His Vinyl Weighs a Ton. 8 Tons In Fact! Shipping 30,000 LPs Cross Country to Amoeba (Eddie's Record Collection, Part II)

Posted by Billyjam, July 3, 2012 05:35pm | Post a Comment
I count myself among those blessed (cursed?) to be an avid life-long record collector and I have long considered my collection of approximately 10,000 records to be a hell of a lot of vinyl. But truth is that my total number of records constitutes a modest collection compared to a lot others out there. Regardless, I have long dreaded the day that I might have to pack up and move my records. Just the thought of it is daunting in itself. But recently I got a taste of what that job might be like (only times three and with help) when I had the task of packing and shipping the vast 30,000 unit record collection from a Queens, NY private collection that Amoeba recently acquired.

My task was to pack up this entire collection and safely ship it cross country back to Amoeba Hollywood where this vast eclectic record collection (including lots of rarities) will go on sale July 21st. The 30,000 records (plus several boxes of CDs and cassettes) all made the 3,000 mile journey to Amoeba in LA safely and, in the process, I learned all the intricacies of what goes into packing and transporting vinyl. It's not quite as simple as it at first appears.

This expansive record collection occupied two big rooms of the fifth floor Queens, New York apartment owned by a sweet lady named Lola, a former singer from the Bay Area, that I got to know over the course of the week it took to pack up this vinyl treasure trove. The records were the lifelong collection of her late husband Eddie who kept most of them in shrink-wrapped, mint condition. The task of packing and preparing them for shipping back to Amoeba was something that took quite a bit of pre-planning. And for a novice like myself, that meant extra homework in the art of packing records. Luckily Amoeba Marc and Kent from Amoeba Berkeley (both of whom had flown out to NYC for three days to appraise the collection) gave me some invaluable guidance since they had done this task numerous times before.

For starters, boxes that fit records are not as easy to find as they once were. Most office and packing supplies outlets (like Staples) carry boxes that are exactly 12" in width but that is a tad too small since boxes should be a little bit more (not too much) than the size of a record. Otherwise you will damage your records and/or record jackets. Turns out U-Haul is one of the few remaining places that carries this size box. It is listed as their "Small Box" (once called the "Records & Books" box) and even though their website lists it as 12" in width, its dimensions are exactly 12 5/8" by 12 5/8" by 16 5/8." This is the perfect size since it allows just enough width room to pack records in. As far as how many records fit per box of this size: it is about a 100 or so per box and, as Kent wisely informed me, they should be snugly packed but not so tight that they cannot wiggle at all. The whole collection called for 320 boxes and each box had to be labeled with the shipper and receiver address clearly visible.

Just transporting 320 flat empty boxes and bringing them from the U-Haul store several miles away and up to the fifth floor apartment was a job in itself. Over the course of one week, and with the assistance of several folks, these boxes were individually assembled (they need to be enforced in a certain way with strong tape), and then packed, stacked, and readied to be shipped out. It's a time consuming job and, as a record fanatic, I had to resist the temptation to stop and waste valuable time studying all of the great album covers in this one-of-a-kind record collection. As far as packing the CDs and cassettes (about 3% of the whole collection), you have to pack them tightly and in a certain order and, most importantly, clearly mark them so you place them on top of the heavier record boxes. Otherwise, if the record boxes are placed on top, you face possibility of breakage in the CD/cassette cases.

Even with all of those 320 boxes packed up for Amoeba, there were still some records that didn't make the final cut. These included Eddie's whole section of Time Life box set collections of jazz and classical. Since there was nothing unusual in these compilations - and even though they too were in mint condition - we set these aside to pass onto a Goodwill store in Long Island City that was happy to get them. There were also some records that were slightly damaged and hence not packed either. These were a stack of about twenty classical box sets that sat high atop one shelf up at ceiling level and had had their corners chewed and nibbled on. At first I assumed it was the work of mice, which surprised me since this was a cat household. As it turned out, the chewing was the handiwork of another common NYC critter. "Squirrels got them," Lola later informed me with a chuckle. "They climbed up five stories and got through a window opening several years ago. One of the cats discovered them." 

As we were busily packing and lifting each of the 50 pound boxes, the title of my old school buddy and friend of Amoeba's Peanut Butter Wolf's album My Vinyl Weighs a Ton kept popping into my head. So I posted a thing about it on my Facebook wall, to which Peanut Butter Wolf responded, "I called my album that after moving houses when a mover counted how many boxes of records we were carrying. He made a joke that I literally had a ton of records. Ironically this morning I'm moving houses again and this time I gotta move 10 tons (40,000 records). My friends who helped Madlib with his move saw all my boxes last week and said Madlib had to move way more records!"

Meanwhile back in Rego Park, Queens with the 320 packed boxes of records all ready to go, the next consideration was getting them from the fifth floor downstairs via the sole building elevator. I arranged four hand trucks, had four guys for bringing stuff down on the elevator to the basement level and then back uphill to the street level. There another person was posted on the sidewalk and street to make sure no one stole anything and to deal with building security/maintenance staff and cops, and anything else that might go down. I also had to figure out how many boxes we could fit in the small elevator, determine approx how many trips up-and-down it would entail: taking into account that the elevator would also be used by the (mostly elderly) tenants of this 80 unit apartment building. This all had to be done by the time the big truck arrived between noon and 1pm on the one day of the week when there was no street cleaning or no garbage out on the sidewalk. New York City is crazy for parking and owning a car in general. Unlike LA or the Bay Area, you're better off without a car in NYC.

Down on the street, we had to set up ten empty pallets on the sidewalk, place 32 boxes on each, shrink-wrap the assembled pallets (or skips as they are also known), and then cover again on top with tarps for the rain-showers that were forecast for that particular day. By the time the truck arrived we discovered that the mechanized lift on the back of driver Nick's truck could not facilitate the weight of each packed pallet so ended up one-by-one lifting each box onto the truck (as in video report below I made on that day). Luckily everything went without a hitch - although my friend Carlos almost got clipped by a passing car as we were loading onto the truck. The PavXpress trucking company out of New Jersey took the record boxes to their Newark yards where they were then repacked onto another company's truck (friend of Amoeba's RW out of Illinois) to be shipped all the way across country to Amoeba Hollywood where they safely arrived a week later.

Since then, the staff at Amoeba have been diligently working their way, record by record, through Eddie's collection to price and prep them for the anticipated July 21st date when they go on sale at the SoCal Amoeba store.

What did I learn from all this? Well, as far as packing and moving a record collection of this scale, the bottom line is: don't think of it is a small task. Plan ahead right down to the exact number of boxes and all other packing material you will need, count and measure everything in advance, get lots of assistance from others, label/mark contents as you pack to save time on other end, and - as with any job - allow extra time for unexpected obstacles along the way.

Mark your calenders now, for July 21st is when this huge record collection goes on sale at
Amoeba Hollywood
And check all the other Amoeblog posts on this treasure trove of vinyl.

          Video work report I did for Amoeba Marc from Rego Park, Queens when records were
          been packed onto truck to be shipped from NYC back to Amoeba Hollywood (May 2012)

Relevant Tags

East Coast Vinyl Collection (7), Classical (24), Record Collecting (23), Peanut Butter Wolf (32), Lola (3), Eddie's Record Collection (3), 20th Century Composers (2), Vinyl Event (8), Amoeba Hollywood (872), Vinyl Event (8)