Despite the fact that vinyl has managed to regain its mainstream appeal in recent years, it can still be difficult to find the exact record you are looking for. It is especially frustrating when, after browsing through several collections at independent music stores, you manage to track it down but it is far from being in mint condition.
Records are delicate, and if they are not placed in a protective sleeve, they become prone to scratches, scuffs and dust. Hence, even if you are missing the original record sleeves, there is a whole new crop of different types of sleeves that are now available. These are quite cheap and come in value packs.
Neo-Online describes the most common types of sleeves that are used for vinyl records, in order to help you decide which options are the best for your collection.
What Are Inner and Outer Sleeves?
The standard packaging of a vinyl record includes both inner and outer sleeves. The inner sleeve is designed to protect the record itself; the material is soft and it has anti-static properties, making it less likely to leave marks on the record when it is being inserted or taken out. The outer sleeve, on the other hand, encases the record entirely, complete with its inner sleeve. While it has no direct contact with the record itself, it serves as an extra, sturdy layer of protection. It prevents the artwork on the cover from getting worn out and it is especially beneficial in environments with high humidity. If there is no outer sleeve, the inner sleeve would just get yellow eventually, plus it would be rather exasperating each time you try to get a record in and out of the open-ended inner sleeves.
There are many aftermarket options available for both, especially since the original inner and outer sleeves tend to be of poor quality and are, thus, not as effective in protecting a vinyl record from damage.
Types of Inner Sleeves
There are several kinds of inner sleeves in the market, including options in paper, poly and archival quality.
These are probably the most affordable and most widely available sleeves that are commonly used for vinyl records. To ensure maximum protection, look specifically for acid (or alkaline-free) paper sleeves. Also, don’t compromise on the quality — flimsy paper sleeves will provide little to no protection, while heavyweight sleeves will be more effective and will last much longer.
Polypropylene (PP) sleeves are extremely durable and they tend to hold their shape once you have slipped a record inside. They are also more convenient as you can easily see the record label through the transparent material. In contrast, sleeves with cutouts only increase the chances of dirt and dust gathering on the record. It should be noted, however, that polypropylene sleeves are not anti-static and tend to get wrinkled quite easily.
On the other hand, polyethylene sleeves are flexible, anti-static and much softer. They are less transparent than polypropylene sleeves, which can be useful if your records are often exposed to natural light.
Another option is polyvinyl chloride (PVC) sleeves. They are durable, easy to handle, rigid and transparent (not as much as polypropylene though).
Archival Quality Sleeves
Sleeves of archival quality are naturally the most suitable option for those who are looking for protection for long-term storage. Such sleeves are typically made of an extremely thin layer pressed between a couple of anti-static, high-density poly sheets. They are very smooth, making it easy to slide the record in and out without causing tears or snags.
Types of Outer Sleeves
When it comes to outer sleeves, the three mil (.0076 cm) thick plastic poly outer sleeves are the most commonly used option. They are transparent, can hold their shape and come in multiple sizes to fit any record (these include sleeves for 7-inch records and protective covers for 12-inch records).