Questions Re: the History of CD Packaging

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by 7MusicFan6, Mar 6, 2018.

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  1. 7MusicFan6

    7MusicFan6 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    As I opened up my new copy of R.E.M.'s compilation Part Lies ... I found myself bemoaning current state of CD packaging and thinking about changes throughout the years.

    Any help piecing together a timeline would be much appreciated.

    Was there a specific time when the bulk of jewel cases went from a black strip along the edge to a clear one, or was this a gradual change?

    When did the cardboard sleeve style of packaging first take hold? I feel like I remember a time in the early 00's when some albums were released in both a cardboard sleeve AND a jewel case. Is this correct?

    When did trays in deluxe editions start to be replaced by cardboard sleeves?

    And finally, did hinges and spokes always break or have they gotten cheaper?

    Thanks for any and all feedback!
  2. fuse999

    fuse999 Forum Resident

    I started buying cd's in 1986, and hinges and spokes have always broken, especially when handled by government employees wearing Post Office uniforms!
  3. altaeria

    altaeria Forum Resident

    For some info, check out the entry for Digipak on Wikipedia.
  4. Steve Martin

    Steve Martin Wild & Crazy Guy

    Plano, TX
    I thought this was going to be about the double plastic cases vs. long boxes. I guess i"m old.
  5. JamesRR

    JamesRR Trashcan Dream

    The cardboard longboxes came out in the beginning. Because many record stores began changing to CDs rapidly, all of the fixture displays were meant to hold 12" albums. So the longbox allowed two stacks of CDs to be dropped in those same bins. Eventually, as stores remodeled the need ceased (as did vinyl).

    I recall the 90s as the period when the clear tray replaced the black one (and subsequent spine). Artists began using the space as another canvas to feature album art, and some artists used the clear spine for album titles.

    The 90s were also the time when the "fatbox" (double CD case) began being replaced with a single sized jewel case that could hold 2 CDs.

    Cardboard really made its first consistent appearance with CD singles - many of which came in jewel cases, but many more were sold in simple cardboard sleeves, like 45s but cardboard. (In Europe, CD singles had their own "slim" jewel cases). I really don't recall full-on cardboard liners coming until the late 90s - I think they first appeared for maxi singles. Yes, there were some CDs that came in both - again, could depend on country of origin, and sometimes deluxe versions of albums came in different materials than the regular album (this is still true today).

    The spokes always broke over time. The hinges do feel flimsier now - the plastics feel cheaper than back in the 80s and 90s.

    As a bonus - I think the very annoying stickers (with the album info) they seal the top of the case with came along in the 90s - both as a way to 'flip' through CDs on small racks and view the titles, and to deter theft (slicing the cellophane and slipping the disc out).
  6. off_2_the_side

    off_2_the_side Forum Resident

    Brantford, Canada
    We had a thread on this a few years ago, the clear packaging started showing up here and there in the late '80s but got really big in 1993: When did CD cases first come with see-through trays with extra artwork back there?

    As for broken tray spokes, I've found this has been LESS of a problem in recent years now that the hub in the jewel case is more likely to be a solid button.

    This first pic shows what was the standard for CDs for a long time and it sucks because the little spokes broke so much:


    But this kind you often see nowadays, where it's more like a plastic button that you push down with one finger while lifting the disc up with your other fingers, is A-OK with me:

    This is the same kind of push-button deal you commonly see in digipaks and they're OK too:
    crispi, c-eling and 7MusicFan6 like this.
  7. PyroMessiah

    PyroMessiah Forum Resident

    Martinsburg, WV
    The plastic is definitely cheaper now. I have jewel cases from the 80s that are built like tanks compared to the flimsy ones we get today.
  8. yasujiro

    yasujiro Forum Resident

  9. alchemy

    alchemy Forum Resident

    Sterling, VA
    What I liked about CD plastic cases were 1) if the tray broke you could easily replace it and 2) same thing with the cases.
    When they went to card board boxes to hold the tray, when it broke you were SOL on replacement.

    I still have all my cardboard long boxes which held the CDs.

