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Ultimate Way to Package an Antique Telephone for shipping

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Some may think this packaging technique is "over kill", and perhaps in some cases it is, but it's a method that's served me well over the past 20 years, and I've had a fair number of compliments and "no" complaints.


The Ultimate Way to Package an Antique Telephone For Shipping

Damage to antique telephones being shipped by sellers on auction sights such as “eBay” continues to be a problem from time to time. I have sold and shipped a number of antique telephones through “eBay” and have yet to experience a problem doing so.

Packages moving through the postal service are handle by both human hands, and by machine once they enter the system.
Conveyor belts and metal deflector doors which are directed by scanners reading zip/postal or country codes incorporated into bar codes, run the automated portion of the system.

Packages moving across the country or overseas are placed in shipping containers which are carried either by truck, ship or aircraft to their destination states, provinces or countries.

Space is an issue, especially for ship or air shipments, so packages traveling in this manner are tightly packed into the container in which they’ll travel.   In many cases I’m sure, the container doors are forced shut when containers are slightly over packed. This is especially true for shipments traveling by air, as space on aircraft is at a premium.

This is the packaging system I use in order to make sure the telephones I sell reach their destinations in one piece and undamaged.

( 1 )  Box Selection:  Use a good quality box. It can be new or used, but make sure it’s not damaged. I personally use new boxes which I buy from Uline. They have warehouses in both the U.S.A., and Canada, and their products can be ordered online. Good quality boxes and fiberglass reinforced packaging tape can also be found at “U-Haul”. Avoid boxes made in China. They do produce some good quality boxes, but most retailers sell the cheaper versions which are of poor quality. Stick to quality U.S. or Canadian made boxes.

( 2 )  Box Size Selection:  Use a box of an appropriate size. Quite often sellers use boxes that are too small to allow for proper packaging of the telephone being shipped. For example; to ship something like a Western Electric or Northern Electric model 302 deskset, or a Northern Uniphone model, I use a box that is 16 and 3/8 inches long, by 12 and 5/8 inches wide and 12 and 5/8 inches high. (41.65 cm long by 32 cm wide by 32 cm high).

( 3 )  Box preparation for overseas shipping:  If shipping within continental U.S.A. or Canada, proceed to step (4). Otherwise, proceed as follows;  Cut 6 pieces of a material such as hard board, or Masonite, to a size which corresponds to the inside dimensions of the box your going to use. Place 5 of the pieces into the box to line the bottom, both sides and both ends. The 6th piece for the top will obviously be installed last.

( 4 )  Cut 6 pieces of 1 inch Styrofoam to fit the inside dimensions of the box. Install 5 of the Styrofoam pieces inside the box and up against the bottom, both sides and both ends of the box. If Step (3) was followed, place the Styrofoam up against the hard board. As with the hard board, the 6th piece of Styrofoam will be install in the last step.

Note:  When cutting the Styrofoam, the preferred method is to cut the top and bottom pieces the full dimension of the inside of the box perimeter. The end and side pieces should be cut 2 inches less than the total height dimension of the inside of the box. The idea being that the top and bottom pieces of Styrofoam are supported by the side and end pieces.

( 5 )  Bubble wrap:  Wrap the telephone and handset or receiver separately with bubble wrap so that no part of the telephone or handset is left exposed. Make sure that handsets that have a transmitter cup (spit cup) like the Western / Northern “E-1” are well protected with bubble wrap. Line cords, handset, mounting or receiver cords, can be coiled up and tied off with bag ties if desired. It makes them easier to place inside the box, rather than having them sticking out all over.

( 6 )  Shipping peanuts:  Place a bed of shipping peanuts inside the box.

( 7 )  Placing the telephone into the box:  Place the main body of the bubble wrapped telephone into the box, and a little off to one side.

( 8 )  More Shipping peanuts:  Add more shipping peanuts to the box and using your fingers, move the peanuts into all the “nooks and crannies” around the telephone body so that no pockets of air remain. Bring the level of shipping peanuts up and over the telephone.

