Last Updated On: September 13th, 2023
It can be overwhelming determining how to package sports cards for shipping. This How to Ship Baseball cards guide is going to answer a ton of your questions.
Whether you need help determining how to ship a single trading card properly, multiple trading cards, or a complete set, we’ll walk through best practices for packing baseball cards in card holders to protect them during shipping, what shipping and packing products you need to buy along with a cost breakdown of the supplies, and how to find the cheapest way to ship baseball cards using PayPal ShipStation for the best rates among shipping couriers.
Keep in mind this shipping guide loosely uses terms such as baseball cards or sports cards interchangeably to represent any kind of trading card. Whether you’re shipping baseball or basketball cards, learning how to ship Pokémon cards, Magic: The Gathering, or everything in between, this guide is your solution — so let’s dive in!
Products For Shipping Baseball Cards
Many collectors buy and sell sports cards on eBay. If you’ve bought enough baseball cards on eBay, you’ll come to notice very inconsistent packing and shipping standards among different sellers. Sometimes they’ll use bubble mailers to ship sports cards but neglect to use durable card holders, or any padding to speak of. They’ll simply jam a card in a plastic card sleeve and send it on its merry way. Needless to say, this is a terrible idea.
You will need the proper products for shipping your cards. The following list kicks things off:
- Bubble Mailers
- Highlighting the best bubble mailers for sports cards, where to buy them, and how to ship a trading card properly.
- Card Holders
- When to use Baseball card sleeves, top loaders, and cardboard storage boxes, to name a few.
- How to use painter’s tape, scotch tape, and even tamper-evident tape to ensure cards are secure in transit. Also how to tape bubble mailers and flat rate boxes properly.
- Packing Materials (AKA Dunnage)
- Types of dunnage you can use, such as packing peanuts, packing paper, or bubble wrap to keep cards safely in place during transit.
- Shipping Boxes and Envelopes
- Where to find shipping boxes for your trading cards, using USPS flat rate pricing options, and how to get free supplies from USPS delivered to your door.
- Thermal Label Printer
- Our primary choice of thermal label printer for shipping labels. It’s compact, super fast, and pretty affordable.
- Shipping Scale
- When to use a shipping scale to weigh packages and determine accurate pricing.
Best Bubble Mailers for Sports Cards
Bubble mailers are an essential supply for any sports card collector shipping cards across the globe. It’s not a matter of whether you need them, but how many you should buy.
Typically bubble mailers come in 50 or 100 packs, as the link to Amazon offers. They’re an affordable staple for shipping baseball cards priced at roughly 20 cents each.
The number one use of a bubble mailer is to send a single card in a top loader, or multiple cards via USPS first class shipping, for example. I regularly use them to ship raw cards as well (e.g. ungraded so they’re not encased by an authenticator like PSA or BGS), or when shipping a single graded card.
Shipping with bubble mailers will still require additional, rigid protection surrounding your card(s). A common practice for collectors is to use bubble mailers for extra padding by placing the card inside, and subsequently placing the bubble mailer into a box for durable protection. We’ll discuss this in more detail in sections below to learn how to pack, tape, and ultimately protect your cards from tampering or movement during transit.
First, let’s start with card holders (e.g. top loaders) as they are a critical foundation for shipping baseball cards.
Card Holders to use When Shipping Baseball Cards
There are many types of baseball card cases with each having its own advantages, and disadvantages, when it comes to storing, and/or shipping trading cards. The two we’ll cover in this post that are used most often when shipping are trading card sleeves, and top loaders.
Using Trading Card Sleeves When Shipping Cards
Trading card sleeves, or penny sleeves, are another must-have supply for baseball card collectors. They serve the very bare minimum of protection for storing and protecting cards from dust and surface scratches.
Trading card sleeves are also critical for providing extra friction when also used in conjunction with a top loader. The additional thickness provided by the sleeve helps keep the card from shuffling easily inside the top loader or card saver. This is very important when cards are moving around heavily during shipping.
