How to pack 78rpm records safely

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Packing notes for 78rpm records

Don't restrict your market by making 78rpm records a collection only lot when with a little care you could pack and post them safely!  As a collector who buys and sells 78s on ebay I have plenty of experience of packing these brittle items. I offer these notes to help anyone who has to do so- especially of course anyone from whom I have just bought some 78s!

  1. General concept. A 78rpm record is relatively heavy, generally a 10" one is around 220 grams (weight varies) and is brittle. They crack easily in transport unless well protected. The two key aspects of safe packing are to protect the record within a rigid inner pack and to embed that rigid inner pack in soft padding within a larger outer pack. The record itself must not be able to slide about and the inner pack should nest securely within its padded box. If you achieve this, all will be well in 99% of cases.
  2. Making the inner rigid pack. It is best to have each 78rpm within a paper sleeve, not a loose fitting card one. The record or records must then be sandwiched between squares of cardboard or similar rigid material. Unless you have very thick cardboard, it is usually best to have at least two card squares on each side of the record, especially if you are sending just one 78. Multiple 78s packed together give each other extra rigidity but still need some cardboard on each side for protection. The card squares should be cut to just exceed the diameter of the records, usually around 10.5 inches square. No part of any record should protrude. Then tape the "sandwich" tightly at all four sides, protecting the records from contact with the sticky tape by using slips of paper or kitchen roll. Check that the records are snugly packed and cannot slide about at all.
  3. Protecting the inner pack. It is usually best to wrap it all around with a layer of bubble wrap.
  4. The outer box. This needs to be large enough to allow a little space on all sides of the inner pack.  You can use a recycled box provided it is large and strong enough, my wife is forever buying electronic and kitchen gadgets and I recyle the boxes these come in.  But note that pizza boxes are just too thin.
  5. Packing the inner pack in the outer box. Use some form of padding, poly beads or bubble wrap will be lightest weight and you can often obtain bags of bubble wrap for free through a local recycling group like freecycle, paper from your shredder would do the job but add weight and therefore postage cost, crumpled up egg boxes or polystyrene padding will do, the key thing being that there is adequate soft padding all around the inner pack so that it is nicely protected at all sides against knocks and, equally important, it sits snugly and cannot slide about in transit.
  6. Finally, of course close and seal the outer box securely, do your normal addressing, add fragile stickers etc.
  7. Charge a realistic amount for postage. This will cost you more than sending an LP in a record mailer, as the 78s are heavier, much more brittle being made of a different material and need bulkier and therefore heavier packing materials. You may need to be prepared to only just break even or in some cases subsidise postage. The latter will especially happen where you have popped some 78s on ebay and only realise afterwards that postage will be unusually expensive. Your buyer might prefer to pay a little extra for postage to have confidence that the records he/she wants will arrive safely. You could negotiate after the sale, as a buyer I have sometimes insisted on paying more for postage when I see an unrealistically low postage offer! No buyer wants to receive a cracked record. No seller wants negative feedback or to have to pay compensation to an unhappy buyer. So communicate with your buyer and everyone will be happy.
  8. Posting to UK and abroad. This part of the guide is for UK sellers only. Within the UK is much easier. Up to 5 records will usually come within the 2 kilo limit for a Royal Mail small packet, while above that you can use Parcelforce. If you are very careful and use bubble wrap or poly beads in large quantity for your padding, weighing the parcel before you finally seal it, you may squeeze 6 records in within the 2 kilo limit.  If you are only sending one 78, first or second class post might be cheaper, check at your local post office. Overseas is much more tricky as once you go over 2 kilos the price escalates dramatically to such an extent that it is almost always cheaper to send 2 separate parcels just under 2 kilos than to send a single 3 or 4 kilo parcel. Crazy but true. Also while the Royal Mail price structure for under 2 kilos is simple with a single price for all of Europe and another single price for rest of the world airmail and for rest of the world surface mail, once you go above 2 kilos the Parcelforce pricing structure is much, much more complex. There are several different options, with different levels of service delivery, while the price varies dramatically with eg. Ireland being very cheap and Austria outrageously expensive, with places like France and Germany somewhere in the middle. If you naively think that it should cost the same to send a parcel to Germany and Austria, both being roughly in the same part of the world and both in the EU, think again. If you quote a single price you may end up giving a heavy subsidy to that buyer in Austria or Estonia or wherever. There are cheaper options than Parcelforce for heavy parcels but as I find it easier to lug my parcels to my local Post Office for despatch, I can't recommend a service which I have not myself tried out.
  9. Get a receipt of posting from the Post Office.  This provides you with free insurance up to £35 in the case of Royal Mail and £150 for Parcelforce. Check these limits when you post, that is from my memory.  You can buy extra insurance fairly cheaply.  Note that only the contents will be insured, not the cost of postage.  If in case of loss or breakage you don't intend to offer a refund for postage costs, try to make that clear on your item listing.
  10. If despite everything, the records arrive cracked, give a no quibble refund.   Don't expect your buyer to post heavy broken records back to you! If you don't take the buyer's word for it, ask for a photo of the broken record to be emailed to you.  If you intend to sell on ebay again, your reputation is more important than the few quid you have lost.  Don't get into one of those awful abusive slanging matches that liven up feedback pages on ebay. Almost everyone who buys 78s on ebay is a really nice person.  They will be pleased to get your refund but will still be crying over the two halves of that special record they wanted in their collection!

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