I get LOTS of questions about the famous statue that was on the cover of Led Zeppelin's Presence album, which is called "The Object". Hopefully this feature will give some background on it and answer some questions that commonly arise!
First of all, after Hipgnosis designed the Presence album cover, in which The Object was painted into the various scenes, Led Zeppelin had real Objects 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" tall black Objects for Swan Song to use in their promotion of the record. On the base of each Object was imprinted the following on four sides:
1) LED ZEPPELIN (1/4" tall lettering)
2) "THE OBJECT" c 1976 SWAN SONG INC (VERY small lettering)
3) PRESENCE (1/4" tall lettering)
4) ____/1000 (The individual number was here; this information was etched by hand onto each Object
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 outside of the box, on top. 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.
In the late 1970's-early 1980's, somewhere in the vicinity of 500 reproductions were made. Seems like there were lots more than that, but this is fact. 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 well, though there was one numbered 666! I do recall that there happened to be an overlap of some numbers on the fakes. I doubt there are any more than three of the same number on any of the repros. The numbering of these were 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 prevelant, 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 hard plaster called hydrocale, 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. Both are also the same height.
It is fairly safe to say that once one has seen an original Object, then you'll always be able to tell the difference between genuine and fakes. The differences are subtle enough for some to have been fooled by bootleg ones. Original Objects are not easy to find; most people who have them seem to want to keep them. Unlike many Zep 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! I can't tell you how many people opened ones that we sold when we had a batch in the early 90's; one of our foreign customers had the unfortunate experience of having their original Object in the box opened by a Customs agent.
Finally, there has been another incarnation of reproduction Objects, manufactured by an artist in Oregon. These are very easy to tell from both the originals and reproduction Objects from a several decades ago because they have very rounded edges, are lighter in weight, and are usually numbered 310/1000.
The Object is a REALLY cool item; it's a GREAT conversation piece in any room and is quite an attention getter on a coffee table or shelf. If you're looking for an Object, good luck in your search!
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