- Catalog your collection on Discogs
- Insure your collection
- Unload your crap…er, stuff you don’t listen to
- Put outer sleeves on your valuables
- Get U-Haul boxes
- Pack your boxes wisely
- Organize and label your boxes
- Sweat like a donkey with malaria
- Shelf your records in your new home ASAP
- Take Inventory of your shelves
Bonus Tip: Blast some hot wax in your new crib
Moving sucks. Moving vinyl sucks worse.
Collecting records is like hoarding bowling balls or jet engines. It’s heavy, it’s impractical, and it’s hard to understand for the uninitiated.
If you have a record collection that numbers in the hundreds or thousands, you may one day be faced with an important question. How in the holy hell are you going to move it?
Sure. You could hire a mover to transport your precious collection. You could also hire a butcher to deliver your baby, but I wouldn’t. So how to you do it all by yourself?
A few personal facts. I have more than 6000 records. And for roughly 20 years, I rented apartments in the city. This means I’ve moved my collection roughly half-a-dozen times. It gets worse every time because the collection is heavier and I’m older.
So I speak from experience when I say that it’s important to hydrate. And also, this won’t be easy. But if you wanted easy, you wouldn’t be a record collector. You’d just listen to Spotify.
There are no shortcuts to moving your music, but I do have advice on how to do it without dying or killing your record collection in the process.
1. Catalog Your Collection
Before you make the move, take a full inventory of everything you have. I’m not saying you’ll get carjacked by a lowlife degenerate with amazing taste in music, but hey, life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans, right?
Create an account on Discogs–the world’s biggest community and marketplace for collectors and sellers. Here, you can compile an inventory of every album in your collection. Not only can you ensure that no albums are lost during your move, but your online inventory will become a critical document if something terrible happens and you’re forced to rebuild your collection from the ground up. Don’t skip this step! The next several steps will depend on doing this first.
2. Insure Your Collection
Speaking of rebuilding, now is also the perfect time to add your collection to your insurance policy. Whether you’re a renter or a homeowner, make sure you’re covered for the full value of your collection.
Again, Discogs is extremely valuable here. Now that your collection is cataloged, it should be a lot easier to estimate its value and insure it properly. Discogs offers some helpful advice on preparing to get the most out of your insurance claim if worst comes to worst.
Pro Tip: Provide the most detailed possible description of each record in your inventory. Make sure you file it under the correct release version with details about condition and any helpful notes that might either increase or decrease the value of a specific artifact. The more detailed these notes, says Discogs, the more likely you are to recoup the correct value for anything lost.
3. Unload a Little Weight
Skim some of the fat off of your collection. This is a great chance to pull out unneeded doubles and stuff you don’t listen to. Full disclosure—I’m a completist and an audio media hoarder, so I’ve never actually done this.
But if you’re looking to lighten the load, there’s money to be had. I mean, not so much for those well-traveled Barbara Streisand records and spoken-word political comedy bits. But if you’ve got Classic Rock doubles (think Stones, Beatles, Floyd and Dead), this stuff is easy to move for decent cash these days.
Create a seller’s account on Discogs (it’s really easy) or post your stuff on a local social media marketplace and meet buyers in your driveway. In addition to making the move easier, you’ll likely net a few extra bucks to help pay for it.
4. Protect Your Valuables
Now that you’ve skimmed the lower end stuff, let’s prioritize the stuff that has the greatest value, be it sentimental or monetary. Your best stuff could be worth a fortune these days. Original mono jazz recordings, rare first presses of your grunge favorites, limited-release Record Store Day specials.
Some of these recordings are worth hundreds or more. Protect your babies. Get thick-plastic, acid-free polyethylene outer sleeves. I made that sound super complicated and high tech, but really, they’re just plastic sleeves. Get some good outer sleeves and make sure all of your best stuff is covered.
It’s also a good idea to box up your best records in one place. I have something in my house called the “fire crate.” In the event of a flaming inferno, that’s the one crate I’m grabbing on the way out the door.
Separate your best stuff for the move so you can transport it first, keep a close watch on it, and put it somewhere safe upon your arrival. Once settled, creating your own “fire crate” is strictly optional.
5. Get the Right Boxes
It’s important to get the right box to transport your vinyl. Too small and you’ll be cutting into your own efficiency. Too big and you’ll need a forklift just to get it out of your old place.
Some seasoned record dealers—the folks who haul records by the hundreds to weekend trade shows and flea markets—generally recommend the U-Haul’s Heavy Duty Small Moving Box.
At 16-3/8” x 12-5/8” x 12-5/8, this is the preferred box for transporting your records. They’re snug, efficient, and their size limits the likelihood of severe lower back trauma. That said, if you have a big collection, it’s gonna take a lot of boxes.
Anticipate roughly 60 to 80 albums a box and do the math from there. If you’ve got 2000 LPs, you’ll need a minimum of 25 boxes and the right vehicle to transport them all.
6. Pack Each Box Tightly
Pack your albums upright in your U-Haul boxes. Minimizing movement within the box will lower the possibility of damage. Reduce the occurrence of dog-eared sleeves and (heaven forbid) cracked platters by packing your albums securely.
Don’t jam them in, obviously, but you should max out the capacity of each box. If needed, add packing paper or bubble wrap to prevent movement. And make sure both sides of the box are fully secured with packaging tape. I don’t have to tell you how tragic a collapsed box bottom could be.
7. Label Alphabetically (Or However You Organize Your Collection)
Alphabetically, by genre, autobiographically—it doesn’t matter to me. Just make sure your boxes are labeled to reflect this organization. Get yourself a Sharpie and mark up your U-Haul boxes so you know exactly where everything is when you get to your new place.
8. Sweat Your Brains Out
Ain’t no shortcuts here. There will come a point when you just have to move the boxes. The only real advice here, again, is to hydrate like crazy.
I once moved my collection up a three-floor spiral staircase, bucket-brigade style, with three close friends who will never forgive me. I schvitzed a river of sweat.
Heed South Park’s timeless advice–“don’t forget to bring a towel!”
9. Shelf Your Collection ASAP
Those boxes are great for moving, but your vinyl hates being in a box. It’s hot. It’s cramped. The Funkadelic section of your collection stinks of cocaine and B.O., which is offending all the other records E through G.
The sooner you can erect your shelves and release your albums back into their temperature-controlled habitat, the better for their well-being.
Pro-Tip—Shelf your records from the bottom up, rather than top down, to prevent a catastrophic collapse.
10. Cross-check Your Inventory
Now that everything is up on the shelves, and in the order you’ve intended, it’s time to revisit your Discogs inventory. Take a full count and make sure every single record made the voyage safely.
The sooner you do this, the easier it will be to retrace your steps and secure boxes that might have been left behind or misplaced along the way.
I don’t know about you, but when I get to a new place, the first thing I hook up is the stereo. It makes the whole rest of the unpacking process so much better. Because of course, the final step in your move is to pick the perfect record to christen your new home. Of course, this is a very personal decision so I’ll leave you to it.
Then, once you get settled in, you can start shopping for new vinyl accessories.