Seam Damage – why does it happen and does it even matter?

Let’s be honest, damage to the record cover can be annoying. You fancy yourself as a record collector, buy an LP and store it in a way you think is safe. Months later, you notice seam damage over the record cover you swore you handled so carefully. “I’m an amateur,” you console to yourself. So spine damage; why does it happen and does it even matter anyway?

Firstly, realise this: you bought that record for the music. Aesthetics are secondary. As long as the records themselves are fine then all is not lost.

Seam damage to the record sleeve, however, can be a telling sign that something needs to change in your storage or handling methods of your records. Are you dropping your record back into the sleeve when you’re done? Yeah, don’t do that. Remember the sleeve is made from cardboard – not the strongest of materials known to man. Records themselves weigh around 150g, so a few drops will only wear down that delicate sleeve.

Cardboard sleeves will also react to its environment. Storing a record sleeve in direct sunlight or humidity is a sure way to wear down the fibres and degrade durability making a split seam all the more likely. Store vinyls in a cool, dry environment – about 65 to 70 degrees – and away from them pesky sunrays and your sleeves will live a happy life.

And don’t get them wet so that means no vinyls stored in the bathroom. Saddest part is that this advice may well be relevant to someone out there.

Oh, and this is important: TAKE OFF THAT SHRINK WRAP.

If, like me, you started a record collection with the intention of keeping your records in pristine condition by leaving them in the plastic shrink wrap – don’t. Shrink wrap, believe it or not, shrinks over time and will strangle your sleeve. Ironically, what 18-year-old me thought was protecting my records actually just ended up damaging them. Buy yourself some outer sleeves instead, such as these that I use from SpinCare, and follow this great advice from Discogs member ‘Dr.SultanAszazin’.

Remember also to protect the vinyl record itself and get some inner sleeves. But avoid PVC and ones that don’t fit your sleeve – if you feel you have to force it in then stop – you’ll only split the seam.

However, let me ask you: does it even matter?

Any member of the vinyl community will tell you the same thing: “there is no such thing as a mint condition record.” In fact, many community posters will tell you that wear and tear is simply a sign that the record was used and, thus, enjoyed. I’ve seen spine damage described as a record’s “battle scars” that brings personality to a sleeve as opposed to the supernaturally pristine, and ironically unloved, aura of a perfect record that hasn’t had the pleasure of being spun once.

I get it, noticing an imperfection to a record at your hands can be annoying but hear this: it is nothing that can’t be avoided next time with a bit of care. As long as you don’t go consciously ripping up your sleeves and frisbeeing your records, no one will judge you.

(Featured image, and an all-round good read on the topic of seam repair, found at: Discogs blog.)

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