'The EPE Catalog'

Book Review

EIN review by Piers Beagley

Bob Pakes is an early Elvis enthusiast who runs the impressive website 'Elvis Echoes Of The Past'. His first venture into publishing is the incredible 'The EPE Catalog' along with (Elvis Files) Erik Lorentzen.

Over 390 pages 'The EPE Catalog' presents an A-Z guide with over 1,450 images on every weird and wonderful product that was part of the immensely successful 1956 Elvis Presley merchandise train.

The book is an incredible compendium of why teenage America went crazy for Elvis Presley!


EIN's Piers Beagley takes a look into this wonderful world of Elvis fifties marketing mania - with plenty of sample pages so that you too can marvel at some fascinating vintage Elvis...

The EPE catalogue written by Bob Pakes and published by KJ consulting (Elvis Files etc) is a 390 page A to Z guide on every imaginable Elvis Presley product that was sold in the late 1950s. The book contains an unbelievable number of photographs and documents, over 1450, showing how much product EPE tried to flog to the fans.  Anyone want an Elvis Presley hot-plate or some mittens!?

When I was growing up in London there was always Elvis merchandise for sale through publications such as Rex Martin’s newsletters or via Elvisly Yours. And of course after Elvis' untimely death in 1977 the merchandising of his name exploded. I believed that every product I had been buying all those years had somehow been licensed through EPE.

And even though I was a regular visitor to Bob Pakes excellent website ‘Elvis Echoes of The Past’ and I also keep an eye on those vintage Elvis auctions I still had no idea, until I read this delightful book, that the true EPE vintage merchandise was only really produced from September 1956 to just over one year later.

The book is an incredible compendium of how teenage America went crazy for Elvis Presley and the clever exploitation of their teenage cravings by one Col Parker via Hank Saperstein.


Incredibly around 80 different Elvis licensed products in all different colours and sizes were rushed out over this amazingly short period. Elvis Badges/ Buttons including everything from ‘I Like Elvis’ to ‘I Hate Elvis’ buttons, and featured over 18 pages of the book, is just one of those 80 products! It is an intense and fascinating story.

The book’s introduction below helps explain how incredibly comprehensive perhaps even manipulative it was. Teenagers in the 1950s were the first generation to really have any spending money and Tom Parker wanted to grab his share!

“This A to Z guide contains over 1450 images and detailed information on every weird and wonderful product that was part of the immensely successful 1956 Elvis Presley merchandise train.

Photos from ‘56 and ‘57 show the merchandise ‘in action’. EPE documents, promotional flyers, and articles supply a wealth of background information. While vintage advertisements for EPE products further capture the magic and excitement of the time when Elvis Presley merchandise was sweeping the nation.

Experience why teenage America went crazy for Elvis Presley lipsticks, pencils, belts, key chains, bracelets, bubble rings, bobby socks, boardgames, handkerchiefs, record cases, sneakers, grammophones, dog tag jewelry, scarves, billfolds, dolls, diaries, pins, jumper dresses, necklaces, drinking glasses, medallions, bookends, autograph books, earrings, pillows, bolo ties, plates, paint sets, pennants, pump shoes, jackets, mittens, hats, toy guitars, stuffed hound dogs, jeans, statuettes, t-shirts, pinback buttons, bubble gum cards, photos, pencil cases, binders, poodle skirts, perfumes, magazines, watches, patches, busts, hot plate holders, scrapbooks, photo folios, stationery, motion badges, anklets, pajamas, photo albums, stuffed teddy bears, and sweater holders.”

As a music collector mainly and also based in Australia I have always felt too far away from those great rock 'n' roll markets in Europe or Memphis to really get a fair go at collecting vintage Elvis merchandise. While I love to peruse original 50s Elvis products - boy have I always wanted one of those great Elvis record players – I have always been happy to sticking to the music.

So can a book of 390 pages dedicated to less than 18 months of Elvis merchandise really be that engaging? Well the answer is yes - a big YES!

Bob Pakes’ book is so detailed and so beautifully put together that his enthusiasm brims over on every page. Reading this book actually became a “page-turner” to me. Having read about one obscure vintage product and how it was marketed I then wanted to know how they could possibly successfully market the next crazy idea. Interestingly several prototypes that never got to the market place are also discussed.

