Congratulations! You just sold your first item on the Mearto Marketplace. Now it’s time to ship it to the buyer. Here are some tips to help you make sure that your item arrives in one piece. First, it is important to pack your piece securely. Then, you will have to decide which shipping options to use, including insurance, tracking, and delivery confirmation. We recommend using all three options for peace of mind and protection against accidents.

Packing your item

Be sure to use a sturdy box. You don’t want it to fall apart during transit. Fully close the box seams with packing tape for added protection. If you are sending more than one item or an object with detachable parts, wrap each item in the box individually.

Use sufficient cushioning materials. This could be crumpled paper, bubble wrap, shredded paper, foam and more. Environmentally conscious packaging materials, like biodegradable packing peanuts, are available nowadays to replace traditional styrofoam and plastic fillers. FedEx recommends at least 3 inches of cushioning around the interior of the box. Clearly write “fragile” on the box if you are sending a delicate item. 

Shipping fine art can be tricky, depending on the type of object. With framed pieces, be sure to carefully wrap the frame, as finishes can be delicate and angles prone to warping. If you are sending a painting on stretched canvas, framed or unframed, wrap it in a wide sheet of bubble wrap or paper so that there is no variable pressure applied on the canvas area. Canvas can easily become warped in spots if continuous pressure is applied. Additionally, side loading boxes tend to be flatter and work well for paintings. 

Works on paper should be packed between two sturdy pieces of cardboard or foam board to keep them flat. Add a “do not bend sticker” onto the package for extra safety. Be careful to use a safe material, like acid free paper, to cover the artwork’s surface during shipping. For smaller pieces, enclose the work in a rigid envelope. Large works on paper can be rolled up carefully and shipped in mailing tubes. Be aware that shipping tubes can be dented during transportation, so a double tube is best for important pieces. 

Fine art is especially prone to water damage and should be wrapped completely for protection. Use a flat plastic bag or stretch wrap and pay close attention to paper corners, which are easily bent. You can use corner protectors to secure them in place. 

Navigating your shipping options

The most popular carrier is USPS (United States Postal Service), followed by the private companies UPS (United Parcel Service) and FedEx. In general, USPS is cheaper for smaller packages that weigh less than 2 lbs. After that threshold, the comparison in price is more equal between the three options.

If you mail your package through USPS, you will have several options for shipping: First Class, Priority, Priority Express, and Priority Mail Flat Rate. First Class is for envelopes and packages weighing less than 13 oz. USPS includes tracking on First Class parcels, but not flat envelopes or letters. 

USPS Flat Rate pricing vs. zoned pricing

Shipping services are calculated according to zones, which is the distance between two points. Zones are not fixed points on the map. They are dependent on where you are shipping from. 

You can follow this link to enter the origin and destination point and see what zone matches your package’s journey. Lower zone numbers correlate with lower prices and shorter distances.

As an example, if you wanted to send a 2 lb. Priority Mail package to a neighbor, that would be considered zone 1 and would cost $9.25. If you sent the same package all the way from California to New York, you’d be using zone 8, and it would cost $30.75

USPS Flat Rate services do not take zones into account. Flat rate boxes are sold by the post office and come in various dimensions. You just fill the box and send it. This chart has information on sizes and prices for USPS flat rate packages. The weight limit for domestic flat rate packages is 70 lbs.

In general, flat rate is a better deal if you’re sending a package far (higher zones) or if it is heavy. Using zones is cheaper if your package is not going far (lower zones). UPS and FedEx also have flat rate shipping options

USPS add-ons and options

Registered mail service can be added on for First Class or Priority Mail shipments. Registered mail provides unbroken security using locked containers. Registered mail can be insured up to $50,000. The price of registered mail starts at $13.75.

You can also add a USPS “fragile” service label for $12.15, though affixing your own “fragile” sticker or simply writing “fragile” on the package in black marker, is usually sufficient. 

USPS offers signature on delivery (SOD) service. It costs $3.45 (or $2.90 for electronic signatures). We recommend using SOD for your packages so that you can be sure an item has safely arrived at its destination. 

Media Mail is an option if you are sending books or similar media. USPS defines media as: books, film, manuscripts, sound recordings, video tapes, and computer media (such as CDs, DVDs, and diskettes). It is generally far cheaper, but can also be slower. Media mail comes with tracking, but not insurance. You will have to purchase that as an add-on. 

Shipping Insurance 

A Mearto appraisal will provide you with the monetary value of your piece so that you can buy the right amount of insurance. Many carriers include limited insurance on packages. USPS Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express include tracking and insurance coverage of $50 and $100 respectively. International Priority Mail includes tracking and insurance up to $200. You can add extra insurance, up to $5000, or up to $50,000 for registered mail. 

This chart shows the cost of USPS domestic insurance. As an example, insuring a $300 domestic package would be $5.05. A $500 domestic package costs $10.35. International insurance rates are higher. 

FedEx and UPS both offer free insurance up to $100 and you can add on more. UPS offers insurance up to $50,000. FedEx offers insurance up to $100,000 domestically and $25,000 internationally. FedEx and UPS insurance rates are calculated on an individual basis which you can determine by entering your package information: FedEx calculator; UPS calculator

Shipping labels and pick-up services

You can print your shipping labels easily at home nowadays. USPS offers this service with a free account. You can add insurance and set up special delivery instructions like proof of delivery (POD) and signature on delivery (SOD). You can also specify whether the carrier should leave the package at the recipient’s door or try to redeliver later. 

USPS offers free home pickup of outgoing packaging for most places in the US, but you will need to schedule the service in advance, as well as affix labels and postage beforehand. Be sure to review the guidelines on weight and size limits. You will also need to open a free USPS account. FedEx and UPS offer package pickups only for customers with business accounts.

Other parcel shipping companies exist and may be worth getting a quote from. DHL is the most popular after FedEx and UPS, but there are many smaller ones.

Fine art shipping companies

For particularly valuable works of art or bulky antiques, you might consider using a company that specializes in this area, such as: Arta, Convelio, Crown, Crozier or Fine Art Shippers. These companies provide packing and door-to-door shipping for museums, galleries, auction houses and big collectors, so they have the experience handling high-value items and may be particularly helpful navigating the complicated logistics of shipping a work of fine art overseas, for example.

Whatever option to you decide to choose, Mearto is here to help. If you have questions about shipping an item that you recently sold on our Marketplace, feel free to contact our friendly customer support team by email: [email protected].

Pricing data is current as of March 2022.