Shipping a VPI TT, Arm & Cartridge. Help Needed

I just purchased a VPI HW-19 MKIII TT, an SME 309 tonearm with a Benz Ref Silver cartridge. I had my uncle in California pick it up for me. I am in PA, so it has a long journey and I am very nervous about the items getting here safely! He is near the San Francisco/San Jose/San Mateo area and I am wondering if there is a reputable hi-end audio store around there that could pack it safely for him or maybe even one of you guys could help out? Thanks for any help, Jeff
Actually, if you go to the UPS store, they guarantee a safe delivery for anything they pack and ship. You might have to mortage your house, however it will get there undamaged, or they will get you another.
You could try contacting VPI to ask advice about packing, possible disassembly, etc.
I thought about it, but it also makes me cringe to possibly have an 18 yr. old employee/trainee with multiple piercings/tattoos, taking apart an expensive TT with a pair of pliers. Probably wouldn't even take it apart anyways. Most people think of turntables as $99 nostalgia pieces with cheap disposable, snap in needles. Would rather stick with other options if possible. I realize they(UPS) will cover damages if they pack, but that is a ALOT of red tape and even more waiting. They might give me a hard time replacing a $2000 Benz or an SME arm.
The only other thing I can think of is to bring it to your friendly VPI dealer and have him send it... I have a Superscoutmaster, and even have saved the boxes that it came in. I personally would want to get it done professionally. I'm moving from NJ to Arizona in a couple of months. Eveything has to go including the Vandersteen 5A's. Trepidation....
Jeff, these are the logistic questions that are best asked before the purchase. Now you are more or less at the mercy of the shipping gods. Hopefully your uncle picked up all of the original packaging materials with the turntable.
If not, then you should probably contact VPI and see if they will sell you shipping container(s). Maybe contact Musical Surroundings and see if you can buy a box for the Benz. Getting all of the proper shipping containers will probably be expensive, but should help to alleviate shipping damage. W/O the original packaging, you will have no choice but to let UPS Store pack it. UPS and Fed Ex will ignore claims if the item is not in it's original packaging. If UPS will guarantee it if they pack it, this may be your only option if you do not have original packaging. Maybe a VPI dealer as Stringreen suggest, but I think this would cost even more, and may not be guaranteed (assuming not using original packaging).

Also, don't bother over-insuring. You can only be re-imbursed for what you can PROVE that you paid. This is where the red tape comes in. You mention replacing a $2000 Benz cartridge, can you prove that you paid $2000 just for the cartridge? If not, then there is no way that you'll get anywhere near that much. Have the seller include an itemized receipt, broken down to how much each piece cost.
For example, say you paid $1000. Have the receipt say $500 for the 'table, $250 for the arm, $250 for the cartridge. Keep in mind that you will have to prove the $1000 payment to, via cancelled check, Paypal receipt, or whatever. So you can't falsify the receipt. You can insure for as much as you want, but you can only file a claim for what you can prove that you spent.

Yes, it is very difficult and expensive to ship a turntable, which is why, like large speakers, local sales are the best way to go. Even if you need to drive a couple hundred miles to pick up. Maybe it would be easier for you to drive to CA for pick up....

Good luck!! Hopefully it works out for you.
I was hoping that there was a hi-end shop around San Jose that would know how to dismantle it and pack it up safely in several boxes. Once the arm and cartidge were removed, they could be shipped in seprate boxes. Maybe carefully wrapped a large pill bottle, put in a well padded box for the Benz? Of couse the platter, motor in seperate boxes as well as the cover. Not sure on packing the arm though. If it were about 2000 miles closer, I would go pick it up myself :)
Sorry about the typos! My keyboard is ready to get replaced. :)
I would do as earlier suggested, contact vpi and buy the
original packaging from them. They're very nice to deal with. Often times the original packing works the best, or at least competently. vpi packing is very good, they don't want to deal with shipping damage any more than the rest of us. If damage occurs, the shipper will be way more likely to be helpful if it is in original packing
than if not.

The couple hundred bucks for the original packing is well worth it, it will also prove very useful to you if you ever need to ship it again or sell and ship it. The worry factor alone should cover the cost of admission. And to boot, your uncle will be able to figure out the excellent
vpi packing so you also don't need to bother a dealer where
your uncle lives.

Best of luck,
I have the original boxes, but all those little pieces of foam and cardboard is a major intellectual exersize to place in the proper spots. I'd still have someone else pack it.
Contact VPI and ask for a dealer reference in the area. Sounds like the dealer would keep the original materials(being a major intellectual exercize) for shipping thier customer's tables when brought in for upgrades/repair.
If you can't find a dealer to handle this properly for you, and assuming your uncle can disassemble it, and you know how to reassemble it, I would have him take it apart and package **each part** separately in its own box (using appropriate packaging). If each part is boxed separately it's less of an issue what type of padding is used, so bubble wrap and (yes, even) peanuts will be good for your purpose. Packing/shipping parts will be safer and probably cost you less than asking a dealer to pack it for you.

So for example, remove the Tonearm (remove the cartridge first). This is the most fragile part . . . make sure it's securely wrapped up and there's good cushion in an strong box. Similarly, pack the dust cover separately - need a strong box for it. Remove the platter . . . etc. Once you get it down to the plinth/chassis you have the heaviest part. Some of these individual boxes may fit together safely inside another box, but I wouldn't go overboard trying - you won't save that much money. All of the boxes/material you need can be bought at UHaul or Staples, etc.

This is perhaps more bulletproof than you need but I've had 2 TT's packed by dealers and shipped to me and BOTH arrived damaged because they tried to put everything in one box. And for god sake, do NOT let the UPS store package it for you. It's just as good as asking them to hold on to your cash (whatever you paid for the TT) for the 3 months it will take until they honor the insurance claim.

Here's a link that also shows some principles for packing TT and may help: TT Packing
I had UPS pack a Rega P25 turntable for me once. It arrived to the buyer totally trashed. After several months of hasseling both the UPS store and UPS, I finally got the insurance money.

I wouldn't suggest having UPS pack a turntable.