( 9)  Placing the handset into the box:  Place the bubble wrapped handset or receiver into the box, and position it in such a way that it’s as far away from the body of the telephone as possible.

(10 )  More Shipping Peanuts:  Fill the remainder of the space in the box with more shipping peanuts. Again, use your fingers to make sure all spaces are filled and that no air pockets remain.

IMPORTANT:  Overfill the box slightly with shipping peanuts.   They will compress as the lids are placed on the top.  This prevents the telephone and handset or receiver, from moving around inside the box as it “bangs and bounces” it’s way to the customer.

(11 )  Styrofoam Lid:  Place the 6th piece of Styrofoam on the top of the shipping peanuts and press it down to compress the shipping peanuts as previously described. If Step (3) was followed for overseas shipping, place the 6th and last piece of hard board on top of the last piece of Styrofoam.

(12 )  Close Box Flaps:  Close both end flaps of the box followed by the side flaps. Hold closed with 4 pieces of Scotch shipping tape.

(13 )  Fiberglass Reinforced Shipping Tape:  Wrap the box using fiberglass shipping tape. I usually place the first wrap around the length of the box running over the top and bottom box flaps, followed by three wraps around the girth of the box and complete taping with one wrap around the box running across both sides and both ends.

(14 )   Labeling Box:  Obviously “machines” can’t read these labels, but at some point the boxes will again be handled by people once they reach their final destination and being delivered to the customer. Place Labels around the box reading “FRAGILE – HANDLE WITH CARE”.

Now your ready to ship the telephone.

It’s much easier to properly package an antique telephone for shipping than it is to get into an argument and item return situation with a disgruntled buyer. You can also be rest assured, the buyer won’t likely buy from you again, and it’ll probably result in a negative feedback situation.


Jeff Lamb, Ktownphoneco
Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

Jon Kolger:
I can vouch for Jeff's packing.  I purchased a phone from him a while back and was very impressed with his packing.  In fact, I have saved all his packing material and will re-use it one of these days.

I do most of what Jeff Suggests. Too many times i have received items damaged through careless packing.

My packing technique is very similar to Jon's. If shipping a Wooden phone, I remove the hook-switch and place it inside the box whenever possible. If for some reason it can't be removed, I armor it with a cardboard tube to protect it is the box is smashed against another item.

Always, lots of bubble wrap. Always, remove any handset or receiver, and bubble wrap it carefully, and place it next to the thickly bubble wrapped phone.

I generally label the box as to shipping and return address inside and out - I have had labels damages on boxes i have received, and this makes it possible to the parcel to be opened to get the address. Overkill? Perhaps.

After many years of working for Canada Post, I have seen too many items damaged due to improper packing. Always pack so a bunt kicker can kick it into the end zone!

On an article shipped to Ireland, I hollowed out builder's foam board to protect the very easily famaged item/ Whatever you feel is too much, is probably enough!


Peanuts are useless and offer near 0 protection.  Heavy items will move through them like air.  Tightly crumpled newspaper is far superior as a filler.

I guess I should clarify the term "shipping peanuts".     I don't use the the type made from Styrofoam that look like over sized "popcorn".     I use a biodegradable version that U-Haul (among others) sell.      They are slightly off white in color, tubular in shape, about 5/8" inch in diameter and about 2" inches long, and they don't cling to your hands like a demonstration of static electricity.      I'm not sure exactly how heavy an item would have to be to cause a problem, but I've shipped heavy wooden subscriber sets with a 5 bar 48-A magneto inside, and theirs absolutely no problems doing that.
Packaging something in that weight class just requires more peanuts packed more tightly under, around and over the item, and a little more overfill prior to closing the lid of the box.   
Adding an initial thin layer on the bottom of the box, then putting the item into the box and just adding the static prone Styrofoam peanuts without packing them down and around the item, and without enough of an overfill isn't what I'm advocating.    Using the type of Styrofoam peanuts I've described above, and placing and packing them around the item, as I've explained, will keep a heavy magneto subset right where it's suppose to be.

Jeff Lamb


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