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How To Pack A Vintage, Retro Or Antique Tube Radio For Shipping

How to ship a vintage or antique tube radio in 4 easy steps. 

Theres nothing more disappointing, to both buyer and seller, than having a vintage radio arrive at its destination and the box sounds like a kaleidoscope when handled!  You may have been sent a link to this page by someone that has recently purchased a radio from you, and if so, on behalf of them and all vintage/antique radio enthusiasts, thank you for taking the time to read.  

These gems are a finite resource that unfortunately get destroyed during shipping every day. Lets try and make this a successful transfer of ownership and preserve these pieces of history. 

There's obviously no malevolence on behalf of the well intentioned shipper, like yourself, but some facts are not frankly advertised by most shipping services/companies. (Like the fact you need to pack items anticipating that they will sustain a 3-4 foot fall from conveyor systems to other conveyors or the floor of the processing plant.) Through both tragedy and triumph, some very successful and not so, methods of packing have been identified. Proper preparation may take a bit more effort but it will be worth it in the long run for both parties. If you don't have the materials on hand, I’m quite certain the receiver would wait a short bit, or even pay a tad more for materials, so that it arrives in one piece. The following is widely considered “Best practice” but you can substitute some materials with good result. The following applies to most average sized table and mantle radios made from wood, plastic, bakelite etc. (Additional steps must be taken when shipping Catalin or other brittle cased radios. The electronic chassis needs to be removed and case/chassis shipped separately. Due to the rarity and cost of these radios, It is recommended that a professional service, or someone with extensive experience, process them for shipping.)   

Step 1

Coil the power cord in short loops and use an elastic band, tape or twist tie to keep it coiled. Place it inside a sandwich baggie, Saran Wrap or similar. This will help protect it from contact against the cabinet and damaging the finish. Place or secure any loose knobs or associated small parts inside or to the baggie.  

Step 2

If the radio has a fragile dial pointer, or other vulnerabilities such as protruding dial, build up around them with cut out foam, large cell bubble wrap, or similar material. Generally, the knobs don't require this. Place the radio inside a bag of some sort and tape or secure it tightly over the radio. Wrapping it in Kraft paper is also a great option. Be sure the power cord coil is against the back and not against fragile features of the radio.  


Step 3

Find a firm sided box that will provide for, at minimum, 3 inches of space on all sides of the radio. Wrap the radio in a fashion that provides for at least 3 inches of bubble wrap. Large cell (1/2 inch) is best. Smaller cell wrap will work as well but much more will be needed. Whatever you do, don't go shy on the bubble wrap! As you will see in the examples below, one layer of wrap just won't suffice. As mentioned, large cell wrap is widely considered “Best practice” but you can use styrofoam, firm pillow/cushion foam or packing peanuts. Do not use crumpled paper, or similar, as the main cushioning material. Use enough of your selected material so that the radio fits inside the box snugly and does not move when shaken. If there are small spaces left when this is complete, you can then use crumpled paper to fill those voids. If you are using packing peanuts, consider the non static version and be sure they are packed in a way that the radio will not move whilst in them. Whatever material you use, be certain the radio will not shift or move inside the box. That said, be cautious not to apply excessive force to the radio with the materials.  

Step 4 (Double box)

This step is key to success! Find another firm sided box that will allow for at least an inch of space around the smaller box. Fill the void on all sides with enough of your chosen packing material so the inner box will not move or shift within the larger outer box. Secure the box opening with good quality packing tape. Its also recommended at this point to write your return address/phone number indelibly on the box as, at times, the packing slip gets ripped from the box. That way, they'll know who to contact in this rare occurrence. 



Other notes: 

“Fragile” or “this side up” 

Its personal preference if you'd like to write “Fragile” or “This side up” on the box. Almost certainly your box will see only a few human hands and will tumble like dice through conveyor systems so its a questionable step. In fact, it may work to your disadvantage as is the case with Canada Post. If you label it as “Fragile, and the radio gets damaged during shipping, your insurance claim will most certainly be declined as they don't insure fragile items.  

Multiple radios

It is not recommended that multiple radios be shipped together. As the mass of the box increases, so does the amount of forces that it will go through during shipping and thus risk of damage. It all comes down to physics. If this absolutely must be done, separate them a minimum of 3 inches with the cushioning material. In addition, slide cardboard separators, or similar, between them. 


It is always advisable to obtain sufficient insurance to cover replacement and provide a tracking number to the receiver. Be informed though; some services will gladly accept your insurance premiums but never payout on a claim as they don't insure vintage radios. If packed as listed above, Fedex, USPS, UPS, and DHL have a reasonable track record of making things right with claims. Canada Post and Purolator are prime examples of services that do not insure vintage or antique radios. It is also good practice to document your packing job with photos in the unlikely event you need to make an insurance claim as you will be asked for pictures. 


House Of Horrors...not for the faint of heart! 

Westinghouse 501 packed with too few peanuts and not double boxed. 






$1600.00 Catalin set shipped in newspaper and not double boxed. 

Collectible Atomic turquoise set with one layer of small cell bubble wrap/crumpled newspaper and not double boxed. See a pattern here; Always double box!