    My kids and their friends all dumped the CD cases, to keep their CDs in wallet albums. I picked up a lot of boxes that way.
  10. Saint Johnny

    Saint Johnny Forum Resident

    Asbury Park
    As annoying as broken spokes/hubs may be/have been.

    There has never ever, been anything, anything, causing more bile inducing hatred, than spokes that were so tight as to destroy a CD. In what usually turned out to be a futile attempt to get the CD out without damage.

    I shattered, no pun intended at all, into a million pieces, trying to get disc 2 of the Stones, 40 Licks CD out it's overly tight spokes. ARRRRgghhh. Still pissed about it. Now that I think about it, again all these years later.
    And it was not the only time it has happened.
    Dan Steele and The_Windmill like this.
  11. Incompletist

    Good idea for thread.
  12. 7MusicFan6

    7MusicFan6 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    While it appears 1993 was the breakthrough year for clear trays, and it's fun to find earlier examples of them, an additional question would be: did black trays continue to exist for major releases after 1993 or was it all clear all the way?

    I just answered my own question because Throwing Copper by Live from 1994 and Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette from 1995 both had black trays (I have my original copies of those two).
  13. AlmostHeavenWV

    AlmostHeavenWV Forum Resident

    Lancaster UK
    The thing I hate most, and I bet that most of you never realised this, is that all CD jewel cases with covers and liners are designed to be held and opened by right-handed people (unless you hold the case upside down).
    supernaut, irong and rs4951 like this.
  14. janschfan

    janschfan Forum Resident

    Nashville, Tn. USA
    Another case of "right" privilege....:hide:
  15. I like the Super Jewel Case variant. When was this introduced? Around the first SACD releases?

  16. Exile On My Street

    Exile On My Street Senior Member

    Long Island, NY
    When CDs first arrived in the 80s they looked like this. I used to cut the album cover picture off of the box and hang them on my wall. I don't recall specifically when they stopped doing this but certainly by the early 90's.

    supernaut, ispace, spsimmons and 4 others like this.
  17. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product

    top points on this comment
  18. hurple

    hurple Forum Resident

    Clinton, IL, USA
    I'm a lefty... and have never been bothered or even cared about this at all.

    How silly and nitpicky can a complaint be? o_O
    joshm2286 and Comet01 like this.
  19. audiomixer

    audiomixer As Bald As The Beatles

    True. But I have to say that when I moved, some of those old cases cracked a lot easier than the newer ones. They aren't very flexible.
    The_Windmill likes this.
  20. MarkTWIC

    MarkTWIC Forum Resident

    If they're tight aren't you supposed to push down on the spokes to release their grip on the CD?

    Although they have problems too (including their own difficulties in extracting CDs) I always liked the cardboard packaging on CDs, they could be very attractive. Eg a lot of Gomez' albums.

    joshm2286 and c-eling like this.
  21. Loup

    Loup Ancient Wool Unraveller

    U2 - Zooropa - My first CD with a clear tray. Released in July 1993.

  22. c-eling

    c-eling Fruit Juice Everywhere

    In an old longbox thread I think we figured 94
    I still have about a 100 (that somehow survived through out the decades) :laugh:
  23. c-eling

    c-eling Fruit Juice Everywhere

    Love em as well. They can add a beautiful presentation :)
  24. LeBon Bush

    LeBon Bush Hound of Love

    Yes, I seem to recall those came along with the SACD. Interestingly enough, many regular CDs also came in those (don't know if they're still being used for redbooks, though) and I liked it a lot - they were/are a bit flimsier than old jewel cases from the 80s but getting the booklet out of there was always far easier than in the standard CD cases. Plus, the disc holder in the middle is next to impossible to break in a Super jewel.
    supernaut, andrewskyDE and c-eling like this.
  25. c-eling

    c-eling Fruit Juice Everywhere

    Yes the Super Jewel Box's are still being manufactured, at least up to 2016 for this re-issue.
    Angels & Agony's 2015 album Monument was released in one as well
    LeBon Bush and andrewskyDE like this.
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