[IMPORTANT NOTE FROM MIKE: As I was writing this, I found out about the passing of one of my artistic idols and personal heroes, the great Frank Frazetta. In order to do justice to his influence (and because I’m too upset now) I’m going to wait till next time to do a proper tribute. Thank you for your patience and understanding.]
Anyone who buys art usually ends up as a seller at some point, whether by choice or necessity. Sometimes you have to sell art to get another, better piece that suddenly becomes available, or, if you’re like many collectors hit by the Great Recession, even to pay a bill coming due for something unrelated and comparatively unimportant, like food.
Whatever the case, there are right and wrong ways to package and ship artwork. Let’s go over some.
PACKING: Sandwich the art between two thick or four thin pieces of corrugated cardboard or foam board. Foam board (also known as brand name Foam Core), tho a bit more expensive, is better because it’s stronger and lighter (and easier to cut with knife). You can usually pick up 20 x 30 inch sheets at Michael’s or other craft stores for a couple bucks each or less when on sale. Make sure you leave a minimum of a quarter or half inch all the way around the art. Press the pieces together and tape securely at each corner and in the center of the long side (and short side if shipping art 11 x 14 or larger).
The larger and more expensive the art, the thicker and stronger the packaging should be. Many dealers even use Masonite for more expensive/larger works.
If the art is in pencil or any other medium that can be affected by rubbing, always put a sheet of tracing paper or wax paper over the image to protect it from the abrasiveness of the board. (Of course, you should also spray it with fixative to keep it from damage and fading. I use Krylon UV coating which is available at any craft or art store. Make sure you use in a well-ventilated area–preferably outdoors–and follow the directions on the can.)
OUTSIDE MATERIAL: Depending on the size, you can slip the sandwiched art and packing board into a larger envelope, seal it and address the envelope. However, always address the board inside the envelope as well just in case the outer address is ripped off or otherwise illegible. Tyvek is a great material to use as it’s lightweight and super-strong, but a paper envelope is cool too as long as your packing is tight and strong.
If you don’t use an envelope, make sure you surround the protective boards with clear packing tape! This will protect it from moisture in case the package encounters rain, spilled coffee, bodily fluids (echh!) or who knows what on its way to your door.
MOST IMPORTANT: Always, always, always (note I said always!) write in big bold letters–if possible, in red and underlined–“PHOTOS–PLEASE DO NOT BEND” on the outside front and back. (You don’t have to write “Please” but I say it doesn’t hurt. Think about it: If you’ve been working at a loud, smelly, hot, and/or insanely busy shipping facility all day and have had to handle tons of packages that “yell” at you all the time, you’d probably be nicer to one that was polite. Didn’t your mama raise you right?)
That’s right, I said “PHOTOS” and NOT “ART” or “ARTWORK”. I know you’re not shipping photos, but the potential thieves don’t know that! Come on, would you write “LOTS OF MONEY INSIDE–DO NOT STEAL” on your wallet or pants pocket? Ladies, would you write “LARGE NATURAL BREASTS–HANDLE WITH CARE” on your blouse? (And guys, would you write that on your wife or girlfriend’s shirt?) No, right? Okay, so why the hell would you alert the world that you’re shipping cool and desirable artwork? (Keep in mind that many packages are often left on your doorstep or with a neighbor, meaning more eyeballs will be tempted.) Most people are not interested in stealing photos (no offense to photographers) because they’re not one of a kind and often of personal subjects not universally collectible (and therefore not readily “fencible”). So play smart.
You can also write “POSTERS” if it makes you feel better. This might also be more appropriate if you write a business name on the return address that contains the word “comics”, “art” or “collectibles” or permutations thereof, as those are also potential robber beacons. If possible, though, just list a name and address.
Obviously, you should also insure your package for the price being paid (or resale value, whichever is higher). Keep in mind some companies like FedEx will not insure all or certain kinds of art, so again the “prints”, “posters” or “photos” description will help on the forms.
Lastly, for all of you who receive a piece of art that was shipped to you: always check the outside packaging for any signs of potential damage (including moisture) before opening, and take photos of any before you open it in case you need to make a claim later. And when you do open the package, always do so with care! Use an X-acto knife or razor blade only on the very outer edges of the packaging where needed and remove the art sloooooooowly with care, watching out for any stray tape.
That’s all off the tip o’ me cranium for now. Got any other advice, tips or tricks? Just post a comment below and help out your fellow collectors. We’d all appreciate it.
Thanks! See you next time.