Article by Derek Miller
In 1996, after the highly awarded and critically acclaimed release of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, the Smashing Pumpkins released a companion box set titled The Aeroplane Flies High. The box set contains each of the five singles released from Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness to include all the b-sides that accompany them. One disc in particular contains exclusive cover songs made available only within the box set.
The purpose of this article is to give some clarity to the numerous pressings, release dates, promo versions, and even bootleg versions associated with the release.
First US Pressing
The first pressing of the box set was released on November 26, 1996. According to an article on mtv.com, the initial pressing was limited to 200,000 box sets . The box set was meant to be a collector’s piece. However, the product had an unforeseen mass appeal and the stores quickly ran out of the product.
Virgin records quickly decided to press more copies for release in the US market. During this time, some stores gave out vouchers to be exchanged for the box set once the second pressing was complete .
The UK version was released the same day as the initial US pressing. This version has the identical UPC; however, the insert containing the barcode is slightly different and has a few additional numbers. Specifically, the code UK: SP BOX 2 appears on the label to represent a local release code. The first Smashing Pumpkins box set, Siamese Singles, came with a similar local release code, SPBOX 1. Unlike The Aeroplane Flies High, Siamese Singles was only released in the UK, and it was also exclusively pressed in the UK.
The total amount of box sets pressed in the initial run remains at 200,000, however a percentage of these were manufactured for release in the UK. Of the first pressing quantity, it is unknown how many were shipped to the UK with the slightly different label.
Second US Pressing
Due to the overwhelming demand for the box set, a second pressing was made available on January 17, 1997 . This version comes with a unique barcode, exclusive to the second pressing.
The release was certified platinum by the RIAA on January 27th, 1997 . Between the original street date and the RIAA certification date, 300,000 units were sold in the US , making it realistic that another 150,000 units were sold worldwide, adding up to 450,000 units produced; consequently, the second pressing was likely 250,000 additional units. This seems congruent with estimated pressing numbers found on other Smashing Pumpkins websites.
Incidentally, January 27th, 1997 was also the day Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness was certified as eight times platinum, or 4,000,000 units of the double CD set sold.
While the box set is relatively consistent across all releases, there are a few intriguing differences that do exist.
The hinges used for each release seem to be somewhat rampant and inconsistent. There are two versions: one appears very simplistic and the second is somewhat more elegant and ornate. While it would seem straightforward according to the entries found at SPfreaks, the hinges that ended up on the box set vary from release to release. Therefore, it is thought the hinges were used in a “what was available at the time” fashion.
US Sticker (First & Second Pressings) UK Sticker
When sealed, each box set came with a circular sticker to promote the contents inside the box. The first US pressing sticker displays the proper UPC number. The UK release also contains the correct number, but adds SK2 at the end. Clearly, this sticker was meant for the UK release.
However, the second US pressing, although containing a completely different barcode on the reverse insert, displays the exact same UPC number associated with the first US pressing. It is thought Virgin simply manufactured more of these stickers exactly the same for one of two reasons: first, they already had a sticker plate and thought it unnecessary to generate a new one to press the appropriate code; or two, they did not realize the sticker contained the UPC number and it was not changed due to an oversight or error.
The matrix codes found in each box set can vary slightly from release to release, even though they were all manufactured in the US. The main identifying feature of a matrix code is the IFPI code, which only came into existence in 1994. However, using these codes, which are consistent for each CD, all releases have been proven to be US disc pressings.
Very few copies of The Aeroplane Flies High box set were released as promos. Not much is available to distinguish a promotional copy versus a commercial copy; there are no special codes, or stamps, or writing. The only way to know for sure is to obtain a copy of the box set that is still sealed. The promotional versions have the barcode removed. If the box is opened (not shrink wrapped) it is impossible to tell if the barcode was removed in order to mimic being a promotional copy.
In addition to the promotional box sets, two different promotional sampler CDs were manufactured in the US. One CD contains four tracks and the other CD contains 12 tracks. These CDs are strictly promotional, so the pressing quantity is hard to track down. It is decisively known, however, that the 12 track sampler is much rarer than the four track sampler.
During the Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness tour, Billy Corgan had received at least one version of the box set that utilized different artwork than was ultimately released. Billy Corgan had this box on tour and reportedly left it behind after a concert. The box appeared on eBay and went to a private collector. SPfreaks has since contacted the owner of the prototype box, and the price tag is a mere $5,000. This is more than likely a one of a kind, unofficial release that was never meant to be in the public’s possession. For more information on the prototype box, please review Collecting to the Extreme, Episode 3.
On Thursday, March 6, 2008, Frank Olinsky, who designed the artwork in 1996, released some more sketches for this box on a blog on his website. Here are a few designs that were considered. Which one do you prefer?
Due to the popularity of the release, it is not surprising the bootleg market quickly picked up on the demand to try and make a few dollars. The most notable of these bootlegs is called The Aeroplane Flies Lower. This deceiving box was bootlegged in Germany. Although it shares most of the title with its namesake, the unofficial box set actually contains no songs from the Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness singles or their respective b-sides. Instead, it is merely a hodgepodge potpourri collection of Siamese Dream-era singles and an exclusive interview disc. Interestingly, even the interview disc is not exclusive, as it is available on previous bootleg interview CDs as well.
There are other CD bootleg versions of this release that at least attempt to include the material from the original box set; namely, the Australian and Japanese 2CD versions. They look somewhat official, but upon further review, it becomes quite obvious the unscrupulous and illegal nature of the releases. Besides the inclusion of completely irrelevant songs, both releases are dated from 1995; almost an entire year before the official box set was released. More information can be found by clicking the links above.
 MTV News. (December 16, 1996). Pumpkins’ “Collectors” Set Has Mass Appeal. MTV. Retrieved December 13, 2012, from http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1434226/pumpkins-collectors-set-has-mass-appeal.jhtml
 (n.d.). 7243-8-38564-2-8. ItemLookUp. Retrieved December 13, 2012, from http://www.itemlookup.net
 RIAA Searchable Database. (January 17, 1997). The Aeroplane Flies High. Gold and Platinum Searchable Database. Retrieved December 13, 2012, from http://www.riaa.com/goldandplatinumdata.php?content_selector=gold-platinum-searchable-database
 Wikipedia. (n.d.). The Aeroplane Flies High. Wikipedia. Retrieved December 13, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Aeroplane_Flies_High