Countries (Where is my record from?)

Often times it is difficult to identify a record's country of origin - especially those manufacured in Europe. Sometimes it is obvious with the words "Made In England" or "Made in the Netherlands" printed on the label. However, sometimes these easy clues are missing and this section offers some helpful tips on how to identify where the record or CD comes from.

Often for records from Germany / Holland / Belgium it can be difficult to determine which country the disc originated from. If the label has the word GEMA stamped on it, the disk is from Germany. If the label has the word STEMRA stamped on it, the disk is from Holland. SABAM signifies a disc from Belgium. This holds true even if the "virgin" vinyl around the label is stamped "Made in Germany", because although the vinyl itself may have come from Germany, the recording was pressed in the country listed and sold in that market.

Complications arise for example If the word STEMRA BIEM is stamped on the label, the disk has been pressed in Holland, but sold in another European market (e.g. France or Spain). With major hits, the French presses were not able to keep up with the demand, so Holland would press copies of the record and ship them to France to be sold.

Sometimes a label may have multiple clues - e.g. be stamped with the words GEMA STEMRA. This signifies that the record has been pressed by one of the countries from the European Economic Community, ie Holland, Belgium or Germany. There is no definite way to tell which country pressed the record unless there are obvious clues (such as "Made in...").

So what is this "BIEM" bit I keep seeing on the labels? BIEM is the Bureau International des Sociétés Gérant les Droits d'Enregistrement et de Reproduction Mécanique. It is the international organisation representing mechanical rights societies. Mechanical rights societies exist in most countries. They license the reproduction of works (including musical, literary and dramatic works). The reproductions may take place by way of the manufacture of a CD or DVD or through digital means such as downloads from the Internet. The members of mechanical rights societies are composers, authors and publishers.

The term "mechanical rights" dates back to the time when all reproductions of music were carried out by mechanical processes. Even though nowadays reproductions are carried out in a variety of electronic and digital ways, the term "mechanicals" has become enshrined into industry jargon.

Things seem to get more complicated in Scandanavia where NCB (Nordic Copyright Bureau) - - control the performing rights for Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Sweden and Finland. My understanding is that the majority of record pressings in the region are manufactured in Norway with the addition of a "Made in xxxxx" added if applicable to other countries. I have had differing feedback from collectors in Denmark, Sweden and Norway as to how true this statement is, so if you know for sure then please share the information.

Here are some publishing clues you will find on labels which may identify the country of origin:-

Publisher Table

Example Symbols Abreviation Country Comments


Austro Mechana Austria  
  KODA Denmark Many Danish Records and CDs are actually manufactured in Norway and feature the NCB logos.
GEMA, STEMRAm BIEM GEMA STEMRA BIEM Europe German or Dutch Pressing made for wider European market
  TEOSTO Finland The Finnish records I have seen have the Norwegian NCB copyright with "Made In Finland"
BIEM_GEMA BIEM GEMA Made in Germany (For sale elsewhere)  
BIEM BIEM STEMRA Made in Germany (For sale in the Netherlands)  
GEMA GEMA Germany  


STEMRA STEMRA Netherlands  
NCB Norway

Some disks which have "Made In Sweden" on them also have the "NCB/BIEM" logo, suggesting the actual pressing may have been in Norway for the Swedish market.

Many Norwegian sleeves have "Team-Trykk" printed on them.

SPA SPA Portugal  

SGAE Spain  
STIM STIM Sweden  
Made In Sweden   Sweden Some disks which have "Made In Sweden" on them also have the "NCB/BIEM" logo, suggesting the actual pressing may have been in Norway for the Swedish market
SUISA SUISA Switzerland  
SOKOJ SOKOJ Yugoslavia  


Run-Off Stamps

Another method used to identify origin of vinyl records is to look for a country code stamped on the run-off of the vinyl itself (inside the tracks) - some collectors refer to this as "dead wax". The record plant can use this space to print all sorts of matrix numbers and often include a clue to the location of manufacture. Whilst again not foolproof, these numbers refer to the record "stamper" that pressed the record.

Here's an example from a French pressing of Status Quo's Piledriver LP. Note the Catalogue Number (6321 004 1) followed by a "380" visible in the run-off:-

French Country Stamp The "380" here is the country code for France.


Stamper Country Code Table

Here's a table of known Country Codes:-

Austria  720 
Australia  150
Belgium  170
Brazil  200
Denmark  300
Far East  022
France  380
Germany  320
Great Britain  420
Hungary  450
Italy  520
Luxembourg  630
Netherlands  670
Norway 710
Portugal  790
South Africa  960
Spain  850
Sweden  970
Switzerland  980 
Rest of the World  000

If anyone has any other useful tips to identify countries of origin then please contact me so that I can add to this page.