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 learnedtalking 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 showand 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 solda 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 andprovide 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!