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(This page revised April 1, 2020)
There are as many ways to ship pens as there are pens. Some of them are safe, and some are not. Even if in the past you have sent or received pens that were shipped in a risky manner but not damaged, this is no assurance that the next pen you ship that way will reach its destination without damage. This page gives you guidelines based on my experience over nearly 20 years of shipping and receiving pens commercially.
Because I am located in the United States, much of the information here is more or less specific to the U.S. You should adapt it to your own needs, always bearing in mind that a pen worth as little as $10.00 is still more valuable than the $5.00 you might save by shipping it too cheaply.
NEVER SHIP FOUNTAIN PENS WITH INK IN THEM!
When you ship a pen with ink in it, the pen frequently arrives at its destination with the ink all over the outside. This can damage the pen permanently! Always empty and flush your pens, and allow them to dry before packing them for shipment.
You should feel free to ship your pens by the method that gives you the greatest confidence — but I recommend that you avoid DHL because packages shipped to me via DHL arrive almost invariably in the condition illustrated to the right. I recommend that you ship pens with insurance for full replacement value.
IMPORTANT: in case the outside address should become obscured, you should include inside the package a slip of paper with your name and mailing address, along with the recipient’s name and mailing address. In general, and especially given the proliferation of shipping services such as The UPS Store, the return address outside the package, even if it is present and legible, is not a reliable indicator of where things that are to be returned to you should be sent!
Inadequately packed pens can, and sometimes do, suffer irreparable damage in transit, as shown here:
Pack your pens in a box, not merely a padded envelope. Use plenty of bubble wrap, plastic “peanuts,” or other protective materials. Sections of PVC plumbing pipe protect pens well, but the pens should be padded within the pipes so that they cannot bounce around. Note, however, that because pipes can apparently be mistaken for bombs when scanned in an X-ray machine, I recommend specifically that you not use pipes in international shipments.
Do not create “mummies” by wrapping lots of tape around your pens! If possible, use blue painter’s tape or the equivalent, and use as little of it as you can, just enough to secure the packaging. Using more and more tape does not increase the protection of the pens, and other kinds of tape, especially clear packing tape, are difficult or impossible to remove without risking damage to the pens inside the bubble wrap or other packaging material.
Presentation boxes are not usually a good way to pack pens because many of them do not hold the pens securely for shipment. Also, note that pipes and presentation boxes add significant weight.
In the U.S.A., packages sent by ordinary Priority Mail receive tracking and delivery confirmation without additional charge. First Class Mail packages are not tracked, and their delivery is not confirmed. Particularly valuable pens should be sent via Registered Mail, which provides extra assurances of security and delivery to the intended recipient.
If the recipient’s mailbox is in a shared public area such as an apartment building lobby, consider purchasing signature confirmation so that your package cannot be left at the delivery address without the knowledge of someone there. An even more secure option is restricted delivery, which ensures that only the intended recipient can sign for the package.
If you are not in the U.S.A., your local postal authorities can advise you on the best way to ship your pens and about services like those described in the two preceding paragraphs.
The information in this article is as accurate as possible, but you should not take it as absolutely authoritative or complete. If you have additions or corrections to this page, please consider sharing them with us to improve the accuracy of our information.