Running a second hand vinyl record business I have probably packed 1000,s of parcels of vinyl records over the years. Over that time I have adapted this process based on customer feedback, yes some complaints and also to use new products that have come on to the market. This article will tell you in very clear steps how to pack vinyl records. It provides the words, pictures and resources to make sure your records are as secure as possible when you send them.
Great packing of your record is so important. It shows you care about your product and your customer. It’s a way to show you will go the extra mile to providing a great service. It also helps reduce if not eliminate complaints and refunds caused by what can be at times a heavy handed postal system.
Step 1 – Remove vinyl from the outer sleeve.
Possibly the biggest complaint when shipping vinyl records around the world will be that the vinyl has split the sleeve. You must remove the vinyl from the outer sleeve before packing. It’s not a myth this damage really does happen. I have received records with split sleeves numerous times and then needed to be refunded.
Personally I go one step further and I also remove the vinyl from the inner sleeve. It may not be necessary where the original inner is plain paper, but I do remove it from all the picture inners. The picture inners are even more likely to get splits in the post as usually they are made with far thinner paper or card. I then place the vinyl in a new poly-lined inner for shipping. I then place the vinyl, the sleeve and any inserts into a plastic sleeve. This keeps all the items neatly together and prevents or least minimises any movement while in transit.
Why do i use anew poly-lined inner you might ask? Well it’s because the poly-lined inner stops any scuffing on the vinyl. Have you ever received a record (this happens with a lot of new vinyl) that comes in a course card inner. When you take the record out there are scuff marks across it. This is usually caused by the record moving and rubbing against the coarse card inner. A poly-lined inner eliminates this.
So before we even get into packing the record here are the steps to follow: See also the pictures below explaining how best to do this.
- Remove the vinyl from the outer sleeve.
- Remove the vinyl from the inner sleeve.
- Place the vinyl in a new poly-lined inner.
- Place all parts into a plastic sleeve.
Step 2: Sandwich the record between two pieces of cardboard.
This is again a must part of the process. This adds extra protection either side of the record and firms up the package. There are different thicknesses on the market of these “cardboard stiffeners” I usually go for the thickest available. I would also add that if you are sending a very expensive record double up and have two each side of the record. See pictures below of the card stiffeners in use.
Step 3: The Record Mailer
Again a crucial part of the process, don’t under any circumstances just put the record into a postal bag after step 2. Find yourself a proper professional cardboard mailing envelope specially designed for vinyl records. There are a number of different mailers on the market some are better than others. When choosing the right mailer also look for features that offer extra protection especially to the edges and corners of the package as these will get bumped in the postal system.
I used to use the plain envelope mailer as pictured below. 90% perhaps 95% of the time this did the job, but take a close look at it it doesn’t offer any protection at the edge and corners. If you squeeze two or three records into this mailer the sides can split. Yes you can tape them to avoid this, but where is the corner protection? Using these style of mailers is better than nothing, but if you send enough records like this you will get complaints. The complaints will always come in the form of knocked corners or bent sleeves.
The other point to take into consideration here is that most professional dealers aren’t using these mailers any more so the customers expectations have also risen making you the seller more susceptible to customer complaints. Don’t risk it spend just a little bit more and get a better mailer. It takes away your risk and your customer knows they are dealing with a professional and will back buying again.
I use two different types of mailers as shown below. The first one i tend to use for sales of one LP and usually I use this for UK and European deliveries. Once the record has slotted inside it is more like a box and has sufficient corner protection for what I deem short haul postage.
The second one I use is called a “Twist” this one as the name suggests twist up providing an almost box with a box. See the pictures below. It really does a very good job at protecting the vinyl. Because of the way it works there is an argument that you might not need to use the stiffeners in step 2, but i still use these for extra protection.
Another great advantage of these is that you can fit probably 8/9 LP’s in one package. There maybe other products on the market similar to this, but so far these are the best I have found. Only last week I had a record returned from the USA that had been “missing” in the postal service for over 3 months. I had used the steps advised above and the record inside was in exactly the same condition as when it left. The packaging had taken some damage, but the contents were fine.
Back to the process…. which ever mailer you are using place the record which is already between two cardboard stiffeners into the mailer.
