Antiques are among the most treasured items in our homes, whether they have been passed down through the generations or were carefully selected after months of searching flea markets, auction houses, and antique dealers for the perfect piece.
These items carry immense sentimental—and sometimes financial—value, and often, parting with them when you downsize or leaving them behind when you move long distance just isn’t an option. If you’re a collector, dealer, auction house, or estate distributor, you will also face the challenging prospect of shipping antiques long distances.
There are several shipping methods at your disposal for shipping antique items. While it is possible to pack and transport antiques yourself, in almost all cases, experts recommend working with a professional mover or shipper who can help you properly pack your antique items. This is especially true for larger pieces of furniture, shipments of multiple pieces, and items that are particularly valuable or fragile.
The majority of damage to antique items occurs as a result of improper packing. Working with professionals can significantly reduce the risk of damage due to poor packing.
Read our comprehensive guide to learn more about six ways to ship antiques, or jump directly to special considerations and other important antique shipping guidelines, including step-by-step packing instructions, using the menu below.
1. How To Ship Antiques
Read about six common ways to ship antiques, including pros and cons and when to use each method.
2. How Much Does It Cost to Ship Antiques?
The cost of shipping your antiques depends on what shipping method you choose.
3. Recommended Shipping Method
Moving locally or long distance? Find out which shipping method is best for your move.
4. Special Considerations
Antiques are difficult to ship, and each piece will come with its own unique set of considerations for packing and moving.
5. Mistakes to Avoid
Keep your antiques safe throughout the moving process by avoiding these mistakes.
6. How To Pack Antiques
Pack your antiques the right way with our step-by-step instructions.
1. How To Ship Antiques
No matter how old, valuable, or fragile your antique items are, these pieces can be tough to move, especially if you’re moving long distance. Typically, you have six options for shipping antique furniture and other items:
- Don’t—sell it
- Parcel shipping
- Rent a truck and move yourself
- Hire professional movers
- Rideshare or peer-to-peer shipping
- Consolidated freight
Let’s take a closer look at each of these methods:
I. Don’t—sell them
Depending on how many antique items you’re dealing with and what kind of items they are, it may not be worth the time and effort of moving every piece. In these cases, you may need to make a difficult decision about whether it makes more sense to keep a piece, or to sell it. To make your decision a little easier (or soothe your seller’s remorse), remember that selling some of your antiques will help you recover some of the costs of moving, and your move may even be cheaper overall.
If you don’t use an antique item but it’s highly sentimental and you just can’t stomach the thought of selling it, consider gifting it to a family member instead.
When should sell my antique furniture?
- Items that don’t have a practical purpose
- Antiques that are not collector’s items or family heirlooms
- Items with greater financial value than sentimental value
II. Parcel shipping
If your antique items weigh less than 70lbs and measure less than 108 inches in length, you may be able to ship them using parcel shipping services such as FedEx, DHL, or UPS.
Antique items shipped using parcel shipping services are typically packaged and labelled in individual boxes. They will be shipped using the same methods as other packages—sorted on conveyor belts and loaded and unloaded by individuals at several checkpoints throughout the shipping process. For this reason, properly packing your items for transport is critically important if you are considering parcel shipping.
|Easier to track||Greater number of transfers leads to a higher risk of getting lost, damaged, or delayed|
|Often less expensive than other shipping options due to larger volume of packages||Some parcel shippers have size and weight restrictions, and will charge extra fees for packages that exceed these limits|
|Faster timelines—expedited shipping is often available||May not include adequate insurance coverage|
How much does parcel shipping cost?
The cost of shipping your antiques using parcel shipping services depends on the size and weight of your shipment, as well as the distance it is travelling and how fast you need it to arrive. Additional charges will apply to packages that exceed a carrier’s weight or size restrictions, as well as for expedited delivery and professional packing services.
For example, a 20 lb box measuring 24” x 12” x 12” being shipped from Austin to Portland, Maine, will cost around $42 for regular ground transportation, and can reach up to $360 for next day air service.
