Inner Sleeves

The inner sleeve is the part which makes contact with the record, protecting it from dust. It is important, when valuing and collecting LP records to ensure that the original inner sleeve is present and, where possible, in good condition.

Although polypropylene (known as “poly”) inner sleeves are sometimes encountered, in the main, original inner sleeves are made of paper, with folded and glued seams on two (side) edges.

Many inner sleeves are plain, with white or off-white paper being most common, and some have a cut-out to allow the record label to be viewed. Others have no label cut-outs.  It is not uncommon, even with otherwise “plain” inner sleeves, to see the country of record manufacture printed, together with other information.

In the illustration below, for example, which is the original inner sleeve for Osibisa’s “Woyaya” album, from 1971 (MCA MDKS 8005), both patent number and country of manufacture are printed on the inner label. A copy of this album which does not have this inner sleeve information and design may not have an original sleeve, and this would devalue the entire record for a collector.

record Sleeves article: photo of Osibisa Woyaya inner sleeve. 1970
Osibisa Woyaya inner sleeve. 1970

Other albums were released with inner sleeves showing information relating to the records they protected, or featuring miniature images of other albums offered by the relevant record company.  Here’s the inner sleeve from Chet Atkins’ “My Favorite Guitars” 1965 release, (RCA Victor LSP-3316).

Record Sleeves article RCA Victor’s inner sleeve for Chet Atkins “My Favorite Guitars” (1965).
RCA Victor’s inner sleeve for Chet Atkins “My Favorite Guitars” (1965).

The historical importance of the inner sleeves means that, just like the record itself, it should be protected and preserved. Unless it is affected by mould, I NEVER discard an original inner sleeve, even if it is damaged! It should remain with the record, even if it is torn and yellowed with age—that’s just part of the history of that record.

A Better Way to Protect

Important as the inner sleeves are, however, there are better ways these days to protect the precious vinyl they contain. This gives the vinyl record collector an opportunity to preserve both vinyl and inner sleeve. This requires use of replacement inner sleeves.

High quality inner sleeves are available in plain paper, acid-free paper (which does not harm the record label or vinyl), in anti-static polypropylene, in a combination of paper with a poly liner, or in what is often termed ‘rice paper’. Mobile Fidelity is justifiably famous for its three-layer inner sleeves; these “MoFi” inner sleeves consist of “a paper layer sandwiched between two sheets of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) with a translucent HDPE front.”

Having cleaned my records using either my Spin Clean or a vacuum record cleaner, such as the Pro-Ject VC-S, when thoroughly dry I place the record into the new inner sleeve. I store the empty original sleeve inside the outer (cardboard) cover of the LP.

I place the record and inner sleeve outside the album outer cover, opening turned sideways (see image below) to keep the record sealed from dust.

Inner sleeve
New inner sleeve turned sideways within outer PVC protector to exclude dust when shelved.

In our final post of the series, we will discuss how to protect the album cover.

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Watch for our next post:  Record Cover Sleeves: Protecting Your Investment III

Series:  Protecting your Investment: Record Covers – Part 1

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Record Sleeves: Protecting Your Investment II

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