Packaging Collectible Glassware for Shipping

Antique glassware on display
Massimo Ravera / Getty Images

Most everyone realizes glassware is fragile and should be packaged carefully, but some folks don’t take the time to do it right. Unfortunately, many pieces of antique and collectible glass are damaged beyond repair due to these very avoidable mishaps. Whether you’re shipping an expensive piece of elegant glass to a customer or mailing your grandmother’s Depression glass serving dish to your cousin, the safest packing method is the box-in-a-box approach.

Start With Bubble Wrap

As with shipping pottery and porcelain, take care to wrap any particularly delicate or areas prone to break, like handles and bases, with bubble wrap secured with packing tape. Then, wrap the entire piece of glassware with another piece of bubble wrap and secure it with more tape. Wrap each glass piece individually in bubble wrap when shipping multiple pieces. This prevents breakage caused by glass items striking one another during shipment.

Use enough tape so the bubble wrap won't unravel and the item won't shift inside it, but avoid overzealous taping and creating a “mummy” that will be difficult for the recipient to cut open without damaging what’s inside.

Pack the Inner Box

Place the bubble-wrapped piece or pieces in a sturdy cardboard box that fits the size of the items being shipped with just a little room to spare. Then, surround the piece with packing material, such as foam peanuts, bubble wrap or plenty of crumpled paper. Use enough material, and pack it into all of the voids, so that the item does not move around in the box. Close the box and seal it with packing tape.

Pack the Outer Box

Find a second box that accommodates the inner box plus a few inches of space all around. Line the bottom of the outer box with packing material. If you have a roll or large piece of bubble wrap, you can run the wrap up the sides as well. Place the inner box into the outer box and surround it with more packing material so that it won't shift inside the larger box but is not packed with pressure.

Place an invoice with a return address, a business card, or a “return to” note with your address within the larger box, as applicable. This serves as a backup in case the return address on the outside of the box becomes illegible as the package makes its way through the shipping process.

Seal the outer box securely with durable packing tape. Make sure the bottom edges of the box are taped as well as the top.

Label the Box

Label the box with the address, or affix a printed label, then tape over the writing or label with clear packing tape to make sure the print doesn’t run and become illegible. Don’t forget to include your return address on the outside of the box.

Alternative Method

The box-in-a-box packing method is best for glass, especially when you’re shipping a particularly fragile item or more than one piece together. But in some cases, a very heavy piece of glass, such as a single Depression glass Colonial Block footed tumbler, can be shipped in a box by itself, provided you wrap the piece nicely in bubble wrap and use an oversized box to ensure that there are 6 to 8 inches of packing material between the item and each side of the box. Be sure to use enough packing material in the form of foam peanuts, additional bubble wrap, or plenty of crumpled paper to secure the item so it won’t jostle around at all during shipment.