When to ship antiques using parcel shipping services
- Small items or shipments weighing less than 70lbs combined, with measurements less than 108” in length or 165” in girth
- Time-critical shipments
III. Renting a truck and moving your antiques yourself
Renting a moving truck and loading and unloading your belongings with the help of friends and family is a common choice for smaller, local moves.
If you are thinking about renting a truck to move your antiques, it’s especially important that you pack them properly before you load them into your moving vehicle—poor packing is the most common cause of damage to antique furniture.
In addition to the special considerations you’ll have to take while packing your antique furniture and other items, you’ll also have to pay attention to how you load these items into your moving vehicle:
- If your antique furniture has fragile legs, feet, or casters, load it into your moving vehicle upside down. These components may not be able to handle the jostling of a truck bed, especially over long distances.
- To reduce the risk of damage, do your best to keep antique items separate from other items.
- Do not stack other items, including boxes, on top of antique furniture or boxes containing smaller antique items.
- Always use dollies or hand trucks to move antique furniture—don’t try to lift and carry them all the way to the moving vehicle.
- Load antique mirrors upright, ideally between two soft pieces of upholstered furniture.
- Secure antique furniture or boxes containing antiques in place using ropes or ratcheting straps so they don’t shift in transit and damage other items
|Can be cheaper than hiring movers for short or local moves, or arranging a consolidated freight shipment for long distance relocations||You’ll need to pack and load your antique furniture yourself|
|Your antiques are under your control throughout the moving process||Truck rental can be expensive for long distance moves, and often there are fees for leaving the truck in a different city|
|Does not include insurance if damaged in transit|
How much does it cost to rent a truck and move your own antiques?
The cost of renting a truck and moving yourself depends on the size of the rented vehicle and how far you are moving. Antique furniture can be large and bulky, so you may need to rent a larger vehicle to safely accommodate these items, which will increase the cost of your rental vehicle.
Regardless of vehicle size, you’ll pay a day rate to rent your moving vehicle, as well as additional fees for mileage, gas, moving, supplies, and insurance.
- Day rates typically range between $19.99-$29.99 per day for a 10’-17’ truck, or $29.99-$39.99 for a 20’-26’ truck.
- Mileage often ranges between $0.89-$1.39 per mile and can be higher on weekends and during peak moving season.
You may also be required to pay additional fees to leave a rented vehicle in a different state than where you picked it up.
When should I rent a truck and move my own antiques?
- Inexpensive antiques with minimal sentimental value
- Small antique items that can be securely packed into boxes
- If you are confident that you can safely pack and move your own antiques
- Local or short distance moves
IV. Hire professional movers
Whether you need to move antiques across town or across the country, it’s often best to hire professionals to help you transport antique furniture. Professional antique movers will have the experience and equipment to properly pack and transport antique items. If you are considering hiring standard household movers, be sure to tell them about any high-value and fragile antique items so they can give you an accurate quote and arrive prepared to handle these items.
When you’re vetting a professional moving team, always ask if they have experience moving or shipping antique items. Ask how these items will be packed and loaded, and read reviews carefully to assess their ability.
|Specialty antique moving professionals can often provide customized solutions for moving antiques||Unless they specialize in moving antiques, professional moving companies may not have the experience or expertise to safely pack and move antiques|
|They will know what materials are needed to properly pack antiques, and will arrive prepared to maximize speed and safety||Specialty antique movers may not be able to handle long distance moves|
|Can be expensive, especially for long distance moves or shipments|
|May need to pack antiques yourself, unless you pay extra for packing services|
How much does it cost to hire professional movers?
According to the American Moving and Storage Association, the average cost of a local move is $1,250, while long distance moves cost an average of $4,890.
The cost of your move will ultimately depend on how much stuff you have, as well as how far you are moving. Moving companies price moves differently, with some placing more emphasis on the weight of your belongings, and others placing more emphasis on the distance of the move. When you’re shopping for professional movers, call at least three moving companies and compare quotes. Bonus: This will help you create a moving budget, and may even reduce your moving costs.
Not sure whether to hire movers or rent a truck and move yourself? Read our guide for our expert advice:
When should I hire professional movers to help with my antiques?
