Longbox

Longbox

A longbox is a form of exterior cardboard packaging for musical compact discs in widespread use in North America in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Background

When compact discs first began to appear in the retail stores, the longbox packaging served a transitional purpose, allowing shops to file new compact discs in the same bins originally used for vinyl records. Longboxes were 12" tall, and capable of containing two separate discs when necessary. Most longboxes were full color, with details about the compact disc on the back, and artwork that was frequently taken from the original square album cover art, reworked for the new shape and size. There were generic white longboxes with windows that would display the compact disc cover, as well as clear plastic versions that were an inexpensive substitute for a printed longbox.

Legacy

Environmental concerns of unnecessary cardboard waste from artists and consumers alike created controversy over continued use of longboxes. Musicians like David Byrne would include a sticker over the packaging of his albums reading "THIS IS GARBAGE", referring to the excessive material use of the longbox form. The satirical band Spinal Tap's 1992 studio album Break Like the Wind was sold in an "extra-long box" (an 18-inch longbox) — a deliberate parody of the prevailing longbox packaging controversy, as well as a deliberate phallic metaphor.

Longbox packaging was phased out in the early 1990s due to the controversy. At the same time, major retail stores were no longer selling vinyl records and had converted their displays to accommodate shrink-wrapped jewel cases, meeting the rising consumer demand for CDs while eliminating the need for longboxes.

Some merchants resisted this discontinuation, as longboxes theoretically made it harder for shoplifters to hide the items. Several proposals for new types of packaging that served the display-size of the longbox and theft-prevention goals were developed. A common replacement consisted of locking plastic frames (security keepers) containing anti-theft detection strips, designed to roughly meet the same dimensions as the longbox to fit into the same racks in a record store, and removed by the cashier upon purchase. Eventually, as LP-sized sales racks were phased out, these frames were reduced to a size only slightly larger than the disc boxes themselves.

Aside from the occasional box-set or vanity CD packaging, longbox packaging is largely obsolete. However, longboxes are still occasionally used by warehouse clubs such as Costco for both CD and DVD packaging, though the boxes are typically generic and not produced by the media distributors.

Most original longboxes were discarded upon purchase, and they have since become desirable amongst music collectors. A compact disc is worth more if it is accompanied by its original longbox.

See also

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