3 Shipping Secrets for Antiques

So many of my followers are buying antiques and using my online appraisal reports to resell them online to buyers worldwide. This is big business and loads of fun but nothing matters if you can’t complete the sale. Well, you can’t complete the sale if you don’t ship the object to its new owner. Remember, nothing says “complete” or feels more like an accomplishment than shipping out that Walter Emerson Baum oil on canvas painting, wooden candle stand, or Staffordshire place setting once you’ve sold it to an online buyer in Kansas or Nevada. Here are some tips to make your shipping of art and antiques care free.

1. Protect the Inside

box and tape

I spoke with a client recently who received a valuable French Impressionist pastel on paper that she purchased online. She received the piece and it was badly damaged by the glass of the pastel’s frame. The seller didn’t know how to properly ship the work of art which was framed under glass so the buyer ended up opening a package that had a million small sharp shards of glass amidst the fragile work of art. The work was damaged and torn to pieces by the glass shards and scratched all over it, too.

Let me share a tried and true solution from my days working in major museums and shipping artwork out for exhibition and display. My client’s seller who shipped the work or art should have placed bands of blue painter’s tape in a criss-crossed lattice pattern over the entire pane of framed glass before wrapping the work of art for shipping. Upon arrival, the blue painter’s tape will be easy to remove from the glass without adhesive residue or damage. If, by chance, there is damage to the glass during shipping, the blue painter’s tape in the criss-crossed pattern on top of the glass will keep any broken glass pieces in place and stuck to the tape preventing damage to the work of art from the broken glass like cuts or scratches. Learn more framing tips.

When it comes to boxing up fragile items, position them in the center or middle of the box and allow for at least 2 inches of padding around each item. Also allow for at least 2 inches of space between each item that you put into a box. You don’t want one item damaging the other item as they share a shipping box. Don’t forget to fill the empty space in a box too. This fill material –bubble wrap, crumbled newspapers, paper from the shredder bin–will act as a shock-absorber during transport. There is a wrong and right way to use bubble wrap. Do you know how to use it? Find out along with other storage tips for antiques.

When wrapping ceramics, you need to take care to wrap china carefully. If you are shipping a ceramic vessel or Nippon vase, be sure to stuff the inside of that vase with Styrofoam peanuts or another packaging material and then wrap the ceramic object and stuff the area of the box around the piece, too. You don’t want it to move around too much in shipping. And for those especially fragile items, you can protect them in shipping by cushioning a smaller box inside of a larger box and add more wrapping material around the smaller box.

If you are shipping vintage paper items like antique postcards or World War II photographs, wrap them in acid free tissue paper and then place the wrapped items into a plastic bag. This will help guard against wet shipping conditions or spills in transit.

2. Get the Right Size

When it comes to shipping, size matters and actually, the right size matters more. Big is not always the answer and small is not always the answer. Remember Goldilocks and the bears with those three bowls of porridge? It had to be just right. That’s the way it is when it comes to shipping boxes too. It has to be just right. When shipping boxes, they can’t be too big or too small. Why? A shipping box that is too big may dent or even collapse upon the object that you have inside of it. If the shipping box is big and only has one small item inside of it, then that item can move around and be damaged in transit. If a box is too small and choc-full of objects, the box could burst open and then you’ve lost your objects before they even get to the new owner.

3. Clear and Concise Labeling

Some of the simple aspects of shipping are often overlooked like clearly printed shipping labels. I know, you are thinking … is Dr. Lori really advising me about how to write out a shipping label? Yep, I am. Use a black magic marker and print clearly when preparing a shipping label. Make it easy for the automated machines or postal carriers to read the shipping addresses on your boxes. Follow post office protocols. Be concise and only use one shipping label per package. Don’t plaster a shipping box with many labels because the postal service will need to add additional labels for their purposes, too. One item that is more important than you think is the return address. Always include a complete return address on each package. While not required, some people add a business phone number with the return address too. I think it is wise to include a clearly printed copy of the shipping address and return address tucked into the inside of the package just in case something happens to the ship to address label on the outside of the package.

When shipping heavier or expensive objects like that Van Briggle pottery, you may save some money by spreading them out over several more lightweight boxes. Instead of placing ten objects in one big box, break them up and ship them in two or three boxes with only a few items inside. When it comes to shipping collections, be sure to get insurance on all the boxes you are shipping because there is nothing worse than getting only one half of an antique set or only the salt of that salt and pepper shaker set. Make sure you have enough insurance. Use my online appraisal reports to help with this or use my Priority Ask Dr. Lori subscription if you are a frequent shipper. Always check weight restrictions too.

When shipping something to someone else, whether it’s a gift to a friend or completing a transaction with a business associate, treat that object as you wish someone else would treat an object that you want to receive in good condition. Wrap it properly, label it clearly and buy the shipping insurance to protect the package in transit.

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