- Larger local moves, when you are certain the moving company is capable of handling your antiques
- If you are comfortable packing your antiques on your own
- If you can handle the rest of your belongings on your own, and only need help with your antique furniture
V. Rideshare or peer-to-peer shipping
When you ship antique furniture using rideshare or peer-to-peer shipping services, you pay someone else who is travelling in the direction you need with enough extra space in their vehicle to transport your items. They could be a large logistics company, a single truck owner/operator, or a normal person on a cross-country road trip. They may or may not have experience moving valuable or fragile items like antique furniture, and it’s up to you to vet their ability and expertise.
To connect with a peer-to-peer shipping partner, you must post your shipment on an online marketplace like Roadie or uShip. Potential partners will submit quotes, which you can then approve, reject, or continue to negotiate. This gives you an opportunity to evaluate their experience and expertise, negotiate a lower price, and figure out the details for packing, loading, and unloading your furniture.
|Can be cost-effective for long distance moves||You may not be working with a professional—there’s no guarantee of expertise or experience, and there’s less accountability if something goes wrong|
|Less frequent loading and unloading||Need to pack your antiques yourself|
|Ideal if you are only shipping a few large items and can take the bulk of your belongings in your personal vehicle||May need to provide loading and unloading assistance|
|Can be used to ship just about any type of large item||May not be able to track your shipment|
|No insurance if your antiques get damaged|
How much does it cost to ship antiques using rideshare or peer-to-peer shipping?
Peer-to-peer shipping costs can vary and are often negotiable. Typically, it will cost between $100-$1,000 or more to ship your antique furniture or other antique items using peer-to-peer shipping, depending on the number of pieces you are shipping, as well as their size, age, and value, and whether you need any additional services, such as packing or loading.
When should I use peer-to-peer shipping to transport antiques?
- Antique items that are too large or heavy for parcel shipping, but too small for freight
- Moves less than 150 miles
VI. Consolidated freight
When you ship furniture or other antique items using consolidated freight like less-than-truckload (LTL) shipping, your items will share space on the truck with other items heading in the same direction. Because you only pay for the space your antique furniture takes up on the truck, consolidated freight can be a more cost-effective option for long distance moves than hiring professional movers.
Consolidated freight shipping services are always provided by licensed and insured shipping companies. The best consolidated freight providers will connect you with an experienced long distance shipping company that specializes in transporting antique furniture and other items. This may include:
- Transporting antiques on a truck with air-ride suspension so they don’t get jostled.
- Varying levels of service, such as white glove packing services to ensure that antiques are properly dismantled, loaded, transported, and reassembled.
- Crate packing, including creating custom foam enclosures to hold your antiques snugly in place in transport.
- Coordinating shipments to multiple destinations from a single point of origin, such as an auction house or as part of an estate distribution.
Consolidated freight is also a safe, convenient shipping method for small household moves. If you are considering consolidated freight services for your move, be sure to let your prospective shipping companies know about your high-value, fragile, and antique items so they can give you an accurate quote and make the appropriate arrangements.
|Antiques will be handled by professionals with the expertise and experience to pack, load, and transport it properly|
|Custom shipping services, such as trucks with air-ride suspension
|Longer timelines—the delicacy and fragility of antique items does not allow for expedited or priority shipping|
|May include crate packing services, as well as indoor loading and unloading|
|Includes shipping insurance|
How much does it cost to ship antiques using consolidated freight?
Consolidated freight shipping for antique items starts at $700. The size and distance of your shipment will impact the final cost, as will additional services such as custom crating or expedited service.
When should I use consolidated to transport antiques?
- Long distance moves
- Estate distributions
- Antique, valuable, or especially sentimental antique furniture
- When you need help packing your antique items
- When you need custom crating
2. How Much Does it Cost to Ship Antiques?
The cost of shipping your antiques will depend on what shipping method you choose:
|Don’t—sell your antiques||$0—you may even make some money back|
|Parcel shipping (USPS, FedEx, UPS, DHL)||$42-$360+, depending on size and speed of service|
|Renting a truck and moving yourself||Depends on size of vehicle and distance of move|
|Hiring professional movers||Depends on size and distance of move; approximately $4,890|
3. Recommended Shipping Method
For short, local moves, the safest way to move antique furniture is to hire a professional antique moving team—they will have the experience and expertise to pack, load, and unload your antique items and furniture safely.
