This is a Guide for Sellers who wish to ship fragile glasses safely and for Buyers who wish to be informed about how to receive their purchases intact.
As a collector of Cartoon and Promotional glasses, I have received numerous shipments of glasses. Most are decently packed; but some arrive heartbreakingly smashed because of careless packing. My worst recent loss was a mint condition Captain America glass—very tough to find with a catalog value of $80. All I got to show for it was a $38 refund of my bargain bid. Collecting on insurance from the post office can be very tedious with travel time and providing documentation of the loss. This all ends up being a "lose-lose" situation for Buyer and Seller. This is largely preventable and has motivated me to write a guide to safe shipping of glasses. Let's give these glasses a chance to arrive safely with a "win-win" outcome.
Glasses are both heavy and fragile. When packed together carelessly, one glass can act as a battering ram on another when a package is dropped. With little or no padding, a blow to the side of a box can smash a glass. The more glasses in a box, the more weight and opportunity for damaging contact in shipment.
Shipping costs are up, glasses are heavy. Light-weight packing, such as bubble-wrap or foam peanuts, crumpled-up newspaper, saves money without loss of protection. Sturdy boxes in several appropriate sizes can be provided free from the post office or scavenged from liquor stores or businesses.
The simple solution—Well-padded glasses in a sturdy box.
1. Padding the glass/glasses. I find that 2-3 layers of bubble wrap taped side, top & bottom, is almost foolproof protection for a single glass.* Packing or Priority tape from the post office really holds best. The large-bubble (1”) wrap offers most cushioning, but can use up a lot of space in the box. Small-bubble wrap works best with at least 2 layers. Beware of worn-out used bubble wrap that has lost its air cushion. Many sellers also cram newspaper, etc. inside the glasses—this seems to help stabilize the glass.
*My most extreme example of bubble wrap protection: A Seller sent a single glass to me in a large floppy Tyvek™ mailing envelope. The glass was double wrapped in 1” bubble wrap taped all around with 2” packing tape, creating a bubble cocoon. I dropped the slippery envelope on my concrete front porch, and the package literally bounced up and survived. Needless to say, a box would have been a better choice for an outer package, but this does prove a point.
2. Box selection. Choose a sturdy corrugated cardboard box with plenty of free space for packing materials. Plan a minimum of 1" distance from glass to sides of box. Shoe boxes or other flimsy boxes generally won’t be sturdy enough for fragile glasses. A bigger box is safer for the glasses, and there is minimum weight penalty using light-weight packing materials. Always tape all seams of a box ready for shipping—a loose flap can shift all the contents and undo your best packing efforts.
3. Double-box for ultimate security. For heavy shipments or really expensive/fragile glasses, pack the goodies in inner boxes and surround those boxes with more padding in a larger shipment box.
4. Packing Materials. I save Styrofoam peanuts, bubble wrap and have a good supply of 2” wide packing tape on hand for the packing job. Crumpled newspaper can fill any number of gaps.
5. Have a plan to place the glasses. Allow room for at least 1-2" of padding on bottom, top and sides of the box. A cushion of crumpled paper or bubble wrap on bottom, top and sides of the box should insure a safe shipment every time. Do not leave open spaces in the box—fill holes with bubble wrap, crumpled newspaper or foam peanuts.
6. For a few glasses, layer the wrapped glasses in a box with crumpled newspaper, foam peanuts, etc. to separate them and hold their place in the box—too much movement of glasses in the box is where the damage occurs. Parallel positioning of the glasses prevents a “ramming effect” of one glass into the vulnerable side of another. Stacking glasses in individual 1" bubble wrap taped cocoons seems pretty fail-safe.
7. For large numbers of glasses, upright positioning will make more sense. Interlocking cardboard separators (corrugated preferred) are very effective for keeping glasses apart from each other. Be sure that they are cushioned top, bottom & within the compartment and don’t ‘rattle around’. Cram packing into empty compartments to stabilize. Wine bottle boxes often have these separators.
8. Double layers of glasses in a big box is usually a recipe for trouble due to the heavy weight of a layer of glasses, but works well for lots of small (3-4") glasses. If this has to be done, choose a very sturdy box and prepare a thick, stable cushion between the layers including a thick sheet of corrugated cardboard. Two boxes would be preferred to double-layering.
9. Common Mistakes and Causes of Breakage.
• Box too small, forcing too little packing between glasses.
• Glasses arranged haphazardly (Parallel is good, Perpendicular is bad)
• Box flimsy or badly crushed. I have seen boxes I wouldn't give to recycle used for shipping!
• Skimping on packing to cut weight and shipping cost. This is false economy. Some Sellers charge more for shipping because they really do a good job—others charge more to make extra profit. Reward the good ones with + Feedback.
• Failure to tape the bubble wrap around each glass. Loosening in shipment can lead to direct clashing of glasses.
• Human error. Boxing of my Captain America shipment was delegated to a nephew by the seller—not much can be done about these mistakes.
10. Diamonds are not a glass's best friend. Diamond is harder than glass and even a light brush of a diamond ring against a glass can leave a scratch. Hand washing the inside of a glass can leave deep, long scratches that significantly lower the value of a collectible glass. Wearing a diamond ring while packing can damage a glass. So lose the diamond ring while packing!
When ordering glasses, feel free to share these guidelines with your Seller. Some Sellers are old "Pros" and don't need this, but many mostly sell other stuff and lack experience in shipping the few glasses they just got in an estate sale or from Grandma. Now back to the fun of collecting glasses—May they all arrive safely!