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Best way to pack phones for shipping.

Started by contraste, March 01, 2009, 01:17:29 PM

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Hi to everyone from London, England.
This is my first post on this fascinating and informative forum.

I love the style of American phones and will soon (with any luck) have one shipped to me from the US.
I'd be really grateful if someone could post some instructions on how to properly pack a WE 500 so I can politely pass them on to the seller.


Snugly packed in a small box, then snugly packed in a larger box.  Plenty of peanuts, popcorn, or entertaining newspaper crumpled all around.  When done, it can be shaken and there will be no noise nor feel of banging.  A nice local magazine always brightens things up.  I sent a pair of tennis rackets to Russia of all places, and put in the local farm and food mag.  I hope they enjoy it.

Dennis Markham

Hello Contraste, welcome to the forum.  Thank you for the compliment on our forum.  I will be glad to put in my two-cents worth of advice on packing.

I would imagine packing for international travel should be no different than packing for domestic travel.  The key is to protect the instrument inside the box in the event the box gets crushed on the corners on from the sides and top.  I know that on very expensive phones that cannot be replaced, double-boxing is very common and does a great job.  It costs a bit more but to protect a valued treasure is worth the extra dollars.

If you are talking about a telephone that has a handset attached by a hard wired cord, the safest method is to pack the body of the phone in a box with adaquate padding to keep it from moving.  With the cord extended out from the box so that the handset can be wrapped separately.  This keeps the handset from being driven into the body of the phone an crushing.  Then the boxed body and wrapped (or boxed handset) can then be put in another, larger box with padding all around so again, when the large box is packed and shaken nothing moves inside.  

For a single box packing one must choose an appropriate size box to allow for padding between the inside surfaces of the box and the telephone.  I like to wrap the body in bubble wrap.  First I put a couple layers of the large bubbled wrap on the bottom of the box.  After the body has been wrapped in some bubble wrap and the handset has also been wrapped separately, I set the phone down inside the box away from the side, front and back with enough room on the opposite side to place the handset, with transmitter and ear piece cups facing up.  I then wad up newspaper and jam it securely around the phone, building a nest around the base and handset, with newspaper between the handset and body of the phone.  So that it is similar to those styrofoam packages that hold a product in place.  I may put two layers of balled up newspaper around the perimeter so that it will not move from side to side.  I then pour in foam peanuts until the phone is just covered.  I will agitate the box to allow the peanuts to settle and lock into place.  I may push down on them to make sure they're firm and then fill up the rest of the box with peanuts until they are nearly heaping.  I may have to skim off a few before I close the top flaps.  Again I shake the box to let them settle.  Then I cut one or more pieces of bubble wrap the size of the box and lay it atop the peanuts.  I then close the lids.  The box should not bulge.  If it is bulging, remove some peanuts.  Then with the flaps taped with just two small pieces (in case I want to reopen the box) I give it a good shake from every direction.  I may bang it on the table.  Just pretend you are an unconcerned postal worker loading boxes into an airplane.  It may be dropped, kicked, shoved and anything else you can imagine.  If you are satisfied with it then put the final amount of tape on the box for the trip.  I use no less than three lengths of packing tape across the bottom and top flaps to secure the box.  Again, none of the six sides should bulge.

Actually the U.S. Postal Service does a pretty good job.  For all the joking about their service, here with Priority Mail a box usually travels across Country in 3 days.  Many times I have sent a package to the West Coast from here (Michigan) and had them arrive in 2 days.  Often the boxes don't even look scratched when they arrive.

So there's my tips.  Aren't you sorry you asked now??  Let me know if you have questions.

Dennis Markham

Ellen, it looks like we posted at the same time.  You pretty much gave the same advice as me and in less words! :)


Hello and Welcome, Contraste.  I really like some of the mid-century British telephones with the little slide-out note-writing shelf thingy.  My only European phone is a Dutch PTT.  What kind of American phone did you get?  It's nice that we are getting more members from around the world.

I once had a phone shipped by a professional phone person and they packed it well like Dennis and Ellen mentioned, and they also covered it in a soft cloth, lightly taped on, to avoid any scratches in transit, since it was a pre-polished phone.  Personally I prefer bubble wrap to packing peanuts, just because the peanuts are messy. :)


Ellen, Dennis & HobieSport, thanks very much for your welcome and great advice.

If I can persuade my seller to pack the phone as you have described (especially Dennis) it will arrive here safe and sound.

I'm gradually reading my way through the forum and the breadth of knowledge on display is incredible and entertaining.

