Elvis Knievel's Record Boxes and Inserts

These display cases house a small part of Elvis Knievel's record insert collection.
Elvis Knievel

stands in the kitchen of his northwest Phoenix home ("the Smithsonian of cool," he says), preparing his usual noontime tea. He's surrounded by pop culture memorabilia, including old toy models of Schwinn bicycles, autographed photos of rock stars, and 1960s rocket ship toys from Yugoslavia.

Knievel, a "40something" local artist who recently lost his job at Ski Pro after nine years, has collected many things throughout his life. He's recently sold various items on eBay, but one collection he keeps for himself is his assortment of record boxes and 45 rpm adapters, better known as "record inserts."

Metal record boxes crowd the shelves and floors of Knievel's living and dining room. There are boxes for 45s, boxes for 78 rpm records, and boxes for 12-inch records. Knievel estimates he has nearly 100 boxes in all, and most of them are full. One box is filled with rare and expensive U2 records; another is packed with Beatles singles.

"I used to go to record conventions to buy the records, and then I'd look under the table and go, 'How much for the boxes?'" Knievel says. "And for years, they'd want just like, two bucks for the box or whatever. Now, they're like, 'That's the dude that's been collecting all our boxes for years - fifty bucks on the box, dude!'"

Elvis Knievel shows off his record insert tattoo.

Knievel's been collecting records since he was a kid, and he also has a ton of record inserts -- some housed atop various record players, others carefully arranged in plastic display boxes.

For non-audiophiles, record inserts date back to about 1949, when RCA released the first 45 rpm record. Inserts were necessary to play seven-inch records on turntables, as they filled the large holes in the 45s. Inserts ranged from early, solid metal circles that fit on the bottom of the spindle to large stacks and tubes to thinner, plastic "spider" models prevalent since the 1960s.

Knievel has every variation of record insert, but is most partial to the plastic spider-types. One of the first tattoos he got at age 18 was of a yellow, plastic 45 insert - a symbol for music geeks. He's also got a sticker of the same type of insert on one of his record boxes.

Though the plastic inserts comprise the bulk of his collection, Knievel says his favorite record insert right now is the metal Parker insert he recently acquired. It's got four points and makes a sort of X-shape. Knievel has never seen one before.

His oldest insert is a Snap-It adapter from the early 1950s, a solid metal circle with a few dents.

"When you snap them in there, you can't get them out. That was at a point where they were using spindles only, and when you snapped those in, they were snapped in," Knievel says. "And people would try to snap them out and break the record. Then they'd go, 'These things suck!' and they'd throw them away. Not very many of those survived."

A Blue Meanie from The Beatles' "Yellow Submarine" movie guards more record inserts.

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