How to pack an expensive objective lens for shipping?

Never thought I would ask myself such a question. This however changed as I received an expensive objective lens that was so poorly packed, it is probably unusable at this point. The objective itself cost nearly $1000, including international shipping using DHL. The seller offered USPS airmail, I am happy I turned this offer down, it would have been far worse. I requested the seller to send the objective to my forwarder warehouse on Oregon, and the people there boxed it. It was then sent to me via DHL, arriving in six days.

Seller’s packaging

Firstly, the seller did not even have the decency to use an objective case, something that is $2 on ebay. The lens was simply put in that disgusting dusty carton on the right, without any wrapping whatsoever. The lens was dangling inside, I have the habit of shaking my parcels, I heard obvious sounds — sounds of an impending disaster.

This dirty filthy carton that likely came from the seller’s kitchen was then wrapped in smelly blue foam, and shoved in a reused shipping bag, wrapped with anti-tamper tape. It says stop, maybe take some advice from the tape and re-work the packaging! STOP.

Due to the abominable carton, dust and fibres were deposited onto and into the objective lens! It was covered with dust, an objective of $900 worth, packed just like that. I do not pack $100 achromats like that!

The seller obviously had absolutely no clue what he was doing, or indeed what he was selling. Besides a load of dust and fibres being deposited into the objective, it was also riddled with these white dots.

Objective internals

These white dots are a product of internal anti-reflection, perhaps Polytetrafluoroethylene-based (PTFE, or Teflon) coatings falling off. The objective can likely still produce an image, but the sheer amount of flakes in it will definitely have a massive impact. I would still be livid if he packed the objective adequately. The objective was priced similarly to the market value, it was described as “good working condition, used”. This is not in working condition at all.

So, how do I send off expensive objective lenses? It is actually very simple. I prepare the following.

Packing items

Here, you can see a big bag of pouched desiccants. There is no excuse for anyone dealing with optics selling to not have them. This particular product comes from “Daiso”, costs a whopping $2.80 AUD. There are 5 sheets, each consist of 6 bags. Only 1 is needed for packaging. That is a whopping $0.10 AUD, not too much, aye? In the middle, I have an objective case and the remains of an Olympus objective, in a sorry state. This is followed by a bag of Ziploc-type bags. The objective case is around $3, the bags are $5 or so for 100. The most expensive thing here is indeed the objective case.

It is necessary to include an objective case, this gives off the illusion of a “complete package”, and tells the buyer that you take great care of your optics. It is sort of like a dog-whistle, “objective has been stored in a dry cabinet”, which translates to “it’s good, buy it!” You’re doing so without shilling your own product though heavily implied. How about pricing though? Well, since a $3 case was included, you can price your objective $50 above those that fail to include one. Chances are, yours will sell.

This is also why one should never throw manuals, original boxes and accessories away. They add value to the item when it needs to be sold, no doubt to fund something more expensive to satisfy one’s G.A.S.

People who do sell items online should always keep a good amount of packaging materials for reusing. Bubble wrap and boxes are not cheap. A box is typically $3, a roll of bubble can be $20, this adds up to a lot when eBay’s robbery of 10% (sometimes more!) is considered. Many like to say the website needs the money for overhead, however China’s Taobao does not take a cent from sellers when items sell.

Padding time!

It is usually a good idea to add padding into the objective case. Here, I am using folded tissue paper, which is then covered by another folded tissue that has been wrapped in tape — so no fibres come loose. Sometimes during transit, the objective experiences vibrations and fall out of its cap. This will become a disaster and render any good packaging useless, as the objective is free to move around the case like those capsule toys come from dispensers.

Bigger canisters are better.

Sometimes it is possible to put the desiccant packet into the objective case. This is true with original Mitutoyo objective cases, they are extremely high quality.

Bag it!

Now the objective sits comfortably in the case with no chances to come loose, put it in a Ziploc bag with the desiccant packet. This will ensure that the objective stays dry during transit, no chances of shrooms popping up.

Bubble time, do not pop them
Tape it!

The rest is simple! Wrap the objective in adequate layers of bubble, then put it in a box. Make sure the gaps are sealed with more bubble. I dislike the use of newspapers, however using magazines scrambled up is fine with me.

I personally never paid for boxes or bubble wrap. When I get a box, I disassemble it, and the wrapping material is put in a large bag. Good for my wallet and the environment, why not?

There, you are done. Your recipient will not rage about poor packaging.

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