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Tips on Packing and Shipping Antiques and Collectibles

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Is it breakable? Obviously that's the first thing you should ask yourself when packing and shipping off antiques and collectibles. Even if something isn't glass or ceramic, it certainly can be broken or crushed in shipping. Plastics, tin, wood can all be ruined if not packed and cushioned carefully.

When in doubt - Double Box!

Also see: UPS or USPS?

Shipping and Packing Supplies

Pricegrabber.com
Create a small space for your wrap and pack supplies. It can be a shelf in the closet or garage or even a plastic bin that holds it all together. Here's a list of what's on my packing shelf.
  1. Sharp scissors - a pair just for the shipping stuff
  2. Tapes - clear packing tape and masking tape to hold wrapping securely.
  3. Sharpies - Can't function without these!
  4. New or clean boxes. Love the free ones from USPS
  5. Bubble wrap, newsprint packing paper (not newspapers)
  6. Click-N-Ship Labels from the Post Office
  7. Measuring tape
  8. Digital Scale - I love my Digiweigh Scale
I love my Digiweigh Scale. It takes just a small amount of counter space, will "hold" the weight for those times the package is so big that I can't see the readout and has been super accurate.

Fabrics

MegaVintage

Using the post office's priority mail and flat rate boxes make it super easy to ship stuff like this. Although you can just stick them in the box and ship it off, it's nice to take an extra minute or two to wrap a bit of tissue paper around the item.

Is the fabric antique or vintage? Wrap it in acid free tissue paper, cushioning the piece so it doesn't rattle around in the box. Just a nicety, but one that is remembered.

Is humidity a problem? Put the fabric in a plastic bag so it doesn't get damp.

When including sales invoices or printed pages stick them in an envelope or at the very least, be sure these are not directly touching the fabrics - you don't want the ink to rub off.

Metal Lunchboxes and Tins

Hakes.com
Metal lunchboxes and vintage tins can't break, but they certainly can be crushed and get bent. I've learned that the hard way when sending these to a fellow collector.
  1. Fill the tin canister or lunchbox with tightly crumpled paper or bubble wrap. (So that it can't be crushed or dented).
  2. If the tin piece is vintage or antique, I prefer wrapping the outside of it with plain paper and then a layer of bubble wrap secured with masking tape. The paper will protect any flaking "paint" that might stick to bubble wrap.
  3. Next put the tin inside a box with at least an inch or so space on each side.
  4. Pad with more bubble wrap or crumpled paper so it doesn't shift around in the box.

Plastics

Barb Crews
Soft plastics won't break and shouldn't bend, but what about hard plastics, such as toys, ornaments, kitchenware?
  1. If you're sure the piece is unbreakable or unbendable, minimal cushioning is needed in the box. Perhaps just enough to keep it from shifting around.
  2. Never use newspapers to wrap an item in. Remember inks will stain and rub off. (Newspaper is fine crumpled up and used as cushioning material as long as it never touches the actual objects.)
  3. If the plastic is a brittle or hard plastic, it should be considered breakable enough to wrap it in bubble wrap.
  4. Movable parts? Wrap it with tissue paper or bubble wrap securely so that pieces don't move around and breakoff.
  5. Put item in box with at least an inch of extra space for tight padding.

Jewelry

Barb Crews
I'll assume that if you're shipping jewelry, it will be of the costume jewelry variety, or at least not outrageously expensive.
  1. Since a potential thief won't know if it's a $100. piece or a $1000. piece, cut down the temptation by disguising the contents. Never use a "jewelry-sized" box as the outer packing.
  2. Put jewelry pieces in their own separate small box, use tissue paper or cotton padding to secure jewelry from rattling around and potential damage.
  3. Put smaller box in a bigger box, using padding to secure the inside box from moving around and being damaged and/or to disguise that it is jewelry inside.

Glass Ornaments

Joy to the World Collectibles
When I purchase glass ornaments from companies that specialize in selling them, I typically get a few small ornaments wrapped in bubble wrap in a huge box of Styrofoam peanuts. I hate dealing with all those Styrofoam peanuts that seem to explode all over the place, but it works.
  1. Wrap each ornament in tissue paper, then a thick layer of bubble wrap. Secure the bubble wrap with masking tape or use plastic film to wrap the whole ornament.
  2. Put in small box.
  3. Put this box inside a much larger box that is filled with the Styrofoam peanuts or with loads of bubble wrap or crumpled paper.
The secret to sending these safely is to have loads of packing material, so that even if the outer box is crushed, it will be hard to crush those inner boxes.

Pottery, Ceramics, Glass

Brian P.
I never ship ceramics or glass without double-boxing. When something is so breakable, why take chances?
  1. When it's a cookie jar, vase or bowl, crumple newsprint or small bubble wrap and stuff the inside of the piece. This helps it from being crushed from the outside in.
  2. Put the item inside a box and tightly fill the box with crumpled paper or Styrofoam peanuts.
  3. Close the first box and put inside another larger box with plenty of room on all sides for more padding.
  4. Tightly fill the outside box with padding, including the crumpled newsprint (newspaper can be used here), Styrofoam peanuts, etc.
For more specific information on packing a two piece item, such as cookie jar: How to Pack a Cookie Jar

Smoke or Have Pets?

Just because you smoke or have pets doesn't mean you need to share them with others. Believe me people will know and it might affect future sales to that non-smoker or person allergic to animals.

It's simple, keep the packing supplies in a room or garage where there is no smoking or at least minimal smoking is allowed. The same goes for keeping pets off the packing supplies. I know it might be hard, but I know of one seller that recently missed a big sale. Why? The first sale box arrived and although the merchandise was wonderful, the pet/animal stench was so bad it made me feel ill. And I have pets.

More Tips

Taking time to ship the right way will pay off down the line. If it doesn't break, there won't be any insurance claims to mess with and if things are packed correctly, buyers will remember next time they see something you have for sale.

Worried about the cost of supplies? Build the expense into the price of the item up front, instead of adding a handling charge when the item sells.

Never ship anything without insurance, unless you're prepared to take the loss. Insurance is required on everything I sell unless the item is under $10.

Using recycled boxes? Make sure to put extra tape on the bottom seams. People forget to reinforce the bottom and I've had a few boxes literally falling apart by the time they've reached me.

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