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How to Pack Artwork and Antiques

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Packing all your valuable possessions for a move can be nerve-wracking. But of all your expensive and delicate items, perhaps none require more extra care than your valuable artwork, antiques, paintings, mirrors, figurines, and other collectibles.

How to Pack Artwork and Antiques

For especially valuable items, we recommend hiring professional specialty movers to ensure that nothing bad happens to your items. Many specialty movers can do custom crates for your valuable vases or original Picassos. They can also offer insurance and the assurance that your items are in good hands.

However, it’s possible to handle the packing and moving process by yourself. And you’re at the right place to learn more. Follow our instructions and tips to pack artwork and antiques and ensure that they make it to your new home safely.

Create an Inventory for Packing Artwork and Antiques

Before you begin packing artwork and antiques, you should create a list of your artwork and antiques. This will also help you figure out which items you can safely pack yourself and what should be handled by moving professionals (large paintings, heavy mirrors, and extremely valuable collectibles). If you have any high-value antiques or artwork, remember to get it appraised before the move so you can get them insured.

Gather Packing Materials for Your Art and Fragile Items

Once you list your items, you'll need to have the following packing materials for packing artwork and antiques.

  • Picture Boxes or Telescoping Boxes (Cardboard)

Protects framed artwork, large paintings, and mirrors. Unlike regular moving boxes, picture boxes are large, flat, and adjustable, making them ideal for protecting these items.

  • Glassine

This thin paper acts as a blemish-proof first layer on your art or mirrors. It’s very fine and prevents oil transfer from hands and water damage.

  • Corner Protectors

Prevents the frame’s corners from getting damaged or causing damage to other items.

  • Other Packing Supplies:

When packing antiques or any other collectibles, you will need some of the standard packing supplies:

Get Art Appraised and Insured

Remember, before packing expensive artwork, antiques, or any other collectibles, it’s advisable to have them appraised and insured. You never know how much your art has appreciated over time, so relying on old appraisals could leave you on the hook for the difference in value if anything happens. Think about having valuable items appraised and insured before moving.

Packing Framed Artwork for Moving

If you are packing a painting or a photograph that is framed, simply follow these two methods.

Method I

  • Use Glassine Paper:

Lay your item frame-down on glassine paper. Wrap completely and secure loosely with tape.

  • Mark an "X":

If your painting or a framed photograph has a glass cover, take two strips of masking tape and place them over the glass in an "X" shape. This may prevent the glass from shattering during transport.

  • Use Corner Protectors:

After you have taped the glass, secure the corners of the frame with corner protectors. This will keep the frame from being damaged during the move.

  • Wrap the Art:

Use bubble wrap or unprinted newspaper. Lay face down on the protective wrap. Ensure all edges are covered. Secure with tape.

  • Place in Protective Box:

After packing a framed art, it's time to carefully place it in a picture box.

  • As an extra precaution, take cardboard and tape it over the bubble wrap to protect the edges.
  • Then place the framed art in the box.
  • Label the Box:

Once the art is in the box, you can seal the box with packing tape and mark the container in bold letters:

"FRAGILE"

Method II

  • Lay the picture frame face down in glassine. Wrap and secure with tape.
  • Lay the picture frame face-down in the middle of a stack of brown packing paper with glassine paper on top.
    • Gather a few sheets of brown paper along with the glassine and wrap the art or mirror in the same way you would wrap a gift.
  • Use packing tape to ensure the frame is secure.
  • Next, take a picture box and stuff the bottom with crumpled packing paper. This will give your frame some cushioning.
  • Now, place the frame into the box and stuff with packing paper around the frame to ensure the frame won't move around. Close the flaps and tape the box.

You can pack multiple frames in a single box if space permits; just make sure there's plenty of cushioning in-between frames. When packing a mirror for moving, use the same method or simply watch our “how to pack framed pictures and mirrors video” to learn the best ways to pack framed artwork and keep them protected during a move.

Packing Unframed Artwork for Moving

If your paintings aren't covered in glass, you need to take some extra precautions to protect them:

  • Exposed Canvas – Packing Paper:

    Since the print or canvas is exposed to the air and is not under glass, you don’t need to tape it with an X shape. You can still protect the print or canvas by wrapping your paintings in Glassine and packing paper. Be sure to use unprinted newsprint, as the ink from the regular newspaper and oils can ruin painted artwork.

  • Bubble Wrap:

    After you pack your artwork in packing paper, cover it with bubble wrap. For extra protection, tape sheets of cardboard over the bubble wrap along the edges.

    • Now that your artwork is completely covered, you can place it in the picture box and mark the container in bold letters labeled:

      "FRAGILE ART"

Packing Antiques, Collectibles, and Fragile Items

You may have a grandfather clock, an antique china cabinet, or antique furniture that has been in your family for several generations. These are the types of treasures that you want to arrive at your new home undamaged. To achieve that goal, you'll need to pack your antiques very carefully.

  • Large Items First:

Start with the largest items, such as armoires and dining room tables. Take photographs for your records and wrap each piece in bubble wrap or packing paper.

  • Small Items:

Wrap small items like jewelry, silver, and collectibles, in bubble wrap and place in appropriately sized boxes with packing paper to prevent too much movement.

  • Multiple Items:

You can pack multiple items in a single box if space permits; just make sure there's plenty of cushioning in between the items.

  • Get Good Boxes:

If you have antique statues or other small valuable antiques, buy boxes that are specially designed for moving these items. Once you have the right boxes, you can pack each piece in bubble wrap or packing paper and seal the covering together with tape.

Then, fill up about one-third of the box with packing peanuts and place the item inside the box upright, securing the item with more peanuts. Once the piece is secure, tape the box shut. Of course, be sure to label the box as:

"FRAGILE"

There are many ways that DIY packing – especially with artwork – that can go wrong. So we usually suggest getting professionals to work on your most valuable pieces.

Shipping Artwork and Antiques

Your prized photograph, painting, or antiques is now securely packed and ready for shipment, and it’s time to transport it. There are various ways to move artwork, which can be transported via vehicle, train, airplane, or ship.

Shipping packages internationally is different than shipping domestically. If you are transporting artwork overseas, you will want to research the country you are shipping it to so you are sure to follow all the international shipping regulations and prohibitions.

Only ship your art when you know the rules and regulations governing importing valuables and artwork for the country you’ll be shipping to. Though you may want to handle the paperwork and package yourself, it’s usually best to get some help. Get some extra help by hiring a fine art handling company to move your art internationally or domestically so it arrives protected and in pristine condition.

A fine art handling company can also assist you with packaging, storage, and installation. After your artwork is packaged and shipped, you must trust in the hands that are treating it, and remember, you have it insured in the case that those hands are a little shaky.

Myles Compton  Posted by Myles Compton on December 3, 2020

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