Declared Value for Shipping: What does this mean and what do I need to know?

I wanted to continue from yesterday’s post and share what I learned  talking with the UPS representative about declared value.  This information is from UPS.  FedEx policies may be different.

First “declared value” means the maximum liability for UPS if your package is lost or damaged.  Generally, I think most artists think this is insurance.  It is not, UPS doesn’t use that terminology and I think there are slight difference between insurance and declared value.  When I asked the UPS rep. if this is also insurance she said it is not.  (I have yet to discover the exact differences.)

If you do not declare a value on your shipping label the UPS default value is $100.  Also depending on how you create your label you can only claim certain maximum values. (Please see my post on Shipping Artwork on 4/30/13.)   If your shipment is lost or damaged, UPS is liable for the amount you declared.

Now for the news none of us would want to hear, our painting was damaged getting to the show or gallery or was damaged getting back to you.  The next step would be to file a claim with UPS.  UPS would then send one of their agents to inspect the box and contents.  As the shipper you must provide an original invoice or in writing proof of the replacement cost of the painting or the actual value.   This is where things get a little gray.  I talked to two different UPS representatives about this “proof of value” in writing and got two slightly different answers.  One person told me this letter had to be from an appraiser.  I explained it would be ludicrous for me to hire an appraiser to value my own artwork every time I needed to ship a painting to a show or gallery!  That wasn’t going to happen.  Therefore, I suggested, if I’m sending a painting to a show or gallery and that work is for sale could the society or gallery also in writing state that my work was in their show  and that during that time it was valued for sale for whatever my declared value was.  This could supplement my letter to establish proof of value.  She seemed to think that would be OK.  The second representative didn’t mention the letter had to be from an appraiser and said a letter directly from me as the artist would suffice.

As I mentioned, I did not speak with FedEx about damage in shipping,  but I have heard that they have in the past denied claims if the box doesn’t show any damage but the contents do.

Is it worth getting a separate insurance policy?  Most artists you talk to say no it isn’t. It is rare that your painting would be lost or damaged, that’s not to say it can’t happen.  What is more common is that your frame is damaged but your artwork isn’t.  Protect the corners of your frame!  This is where the most damage can happen.  Also avoid shipping watercolor with glass.  Most societies require all paintings be framed with plexiglass.

The moral of the story is, declared value can be a gray area between you the artist and the shipping company.  However, always put the value of the work including the frame on your shipping label.  Otherwise, UPS will only be liable for $100.  If you have to file a claim, hopefully your letter will be enough to show the proof of the value of the painting.  If you sold  a piece and are sending it to a customer, you would also have an invoice stating what you sold the painting for.  If your letter isn’t enough, then you can approach the gallery or society whose show your painting was in to help you out and  provide written documentation what your piece was selling for while it was exhibited.  If your painting is not for sale (NFS) in the show then this may not work.

Keep in mind these two articles are for domestic shipping only.  With international shipping, that’s a whole other can of worms!


Thanks for installing the Bottom of every post plugin by Corey Salzano. Contact me if you need custom WordPress plugins or website design.

2 thoughts on “Declared Value for Shipping: What does this mean and what do I need to know?

  1. I really appreciate all your information. I can not remember if it was UPS or FedEx but I once shipped a watercolor and had it arrive with broken glass. When I called about whether they would cover the damage they said I would have to provide pictures showing the package damage and the pieces of glass, etc. The gallery had, of course, not taken pictures and had thrown away the glass so I was out of luck. I certainly would never ship glass again, even if it were acceptable to the gallery/show.

    I also recommend detailed directions about how to unpack and repack the work with everything labeled. . This is especially the case if you are sending several works in a single packing crate. Here is why: I have shipped work in a number of ways, mostly at my own risk. I shipped a huge wooden crate with a whole show of large oil paintings as “household goods” insured by the pound because it was the cheapest and the trucking company (Yellow) would not ship artwork at all if I declared art. The crate returned in good shape but the damage to the artwork was done at the pack/unpack end. Someone had scraped the surfaces of several works by forcing them into the wrong individual slots in the crate. Digital photos have even let me document each stage of packing and then, I can keep a record for a claim and can send print outs to whoever will need to repack the work.
    I curated and hung a show with 17 artists last year and I would have loved those directions in several cases.

    • Thank you for these tips Carol! I have also learned to label everything outside and inside my box with my name. So there is no question it’s my box no matter which way it’s stored in a facility. I put my name on all sides and top and bottom of the box, as well as any packing elements inside. I also include directions for packing. Last year someone with good intentions wrapped my piece with bubble wrap, which I did not do sending it, and they taped the bubble wrap with packing tape to my frame. The tape ruined the finish on my frame and I had to have it all re-done. Now I include that in my directions as well!!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *