- Never use an LP mailer to ship a shellac 78!
- Secure the disc in-between two or more cardboard squares.
- Fill a box measuring approximately 12 x 12 x 6 inches with packing material of your choice (e.g. peanuts, wadded paper, etc.).
- “Float” the record sandwich in the middle of the box, topped off with more packing material to ensure ample shock absorption on all sides.
- Seal the package and mail.
There are plenty of guides for packaging fragile shellac records for shipping, there’s Bryan Wright of Rivermont Records’ excellent guide, the dandy one by the NESPRS, and even one drawn by the legendary cartoonist R. Crumb (courtesy of Mr. John Heneghan). Unfortunately, there’s also no shortage of woefully inadequately packed records flying through the mail getting broken, so here’s another step-by-step guide on how to properly package records. The most crucial elements to the survival of the records are in boldface text.
Far too many people ship 78s in LP mailers. While they are fine for flexible vinyl records, they are too thin to offer sufficient protection to fragile antique 78s, and all but ensure that they will break in shipping. Do not use LP mailers to ship 78 RPM records!
It is vital to understand that 78s are not made of vinyl, but rather a very brittle and fragile shellac mixture, and if not packed with great care, they will break in shipping. Their survival hinges on a package’s ample shock absorption and a complete inability to flex. To properly pack 78s, you will need a few materials: a sturdy cardboard box, corrugated cardboard squares cut to the size of the record (10 inches, typically), and packing peanuts, newspaper, or another packing material.
If at all possible, see that all records are sleeved in a protective envelope, especially if shipping more than one disc together. If sleeves are not available, paper tucked between the discs will suffice. Ideally not newspaper, however, as the newsprint can rub off on the records.
Arrange the cardboard squares so that the corrugation runs in opposite directions, as shown in the image to the left.
Place the record(s) in-between the squares of cardboard, ideally with at least two squares on either side of the disc, for optimal protection, making a “cardboard sandwich”, so to speak.
No more than ten records should be packed in the same “sandwich”, and if shipping that many, it is best to put another cardboard square between every two or three records.
Next, affix the sides of the “sandwich” together around the record to prevent the disc from shifting. Packing tape is ideal for this, and rubber bands will work as well (I used rubber bands here so as not to waste cardboard on a record I’m not actually shipping). Scotch magic tape or masking tape are not ideal, as they tend to tear in shipping. Many dealers will put a small piece of paper between the tape edges of the record to prevent it from tearing the sleeve or leaving residue on the disc.
For extra protection, add a layer or two of bubble wrap around the “sandwich”.
Packing fragile shellac records sandwiched between cardboard squares is the most critical element of ensuring their success in navigating the rigorous postal system.
Now, fill the bottom of a very sturdy, larger cardboard box with packing material. Styrofoam packing peanuts, wadded newspaper, or something comparable will work. The box shown measures six by twelve inches, a perfect size, though shorter ones will work fine as well. Place the sandwiched record on top of that layer of packing, and then fill the box up the rest of the way to surround the protected record completely, such that the disc is suspended in the middle of the box. This prevents the record from taking direct blows from other packages or careless postal workers. In the trade, this method is called “floating”.
Finally, seal the package tightly and securely. While I sincerely doubt that it really matters if you write “fragile” on the box or not—I’ve never seen evidence that postal workers actually pay any mind to it—it can’t do any harm, so I’d recommend it just to play it safe.
Hi, would you have any advice on packing several hundred pounds of 78’s for international shipping by sea?
I’m afraid I don’t have any experience dealing with such a large quantity, so I can’t be of much help, I’m sorry to say. The best advice I can offer you is to ask in some of the many 78 RPM related Facebook groups (“78 rpm records & cylinders fan group” is one that I frequent).
I am finding it extremely difficult to find any 12x12x6 boxes at a reasonable price. Can you recommend a supplier? A brilliant guide to packaging, by the way
It’s difficult for me to offer advice on this, as I have always gotten them by way of having records shipped to me, but it looks like ULINE sells them for 94 cents in minimum bundles of 25. I hope that may be of some help. And thank you.
Many thanks, I am in the UK but I will keep searching
Great advice however, I prefer bubble wrap the best because it doesn’t shift like styrofoam peanuts. Crumpled papers do NOT work! Even when I got something as light as CDs or video tapes, the crumpled paper flatten out, becoming totally useless.