For long distance shipments, consolidated freight is your best bet. Reputable consolidated freight providers will connect you with a long distance shipping company that specializes in transporting high-value, fragile antiques. This typically means your antiques will be shipped using premium White Gloves services. Starting around $700, White Glove services cost more than standard less-than-truckload (LTL) freight services, but include packing and custom crating, indoor pickup and delivery, and additional insurance. Your antiques will also be moved by hand, and will never be loaded or unloaded using a forklift.
All consolidated freight providers are licensed and insured professionals, so you can rest assured knowing that your antiques will be treated with the care and attention they deserve throughout the shipping process.
4. Special Considerations for Shipping Antiques
What is an antique, anyway? Short answer: It’s up to you—sort of.
There’s one thing we can all agree on when it comes to antiques: they’re old. But exactly how old they need to be to be considered an antique depends on who you ask. According to the United States Customs Service, a true antique must be over 100 years of age. But if you ask someone else—your grandparents, your teenage daughter, or even your local antique dealer—chances are, they’ll all give you a different answer. An antique dealer may not consider your vintage, 1960s stereo cabinet to be a true antique, but to your teenager, anything built before 1980 might qualify.
When it comes to moving or shipping these items, if it’s older than a few decades, it’s safe to consider it an antique and treat it as such. That way, you can rest easy knowing it’ll be handled with the utmost care and consideration throughout the moving process.
The term “antique” can be applied to a variety of different items, including:
- China cabinets
- Grandfather clocks
- Family heirlooms
- Porcelain and glass items
- Secretary desks
- Curio cabinets
The packing and shipping considerations you’ll need to keep in mind vary based on the item you’re shipping. Proper packing is essential when you are moving or shipping antiques, regardless of what you're moving or how far it's going. Here’s what makes antiques so tough to ship, and what you can do to safeguard antique furniture throughout the shipping process:
- SENTIMENTAL: Antiques are highly sentimental and are often irreplaceable. Trusting your antique furniture and other items to an experienced antique shipping company can help you rest easy throughout the moving process. If they’re packed properly, smaller antique items such as fine jewelry, coins, or figurines can be transported in your personal vehicle, where they will remain under your care the entire time.
- VALUE: Antique items of especially high financial value should be appraised before they are packed and shipped, especially if you are hiring professional movers or shippers. Getting your items appraised will verify their monetary value in the event that you do need to make an insurance claim.You can find a reputable, certified appraiser from the American Society of Appraisers, or get a recommendation from your insurance agent, bank official, or attorney.
- INSURANCE: It is also highly recommended that you purchase additional insurance to cover the full value of your antique items.It is also highly recommended that you purchase additional insurance to cover the full value of your antique items.
- FRAGILE: Antique furniture is particularly fragile, especially items that contain glass panels, marble or stone inserts, or delicate features like spindle legs or ornate crowns. Wood furniture is also particularly fragile—old wood, bolts, and adhesives can be dry and prone to breakage.
- Curved glass components should always be crated.
- Crowns should be padded with lots of bubble wrap—likely way more than you expect to use.
- CONDITION: Before you pack antique items, document their current condition. Give each item a thorough look-over to identify potential problem areas, paying special attention to the main frame, top, legs, feet, and any pre-existing damage like cracks or loose joints. Take pictures as you go—you’ll need these photos if you have to make an insurance claim—and be sure to advise your moving company of these spots before they pack or move your antique furniture.
- PLACEMENT: If you can, try to determine where you want your antique items to go before you move them. That way, you can avoid having to move them again, which will reduce the risk of damage incurred in transit.
- SIZE: Antiques can be small collector’s items or large pieces of furniture. Small items that can be packed into boxes will require different care and consideration than larger furniture items.
- DISASSEMBLY: Some antique items can’t be disassembled, such as furniture with rusted or stripped bolts, or irreplaceable casters or claw feet that cannot be removed. Wrap these items carefully and move the furniture on a dolly or hand truck. If you’re dealing with casters or claw feet, load the item upside down to reduce the stress on these delicate components.
