Protecting Your Vinyl Record Collection

Image: stevehoffman.tv

If you collect vinyl, at some point you realize that how you store your records is an essential. What might start out as an innocent stack can turn into many stacks fast. And even a crate or two might not be able to contain your growing collection. In this piece, I’ll cover how I protect my albums from start to finish minus the actual cleaning process. (I’ll save that for a different article.)

Shelving

Ask most record collectors what they use for shelving and you’ll hear about the famous IKEA Expedit shelving. The perfectly shaped units seem like they are made for 12" vinyl records and even though the line has been discontinued, the Kallax units are almost identical. And while there are plenty of great looking options out there as well, I prefer a simple, minimalist (and cheap) approach when it comes to shelving.

But even the best shelves you can buy don’t ensure that your records are protected. And since we are no longer dealing with CDs, you have to take the time to protect your vinyl investments. Here is how I do just that.

Outer Sleeves

You’ve probably gone crate digging at a record store and come across an old copy of Aja by Steely Dan that looks like this.

Classic ring wear. This is obvious in part because it’s a black album, but mostly due to stacking albums or upright storage that is packed too tight. It also happens over time as you reach for and slide out an album from your shelf. Some say it adds character, I say it shortens the life of the packaging.

Thankfully, plastic sleeves are an important part of any record hoarders collection. But not all plastic sleeves are created equal. Some albums come with a sleeve that many use, and others can be purchased from record stores or online. For me, there is one choice that I’ve learned is best without breaking the bank.

The Ultimate Outer 5.0 Sleeves from Sleeve City.

Image: waxtimes.com

The 5.0 has the strength and durability of Mylar and is manufactured from crystal 250 micron clear polypropylene. To put that plainly, these bad boys are made to protect and to last. One major problem with outer sleeves is their thickness and ability to protect the packaging and album from wear that happens over time. The 5.0 is the best I’ve seen to take this problem on. It also won’t cloud up like many other sleeves do over time. They will comfortably fit a double LP that has 180 gram records packed in, even if it’s a gatefold. And don’t confuse them with PVC sleeves which are common for picture disks. These are known to have an “outgassing” effect that is bad for your records. So in the meantime, if you have any in PVC sleeves, I’d ditch them right away.

For extra protection against ring wear, I also take the records out of the main packaging and store them behind it in the outer sleeve. This also makes them a bit easier to get to when using an outer sleeve.

Inner Sleeves

And speaking of the vinyl itself, I’ve never cared too much for the paper inner sleeves that accompany most albums. I understand they are cheap and provide a basic level of protection, but that basic level is rarely good enough to keep one of the biggest enemies of vinyl albums at bay, dust. Paper sleeves can also damage vinyl over longer periods of time, so I ditch them unless I have nothing else to use.

Collectors know that trying to keep dust off of your records is like brushing your teeth with Oreo cookies. You can brush and clean and the dust sticks around. It seeps in and attaches itself to vinyl like a magnetic force. The absolute best way I’ve found to prevent this during storage is with these inner sleeves from Mobile Fidelity.

Image: waxtimes.com

I first ran across these after purchasing an album from Mobile Fidelity. The inner sleeves came standard and they were by far the best I’d ever seen when it comes to minimizing static and eliminating dust. I don’t have my entire collection transitioned to MoFi sleeves yet, but it’s close and I notice a big difference between the amount of dust on albums without the sleeves as opposed to those that have them.

Everyone has a personal preference, and it’s always easier to just buy a few more records over buying these items that protect them. But just like anything you value, if you don’t take care of it, it will break down over time.

What are your preferences for storing your records and why?

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