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How to Move Art and Antiques: DIY Tips and Specialty Movers

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If you’re moving to a new place and have heirloom antiques or art – you have a lot of options for moving them safely. All of your options can be broken down into the three main elements of moving:

How to Move Art and Antiques

  • Packing up art and antiques
  • Moving the items in and out of a property
  • Unpacking the items and set up

We know by now that specialty art and antiques require special attention. Factors to consider when moving antiques include:

  • How much do I want to spend?
  • How much do I trust my packing skills?
  • How much control do I need?
  • What do I need to control?

Before you even think about moving, it’s always wise to get your expensive antique items and art appraised and insured for a move. Appraisals are important because the value of your pieces might have increased from what you last knew (or assumed) the piece is worth.

Your favorite family heirlooms are priceless and you probably wouldn’t think to sell them. But with an appraisal and insurance, you have some monetary recourse if any pieces get damaged during a move.

Packing Your Art and Antiques

Let’s look at the first element – packing. There are two main options – you can do it yourself – or you can hire somebody.

Hire Specialty Movers or Full-Service Movers:

Regardless of whether you’re hiring a full service moving company or moving by yourself, you can hire specialty movers to pack your antiques and art. Some companies might require that they also move these delicate items, and some might not offer full guarantees unless they handle and move the items after packing.

These movers have a wealth of knowledge and skill. They also have the right packing equipment- like crates, custom boxes, and high-quality packing materials. This combination of skill and tools make hiring movers an attractive proposition.

These specialty movers can be pricey, but the cost of an expert to pack your expensive items will generally cost less than using paid movers for everything.

Full-service movers can pack and move your entire home. They also can provide packing services similar to specialty movers that handle heavy appliances, pianos, or heavy furniture. If you’re already hiring a full-service moving service, then it makes good sense to have them pack up your valuable antique china cabinets, antique vases and china, and art.

Verdict: Hiring specialty movers to pack your fragile items is more costly than doing it yourself, but you have the assurance that the items are secure (assuming that you handle the art and antiques with care in transit).

DIY Packing

If you have the patience, tools, packing knowledge, and confidence to pack your most valuable items, it can be done safely. Depending on what items you have, you will need a range of packing equipment.

You may need:

  • Moving blankets (for furniture)
  • Glassine paper (for art)
  • Packing paper
  • Bubble wrap
  • Packing tape
  • Spare cardboard boxes
  • Picture boxes
  • Telescoping boxes
  • Custom wood crates
  • Packing straw (for fragile pottery)

For full instructions on how to safely pack your art, mirrors, pictures, and antiques – see our Art and Antiques Packing Guide. If you’re moving a grandfather clock, see our Grandfather Clock Packing and Moving Guide.

Moving Your Art and Antiques

DIY Art Moving

There are many elements of a move that you can do yourself. For specialty pieces like art, there are just as many options for moving it yourself as with a “normal” move. You just get to choose how much control you want during transit.

You can choose to move your precious cargo in several different ways – all with differing degrees of control and responsibility

In your vehicle (a lot of control and responsibility)

  • Tuck boxes behind the passenger seat for greater stability
  • Always place picture boxes on edge
  • They should only be placed flat if they’re on the very top of soft, secure items

Rental Trucks (control and responsibility)

Just like using your vehicle, the safety of your items depends on how you stack and secure them.

Place artwork on edge and protected between stationery items. Many movers will cover picture boxes:

  • Between two mattresses standing on end
  • Alongside tabletops that are standing on end
  • Between the end of a couch and a stack of boxes

Rental trucks are easy to get, and in most cases, you pay by the day + mileage. You can use a rental truck to move only your most valuable items and things you need immediately upon arrival. Using a rental truck for hybrid or self-service moves is becoming increasingly common.

Use a Storage Pod or Freight Service (less responsibility and control)

Both of these services drop off a storage unit or freight trailer, which you fill by yourself. Some freight services include storage, as do portable moving pod services like PODS or U-Pack.

Many freight or pod services give you a set time limit for filling up the storage space. They will then take the freight trailer or pod away.

Freight Services
  • Pay by the linear foot (1’x8’x9’) – many freight services have minimums
  • Great if you have a lot of heavy antiques
  • You can load it yourself or hire labor-only movers for a cheaper full-service feel
  • Much cheaper than full-service movers (if you pack properly)
  • They usually give you up to three days to load up the trailer
  • No control over unit handling or transport
Mobile Storage Pods
  • Pick-up schedules can vary
  • Pricing and storage fees are competitive
  • No control over unit handling or transport

Hybrid moves like this give you more freedom when moving to your new destination. You can also pack your art and antiques by yourself or hire specialists to do the job.

Full-service Movers for Art and Antiques

The gold-standard for art and antique moving is typically a well-regarded moving company that can pack, load, move, unpack, and set up your art or antiques. This method is low-stress but costs more than a DIY or self-service move.


A full-service mover will have all of the best equipment to move your prized possessions, the knowledge to move heavy or fragile items efficiently, and the right packing materials to keep your things safe during transport.

Most reputable full service domestic and international moves offer insurance on top of whatever insurance you choose for your valuables.

Many people like to pride themselves on their self-sufficiency and ingenuity. But when it comes to moving the most valuable and fragile items in your home, there is no substitute for the knowledge and experience of an expert.

Options for Unpacking Art and Antiques

The options for unpacking your artwork are about the same as they are for packing. Why would you want an unpacking service for your valuables? Some items require careful handling and attention. If you’re not able to give that kind of attention to hanging your art or setting up a grandfather clock, then getting some help might be a good idea.

Full-Service Movers

If you’re already using full-service movers, then unpacking is a service add-on that you can request for any range of items – including your antiques and art. Full-service movers will know how to handle most valuable items with care. But if you have an especially valuable piece, then specialty art movers might be for you.

Specialty Art Experts and Labor-only Movers

Specialty movers can help with the unpacking and assembly of valuable antiques, and hang your art. If you have an original Rembrandt or Banksy piece that you’d like to set up. many specialty movers will be able to sub-contract art experts to assist with the move-in.

DIY Art Unpacking:

This is what it sounds like: you do it yourself. Many people can do it all without much trouble. It is inexpensive to unpack and assemble your favorite artwork and antiques, but it comes with a lot of responsibility.

Ultimately, the decision rests with you. Antiques, nice art, and “breakable” things can bring a lot of joy. Knowing what you want when it comes to packing artwork and moving it can alleviate a lot of stress from what can be a stressful moving process.

Myles Compton  Posted by Myles Compton on December 11, 2020

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