Help and Advice
How to send 78's and other
records
through the post safely.

by Bryan Wright



Recently while browsing through 78 rpm record listings on eBay, I came across a listing for Capitol's "Honky-Tonk Piano" 3-record album set. As somewhat of a ragtime pianist myself, I thought it would be fun to own an original copy of this influential set. The listing described the records as being in "excellent condition with no chips, cracks, or scratches." Great!, I thought, as I placed the opening bid. When the auction was all over, I was the winner and I sent my payment to the seller with a note to please pack these fragile records very carefully. A week later, a small package arrived on my doorstep. I was a little nervous as I opened the thin, flimsy cardboard envelope, wondering if the records had survived the trip. There was no padding and no bracing to prevent bending--nothing between the records and the rough handling of the Postal Service but the cover of the album set and the cardboard envelope. As I slid the album set from the shipping envelope, record pieces clinked and fell everywhere. The records weren't cracked or simply broken, they were shattered! I don't know whether the seller was simply lazy or if he just didn't know any better. (But then again... I had told him how fragile these things were.) Other 78 collectors I know have reported similar horror stories. Over the years, quite a few people have asked me how to ship old 78s safely through the mail. Many thought it couldn't be done. Not only is it possible to ship old records safely, but it is relatively easy to do. In hopes that it may prevent a few more breakages like the one I experienced, below I offer my suggestions for how to ship 78 rpm records as safely as possible. I have shipped hundreds of 78s with the following method and have never had one arrive broken.


Here we have three 78 rpm records by Sam Lanin's band that we need to ship from London to...say...Dumfries. They aren't particularly great records, just standard dance band stuff, but nevertheless we would like for them to arrive intact.

The first step is to place the records in some type of protective sleeve.

If you don't have any sleeves lying around, you can use paper towels to separate the records from one another. It is important that the playing surfaces of the records should not touch each other. During shipping, the records may rub together, scuffing or scratching the playing surface.

Next you will need some heavy, cardboard squares. They should be cut so that they are the same size as the records you are mailing (i.e., if you are mailing 10-inch records, cut the cardboard squares so that they are 10 inches on each side). If you are only mailing a few records or if you are on a budget, you can cut your own squares from old boxes. Just be sure they are heavy corrugated cardboard, NOT the flimsy stuff!

Now comes the most critical part. Since 78 rpm records are very brittle, they won't survive any bending or uneven pressure. To brace the records so that they won't be bent in shipping, we make a "record sandwich." For the base of the sandwich, place two of the cardboard squares with the corrugations running in opposite directions. Then place a stack of up to ten records on the base (no more than 10 records per sandwich!). Finally, place two more cardboard squares on top, again with the corrugations running in opposite directions.

Here's a side view of that record sandwich.

Next, tape all four sides of the sandwich firmly and securely so that the records do not slide around. Note: NEVER mix records of different size within one sandwich.

Now find a sturdy box that is large enough to accomodate your record sandwich lying flat (with plenty of room to spare) and begin filling it with packing peanuts or crumpled newspaper.
When it is almost half-full, place your record sandwich in the middle and surround it with plenty of peanuts or crumpled newspaper so that no edge of the sandwich can touch the wall of the box. I would not recommend trying to ship more than 20-25 78 rpm records in one box (no more than 3 "sandwiches"). If the box gets too heavy, the weight of the records shifting around inside may cause some to crack. NOTE: If you are mailing records from an album set, DO NOT send them in the album. During shipping, records tend to slide around in their album sleeves and often make their way into the binding crack where they can be broken with only a very light disturbance. Instead, take the records out of the album set and follow the sandwich method above, placing the empty album folder in the box above or below the sandwich.

Leave no part of the sandwich exposed! Fill any remaining space to the top of the box with packing peanuts or crumpled paper so that the sandwich does not shift around in the box when it is closed (sideways or up and down). In addition to holding the records "still," a tightly-packed box also reinforces the box's shape and prevents it from being crushed in shipping.

Now close your box and tape the sides tightly (you can see where this is going...)

Address your package and you are ready to post! I always mark "FRAGILE" in bold letters several times on the box. From the way I see the clerks at my Post Office handle these boxes after I pass them over the counter, I have no reason to believe that writing "FRAGILE" improves their treatment one bit, but I figure it can't hurt. Even the best-packed boxes can sometimes be damaged in shipping, so if your 78s are of considerable value, I would recommend opting for insurance when you mail them. (note: Insurance is standard with the Special Delivery service we recommend using.)


Special Delivery label
Postage & Carriage

All media (tapes, CDs or reels) should be sent to us in secure packaging. When sending parcels to us through the post we suggest you do not use the ordinary mail or Parcelforce service, but chose the Royal Mail's Special Delivery service (look for a label similar to the one displayed here).

Your can download a Precious Voices address label here Address label PDF

 

This method is not unique to 78 rpm records. It can frequently be used it when mailing LPs or 45s. There are always individual circumstances not covered by a web page's information. If you need further help or advice you can ring us on 01472 389965 between 9am and 5 pm (Monday - Friday) or send an email to advice@preciousvoices.co.uk.


Bryan Wright is an author, broadcaster and collector 78 records in the United States, our thanks to Bryan for allowing us to adapt this article for use on the Precious Voices website. Bryan's website can be found at http://www.claxtonola.com/

 

This article is copyright Bryan Wright, all other material copyright © 2001-2017 Precious Voices.

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