- ENVIRONMENT: Depending on the age and type of wood used, humidity or extreme temperatures in transit can lead to moisture build-up that may ruin the delicate finish of some antique pieces, especially for long distance moves. Professional, experienced moving companies will know how to safeguard your antiques against these conditions. If you’re putting your antiques into storage, look for climate-controlled storage facilities to minimize the risk of damage.
- UNIQUE: Every antique is different, and will therefore require different packing considerations to ensure they remain safe throughout the moving process. Regardless of how far your antique items are going, your best choice is to work with a professional antique shipping or moving company who can provide customized solutions and personalized moving plans based on the unique needs of your antique items.
- ESTATE DISTRIBUTIONS: Antique items are often shipped as part of an estate break-up. In these situations, antique items may need to be shipped to multiple destinations from a single point of origin. Qualified shipping companies will be able to coordinate these shipments, as well as properly pack and transport antique items.
5. Mistakes to Avoid When Shipping Antiques
- Not taking pictures before you pack. You’ll need these photos to prove the original condition of your antique items if they sustain damage in transit.
- Not cleaning your furniture. Dust and debris can harm delicate antiques. Cleaning your antique items before you pack them can help keep them safe from damage in transit. Look for cleaning products designed specially for fine furniture.
- Not wrapping furniture. Make sure your antiques are completely wrapped in blankets before taping them in place so tape does not adhere to the wood surface, which can cause damage. Wrap antique items tightly to make them easier to carry.
- Not purchasing additional insurance. Professional antique shipping companies must include limited liability coverage (usually up to $0.60 per pound). However, it’s always recommended that you purchase additional insurance to cover the full value of your antique items.
- Moving antique furniture alone. Always enlist the help of 4-5 friends or family members to help you pack and carry these items.
- Not using a dolly or hand truck. Never push antiques across the floor, no matter how well they are packed. This can easily lead to damage to the item and to your floor. Don’t be tempted to wheel antiques on casters—if they are old, there’s a good chance they won’t work properly, and you might find yourself dealing with damage to an irreplaceable component.
- Rushing. Carelessness and haste is a common source of damage to antique furniture. Antiques should never be moved quickly—always take your time so you can avoid trips and falls and unnecessary damage and injury.
- Not checking for damage upon delivery. If your furniture does sustain damage, you have a short window of time in which you can make an insurance claim. You will have to sign to confirm delivery, but you should never sign “free and clear” for a damaged item—this implies that there is no damage, and you will not be able to submit a claim.
6. How To Pack Antiques
Every antique item or piece of furniture is different, and will therefore require different packing considerations. Generally speaking, there are three ways to pack antiques:
- Blanket wrapping. Blanket wrapping is ideal for large items, such as antique furniture, that do not require additional special care. Blankets will cushion these items and protect them from dents and scratches.
- Boxes. Smaller antique items can be carefully wrapped in packing paper and bubble wrap, then gently placed into boxes with enough internal padding to prevent shifting.
- Crates. Crate packing is the preferred method for packing large, valuable, or especially fragile antique items. Crates offer the best protection for these items. Custom crates can also be built to accommodate oddly-shaped or particularly large antique items.
Packing materials needed
- Microfiber cloth for cleaning
- Double or triple-walled corrugated cardboard boxes
- Stretch wrap
- High-quality packing tape
- Glassine paper
- Packing paper
- Corner protectors
- Moving blankets
- Furniture pads
Once you’ve acquired the necessary packing materials, you can begin packing your antiques. Every antique is different, but these steps are a good place to start:
- Empty it out and pack contents separately. Remove anything you’ve stored inside your antique furniture, such as silverware or china, and pack these items separately.
- Take pictures of the item. Taking photos gives you an opportunity to document the current condition of your furniture—pay attention to existing damage, such as cracks or loose joints, and advise your moving company of these issues before they pack up your item. Photographing each antique will also help you create an inventory of all the antique items you are shipping, which will make them easier to track. You’ll also need this inventory, as well as the photos, if you need to make an insurance claim.
- Measure your antiques. Knowing the dimensions of your furniture before you call for a quote will help your potential moving partners provide an accurate price for your shipment. You can also determine whether you’ll be able to fit your antique items through doors and hallways in your new home.