I'll be in North Carolina later this year so I'll be hitting every thrift store I can find in hopes of finding something interesting.


Hi and welcome.  All my phone phriends advice about packing is spot on.  I've had a couple of rare and semi-rare phones broken by bad packing, one of them, a 1951 WE 500, arrived in a little box that had clearly been thrown into something and broke the dial bezel.  (moment of silence)

There are a lot of finds in thrift stores, happy hunting when you hit North Carolina.  If you are coming in the summer be sure to pack a portable AC unit to drag about behind you, or a spare space suit, as the humidity and heat of the American South is something that has to be felt to be believed. 

Dennis Markham

And, to add to McHeath's comments, if you find so much you can't bring them all home, just shoot me an e-mail.  I'll help you arrange for shipping to my home!


Hello and Welcome Contraste! Its good to hear we have a new member from London, England
I'm from the Philippines


Contraste, welcome to the forum.  When you are here in the U.S. later this year, you should also check on when and where any "swap meets" or flea markets are held.  In my area I rarely find rotary phones in the thrift stores but on the other hand, I see them in multiples in antique/collectible co-ops and at swap meets.  Happy hunting!



Thanks for the replies, suggestions and messages of welcome.
All most appreciated.


Took the plunge and bought a black September 1955 (month and year of my birth) WE500 from ebay and had it shipped over to London.
Tried to use the knowledge gained from reading this forum in selecting a phone to bid on and $20 later it was mine.

I asked (politely) the seller to pack the phone as per suggestions in this thread and was assured it would be done correctly. Parcel arrived in one piece but the phone was rattling around inside the box. I tentatively opened the box and and was relieved to see the phone had survived the ordeal despite being only loosely covered in bubble wrap and with minimal 'peanuts' (the seller told me he'd used a ton of them).

Well what the seller described as 'near mint' was hardly that but I already knew that from the ebay photos. However, in the flesh, the phone was an even sorrier sight than I expected, filthy, scratched, unloved and absolutely reeking of tobacco smoke.

A challenge was the best way to describe it but that's what I wanted and so my voyage of discovery began. After dismantling the phone I found the base, network, bells, dial and soft plastic case all had matching dates (9/15/55). The handset cord was from '63 and the handset itself along with receiver and transmitter were from '65.

The curled handset cord was stretched so after cleaning it went in the oven for a couple of hours to bake and then into the freezer. I was delighted to find this technique really worked well and the cord was looking new and tight again.

The case, dial faceplate and handset were washed and polished for hour after hour until my fingers were sore.

Cleaning and polishing finished, the phone was re-assembled and tested. Although the seller had described the phone as tested and working properly, I found that the bell didn't ring and there was an obvious problem with the handset cord.
The bell ring was easy enough (black bell wire moved from G to L1 - thanks Ben) but the cord was more tricky. There was a break in the black wire which gave only intermittent connection. After much sweat and tears I got it fixed  and finally the phone was working the way it should. Those bells are loud!

I'm happy with the phone now it's clean, shiny and working properly and I enjoyed the restoration process. It's not a collector's ideal item I suppose but it's honest and still working really well after 53 years (with help from the younger handset).

If you will indulge me I'd like to ask another question. How do you get the smell of tobacco smoke out of the leather feet?

Dennis Markham

Contraste it sounds like you did well with turning a sow's ear into a silk purse.  From your description it sounds like the handset is a G3?  Otherwise your assortment of parts doesn't sound bad.

I have never tried specifically to get smoke odor out of leather feet but what I do to clean leather feet is to use a product made by Kiwi.  It's a suede cleaner.  There are many commercial suede/leather cleaners out there.  Read the can and make sure it is safe for suede.  The kind I like best comes out of the can in the form of foam....I let it soak into the suede and apply many coats until the leather is saturated.  I then use the scratch top that comes on the can, a stiff bristled tooth brush followed by a brass bristled brush.  Just be careful not to tear the soft leather.

I have been told by other collectors that dabbing hot water on the leather will do just as good a job of cleaning/softening.  Perhaps a washing followed by some airing out will take care of the odor over time.


Well, congrats on your determination. Sounds like it paid off. You can locate a G1 handset if you're set on making everything correct. Any pics?

St Clair Shores, MI


Quote from: Dennis Markham on March 01, 2009, 01:39:29 PM
Ellen, it looks like we posted at the same time.  You pretty much gave the same advice as me and in less words! :)

You should be proud of yourself. Being of the softer gender, and prone to shall we say, expressing themselves at length. :o

The More People I meet, The More I Love, and MISS My Dog.  Dan Robinson