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Below is the information that I forward to all sellers regarding packing. It stems from my experiences as buyer and in no way I am inclined to "teach" the seller. I am sure that you know your business well, that you've sent many items before. However, due to faulty packing techniques, causing vulnerability of the LEGO set to harm, I received in the past LEGO boxes that were damaged (dented, squashed), hence my words below. Also, I used to live in Cape Town, so far away - the parcels were travelling to me over long distances. I do not mind paying for extra packing material if there is such a need.

What is happening to our parcels with precious items inside you can watch here (not for fainthearted).

The idea that parcels are handled with care, gently, with love, by the postal services or courier companies is naive. Examples are below - worth watching to get inspiration on how to prepare the LEGO consignement:

(Of course, most of the time the handling is more civil, however nobody can assure us, buyers and sellers, that employees will never have bad days.)

After all, we all wish to avoid time wastage on administrative issues, as well as going through unpleasant feelings if the set arrives damaged. I am absolutely sure that almost 100% of destruction comes from postal handling, but by preclusion the injury to the shipped items can be prevented (even when the parcel is treated roughly).

By the end you will see some examples of damaged items and graphical presentation of various packaging and packing techniques.

None of the below words are my instructions to the sellers. I am sharing my experiences, at the same time trusting that the seller will do the utmost to protect the purchased by me LEGO treasure.

The shipping box

  • The shipping box should be as close to the size of the LEGO set as possible, leaving not much of empty spaces to fill, but still having some space to fill (the LEGO box should not be in direct contact with the wall of the parcel.
  • Old, soft cardboard boxes bend and dent easier during postal trip. The shipping container should be either new, or have all its walls in their original shape, i.e. straight.
  • The shipping box should never be modified to size by bending its walls (so as to accommodate the item inside better), as it makes the carton unstable, in danger of deformation, collapse, tear or even partial disintegration.
  • Although more expensive, double layer cardboard boxes are far superior to the single layer cartons. Nevertheless, with proper filling, even the single layer and not deformed shipping box is also good. TIP: hospitals discard daily hundreds of uses cardboard boxes of various sizes and in very good condition. Many of those boxes are double layered.
Single and double layer shipping boxes

The fillers

From my observation, there should be absolutely no empty space left inside of the carrying container (carton used for shipment). In case of the cardboard box (shipping box) being depressed (if there are unfilled gaps between the LEGO item and the carton’s wall) the outer force exerts increased pressure over a small area of the LEGO set inside, resulting in an inevitable creasing, denting, squashing.

The best fillers (as experience teaches) are (in order of effectiveness):

  • Pre-cut cardboard sheets. The method is not expensive, however more time consuming. The cardboard sheets are slotted where the gaps are.
  • Styrofoam (polystyrene foam) peanuts are good if they fill the empty spaces completely plus envelope the shipped item entirely.
  • Bubble wrap. The most popular filler, often wrongly applied. Placing single sheet of bubble wrap on the LEGO box is useless as it slides off and crumples in a corner of the shipping box. To make it effective, the wrap must encapsulate gently (not tightly) the LEGO set several times around (creating thick, multilayered envelope for the set) and it should be additionally fixed in place by tape.
  • Crumpled packing paper (not newspaper). The cheapest, yet very effective way of cushioning LEGO sets inside the shipping box.
  • Little bubble pillows tend to break in transit, rendering them worthless.

In any case, after packing, the contents (LEGO sets) should remain unmoved after shaking or throwing the shipping container.

Securing the shipping box itself

Usually, the box is taped - we all know it. The following 2 extra techniques are more time consuming, but provide by far the best protection for the shipping container itself and, in turn, for the items inside. I do not demand them from sellers, however found them superior to anything else.

  1. The best security for the shipping box itself (preventing it from sudden harm) is old-fashioned technique of wrapping it in packing paper. The paper safeguards the walls of the carton - stiffens them.
  2. The ultimate guard for the shipping box is old-fashion practice of binding it tightly with packing string - making a kind of a net (basket) in which the carton is nested. The postal workers tend to lift the parcel by the strings and handle it gently if the box is properly laced, like on the picture below:
Parcel laced with string

Examples and graphical presentation

Modified shipping carton (so that the box is resized to fit the LEGO set better) often break. They lose their sturdiness. It applies especially to the second hand boxes.

Second hand shipping box that breaks

Below is the result of using an older, single layered, cut and bent to size cardboard box as a shipping container. The carton's walls were soft plus the empty spaces were not filled properly. As a consequence, the walls collapsed (bent inwards) and injured severely quite expensive set inside.

Older, single layered, cut to size cardboard box Damage to the LEGO set Damage to the LEGO set

Next valuable example. The box was a single layered cardboard carton, showing signs of use, with very soft walls, cut to size (reshaped in-house by bending and cutting), re-taped. Unavoidably, the walls sagged and failed to keep their stiffness under pressure of other boxes (any courier or postal service stacks boxes - it's normal). The main set was placed on the bottom of this box, secured with single layer of bubble wrap, touching directly all 4 walls of the shipping box. Inevitably, it had to be squashed as the thin, soft, modified, collapsing shipping container provided as much of security for the set as a thicker envelope. Even 3 layers of bubble wrap wouldn't protect that set. The result of saving a few dollars on a better box is shown (it breaks my heart). And I wouldn't mind to pay that extra fee for a decent carton.

Damage to the LEGO set Damage to the LEGO set Damage to the LEGO set

If one really needs to use old boxes in order to recycle, please add extra sheets of stiff cardboard around the sets.

Another example below. Using an older, single layered cardboard box as a shipping container. The carton's walls were soft. Interestingly, the box was filled to capacity with foam peanuts, however the set was “sandwiched” between them instead of being surrounded by them. See what’s happened to the poor set!

Using an older, single layered cardboard box as a shipping container Damage to the LEGO set Damage to the LEGO set

The seller had all good intentions, but a single knock or more pressure destroyed the set. Below you can see why it most likely happened.

Filling with foam peanuts

The same result can be achieved with crumpled newspaper: forgotten, cheap (free), excellent filler.

Filling with crumpled newspaper

Bubble wrap is good only of it is properly applied.

Filling with bubble wrap

The ultimate, bulletproof solution (if there are “bulletproof solutions” at all, but this one is the best protection):

Filling with cardboard sheets

I hope that the above information is helpful.

Thank you for reading!

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