My 3 inch (8cm) mini compact disc collection

Discussion in 'Digital Sources' started by SA-708, Mar 28, 2017.

  1. SA-708

    SA-708 Appalachian-American Subscriber

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    The 3 inch or 8cm compact disc (also branded as CD3 in the US) was an attempt to sell CD singles and EPs at a lower price point that would be distinguishable in size from 5" (12cm) CD albums, similar to the differences between 12" and 7" records. The first titles (mostly promotional) were released in 1987. In the USA, indie labels such as SST, A&M and Ryko were pioneers of the new format. Virgin was heavy into the format in the UK.

    By the early 1990s, the format was dead in the US and in Europe. Music CD3s saw a brief revival around 2001-2004 when 3 inch CD-R and slimline miniCD jewel cases hit the market, and then died a second time. In Japan, the format was more successful, and 3 inch CD singles were available from 1988 to around 2003-2004. They are still occasionally released as novelty items.

    I bought a few of these in my CDs when they were first released, starting with the Don't Let's Stop EP by They Might Be Giants, but about a decade ago started buying more of them online, which grew into this collection. Many date from the late 80s to early 90s time frame that I was DJ at a college radio station and was into the early Alternative Rock of the time, so there are many with music that I really enjoy. I recently bought another batch of them via eBay, and also a tiny personal CD player for the 3 inch discs (see
    My "new" kawaii miniCD player: Aiwa XP-Z3C).



    My purpose in this thread is three-fold.

    1) Post a bunch of photos of my collection of 3 inch CDs, and show them off. I have over 250 of them that I have bought over the years.

    2) Discuss reasons why the small format CDs did not do so well in the marketplace. They fared best in Japan, so I have been considering some differences in how they were sold and marketed in Japan than in the rest of the world. I'm guessing the "kawaii" cuteness factor had something to do with the success in Japan. In looking through my collection this past week, I've also noted two trends:
    A) Most Japanese 3" CDs came in a standardized snap-pack. This made merchandising and selling the format easier (I've even seen reports of vending machines there) than in the US and Europe, where there was never a standard size for the packaging.
    B) US record labels such as MCA and Rhino flooded the market with oldies reissues in the CD3 format. Perhaps if the format would have been associated more strongly with new releases targeted at younger buyers as it was in Japan, it would have fared better.

    3) Get some conversation going about this "obsolete" format that remains compatible will almost all CD players.



    Some overall photos of the collection:

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    This shoebox holds some extra jewel cases, spare adapter rings, and such, as well as some sealed and open long boxes, the items in plastic on the left.

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    I got these boxes on clearance from Bags Unlimited, and have a few more still unfolded for when the collection grows. The box on the left has the Japanese snap packs, with the discs stored in jewel cases too, while the other four contain the CDs that came in the 3" square cardboard covers. The cover and the CD inside a jewel case are kept in a polyprop sealed sleeve, also from Bags Unlimited.

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    The ones that came in large jewel cases or 5" square cardboard covers are in these three plastic boxes. Also stored here are the Capital soft plastic cases safely stored in jewel case sized "calendar cases" that I also got from Bags Unlimited on clearance. All of the red cases in the box on the left are these, holding a full set of the Beatles' singles on 3" CDs.
     
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  2. SA-708

    SA-708 Appalachian-American Subscriber

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    Packaging: USA: A&M Promo

    Here are two early promotional release by A&M Records from 1988. It seems that the label was still trying to figure out how to package the new format for retail.

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    This was a promotional release distributed to retailers at the 1988 NARM Convention. The CD contains one track, narrated by Rick Dees, discussing how A&M would be launching the new format in March of 1988, including snippets of some of the first round of titles (Susanne Vega, Sting, OMD). Part of the plan was that titles would have two B-sides including tracks exclusive to the CD3 format. The blister pack contained the opened case for the 3" disc.

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    Back-side of the packaging.

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    A&M eventually did not go with this patented Mini-Digi-Pak. This is the only one in my collection with this type of case.



