How to Ship Antiques Safely

antiquedresserA dresser owned by a queen. A teapot once used by your great, great grandmother. When we ship antiques, we’re not just moving around things; we’re shipping history from here to there.

We care that antiques remain preserved. We want them to continue to convey the past in a way that enriches the present. A broken object seldom does that in the same way. As such, every antiques shipment is all about the extra steps. What follows are some tips to help ensure that your objects and their histories arrive intact.

Ahead of Time: Preparing to Ship Antiques 

While packing and shipping a Christmas present or care package yourself is fine, doing the same for an antique or priceless family heirloom is not. This job is best left to the professionals. A knowledgeable antiques shipping company can assess the needs of your item and properly handle it from start to finish.

After taking the first step to hire a reputable packing and shipping company, you should take a look at the different insurance policies the company offers. It’s the claim you never want to file, but part of shipping antiques is also about insuring. You want a solid and well-documented appraisal of the objects before they go. Some companies even offer specialized staff to simplify this process. This tends to mean that your shipper has lots of experience with antique-specific tasks.

 Shipping: Containers and Packing for Antiques

There are some steps that you want to see your shipper make when packing up your piece. The following shortlist can help you identify best practices.

Prepping the Object: Packing antiques is often about securing fragile and moving parts. If your shipper can safely remove any doors, handles, glass panels or other delicate parts, they should. Each item should then be packed separately and clearly labeled.

Shell Materials: Depending on what you are shipping, double wall cardboard boxes may be the best material of choice. Your shipper should insulate your antique with bubble wrap and foamcore pieces within one container and then place that shell within a second layer of cushion and a second box. Other kinds of objects will do better in plastic hard-shell structures, or they’ll require a custom-built wooden crate. Be certain that the shipper you choose can provide these important custom packaging options.

Adhesives: Securing components against independent motion? Antiques shipping experts say “no” when it comes to adhesive tape. The company should use string and ropes instead. Better yet, hold down parts that could be damaged with shrink wrap.

Finally, before your packed antiques go out the door, double check that every crate and box is accurately and very legibly labeled. Be sure that your packing carries the proper precautions: Fragile. Do not load or stack. This side up.

With these steps complete, your antiques are in good shape to arrive intact, and the process will become just another part of their ongoing story – a new chapter with many more to come.

antique stove
-James O’Brien’s work can be found at Mashable, OPEN Forum, Forbes.com, TheAtlantic.com, and elsewhere. He writes about media, finance, business, travel, and tech.

 This article was prepared for Antique and Personal Property Appraisals on behalf of Craters and Freighters.

 

ART and CRIME

 When it comes to art and cultural property crime, we’re used to hearing about high profile thefts at museums.  According to the Art Loss Register, over 50% of thefts occur from private collections.  There are hundreds of thousands of reported art crimes each year, not to mention those unreported.  This includes theft, fraud and looting as well as trafficking across state lines and international borders.  The category of art crime is rather broad and can include fine art, antiquities, collectibles, musical instruments, antiques, pottery, glass, silver, books, documents, textiles and much more.

In the March issue of the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, there is an excellent article discussing many of the issues relating to worldwide art crime:  Protecting Cultural Heritage from Art Theft by Noah Charney, Paul Denton, and John Kleberg.  It discusses how art crime on local and international levels potentially funds organized crime and terrorist activities.   It also discusses what law enforcement agencies around the world are doing to combat this problem.

The FBI has an Art Crime Team with 14 special agents.  They conduct investigations and manage the National Stolen Art File, a search-able database of stolen art and cultural property objects.  An FBI Agent spoke to an appraisers meeting I attended a few years ago, and stated that 80% of the signatures on celebrity and sports memorabilia were fake.  Buyer beware!

In Southern California where I live, the Los Angeles Police Department Art Theft Detail is charged with investigating thefts, fakes, frauds and forgeries.  They also publish a list of alerts and latest stolen art.

Personal property appraisers need to be aware of these issues, and exercise due diligence on appraisal assignments.  Owners may be unaware they have been given or purchased a suspicious object with an unclear title.   Items with questionable provenance or title may have a lower value, and ownership rights are subject to challenges and claims. 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

Art Loss Register http://www.artloss.com/en

Association for Research into Crimes against Art  http://artcrime.info/

Fine Art Registry http://www.fineartregistry.com/

International Foundation For Art Research http://www.ifar.org/

 

 

 

AVOIDING ART FORGERIES

Magnifying glass image
Appraiser’s Magnifying Glass

Artfixdaily published an article this week titled “Feds Investigate Possible Forgeries of Modern Art“.  It describes how modernist paintings from a supposed anonymous private collection were sold to prominent New York galleries, and are now being investigated by the FBI as possible forgeries.  Some of the works being questioned include paintings by Pollack, Rothko, Motherwell and Diebenkorn.  A more extensive article on the subject was in the New York Times titled “Possible Forging of Modern Art is Investigated”.

Fakes and forgeries have been fooling people for centuries.  Here are some things to do prior to buying an expensive work of art.  Many of these points can be applied to antiques, collectibles and other high-end purchases.

1) Consider contacting an art consultant or appraiser to evaluate the piece.
2) Check the provenance.  Pieces with no history of ownership or from anonymous collections should raise a red flag.
3) Check the catalog raisonne’ to see if the piece is listed.
4) Contact a known expert on the artist or an authentication board.
5) Check art loss registers for clear title.
6) Have scientific testing done if necessary.
7) Buy from respected dealers who provide complete documentation and a money back guarantee.

Don’t forget, if it seems too good to be true…… it probably is.