The Presence “Object”

by Rick Barrett (http://stores.ebay.com/Ricks-Cool-Collectibles)

Most collectors have questions about the famous statue that’s on the cover of Led Zeppelin’s 1976 Presence album, which is called “The Object”. This feature will give some background on it and hopefully answer some questions that commonly arise.

First of all, after graphic design company Hipgnosis designed the Presence album cover, in which The Object was painted into the various scenes, Led Zeppelin had real Objects copyrighted and produced. That’s what was used to photograph the album’s black and white inner sleeves. Shortly thereafter, Alva Museum Graphics in New York was contracted to produce 1000 individually-numbered 12-inch tall black Objects for Swan Song to use in their promotion of the record. Each side of the base of each Object was imprinted with one of the following four pieces of information:

1) LED ZEPPELIN (In ¼-inch tall lettering)
2) “THE OBJECT” © 1976 SWAN SONG INC (In VERY small lettering)
3) PRESENCE (In ¼-inch tall lettering)
4) ____/1000 (The individual issue number was hand-etched here)

The originals came in brown cardboard boxes taped shut with brown paper filament tape. On the side of each box was a flat white sticker with “The Object” and “Copyright 1976 Swan Song” written in red. Some boxes have the number of the Object inside written in black magic marker on the top of the box. These brown cardboard boxes were nothing fancy; without the sticker it was just a plain brown cardboard box. When opened, one could see that The Object was packed in a brownish padded blanket of sorts; like those padded mailers filled with that shredded newspaper stuff (originals were NOT packaged with bubble wrap, and the cardboard boxes did NOT originally come shrink-wrapped). This is the only way and the only time The Object was ever released by Swan Song/Atlantic Records.

Object1

In the late 1970’s to early 1980’s, somewhere in the vicinity of 500 reproductions were made. There were many variations of the bogus Objects and they were all from the same source. None of the repros were numbered higher than 650 if memory serves me correctly, though there was one numbered 666! There was also some overlap of some numbers on the fakes, but it’s doubtful there are any more than three of the same number on any of the repros. The numbering of these was done by hand, but they were not done chronologically; it seemed like whatever suited the bootleggers at the time was the norm. Most of the first run of repros had some cheap green felt on the bottom of The Object; subsequent ones were just plain black-bottomed.

The differences between the originals and the 1980’s reproductions are as follows:

1) Originals: flat black paint. Repros: glossy or semi-gloss black paint.

2) Originals: very smooth sides and base; little or no imperfections. Repros: bulges and pits were prevalent, though not all that noticeable from a fair distance away; various flaws abound…brush marks from the paint, difficult to read etchings on the base, bulging top edge.

3) Originals: underneath the thin coat of paint, a flesh color appears IF a scratch or chip is not very deep; if deep then white shows through. Repros: only a white color shows through if scratched or chipped.

A REAL Object is on the left in all of these photos; a reproduction Object from the 1980’s is on the right:

Both originals and repros were made of a white gypsum cement called Hydrocal, were of the same height and weighed the same. The originals were made of a higher quality material, which is one reason why there are less flaws than the hastily-produced fakes.

It’s fairly safe to say that once you’ve seen an original Object, then you’ll always be able to tell the difference between a genuine and a fake, but the differences are subtle enough for some to have been fooled by the reproductions. Original Objects are not easy to find; most people who have them seem to want to keep them. Unlike many Zeppelin items that seem to just appeal to hardcore Zeppelin fans, there are a LOT of music fans and collectors of promo items that want or have an Object. Real ones in an unopened box are becoming very rare; most people that get them open them up.

Also, there has been a more recent incarnation of reproduction Objects, manufactured by an artist in Oregon. These are very easy to tell from both the originals and reproduction Objects from several decades ago because they have very rounded edges, are lighter in weight, and are usually numbered 310/1000.

Lastly, many more varying-quality repros from various other sources are making the rounds on Ebay currently, so do your homework if you’re looking for an original.

©2016 by Rick Barret and GotLed

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