To Ship, or Not to Ship? That is the Question!
At age sixteen, a person could assume that my knowledge of shipping antiques is rather limited. They would be correct. However, a fascination in my teen years with Steampunk inventions led to a passion for collecting items made during the Victorian Era. Ingenious contraptions invented from gears and steam power captured my imagination. As I researched more about the Victorian Era I wanted to collect some of the unique items that were no longer used after the invention of electricity. Living in the middle of Orange County, CA isn't exactly a mecca for Victorian collectibles, so my hobby has taken me to antique shops all around California and to websites that ship items from all over the world.
The oil lamplighter kit from the late 1800s on the website of a London antique shop looked like the perfect birthday present to ask for! Its original cardboard case advertised “50 nightlights for 100 services” but showed the wear of over 100 years of existence. There is a possibility that an item will be damaged during shipping. That led to a bit of an ethical dilemma for me. Would the delicate box, aged by over 100 years of handling, weather and dust hold up during shipping? Would the ink printing that captured the history of this treasure flake off during the bumps and lumps of an overseas flight? Would my desire to own this little piece of Victorian history be selfish and possibly destroy it? Since I am just learning the beginnings of antique collectibles, I called the antique shop to ask my questions. I was assured that all of their items were first packed carefully to ensure no jostling or rubbing during transport. They then used reputable shipping carriers and purchased appropriate insurance on all items. It sounded like they knew what they were doing. Finally, the big decision was made… The risks of careful shipping were low and the risk of this item sitting unappreciated on a store shelf was high. My family purchased the lamplighter kit for my birthday and it arrived perfectly safe, ready to join a small collection of well appreciated Victorian items.
My lamplighter box measures four inches across and has no glass or highly breakable pieces. What about larger pieces like furniture with glass? The United Kingdom Antiques World website talks about important reasons to buy antique furniture. The styles are timeless, and the careful hand construction of the items have already proven to last through multiple lifetimes. The quality woods were used at a time before they were endangered and stand the test of time. The pieces retain value and purchasing them ensures they don't head to a landfill. The history and stories they hold are truly unimaginable. I hope to own a Victorian desk one day. The perfect place to show my quill and ink set and my Victorian Era books. I know when it comes time for this purchase, a company skilled in the importance of shipping antiques will be the most important part of the buying process.
I also hope to ship my hand made, inventive and possibly fragile items one day. I am a maker, a person who loves creating out of wood and metal and leather. I currently take leatherworking classes and my first blacksmithing class begins next month. I take woodshop and metal design classes at night after my online high school academics. Someday my creations may be bought and shipped all over the world to curious people who share a love of art and handiwork. Careful shipping will be a must!
First, I plan to go to college and study archeology. Your essay topic prompted me to look up shipping guidelines in the world of museums and beautiful historical pieces. The Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute offers guidelines for moving, packing and shipping antique furniture. They recommend keeping in mind that “if you don't break it, you don't have to fix it!” This points out the importance of a professional and thoughtful shipping approach. Next, they recommend treating every piece as the most valuable piece and moving slowly after careful examination of any cracks or problems with the piece. Existing damage could change the packaging or the shipping method, so careful evaluation is needed. Talking through the plan is recommended before touching the piece so that any potential problems can be thought out. Finally, they recommend consideration of the weather in the current location and final location which could present unforeseen challenges for the piece. They recommend three layers of protection including a protective wrap, shock and vibration protection, and a protective shell. What to choose for each of these three steps is where professional and experienced shipping companies become most integral.
While not every circumstance can be anticipated during shipping, it is clear that whether a four-inch-long Victorian lamplighter kit or a four-foot-tall Egyptian throne is being moved, professional experience is essential. As consumers, we think about the shopping and we think about the item being in our home, but it is easy to overlook all the steps in between. The steps a shipping company takes are important for everyday shipping needs, but also essential to the shipping of any items with historical value that make them truly one of a kind and irreplaceable.