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At Home: How to pack and ship heirloom china

January 10, 2014 

Layering her mom’s fine china (Sōkō china hand-painted in Random Harvest pattern), which her dad bought in Japan in 1952, with her own ivory china allows Marni Jameson to create a table that keeps family memories and traditions very much in the present.


I had just stepped out the door for a jog, when I saw a blizzard of pink Styrofoam packing peanuts skipping down the street.

My stomach turned inside out when I realized the eye of the storm was my trashcan. Moments before, it had been filled to the brim with the pink packing material, which had cradled my mother’s china on its sentimental journey from California to Florida.

The trash men had just been by. It was a windy day. And I had instantly become THAT NEIGHBOR!

Last spring, you may recall, I cleared out my parents’ home. I brought home a few items but held off on the silver and china. I wasn’t ready to deal with the 12 place settings. But as I set the Thanksgiving table, suddenly, my desire for mom’s china became a stage 5 obsession.

My sister-in-law took the boxes straight to Art Ono, owner of the UPS store in Culver City, Calif.

Several days later, I received three boxes so thoroughly packed, you could have dropped them from a freeway overpass, and had them knocked around by speeding traffic, and the dishes would have been intact.

My Christmas table was a beautiful, if sentimental, blend of Mom’s gold-rimmed china with my plain ivory, her silver with my crystal. I discarded the packaging – and you know the rest.

Here is how you can pack fragile valuables like a pro:

Pad all parts: Individually wrap each piece with layers of bubble wrap until you can’t feel any edges. Next, put a layer of peanuts on the bottom of the box. Layer in wrapped dishes so they’re not touching, add another layer of peanuts, then more dishes. Once filled, stuff the box with more peanuts so nothing moves.

Box the box: Put the first box into a second, two inches bigger all around, and fill the gap with more peanuts.

Nix the newspaper: The most common mistakes Ono sees self-packers make are wrapping breakables in paper, and leaving too much room in the box. “When you grab a box, you shouldn’t feel contents moving,” he said. “But customers bring their china in that way and think it’s ready to ship.”

Sticker shock: This kind of packing doesn’t come cheap. Ono said he can usually pack eight place settings of dishes in two boxes, and charges $100 per box. Shipping and insurance get added to that. To pack, ship and insure our four boxes cost $500. When I asked Ono whether perhaps he over-packed, he asked me, “Was anything broken?” No, I told him. “Then the job was perfect,” he said. Can’t argue with that.

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