – 1914. This accounts for only the letters M, N & O appearing on the letter codes for Invicta discs. Let us look at an Invicta

 

Description: Description: invicta112

 

The letter code appears below the label – M24R. Thanks to the generous help of many discographers, dozens of Invicta letter codes have been studied  far more than for Homophone – and without further discussion, here is a proposed table of the Invicta Code.

 

Letter

Year

Day

Letter

Month

A

1901

1

Z

January

B

1902

2

Y

February

C

1903

3

X

March

D

1904

4

W

April

E

1905

5

V

May

F

1906

6

U

June

G

1907

7

T

July

H

1908

8

S

August

J

1909

9

R

September

K

1910

10

Q

October

L

1911

11

P

November

M

1912

12

O

December

N

1913

13

 

 

O

1914

14

 

 

P

1915

15

 

 

Q

1916

16

 

 

R

1917

17

 

 

S

1918

18

 

 

T

1919

19

 

 

U

1920

20

 

 

V

1921

21

 

 

W

1922

22

 

 

X

1923

23

 

 

Y

1924

24

 

 

Z

1925

25

 

 

 

 

&c.

 

 

 

Only three year letters are involved in Invicta date codes: those highlighted above. M is the commonest, though N is plentiful too. O is extremely rare and there are only 5 sides known to us. Associated with the rare year O (1914), only two month letters have been seen: Z & Y, which equate to January & February 1914. This accords well with the facts, since the sales of German Invictas were minuscule in 1914 – their new agent here, John Abrahams, did not seem to sell many, and they are very seldom seen. And it goes without saying that there cannot be any red, white & blue Invictas with a month date after August (or more likely July) 1914, as the Great War broke out in early August.

 

Inevitably, the two systems coincided during December 1912. M x O is the xth of December 1912 whether it be a Homophone or an Invicta. But apart from that, everything is pretty straightforward.  

 

Please send any information, queries, observations &c., to: jazz@normanfield.com Thank you!

 

Thanks are due to: the late Arthur Badrock, Steven Walker, William Dean-Myatt M. Phil., Dr. Rainer Lotz, Mike Thomas, Robert Girling, Joe Moore, Matthew Duncan. 

 

 

 

 

 

Page written 31st December 2008. Happy New Year!

Revised and corrected 21st December 2011. Happy Christmas!

Slightly revised 19th March 2013.

Reformatted 18th December 2015.Happy Christmas!