How to Pack and Ship Antiques

Make sure those pricey collectibles arrive in one piece

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While shipping items securely are always important, it’s especially crucial for antiques and collectibles. These tend to be unique pieces that can’t be easily replaced if damaged in transit. In additional to being tossed, dropped, and generally mangled, there’s a good chance the box housing the delicate antique you’re shipping will be stacked under a crate of encyclopedias. Even if the object doesn’t look particularly fragile to you, like a piece of collectible plastic jewelry, for instance, in the face of these odds some defensive packing is in order.

And remember, even when an item is insured, it’s still a drag when it arrives damaged. After all, most collectors would rather have the goods than the money they were willing to part with to buy them, and once an heirloom is broken that’s the end of the family story.

Specifics on Packing Antiques & Collectibles for Shipping

You'll want to consider the best type of packaging material (see information on recycled materials below), what type of container to use, and what else to include inside the box for each type of antique or collectible being shipped.

Follow the suggestions within these links for safely shipping a variety of antiques and collectibles:

Of course, these are only a few types of antiques and collectibles; no doubt, each subcategory of goodies—from small furniture pieces and decorative accessories to antique toys and cast iron collectibles—will have its own set of tips and tricks when it comes to proper packing. If you find yourself in the position of selling a piece unlike the types linked above, consider seeking advice from a more experienced shipper (like an online dealer) who specializes in that piece’s genre.

Should You Use Recycled Packing Materials?

It’s perfectly acceptable to use recycled packing materials. Clean corrugated boxes, bubble wrap, and foam peanuts are often available free of charge if you ask friends and business associates who frequently receive packages to save reusable materials for you. Note, however, that there’s a fine line between “recycled packing materials” and “garbage.”

While using yesterday’s newspaper is fine in some instances (see links below for specifics on packing different types of antiques), you’ll want to avoid employing materials like opened TV dinner boxes, diapers (even clean ones), boxes from feminine products, food wrappers and the like. Don’t use anything else that is soiled, holds an odor, or might be deemed offensive. It’s unprofessional if you’re selling and inappropriate if you’re shipping a gift.

Think this is common sense? Not for everyone. Asking a few friends who avidly shop online auctions about some of the packing materials they’ve seen their precious purchases wrapped in over time will yield stories of many much worse than those being cautioned against here.

When to Employ a Professional

While shipping most antiques and collectibles is a do-it-yourself proposition, if the piece you’re sending out is particularly unusual, cumbersome, or fragile, you may decide that it’s better to let a professional company handle the packing and shipment of the item. If you’ve not previously used a packing company in your area, contact a local antique mall and find out who they use (keeping in mind that this will be much more expensive than tackling the task yourself). Most malls ship packages home to traveling customers on occasion, and employ package services for difficult items.

When selling antique items, if you’re new to the business, it’s best to investigate any potential shipping issues prior to listing your item for sale online. That way, if a potential customer asks you how a fragile item will be packaged and delivered—and just how much it will cost—you’ll have the information at the ready. This can go a long way toward building a buyer’s confidence in your ability to deliver the antique or collectible they want.