Part 303: Marking Your Discs


RECORD STORE TALES Part 303:  Marking Your Discs

In the 1990’s, stealing CDs and selling them to a pawn shop or a used CD store was a fairly common way for thieves to make some money.  Today I doubt it happens at the levels I saw in the 1990’s.  You just can’t get as much for a CD today, not even close.

I had seen too many people lose valuable music to theft, and never get the discs back.  I received many visits and phone calls from upset customers, hoping that someone had sold their stolen discs to me.  But a lot of thieves were too smart to sell them in town.  They’d go somewhere else to sell them, assuming that they’d be harder to catch then.   When somebody lost dozens of CDs in a break-in, they would call all the used stores in town.  “If you see a guy bringing in a huge collection of Jazz box sets, including about a dozen Miles Davis remasters, call me.”

It was always best if you could somehow identify your collection.  Jazz box sets and Miles remasters (for example) would be easy to spot.  If somebody else called and said, “Somebody stole all my rock CDs…I had Stone Temple Pilots, Korn, Creed, Days of the New…” well, there wasn’t much hope.  These are titles that we often saw, probably every single day.  If you could somehow mark the discs as your property, however…

Different people used different methods.  In 1995, I got a call from a guy who worked at the downtown Dr. Disc.  His collection had been stolen.  He marked his discs in a unique way.  He placed a strip of tinfoil underneath the CD tray.  If somebody came in to sell a hundred CDs and they all had tinfoil under the tray, there’s your guilty party.

Most people, who didn’t care about the packaging or condition of their discs so much, would just write their name inside.  Either on the booklet, the inner tray, or the front cover.  I could never deface my music like that, and neither could T-Rev.  He came up with his own method.  Rather than mark the CD packaging itself, he wrote his initials on a tiny red sticker, and placed that somewhere unobtrusively on the CD.  If he ever wanted to remove it, he could do so without wrecking anything.

Tom didn’t share our “no permanent marks” philosophy. He embossed the front covers of his discs with a press that imprinted his initials on the front cover.  Tom gave me a couple CDs once – his initials always bothered me.  When I had the chance to swap covers with a copy that was in better condition, I did.  Tom tells me he doesn’t emboss his CDs anymore.  I’m glad he came to his senses.

T-Rev and I both have had CDs stolen, unfortunately.  Both of us had our vehicles broken into.  T-Rev never recovered the handful of discs that were in his Jeep. (I remember that one was the excellent Barstool Prophets albums Last of the Big Game Hunters.)  They never showed up, anywhere in town.  As for me, I only lost one disc – Fish’s 1998 compilation Kettle of Fish, which was inside my Discman (also stolen).  They didn’t take the CD case.  I imagine they probably threw out the CD; chances are these thieves would not enjoy the subtle sounds of Derek William Dick.  At that time, the album was not available in Canada, and I believe I had to order it directly from the official Fish site in the UK to replace it.  That cost me about $30, to replace a CD that I originally paid $7.99 for.  That was not a good day.



  1. I like the tinfoil idea, that’s clever.

    I just couldn’t deface any of my LPs, but I’ve bought the odd one where someone’s scrawled their name somewhere – on the centre of the record is an annoying one.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think back, and I never had to mark my cd’s, cuz I never liked to loan them out!!! I remember an “audiophile” chef that I worked with back in the early-80s wanted to borrow some of new-fangled shiny discs to experience his new player to its fullest. I loaned him my copy of The Replacements “Please To Meet Me”, an all-digital recording?!?!?! DDD. He returned it to me with water-damaged booklet that actually had been soaked in Crown Royal whiskey. Right then, I shut down my disc loaning service!!!


    1. Don’t get me wrong, I have never had a problem SHARING THE ROCK with those less adventurous or fortunate, but that really did burn me. I never had any disc theft tragedies, so I consider myself lucky. Guy I work with now lost his entire PHISH live show collection out of his car in a college campus theft! Red Alert!


      1. I never loan my stuff out anymore. The last time I did was my Marillion Anoraknophobia special edition CD and it came back with the cover creased. NOT HAPPY.


  3. I could never scrawl my name or initial anywhere on any of my records. Not even ones that I’ve bought with some markings on them already. Never defaced any of my CDs or tapes, either (though I have some CDs that have been autographed). Strangely, I don’t mind so much when I pick up a record that someone has written on (unless it is on the label – I usually leave that sitting in the rack). I guess it adds to the record’s life.

    Loaning stuff is something I don’t do often. I’ve also had the experience of receiving something that barely resembles the CD I loaned out. Or worse – seeing the CD on the floor under a bunch of other stuff while the case sat on top of the stereo. Ouch.


    1. I have a great story coming later on about a time a “friend” wanted to borrow my Beatles Red and Blue albums for a party. It’s shocking how little respect some people have for other people’s property isn’t it?


      1. It is, yeah. Even if I was the type who’d throw my own stuff down and use it as coasters, I reckon I’d be sure to treat stuff folks loaned me very differently. I shall look forward to this future story!


  4. What would you do if someone brought in CDs that you suspect were stolen?
    Ask the person to wait while you step into the office (and call the police) ?


  5. My stickers are on the back of the tray, neatly centered on the embossed “Digital CD” logo, and the discs are etched on the back near the hole.

    A friend had a whole box of cassettes (high grade Maxells) stolen from his car in Montreal, most of which I had made for him. In between songs there were cartoon voices, Capt. Kirk samples, bits of songs pasted together, all kinds of comedy madness. To this day (in spite of our fury at getting all that work ripped off) we laugh at what we imagine must have been the facial expressions of those thieves, listening to their score.


      1. People either treasured ’em (heard that an Ex still plays the tapes I made for her, in spite of her Hubby’s demand she “throws out that crazy crap”), or loathed ’em, about 50-50. Worked in my favor- guys who wanted me to tape stuff that was easily available cheap, never asked me again “What the f%#k is all that Bullwinkle arguing with Edgar Winter crap?”


        1. You had customers thrown at you? Now THAT would be a RST for the ages! Was it just in your general direction, or did they actually clear the counter? :)


  6. I’ve never marked any of my discs in any way. Even back to when I was a kid and had all my tapes, never once a name written anyway, or stamps. Embossing? Not a chance.


    1. I never have as well. I guess I’ve been lucky that I never had a mass theft like some poor people suffered.

      I wonder if CD theft is even a big thing anymore, on the scale of the 1990s. If a thief breaks into a house, there are probably other things more enticing for them to steal.


      1. Maybe. But what? A big-screen TV? Now that’s not conspicuous to be loading out of a house at 3 a.m… Maybe jewellry? I wouldn’t know I never buy the stuff. Usually thieves want small stuff they can carry, especially if they don’t have a lot of time. CDs would seem a good target, but even then they’re taking a lot of chances. Like, the house they’re robbing is owned by the world’s biggest fan of the Mantovani Orchestra, or something.


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