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How to Pack Valuables Before Your Move

by Mary Leigh Howell

Art and antiques require careful handling when moving from one location to another.  But damage can occur even if pieces are handled with care— if improper packing boxes or materials are used. CableMover® tracked down some specialty movers to provide these invaluable tips for how to pack and move these fragile pieces yourself.


"The most important element of moving art is proper packing," says John Galletta of 2G Art Services, who's moved delicate collections for nearly 20 years. "And the method of packing depends on how it's going to be moved."

The first step is to wrap each piece in soft pack. Galletta uses Dartek, an interwoven, plastic, acid-free archival material that can be found through specialty suppliers. "It protects art and lets it breathe, which is especially important with oil paintings," says Galletta. 

"Don't wrap paintings or sculptures directly in bubble wrap," warns Galletta. It's fine for a second layer of packaging, but not as the material directly in contact with the piece of art. If the bubbles pop, they can leave marks on the artwork.

Once properly wrapped, art can be packed into cardboard boxes, one-way shipping crates (designed for one-time use) or custom crates. Foam-lined cardboard boxes are fine for transporting items yourself or via a specialty art moving company. If your piece is being moved long distances by a general moving company, a one-way crate provides extra protection. Custom crates are built to specifications for each piece of art and are used to transport museum-quality collections. These crates are meant to be used multiple times, for collectors loaning out works of art to museums and other institutions.

“This End Up” is commonly stenciled on moving boxes, but in art transport, that reminder is critical. The correct orientation for framed paintings and sketches— especially charcoals, pastels and watercolors— is paramount. These works are often hinge-mounted and secured in the top two corners of their frames. If turned upside-down, the mounting points can be dislodged, resulting in the need to reframe the art or, worse, wrinkling the piece.

Antiques and Collectibles

"The best way to approach moving antiques, or any fragile or valuable piece, is to give each a good evaluation prior to moving it," says Galletta. "If you carefully assess the condition, you'll be able to identify any potential problems with moving it." Consider if it can be disassembled or if there are particular weak spots.

For guidelines on how to pack antiques and collectibles, CableMover turned to moving and storage company Ace Worldwide. Ace has moved many priceless items for customers through the years, and has professional suggestions for best-packing procedures.

Prepare antiques for packing by securing any loose parts or removable elements to ensure an efficient packing process and reduce the chances of damage.

  • Secure doors with rubber straps or strings.
  • Remove delicate handles and tape them snugly inside drawers.
  • Remove or tape and secure glass panels and mirrors. Secure them with padding and stretch wrap.
  • Place hardware, attachments or components in labeled plastic bags. Keep the labeled bags in a designated "parts box."

After items are wrapped, you may want to have them placed in wooden crates for more protection. This method works well for delicate pieces, like a crystal chandelier. If it is an unusual size or shape, a custom crate can be made to ensure a correct fit. Savvy moving companies further minimize the risk of damage by using decking in their trucks to keep special items from coming in contact with others.

For collectible items such as figurines, dolls and ornaments, Ace recommends you pack them in their original cartons, if possible. Otherwise, wrap them individually in tissue paper and then pack in bubble wrap or foam “peanuts.” Use double-walled corrugated boxes for an extra measure of security.

China, crystal and delicate porcelain should be individually wrapped in tissue paper and placed in specially designed, compartmented containers. Position plates standing on edge and stemware within individual corrugated cylinders.

It may take more time, but using precaution and proper materials during the packing stage can help ensure your collection remains intact for years to come.

Mary Leigh Howell specializes in communications for the home, furnishings and garden industries.