Thinking about it now, whenever I get something old and from the Old Country, it's covered in heavy, waxy goo and often wrapped in paper. I'm guessing the goo may be Cosmoline, but the paper lets it breath, rather than trapping the potentially moist air inside with plastic. Kinda like using good old fashioned tar paper on your house instead of Tyvek. Don't want your timbers to mold and rot away, do you?
Though, I suppose you could throw a cloth bag of rice in with it all.