A longbox is a form of exterior paperboard
Paperboard is a thick paper based material. While there is no rigid differentiation between paper and paperboard, paperboard is generally thicker than paper. According to ISO standards, paperboard is a paper with a basis weight above 224 g/m2, but there are exceptions. Paperboard can be single...

 packaging for musical compact disc
Compact Disc
The Compact Disc is an optical disc used to store digital data. It was originally developed to store and playback sound recordings exclusively, but later expanded to encompass data storage , write-once audio and data storage , rewritable media , Video Compact Discs , Super Video Compact Discs ,...

s in widespread use in the 1980s and early 1990s in North America.


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.

Placing the jewelcase within a cardboard enclosure made for a larger and more cumbersome package that would be more difficult to shoplift from retailers.

Longboxes began to fade from popularity as the CDs themself became more colorful (labels initially printed CDs with a plain black-on-silver appearance). Longboxes were also considered environmentally wasteful and were expensive to produce. In North America, the drive to eliminate longboxes took hold in Canada first.


Environmental concerns of unnecessary cardboard waste from artists and consumers alike created controversy over continued use of longboxes. Musicians (e.g. David Byrne
David Byrne (musician)
David Byrne is a musician and artist, best known as a founding member and principal songwriter of the American new wave band Talking Heads, which was active between 1975 and 1991. Since then, Byrne has released his own solo recordings and worked with various media including film, photography,...

) included a sticker over the packaging of their albums reading "THIS IS GARBAGE", referring to the excessive material use of the longbox form. The satirical band Spinal Tap
Spinal Tap (band)
Spinal Tap is a parody heavy metal band that first appeared on a failed 1979 ABC TV sketch comedy pilot called "The T.V. Show", starring Rob Reiner...

's 1992 studio album Break Like the Wind
Break Like the Wind
Break Like the Wind is an album by the semi-fictional band Spinal Tap. The title, from the album's title track, is a double entendre that combines and confuses the idiom "make like the wind [and blow]" with "break[ing] wind" , and samples the classical guitar piece Concierto de Aranjuez by Rodrigo...

was sold in an "extra-long box" (an 18-inch longbox) — a deliberate parody of the prevailing longbox packaging controversy, as well as an inside joke on the Christopher Guest
Christopher Guest
Christopher Haden-Guest, 5th Baron Haden-Guest , better known as Christopher Guest, is an American screenwriter, composer, musician, director, actor and comedian. He is most widely known in Hollywood for having written, directed and starred in several improvisational "mockumentary" films that...

 scene in the film
This Is Spinal Tap
This Is Spinal Tap is an American 1984 rock musical mockumentary directed by Rob Reiner about the fictional heavy metal band Spinal Tap...

 where he explains 'these (amplifiers) go to eleven', and possibly a phallic metaphor.

Longbox packaging was phased out officially as of April 1, 1993 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
Anti-theft system
An anti-theft system is any device or method used to prevent or deter the unauthorized appropriation of items considered valuable. Theft is one of the most common and oldest criminal behaviours...

 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
Boxed set
A box set is a compilation of various musical recordings, films, television programs, or other collection of related items that are contained in a box.-Music box sets:...

 or vanity CD packaging, longbox packaging is largely obsolete. However, longboxes are still occasionally used by warehouse club
Warehouse club
A warehouse club is a retail store, usually selling a wide variety of merchandise, in which customers are required to buy large, wholesale quantities of the store's products, which makes these clubs attractive to both bargain hunters and small business owners. The clubs are able to keep prices low...

s such as Costco
Costco Wholesale Corporation is the largest membership warehouse club chain in the United States. it is the third largest retailer in the United States, where it originated, and the ninth largest in the world...

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.
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