For the Record | Page 2 | Newberry

For the Record

Had one of those phone calls a while back. The caller asked for the dates of this year’s sale and then inquired “Will you be separating the books with ISBN numbers from the others?”

The International Standard Book Number is a number stuck on every book as an identifier. All copies of the same edition of a book have the same ISBN. This is useful online but I couldn’t quite see what use it would be at a Book Fair.

“Well, no,” I said. “Why would I do that?”

“So I can check whether I have the books already without having to use the title or author,” said the caller, with extreme patience. “It’s quicker.”

“A lot of folks use the UPC code, if the book has a jacket,” I said. “They can scan it or some such.”

Her extreme patience ran out. “It is SO difficult talking to someone who lived before we had technology!”

Well, she had only herself to blame. It’s not as if I called her. I do own a cell phone myself, you know. You have to crank it to ring up Central, and the battery takes kerosene, but I do know something about the business.

And, as I hope you know, technology did NOT come into existence when Bill Gates said “Let there be Windows!” I have in my hands at this moment a bit of technology which is cutting edge. It has never been surpassed for its purpose. I have checked it out on numerous websites, and all the experts agree that it belongs in a rarefied class of technology.

Nobody seems to remember what it was for.

It is a plastic disc about three inches in diameter. It has a hole in the middle, just the size of the spindle on the record player. (This is not a coincidence, but don’t jump ahead of me.) White lettering proclaims this to be a “Sav-A-Disc” made by the Penlee Mfg. Co. of Dubuque, Iowa. Mine also has a patent number on it. Others I have found online simply say “Patent Applied For”, so this one must be the improved edition. (You can find a nice picture of one next time you check into the Encyclopedia Dubuque, an online resource for pictures of and about Dubuque, Iowa history.)

This thing must have had some kind of stickum on it at one time, because I found several of these stuck over the labels of 78 RPM records. The stickum warped the labels a bit, and when the disc is actually attached to the label, it can make the label very hard to read. Although it is clear, it somehow blurs the lettering on the label. If the Sav-A-Disc falls off, which it does quite readily, the label is easier to read, but still warped from whatever kind of glue this was.

No one, on the various websites I checked, seems to know exactly what this piece of plastic was supposed to “sav”. The only speculation about it was that it would also make the record harder to play, since the plastic would give the record less traction. They would also seem to lower the value of the record, by warping the label, but I may have no chance to find out about that, since almost all the records with this device on them were broken. (Can’t blame it on the Sav-A-Disc, I suppose. Or can I?)

In any case, my caller would have known nothing at all about THIS technology, so she had no need to sniff at me for a perceived lack of technical knowledge. I’ve even texted. Four TIMES!


Sav-A-Disc inserts were intended to both protect the labels from wear and to keep the 78's from scratching each other when records were stacked and dropped by automatic changer turntables. They became redundant when manufactures of records raised label and the outer-most edge of records to protect the grooves during changer drops. All 33s and 45s have this innovation built in.

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