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    This was A&M's first promotional CD3, a sampler from Squeeze's Babylon and On album featuring the first single "Hourglass" from late 1987. This is a standard digipak tray with nothing glued onto the back, inside a cardboard slip-cover. Again, this is the only 3" CD in my collection packaged in this manner. The follow-up single "Footprints" was one of the titles in A&M's CD3 launch in March 1988.

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    Back cover.

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  3. SA-708

    SA-708 Appalachian-American Subscriber

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    Packaging: USA: A&M

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    A&M kept the 12" long blister pack from their NARM sampler for their CD3 packaging, but replaced the Mini-Digi-Pak with a gatefold cardboard sleeve. I recall many of these were sold from pegs on a pegboard, either where the customer could select them, or behind the counter if the store was afraid that they would be shoplifted.

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    The back of the blister cards had more artwork and credits.

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    The outside of an A&M gatefold sleeve. The jewel case was not available at the time; it is what I use to store the disc now to keep the sleeve from scratching the disc. The notch to the left is where the disc inserted into the sleeve.

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    Full song credits were inside the sleeve,
     
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  4. SA-708

    SA-708 Appalachian-American Subscriber

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    Packaging: USA: Ryko & Virgin

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    Ryko, a CD only label, released this Frank Zappa single in late 1987, so they could lay claim to having released the first 3 inch CD. I don't have the backing card, but it would have been 8" long. The perforations where it was attached to the card can be seen at the top of the sleeve.

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    This US Virgin release has the same packaging still intact. The CD was shrinkwrapped in the hook on the front of the backing card, while the sleeve was folded back on the perforations.

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    Back of the card. When shrinkwrapped, the sleeve was folded up over the blank part of the card.

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    A later Ryko release. This would have been sold with the gatefold unfolded and the CD in the sleeve, shrinkwrapped at about 6 inches by 3 inches.

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    Inside of the gatefold, which would have been visible at retail.

    Starting to see the inconsistency in packaging sizes for 3" CDs? The only fixture that really worked to sell all we have seen so far is a pegboard, with plastic hangers stuck onto the shrinkwrap when needed.
     
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  5. SA-708

    SA-708 Appalachian-American Subscriber

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    Packaging: USA: Ryko

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    Another pair of the later Ryko packaging, both with the gatefold left unfolded. Both also have cut-out holes punched in the top panel.

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    The backs of both. According to Discogs, these two 1988 releases were first sold in the longer packaging. I bought both from The Residents' mailorder in the mid-90s.
     
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  6. 1tumbleweed

    1tumbleweed Kozmik Kowboy Subscriber

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    Very interesting. Many of these were manufactured by a company called Shape Optimedia, which invested heavily in equipment for the format. When the design tanked, they went bankrupt. At the auction of Shape's assets, the one and only bidder was Philips, who had manufactured the equipment for producing these. They bought it all and shipped it back to Holland.

    How do I know this? My wife was working for an industrial auction company at the time, and they were the ones who handled the auction. I still have some of Shape's promotional CDs, but nothing like what you have!

    Cheers,
    Larry B.
     

     

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  7. stereofanboy

    stereofanboy Addicted Member

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    I had completely forgotten these.
     
  8. 60 Cycle Hum

    60 Cycle Hum Active Member

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    I have three.

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    The Elvis came from a breakfast cereal giveaway!
     
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  9. SA-708

    SA-708 Appalachian-American Subscriber

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    I seem to recall an Elvis 3" CD that came with copies of TV Guide. There was also a movie theatre chain that had drink cup lids with a 3" CD inside, but I don't have one. I do have one of the Columbia promos that came in 12 packs of Coca-Cola cans.

    image.jpeg
     
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  10. GhostDog

    GhostDog New Member

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    Awesome article and great collection - will be keeping an eye out for these little beauties.
     
  11. soundboy

    soundboy Super Member

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    Remember the adaptor ring?

    [​IMG]
     
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  12. soundboy

    soundboy Super Member

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    First, I agree with the marketing.....content was concentrated on the wrong demographics. In addition, I don't think Sony or PolyGram, made much effort in promoting the 3" CD in the US. They also cost quite a bit for only having 2-3 songs.