Bob Pakes has been working hard on this book for over five years and it shows. The photographs have been all beautifully assembled – that would be an extraordinary amount of work as he of course does not personally own every product - and the text is so informative.


The introduction itself is 54 pages long and takes you from the very first official publicity photo of Elvis that was for sale at his concerts in 1954 - along with early souvenir photo albums - plus the incredibly famous William V Robertson photograph from Tampa Florida (see page above) that would grace Elvis' first album and also an unbelievable number of products.
As a neat coincidence the Elvis coffee cup I use every day, which I purchased in 2017, still features the same image! 

The famous Moss Photo Service images taken at The New Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas, April 1956, are discussed in wonderful detail and a seven page article from the American LOOK magazine, November 1956, provides the first insider's look at The Great Elvis Presley Industry. It's a fascinating insight on how Elvis, Tom Parker and Hank Saperstein got together to create this unprecedented marketing machine.

The importance of Hank Saperstein cannot be understated and his involvement and how he worked with Elvis and Tom Parker is all part of the intriguing story presented in the book.

In fact a fascinating part of the story is to find out that Saperstein was the real driving force behind everything and how the wily old Col Parker, as usual, made others do the work for him and just took his cut! Please read EIN’s detailed interview with Bob Pakes where he notes about Tom Parker, “By the time the book was finished, I totally despised the man.”

Two other early sections of the book look at how the Elvis Presley Fan Club started and how it played a serious part in establishing the marketing of Elvis products.


The premiere of Love Me Tender gets its own chapter as this was a very cleverly choreographed marketing move and a key part of the beginning of EPE’s merchandising movement to get the attention of teenage fans.

Of course the core of the book is the ‘EPE Catalog’ itself, 250 pages featuring every product in every colour imaginable cleverly conceived by Hank Saperstein funnelling money into Tom Parker and Elvis' pockets.

This was something that had never been truly achieved before and set an example of how future pop-stars could be used to sell products to their fan base. It of course is a fascinating lesson that has been repeated for every major pop-star since. Justin Bieber socks or Singing Toothbrush anyone?! 

One of the real highlights for me is that there are so many photographs of fans wearing or holding every kind of Elvis Presley vintage product and even better so many stunning photographs of Elvis himself with these various products. It must have taken years for Bob Pakes to track down all these incredible photos and the quality of most of these images is the best I have ever seen.

There are several pages dedicated to various Elvis toy guitars in a variety of designs and colours. The book points out that the 1956 Emenee guitar also featured a press button chord selector which I have never noticed Elvis is using in the stunning photo taken on the 'Loving You' film set. And also note the photo of Elvis in 1960 still with the same guitar that was introduced over 3 years previously.

The fact that so many products such as cotton clothing, plastic dolls, t-shirts, shoes - even the cardboard boxes they came in - would have disintegrated over the years makes the discovery of genuine 50s Elvis items in their original state even more remarkable.  

Some of the items are so well presented – along with multiple photos - that even though I'll never I own a pair of genuine Elvis sneakers I sure know what they look like and now I really want a pair!

The EPE Catalog even includes photos of Elvis wearing "Elvis Sneakers"

The final chapter of the book is an interesting focus on the more interesting items that were sold to Elvis fan without EPE licensing. There was such a large market and of course a pile of manufacturers wanted to jump on the bandwagon - even if they were possibly producing the first unauthorised bootleg products at the time. Elvis undies anyone? You’ll have to read the book to find out whether EPE agreed to licensing Elvis bra and panties.

The fabulous photo of Elvis outside his Audubon Drive house in Memphis shows him holding a ‘bootleg’ Elvis gabardine hat. Something like this shows the amazing amount of research that has gone into this stunning book.



By the end of the craze EPE had sold over $30 million of Elvis merchandise - that’s around $300 million in today’s money – an extraordinary amount in such a short length of time.