Step 4 – Secure the whole package
Ok so the record is now safely inside the mailer. It’s not quite over yet! You now need to make sure the mailer is secure as possible. Some mailers will have self adhesive tape on them, but don’t trust this. They can and will come undone especially in warmer weather. Secure the opening of the mailer with thick tape. I use Fragile Tape so i’m also telling the postal service my item is fragile. You can if you want to go further write “FRAGILE DO NOT BEND” on the mailer itself. Some argue this almost tempts the postal service into being a bit rougher with it! I only write this when the customer specifically asks for it.
Step 5 Addressing the Package
All you need to do now is write the correct address onto the mailer. Check it! double check it! I have sent to the wrong address a few times, usually seeing the number 9 as an 8 or something like that. But another very important thing which often gets overlooked is always always write your return address on the back of the mailer, it doesn’t have to be the full address just the house number, postcode and country will do the trick, but write it clearly. This last point really is important especially if you intend on selling a lot of records. Over the Christmas period I had 7 records that failed to show up mainly in Italy, they were low value and not tracked, but after two or sometimes 3 months they all ended up back here with me, but only because i had my return address on them.
Now the mailer is written it’s off to post office. I’m not getting into different postage options here or missing items that’s another article on it’s own!
Step 5 – The Ultimate Package – (optional)
I have sent packages over the years which are a bit more special than the average record. Perhaps it’s sending that really rare record over £500 or over £1000, perhaps your listings have been hit up by a Japanese shop buying 10-15+ records. If the parcel is that valuable I will put extra measures in place for ultimate security of the package. As follows:
- Having prepared the package up to step 3 I will then bubble wrap the entire package. I will use a lot of bubble wrap with special attention to corners and edges. I will tape down all the bubble wrap to make it really secure.
- I will place the entire bubble wrapped package into a thick plastic mailing bag (yes it needs to be big) and again tape this around the sides. Not only is this ultimate protection within the parcel, but it’s now completely water proof too.
- Proceed to step 4 writing address and return address on the package.
I have packed records using step 5 on numerous occasions and i really believe you could drop the package out of a ten storey building with no damage to the records. Why risk it!
Some questions you may have:
- I have always used basic mailers with no problems why change? – I used basic mailers for years with only minor problems, but I wanted to try and provide the best service to customers so I changed. I also noticed a big change in the packaging full time dealers were using. I don’t want to be left behind. I have also seen a dramatic drop in complaints about damaged parcels to almost zero. Lastly if you start or are already selling a lot of records I would get a few better mailers in for those customers who request better packaging. If the customer asks for better packaging I would do it these will be the ones that complain!
- I notice your pictures are all of LP packages what do you suggest for singles? – For singles I also use the twists mentioned above, but just smaller versions. I do use the basic mailers to particularly in the UK. I guess a lot of singles don’t always have the picture sleeves that are more susceptible to corner damage, but also I haven’t yet found a good boxed style mailer for the 7″ singles. the ones I have purchased didn’t fit that well with the cardboard stiffeners.
- Where can i purchase all this packaging material from? – Well i probably shouldn’t reveal my sources, but seeing as you have read this far! I use two companies for pretty much all my material. Defendapack.com have some of the best products on the market and for supplementary products I also use soundswholesale on ebay. I have found both these companies very reliable in delivery, despatch times and the quality of the products provided. Both also have in my experience very good customer service should things go astray or not quite be as expected. I have provided links below to these companies shops.
- This is just ridiculous I can’t spend this much time packing up my vinyl there must be an easier way! Yes I know it can be a lot of work, I sometimes send 50-100 packages a day, but that’s what i do for a living. There is an alternative to doing this yourself and that’s giving me a call. No i’m not going to pack your records for you, but I may well be interested in buying your whole collection to take the strain out selling them all individually. To find out what we buy CLICK HERE.
I hope this has helped someone in being able to package their records well so someone else can enjoy that piece of vinyl and cover just as it left your house. If you have any questions or want to let me know of any products that you use please do get in touch.
Defenda Pack – Great Mailers, Stiffeners and all sorts of other packaging materials.
SoundsWholeSale – Great Packaging materials all through ebay
Steve – Sell Vinyl Records – For those who this sounds too much – I will be happy to discuss buying your entire record collection for a very competitive price.