    By the way, the 3" CD format was recent revived by Hong Kong Universal Music for reissuing 12" and 7" singles (generally remixes) from the '80s. The new 3" CD singles are housed in snap-packs. Back in the 80s, aside from 12"/7" remix singles (occasionally released on cassette), there is no market for singles in HK. Record companies like HK CBS/Sony and HK PolyGram were proponents of the 3" CD, but after a couple of years, the format was abandoned.

    [​IMG]
     
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  13. SA-708

    SA-708 Appalachian-American Subscriber

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    Packaging: USA: Rhino

    On to Rhino, for an example of plastic clamshell packaging. Just like some 5" CDs were packaged in clamshells instead of cardboard long boxes, there was a version for 3" discs too. I don't have an intact example, but this is the best I have, with the backing card that came in the clamshell with the CD and sleeve.

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    The sleeve would have been held on place by plastic through the top hole, and the CD by plastic through the middle hole.

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    Back of the sleeve and the backing card. I bought this well past the date of the free CD offer, as part of a lot on eBay; I generally don't buy the 3" oldies singles. As you can see from the partial list, Rhino released a good number of these.

    image.jpeg

    This adapter was shrink-wrapped onto the back of the clamshell for the Johnny Cash disc. I think they only did that with the earliest copies. Looks to have been made by Shape Inc as mentioned upthread.

    I also have some 3 inch CDs from the SST and Enigma/Restless labels that also probably came in clamshell packaging.
     
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  14. Beatnik

    Beatnik What's this ?

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    I've come across two of these, both are The Beatles. Never bought any new though.
     
  15. parman

    parman Retiree Subscriber

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    I remember them and had a few but don't remember what ones. I remember trying to sell them on the bay and couldn 't find any takers. That was a long time ago, I think I threw them away, sorry about that.
     
  16. SA-708

    SA-708 Appalachian-American Subscriber

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    Packaging: USA: Enigma/Restless

    image.jpeg

    Two copies of the same single from 1988, UK Mute on the left and USA Restless on the right.

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    The US release has one more track, but both came in full size slim-line jewel cases, probably so the nice custom adapter rings could be included.

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    A year later, Restless released this Wire single with a small sleeve. According to Discogs, this came in a clamshell, which is consistent with the unperforated edge of the sleeve.

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    I bought this 1988 single used, so I don't know if it came with an adapter ring or not.

    I'll get to US major labels next. Columbia/Epic & Capitol came up with their own methods of using plastic to package 3" CDs.
     
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  17. parman

    parman Retiree Subscriber

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    I think the few I had might have been some free bee samplers now that I think about it. :idea:
     
  18. cnolanh

    cnolanh Ad astra Subscriber

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    IMG_8341.JPG
    This is the only one I have: a 4-song promo sampler for Tom Jung's DMP jazz label (CD-1751) in a simple cardboard sleeve. Above it is a Sony CSA-8 CD Single Adaptor, for use with players (like slot-loaders) which can't handle the small disc directly.

    I also remember a few computer software promo discs in this small format.

    EDIT: It's playing nicely in my oldest optical player, a Sony CDP-508ESD. And interestingly, the newest optical player in the house, an Oppo BDP-105, also has the 8cm indentation in its loading tray.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2017
  19. zebra03

    zebra03 All Audio - NO BS

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    I have 2 of them . Beach Boys and Tommy James . I played them on my Technics CD players and did not need any such ring .
     
  20. SA-708

    SA-708 Appalachian-American Subscriber

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    Packaging: USA: Capital/EMI

    For the most part, the major labels used the small cardboard sleeves either attached to a backing card with perforations, or in a plastic clamshell. There were two exceptions.

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    Capital/EMI came up with a flexible white plastic case, with the artwork glued to the outside. These are rather fragile and prone to wear.

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    This back cover shows a common wear pattern, with three worn spots in the center, on the back side of where the hub for the disc is located. The also wore where the thin paper label would bend at the spine.

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    Inside of the case, where you can see what causes the three wear spots.

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    These were packaged for retail in 12" long boxes. Here are the long boxes for two of the Beatles' singles; Capital released the full set starting in 1988. I have them all, with all but one being US releases. The one I have from the UK has a different style of cover (to be seen later).
     
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