This Week:

The Internet Museum
of
Flexi/Cardboard/Oddity Records

For every kind of record, there is a collector. The growing scarcity and fragility of vinyl makes record collecting not only an addictive challenge but also a mission to preserve. And one of the most scarce and most fragile types of records is the flexi disc. Cheaply made and usually considered disposable, the flexi disc was a record of thin plastic or coated paper that could be found on anything from cereal boxes to postcards. Rather than convey high-fidelity music, they were meant as novelties or as advertisements. Michael Cumella, a 38-year-old video editor in New York City, has placed his sizable collection online at The Internet Museum of Flexi/Cardboard/Oddity Records. While he includes the expected "cover" art from the discs, Cumella has also posted their recordings, which provide an interesting aural history of American pop-culture.

When and why were the first flex idiscs created?

Somewhere in the mid-teens the first celluloid discs appeared stapled to small post cards. A shellac-like disc applied to a post card also was another early type in the late teens. They were created as a cheap way to get messages out and as a novelty item.

What were some of their different uses?

Advertising, political campaigning, contests, toys, greetings, music, promotions, etc.

Are there any flexi disc "classics"?
Or how about ultimate collectibles?

I don't know how one can be a classic in such an obscure area. The ultimate collectible is a Disney record affixed to an uncut Wheaties cereal box circa 1955ish.

Did you collect "regular" records before focusing on flexi discs?

Flexis are an outgrowth of over 25 years of record collecting. I also have a collection of LPs, 45s, 78s and cylinder records.

What was your first flexidisc?

The Archies from a cereal box as a child. Looking back, a defining moment in my life.

Why did you decide to focus on collecting them in particular?

There are a wide range of direct uses which now make the surviving examples the only testament to these productions. They are usually cheap, surprising, always show up, and you can never collect or see them all.

Any good stories about record hunting expeditions?
What was your best "score"?

Reaching into a deep box under an obscure table at a flea market, I pulled out a box that contained two folded handkerchiefs in a clear plastic box that has a German yodel embossed into the top. I believe it was divine intervention.

What's the oddest flexi disc in your collection?

A flexi disc promoting the concept of flexi discs!

Are there many flexidisc collectors out there?

I know of a handful but I get lots of inquiries. Every record collector has a few.

How expensive can these records get?

I have seen early, rare post cards go for more that $300. on eBay.

Do you collect contemporary flexidiscs?

Not really. I don't really collect for content. It is more about "the pitch" or graphic design. If it is just around black thing, I probably don't want it.

What kinds of reactions have you gotten to the website?

People come to it from very different places. Some one may be looking for info about a toy they had which came with a flexi enclosed while another may be doing a information search about a product that lead them to a recording on my site. Others may remember a recording they encountered in the past and found it there. Folks like to browse around and are amazed at the range of examples.

Do people offer you their records?

Oh yes. I get folks wanting to give and sell me stuff, which is the way I get most of my new stuff. A guy who used to work in one of the factories sent me a giant box of unused stuff he had been saving. It was fantastic!

Any new plans for the site?

Just to keep doing the same thing.

 

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