The flexi is an oft neglected format, however it's fragility makes it the sort of item where those copies that survive will almost inevitably become collectable.
What is a Flexi?
it is a thin sheet of plastic cut with the grooves of a record, it is soft and can be bent or rolled, hence the name.
The Earliest flexis we can locate are from the UK, they play at 78 RPM and date from the Mid 50s. their existence is pretty remarkable as the old 78 players used heavy needles that would probably carve up a flexi after just few plays! The Flexi came of age in the 60s with the sending out by The Beatles of annual fan club newsletters and Flexis at Christmas. Needless to say these are vert sought after today.
Flexis were widely used as promotional tools and magazine freebies over the next 30 years, Both NME and Melody Maker competed for readers by affixing Flexis to their covers with unreleased tracks and excerpts of music from various bands. The Flexi was not necessarily seen as a prestige item and rival magazines in the 80s made big play of their ability to substitute the flexi with conventional 7" singles, referred to as "Hard Vinyl"
The same technology allowed the pressing of postcard records. What better than to send home a full media package incorporating sights and sounds from your holiday destination! I remember once owning a "Royal Wedding talking postcard" with Charles and Diana peering out from behind the Grooves! the sound recording it's self was a rather turgid commentry with distant sounds of bells and cheering crowds.
After the Fall of the Iron Curtain countries in Eastern Europe were desperate to get new Western sounds to their listeners. Flexis and postcard records appeared in various countries as they were cheaper and easier to produce than conventional records. These postcards sported a strange selection of pictures, most bearing no relationship to the music. Check out this Excellent Swedish Zappa site for pictures of Polish and Russian postcard records.
By the Mid 90s the CD had usurped the Flexi as the cheapest way to get music on the cover of a magazine, with up to 80 minutes of digital quality music as oppose to 10 minutes of poor quality sound on a Flexi, this was one battle vinyl was unlikely to win!
Flexis are collectable! Especially collectable are flexis by major artists. Because they were distributed free with papers/magazines or as promotional gimmicks, they were (and still are) seen as throwaway, so relatively few survive. Remember that flexis sent out with publications will hold their value much more if kept with the original paper or magazine.
Where to find Flexis
When buying them don't be tempted to dive in and pay top dollar right away, as many collectors and even dealers have failed to wise up to the collectablity of this format. Also the nature of the way Flexis were distributed means that many have ended up in the hands of people who are not serious collectors. Car Boot Sales and Charity Shops make fertile hunting grounds, as to the sale bins of many record shops. If you are after big rarities such as the Bealtes Flexis, you are much less likely to pick up a bargain. When looking online, try our Rare Record Finder
Care and Repair?
Flexis are fragile! when handling remember that if you crumple a flexi it may well kink or crease, once this has happened it will be unplayable and repair is difficult. Clean a flexi very gently with warm soapy water as you would for a record; do not use alcohol. Reportedly you can repair a creased Flexi by placing it under a damp cloth and ironing it, I have verified this method