EIN has received some queries about the difference between this book and other Elvis merchandise catalogs.
EIN's Nigel Patterson is a collector of Jerry Osborne’s Presleyana series of merchandise price guides. He notes that ...
Any comparison between The EPE Catalog and Jerry Osborne’s Presleyana series of price guides is a case of comparing apples with oranges. While both are in a sense, catalogs, they serve a different purpose. Bob Pakes has put together a wonderfully colourful and narratively detailed examination of EPE’s amazing merchandising endeavours for a short period circa 1956 (sans a price guide).

Osborne’s Presleyana books are essentially price guides of all of Elvis’ USA record, tape and CD releases from the 1950s to recent times and a section on Elvis collectibles including the EPE merchandise, movie (gossip) magazines, and the like. As price guides they don’t have the celebratory function that The EPE Catalog does. Early editions of Presleyana were reasonably low grade production wise - softcover editions printed on cheap paper stock and internally, page after page of record releases and their variations, complemented by routine b&w visual sections. The latest editions, Presleyana VII and VIII, raised the bar for the series, being large hardcovers printed on quality paper stock with glorious colour visuals.

Overall verdict: This is an absolutely essential book for any collector of vintage Elvis merchandise. However any Elvis fan, especially those that love the fifties, would find this detailed look at the incredible popularity of Elvis at the start of his breakout a truly fascinating lesson. Bob Pakes knowledge of Elvis fifties merchandise is astounding and his enthusiasm bounces from every page. His meticulous attention to detail makes this book truly awe-inspiring. While I always knew that Elvis became a superstar in his breakout year of 1956 I still had no real concept of what a gigantic presence he must have been with everything under the sun being marketed with his name on. No other pop star before Elvis was worthy of such a massive amount of merchandising and in 2018 we can now see that this methodical marketing scam has been perpetrated to every pop star fan base since then.


Please see our interview with author Bob Pakes for more book example pages and lots lots more.

Note that the book has been so popular with Elvis collectors that 'The EPE Catalog' has already sold out at the publisher, but it can still be obtained through the usual channels, including: the elvis shop london

Also please check with YOUR local Elvis Shop just in case they may have a better deal with local postage.

Please check out the website Elvis: Echoes Of The Past

Book Review by Piers Beagley.
-Copyright EIN May 2018
EIN Website content © Copyright the Elvis Information Network.

Click here to comment on this review

Bob Pakes 'The EPE Catalog' Interview: Bob Pakes is an early Elvis enthusiast who runs the impressive website 'Elvis Echoes Of The Past'. His first venture into publishing is the incredible 'The EPE Catalog' along with (Elvis Files) Erik Lorentzen.
Over 390 pages 'The EPE Catalog' presents an A-Z guide with over 1,450 images on every weird and wonderful product that was part of the immensely successful 1956 Elvis Presley merchandise train.
Photos from '56 and '57, EPE documents as well as vintage advertisements for EPE products also help capture the magic and excitement of the time when Elvis Presley merchandise was sweeping the nation.
The book is an incredible compendium of why teenage America went crazy for Elvis Presley!
EIN has read nothing quite like this before and wanted to know more about the author Bob Pakes and what made him venture into such an crazy fifties teenage world.
We also discussed plenty of other topics along the way including...
- Col Parker good or bad for Elvis' career
- Did Elvis’ creativity die when he went into the army
- What surprises did he discover during his research?

Go here for a fascinating interview as EIN's Piers Beagley talks-a-plenty with author Bob Pakes..
(Interviews, Source;ElvisInformationNetwork)

Alan Hanson 'Elvis: The Movies' Interview: Respected Elvis author Alan Hanson, along with Erik Lorentzen, has just published 'Elvis - The Movies', 432 pages examining all of Elvis' movies and including some sensational photos.
Elvis Presley's dream was to become a movie star, and the dream started well for him. His acting ability developed steadily throughout his first four movies. But, alas, it was the music which first gave him access to Hollywood, that proved the undoing of his acting career. The inevitable result was a long series of films with weak plots in which only the music mattered.
Author Alan Hanson chronicles Elvis' cinematic career, combined with hundreds of stunning photos from Erik Lorentzen's exclusive collection. But what does this book offer that other Elvis Movie books don't?
EIN's Piers Beagley interviewed author Alan Hanson to find out more..
(Interviews, Source;ElvisInformationNetwork)

Go here for other relevant information:

The Dark Side of the Colonel


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