- Clean your furniture. Use a microfiber cloth to wipe away any dust and dirt. Avoid chemical cleaning products, especially if your item is going into storage or will be in transit for longer periods. When furniture is wrapped up, it’s harder for these items to breathe, and the chemicals could dampen or damage your antiques.
- Disassemble what you can. Remove drawers, door panels, and hardware if possible. Wrap them separately and pack into a clearly labelled box. If your antique is too old to be taken apart and put back together, don’t try—you should never force anything apart. Instead, take extra care to pack these items safely.
From here, the way you pack your antiques will depend on their size.
Smaller antique items
- Choose a box. Typically, you’ll want to use the smallest box you can find to reduce the chance of shifting while still leaving adequate room to pad your antique items. Some smaller items, such as figurines, may be best packed into boxes with built-in dividers.
- Wrap items in paper. Glassine paper, which has a wax-like finish that will prevent smudges and stains, is ideal for anything with printed or painted designs, such as porcelain or ceramic items. Packing paper can be used for other items. Secure the paper in place with packing tape, taking care not to let the tape touch the item.
- Pad with bubble wrap. To protect it from shock, wrap the paper-wrapped item in 1-2 layers of bubble wrap, making sure that you are covering all sides of the item, including the top and the bottom. Secure the bubble wrap in place with packing tape.
- Box it up. Depending on the size, shape, and delicacy of your item, you may want to give each piece its own box. Some items can be packed safely into the same box, especially if they have been securely wrapped in bubble wrap. Fill any empty space in the box with crumpled up packing paper or bubble wrap so the items don’t shift. Whatever you do, don’t use packing peanuts—they will settle to the bottom of the box, where they will essentially be useless.
- Label the box clearly as “FRAGILE” and “HANDLE WITH CARE”.
Furniture and larger items
- Pad glass panels. Affix a layer of protective cardboard to any glass panels that cannot be removed. If possible, remove glass components and pack them separately.
- Secure doors and drawers. Tie them shut using twine. Do not use tape—the adhesive may damage the surface of your furniture.
- Secure corners with corner protectors. The corners and edges of your antique furniture or other large items are the most vulnerable to damage. You can create your own corner protectors using cardboard, but for antiques, it’s recommended that you purchase cardboard, plastic, or styrofoam corner protectors for the best protection.
- Wrap furniture in moving blankets or furniture pads. Secure the blankets in place with packing tape. Never apply shrink wrap directly to the surface of antique furniture, especially wood—it can trap moisture and lead to damage.
- Wrap in bubble wrap. Bubble wrap adds an extra layer of protection that will reduce the risk of damage from bumps in transit, especially in the back of a packed truck. Secure the bubble wrap in place with shrink wrap and packing tape.
- Box, crate, or add the final layer of blanket wrapping. Especially valuable or fragile antiques should be crated for the best protection. Qualified antique shipping companies will be able to properly crate your antiques for transit. Wrap large items of furniture that will not be crated in a final layer of moving blankets. Other antique items can be packed into boxes, as long as the boxes have been properly packed and adequately padded to prevent shifting or puncture. Larger items like mirrors should be packed into specialty telescoping boxes.
Improper packing is one of the leading causes of damage to antique furniture. If you aren’t sure how to pack your antique items, look for a shipping or moving partner who can help with this important task.
Whether you’re an antique dealer, are managing an estate distribution, or are moving long distance, antiques are one of the most difficult items to transport. They’re unique, fragile, and valuable, and that means special care needs to be taken throughout the moving process.
There are several shipping methods at your disposal:
- Don’t—sell them
- Parcel shipping
- Rent a truck and move yourself
- Hire professional movers
- Rideshare or peer-to-peer shipping
- Consolidated freight
Experts recommend always working with professional antique shippers to move antique items. Professionals will have the experience and expertise to properly pack antique items, from smaller pieces to large furniture.
For long distance moves or shipments, consolidated freight is the safest way to ship antiques. TSI can help—our experienced logistics coordinators will connect you with an expert antique shipping company and help you create a shipping plan that works for your schedule and budget.
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We'll create a personalized antique shipping plan just for you.