One of the biggest concerns we come across amongst people who are anxious about buying antique pottery online is whether it will be packed well enough to survive the postal system. Horror stories abound – we spoke to someone who had received a Troika Spice Jar that had been wrapped in newspaper and posted in a jiffy bag… from Australia [to the UK]! Needless to say it was in pieces on arrival…
The truth, however, is that packing pottery well is not especially difficult, and can be done almost wholly with recycled packaging materials if necessary.
To help anyone who isn’t sure where to start, we thought it might be useful to provide this illustrated guide to packaging.
Here’s how we do it. Bear in mind that this is a fairly small, light item being posted within the UK. For an international shipment, or a heavy item that might shift in transit, we would double box the package. This means that the box pictured would be placed within another box, with a layer of padding between them. The benefit of this is that even if the outer box is damaged/placed under pressure, the inner box should be relatively unaffected, protecting the item from damage in most scenarios.
(Click on any of the pictures to enlarge them)
- Wrap the item in several layers of bubble wrap. Bubble wrap can get caught on gilding and on some kinds of paint (causing it to flake), so if in doubt about this, first wrap the item in a layer of tissue, then in bubble wrap:
- Having identified a suitable box (one that is reasonably strong, in good condition, and allows at least 1.5″ – 2″ around the item), fill the base with packaging. We’re using proper polystyrene packaging in this example, but shredded newspaper or polystyrene packaging from other items can also be used (bear in mind paper weighs more, so will add to your postage costs):
- Build up a good layer of poly or shredded paper in the base – aim to position the item being packed in the centre of the box:
- Place the item in the box, on top of the packaging. In this example it looks a bit of a tight fit, but this is only a result of the camera angle/perspective – there is enough room around it:
- Fill the area around the items with packaging – make sure you fill the space down the sides up evenly – this will hold the item safely in place in the centre of the box. As a guide, when you have finished packing the box, you should be able to shake it without the item moving at all:
- Now it is just a case of filling the area above the item with packaging – make sure this comes slightly above the top of the box, so that when you tape the box closed the packaging will be compressed slightly – this will stop it moving around and settling too much, and hold the item firmly in place:
- Tape the box tightly closed with proper parcel tape – usually available cheap from markets, car boots, or online:
- As we have not used a plain box, we will cover it in brown paper too. This is not always necessary:
- And voila – nicely covered in brown paper and taped up:
- There’s only one stage left – label the parcel. Small fragile labels are available free from the post office, but proper fragile tape makes more of a visual impact, and is truly unmissable!
That’s how we pack things, and we find it works well. It is worth considering double-boxing when posting abroad, although weight and size constraints can make this very difficult. As a general guide, two slightly tighter fitting boxes might still be better than one box if you have to choose, but keeping parcels under 2kg and within the size constraints (click here for details) can be challenging!
Finding packaging materials can be difficult – especially if you need much quantity. There are many packaging websites that can come in handy – with a full choice of packaging including materials tailored for antiques. We also recycle a lot of packaging, which helps reduce waste.
The only other area to consider is how to post your item. In the UK, we always use Royal Mail Special Delivery for items under 2kg, as the parcels are handled separately from other mail and the service guarantees a pre-1pm delivery the next day. For items that are over 2kg or are too large for Special Delivery, we often use Parcelforce 48 and have found this to be a good service too.
Overseas postage methods vary according to the value and destination, but for items with some value, Royal Mail International Signed For is usually the best choice. Strangely, we often get quicker deliveries with this service than with Royal Mail’s Airsure service, even though Airsure is meant to be the premier service…
International parcels over 2kg are a special case. Costs increase dramatically for international parcels over 2kg. Expect to pay £60-£100 or even more for items over 2kg or which are particularly large. For international parcels over 2kg we use Parcelforce or Worldwide Parcel Services.