I STARTED SELLING RECORDS again after a lengthy hiatus. Needless to say, I had to purchase some supplies for shipping those records. Needless to say, I used Amazon. Every day there are several regular sources on Amazon for boxes, mailing pads, etc., along with individuals offering one-time deals. (But I will add right here that Amazon is not the cheapest way to buy these products—the closer you get to the manufacturer the lower your per-unit price will be.)
For my first purchases, I used FingerPop. The boxes and pads they sent me were exactly as described, they arrived on time, etc. So I gave them a positive review on Amazon.
Sometime later, I received an email from Amazon Answers requesting that I help a fellow customer with questions regarding FingerPop’s boxes. This is the question: “Is the depth somewhat variable? or does shipping a single LP require a lot of padding?”
The cost of the shipping supplies here (box, pads, and tape) should come to about a dollar per shipment, if you buy the supplies in bulk.
Here is my answer, based on more than thirty years of shipping records around the world:
“It is best to add a sheet of cardboard as padding to each side. It will not affect the cost of shipping but will USUALLY ensure that the LP makes it in the condition that you shipped it. Use wide packing tape and ensure that all the openings in the box are sealed shut.
Before boxing, place the album in a plastic outer sleeve, which can be purchased online. Your customer will be both pleased with the packaging and impressed with your handling of the order, which will make it more likely that he will buy from you again.” 1
I sent my answer off to Amazon and wished the fellow customer good luck. Then I reread what I had written and decided that it could have been a bit more detailed. Which led to this thought: “Why not write an article about how to pack a record for Rather Rare Records?”
And so I have.
Watching old Seinfeld episodes while socially distancing yourself from everyone and everything during the Great Flu of 20-ought-20, you are intrigued by Kramer and Newman’s idea to make some money selling old records. But instead of Sergio Mendes and Sinatra, you score a collection of ’60s rock albums. If you’re going to advertise them on the internet, you need to know the best way to ship them, and that’s what this article is about!
Packing an LP for shipping
Follow these instructions and any record that you ship will usually arrive in the same condition that you shipped it! This should make your customer feel confident in your abilities as a seller, and such confidence can produce repeat business!
For these instructions, I will use a typical vinyl LP (approximately 12½ x 12½ inches, or 32 cm) as my example. So you will need the following:
• one (1) roll of clear plastic packing tape;
• one (1) LP record album mailing box;
• one (1) clear plastic LP outer sleeve;
• one (1) paper inner sleeve (if they are not included in the album);
• two (2) LP mailing pads; and
• one (1) LP of your choice.
Just in the off-chance that something in the list above is not understood by a reader, let me define my terms. These terms are not in any particular order of class, phylum, or kingdom; they are listed as I thought of them.
Inner sleeves are the paper sleeves that hold the record inside the jacket. Inner sleeves protect the record when it slides in and out of the jacket. Record albums have been issued with inner sleeves since the 1950s. Many record companies used the inner sleeve to advertise their catalog or print other types of information on one or both sides.
Sometimes, inner sleeves are lost or damaged and need to be replaced. The most common inner sleeve is a plain white paper sleeve that is a tad smaller than an LP jacket (approximately 12¼ x 12¼ inches, or 31 cm). There are variations on these sleeves:
• They can have square corners or rounded corners;
• They can have a die-cut hole or window on both sides or be solid on both sides.
• They can have plastic insides for further protection of the vinyl.
Also, the quality and density of the paper varies and there are sleeves for valuable records that are considerably more expensive than plain paper sleeves. 2
Outer sleeves are clear plastic sleeves used to hold and cover the entire album, and protect the jacket from wear and tear. They are made of a variety of plastic-like materials and are slightly larger than an LP jacket (approximately 12¾ x 12¾ inches, or 32 cm).
These sleeves can be of varying thickness and even clarity: some are clear (above) while others are tinted. Here is how some of these sleeves are advertised on Amazon:
• Heavy-duty 3-mil thick!
• We use virgin 1st quality polyethylene on all our sleeves!
• 12¾” x 12½” (323.85 mm x 317.5 mm)!
• Flush cut at top (no flap)!
Almost any of these outer sleeves will suffice to protect the album, but some are better at making the album look more attractive—not a bad thing to consider when selling any product. These sleeves will hold single albums and most double albums.
Packing tape is clear plastic tape approximately 2 inches (or 5 cm) wide. This is NOT to be confused with duct tape, which can be used for mailing packages via the US Mail but looks rather ugly and unprofessional. Plus it’s more expensive!
Avoid buying cheap tape: it can be nigh on impossible to find the leading edge of the tape to pull it up from the roll. Meaning that you may find yourself breaking fingernails, or messing around with knives trying to get a piece of tape! Buy good tape! 3a/b
A simple, ‘disposable’ dispenser such as this above will work and can be purchased for a few dollars. If you only need to pack and ship a few items, this is the affordable way to go.
