Many records have slight indents in the sleeve at either side of the bottom of the disc. This is the mark of the wire racks (Selecta was the main brand) which were so popular in the 60s. The sleeve indents, if slight should not detract too much. Worse is that records often have a tear in the bottom centre of the die cut hole, which is also a legacy of pulling them out of the racks. It also happens just by putting the disc in the sleeve. You can find these racks around, but I wouldn’t put valuable discs in good condition sleeves in them nowadays. Most have rusted badly. This one was given me for this article by my late friend Frank Miller. I was surprised to see two of them in an antique showroom recently … NOT a record shop … at £30 each. When I see vintage crap at that sort of price, I know they’re looking for film companies and theatres seeking stage props. You wouldn’t want one.
Boxes were better, and dealers smile when someone arrives with a sturdy seven inch box, saying ‘I don’t suppose you’ll want the box …’. For starters, I’ve seen the boxes themselves priced at from £12 to £30 in London, though you’d be foolish to pay more than a fiver for singles, or £7 for LP boxes in the provinces. Secondly, it means records have been stored safely in the dark … no sun fading on the sleeves.
An older wooden retro storage box like this one, will command a definite premium price. Wood is supposed to stop records ‘sweating’ which some kinds of plastic sleeve exacerbate. But it’s also a nicer colour and shape, and I like the stitching and binding round the edges.
Boxes come in two varieties, fixed and expandable. The fixed ones are often wood, which I think means the records are less inclined to spots of mould from fingermarks. On the other hand, the discs are inevitably packed in too tightly which means bending the corners, or tearing sleeves when taking them in and out.
The plastic box with expandable front came to dominate, because you could fill it, then open the front to leaf through the records.
Boxes relate to teenagers taking records to friends’ houses. As stated in several articles here, the UK was a 45 / EP market until the late 60s. You couldn’t spend the evening listening to just one or two 45s, you needed a box full. They doubled as storage and transport.
Any keen collector would find the forty disc or so limit on most vintage boxes and folders too low, but you can have several of them with different sections of your collection in them. More than half the ones around are black, and most of the rest are red, so other colour ones tend to be £1 more, and retro patterned ones most desirable. A cube shape is best. Once it gets bigger than that, it’s heavy to cart around.
I liked the fact that the longer box had a lock. Most important, even if anyone could just carry off the whole box. Possibly the lock was for hiding guilty pleasures from prying eyes … the stuff you’d be ashamed of; budget EPs, Val Doonican, The Scottish World Cup Squad.
Folders were popular, and came with plastic leaves able to take either one or two discs. The example had twenty-four carefully numbered Cliff Richard and The Shadows singles in it, a dedicated collection. It had dates of purchase in the back index card, so was useful for tracing exact Columbia sleeve matches too. Every sleeve had a dealer catalogue number. I checked against Terry Hounsome’s Single File which has release dates for every single, and virtually every one was bought on the day of release. It was like the Rosetta Stone for doing the EMI Columbia label section accurately.
These folders explain the numbers sometimes written on singles … 3, 3A, 4, 4A etc, because the index card allowed for two discs per leaf. The design of the cover looks late fifties (as are the first singles in it), but the word “Twist” suggests the early sixties, and that the earlier singles were added then.
Colourful folders of this vintage appear in some London stores at £35. The dealer who sold it in Dorset was torn between putting the folder in the window at a tenner without the discs which he could sell separately (but he had a lot of Cliff Richard discs in excellent condition in the shop already) or letting me have the lot for £20. I also had every early Cliff single and didn’t want the later ones, but the Columbia checking opportunity was too good to miss. So now I’ve got lots and lots of Cliff Richard discs in duplicate, and the ones in the folder are pristine, but I’m reluctant to remove these discs from their resting place. They are a set.
Some folders often turn up with sleeveless discs, because people threw away the sleeves when they used folders. If the disc always lived in them, it’s fine. It will have been protected against scuffing and scratching. Some of the few truly “near mint” Tamla Motown singles I’ve found were housed in plastic folders without paper sleeves.
In 1969, New Musical Express came up with a Pop Record Book. This included leaves where you could painstakingly copy in the Top 20 weekly, a few pages of past chart information, a blank space for the buyer to list ‘My Top Pops,’ and storage for just four singles (!) though the sleeve is too tight to allow sleeves as well.
Dealers often use Schweppes soft drink boxes, a handy eight-inches wide and made of wood. You can see arrays of them at large record fairs and in some shops. They have one disadvantage … they’re only about six and a half inches deep so they can’t be stacked on top of one another, though they can be stacked like open shelves on their sides. They stopped making them years ago, and I’ve seen them on sale at £20 to £30. In a Winchester retro shop, they had a small selection at £65 each.
Modern storage, in aluminium flight cases (200 discs) or cardboard boxes (150) sets a more useful size. The aluminium flight cases should come with WARNING: OVERWEIGHT because with 200 discs in each of them, moving lots of them around is muscle-tearing work. The card boxes are just the right height and weight, but as the lid clips completely off the aluminium boxes they can be used for browsing as well as storage. Much of my collection is in them, and they’re secure and strong, but my backache and the dents in the table, tell me I should have gone for smaller cardboard ones … you can get the aluminium in 100 disc size too, but that works out expensive.
This storage case takes both cassettes and singles, and has a useful handbag strap attached rather than the normal handle, implying it sold to girls. The bottom section has a popper and closes over the cassettes. The box lid and clasp is conventional. The cassettes were already in it when I found it, but the singles had been removed, reflecting on collectibility. Pity that the cassettes will have printed through, as the fascinatingly eclectic section here included Ravi Shankar & Philip Glass, Barbra Streisand, The Goodies, and Maddy Prior with Rick Kemp.
In 1958 Practical Mechanics showed the keen how to make a portable record case for LPs. There are a lot of 12” plywood record cases about so apparently a lot of people had a go. The same issue explained how a nuclear reactor worked, though not how to build one. It’s slim because a larger box of LPs is heavy.
I don’t have any LP boxes … weight is the issue. I turned up a 10″ box. It had a sticker with “78 box” but I suspect it was designed for 10″ LPs. I know several shops that keep record boxes, and 10″ is very rare indeed.
Philips worried about how people stored their records, adding explicit instructions on the back of 10” classical LPs.
It wasn’t even a case of storing albums upright, but making sure the open slot faced the back of the shelf. Given that the other end had the lettering on the spine to identify the disc, you’d assume most people would do this anyway.
I wonder if anyone felt they had to stand upright while listening to patriotic tunes?