Mailing box or mailer
Mailing box or mailer is usually a white corrugated cardboard box slightly larger than an LP (approximately 12½ x 12½ inches, or 32 cm). They are almost universally sold with variable depth flaps: that is, the four flaps have several perforated lines that can be folded so that either one or several albums can be tightly packaged.
Note the scored fold-lines on the open flap above. Here is how these boxes are advertised on Amazon:
• All fold lines are perforated to produce sharp straight edges!
• Made 12½” by 12½” to allow enough room for padding for 12″ or 10″ records!
• Multi-depth with 2 perforated fold lines to allow for folding a ½” thick box or a 1″ thick box!
• Made from 200 lb. test corrugated cardboard with 32 lb. edge crush test!
Most of these boxes are manufactured by a couple of companies and are essentially identical. Check the Internet out before buying, but if you buy in lots of 100 boxes, the cost will be about 40¢ per box.
There are superior boxes that are sturdier and lighter in weight but cost more. They will be covered in a separate article. 4
Mailing pads are sheets of corrugated cardboard and are approximately 12¼ x 12¼ inches (or 31 cm). They are used inside the mailing box as extra protection for the album. These pads may be white or brown.
Most sellers get away with using just one pad per box, but two are recommended here. Corrugated cardboard pads have what is called ‘fluting’ on the inside:
There are various types of fluting with a different strengths and purposes. When packing a record with two pads, rotate one pad 90 degrees from the other, that way there is extra strength as the different direction of the fluting of the two pads reinforce one another.
Packing a record for shipment
Here are simple instructions for packing a record album for shipping, one step at a time. This is the way that I pack the records that I ship.
1. Remove the record from the album jacket. Make sure that the record is in a protective inner sleeve—if the original company sleeve has been lost or damaged, put the record in a replacement inner sleeve.
2. Keeping the record out of the jacket, place the two the jacket and the record in a plastic outer sleeve. I usually place the record next to the back cover of the jacket.
3. Place a mailing pad into the bottom of the mailing box, and then place the album on top of the pad. Next place a second pad on top of the album, and you should have a ‘sandwich’ inside the box consisting of:
• a pad
• the album (jacket and record)
• a pad
4. Fold the open flaps of the box shut (using the correct depth), and then place a strip of packing tape lengthwise over the seam made by the two closed flaps along the bottom of the mailing box. The tape should extend beyond the sides and onto the front so that it can be securely fixed to the box. This way, the two back flaps are held securely in place.
5. Place a second strip of tape on top of the first, doubling the protection and security of the seam on the bottom of the box.
6. Wrap a strip of packing tape around all four sides of the box; you will use at least fifty inches (50” or 127 cm) of tape to do this. I do not center the tape on the edges, but allow most of the tape for the bottom of the box. That way, when folded over, the tape covers the perforated lines on the bottom flaps, sealing them off from moisture.
You are now ready to stick an address label on the front of the box or write the address onto the front of the box, and take it to the post office for delivery!
FEATURED IMAGE: Guess what the photo at the top of this page is all about. Unless a customer requests and pays for faster shipping, most records are shipped by the United States Post Office via Media Mail (the modern version of 4th Class Mail.)
1 I sent this article out to a few friends with experience in buying and selling in the mail. Each made several corrections or suggestions. Frank Daniels pointed out a boner in the message that I gave Amazon Answers: “In the first paragraph, I would replace ALWAYS with USUALLY.” I did. Frank continued: “I have bought LPs that were stepped on and apparently jammed into a corner—bending the whole package and utterly ruining it. No amount of cardboard—short of a large box full of bubblewrap—would have prevented that!”
2 There are “audiophile” inner sleeves made of more protective materials than paper, such as rice paper. Again, these are more costly.
3a “Nigh is an old-fashioned word that can be used as an adjective or adverb to mean near or nearly. Something that is ‘nigh impossible’ will be very difficult to accomplish. As an adjective, nigh is an older form of the word near, both of which are rooted in the Old English word neah. It’s most common to use nigh today when you’re trying to sound poetic or referencing the archaic uses of the word.” (Vocabulary.com)
3b Scotch brand shipping/packaging tape is the best, but the most expensive. I buy it at Staples when they have it on sale—one of their BG sales. I usually buy 6- or 8-packs by the case! Both Staples and Home Depot make their own tape and while it is significantly less expensive, it is less reliable.
But beware of most off-brands: I have thrown rolls of tape away because it is damn near impossible to find the leading edge and peel it back to unroll the piece of tape that I need. The tape that is available at most US Post Offices is a must to avoid!
4 I will do a follow-up article on alternative (meaning better built and more costly) mailing boxes in the future. You might want to have some on hand when shipping a valuable record . . .