Using Top Loaders When Shipping Cards
When it comes to shipping best practices, it’s very common to place a trading card into a penny sleeve, and then into top loader as mentioned above. Additionally, placing the top loader into a bubble mailer, and finally into a box adds several layers of protection when shipping your prized baseball cards.
Top loaders are indeed another must-have baseball card product you will need when shipping baseball cards. They’re durable, and affordable enough that you won’t feel too bad when shipping cards in top loaders. I commonly use top loaders when selling cards on eBay for this reason. They’re also easy to seal using painter’s tape or scotch tape, which is the next section we will discuss.
Best Tape to Buy When Shipping Baseball Cards
Tape is obviously going to be necessary when shipping cards. Bubble mailers and shipping boxes provided by USPS (e.g. flat rate small or medium sized boxes) already have durable adhesive seals, although taping around the edges of the box ensures no tampering of your shipments.
The three types of tape I personally use are painter’s tape, scotch tape or packing tape, and tamper-evident tape.
How to Use Painter’s Tape When Shipping Baseball Cards
First and foremost, the reason for using painter’s tape to seal the top of the top loader is to secure the baseball card in place so it doesn’t bounce out during shipping.
So why do I use painter’s tape in particular? Because it makes it super easy for your buyer to remove the tape upon receiving the package without creating a sticky mess of residue on the top loader.
Otherwise, it can be really frustrating when a shipper uses scotch tape that melts onto the top loader case making it borderline unusable. Since painter’s tape is easy to remove, it’s a great choice of tape for inside the package, but definitely not recommended for the outside of the package as it’s not durable enough and likely much easier to tamper with.
Again, only use painter’s tape on the inside of the package to secure the card within the top loader, and between other rigid material (e.g. cardboard pieces). We’ll discuss this further as we delve into shipping trading cards in detail using the supplies recommended.
Best Use of Scotch or Packing Tape When Shipping Baseball Cards
Packing tape, or scotch tape (an eponym), is best used for sealing cardboard shipping boxes and bubble mailers given its strong adhesive.
The durability of packing tape ensures your sports card shipments do not open when handled by the courier. Also, when removed, packing tape shows obvious signs of wear on the package and can be an indication that the package was opened and resealed during transit. Always inspect packages upon receipt to ensure they appear to be in their original packing form.
Buying packing tape with the built in dispenser makes it much easier to seal packages quickly if you’re an avid eBay seller shipping a high volume of trading cards. Highly recommended, but slightly more expensive — it’s worth it though!
How to Use Tamper-evident Tape When Shipping Baseball Cards
Tamper-evident tape can be used in place of, or in addition to, packing tape on the package exterior. Tamper-evident tape, as its name suggests, will leave an obvious trail of tape behind when pulled off your shipping package. Its removal is far more noticeable than general packing tape, as shown in the quick demo below.
Tamper-evident tape also acts as a preemptive deterrence to any person thinking of doing any funny business with your package. Some argue using this kind of tape is like placing a bullseye on your high-value sports card package, however I always recommend using insurance for valuable packages and consider this to be a minor concern.
The price of tamper-proof tape can be more than normal packing type given its security capabilities. I recommend to use it sparingly to seal edges of a package or bubble mailer but not for sealing the entire package. For example, use enough scotch tape to tightly secure a package from all angles, but then add a slice of tamper-evident tape at the opening crevice and the side edges where the box or bubble mailer opens. You can alternatively use tamper-proof seals as opposed to tape as well, if desired.
Packing Materials (AKA Dunnage) with Sports Cards Shipments
Packing materials will be necessary to pack baseball cards tightly into a box to ensure no movement during transit. Otherwise, even a little movement can risk damage to your cards during delivery.
There are many types of packing materials — essentially anything that can be used to fill empty space qualifies as dunnage. Some of the most common types of dunnage include::
- Bubble wrap
- Packing paper
- Packing peanuts
- Scrap paper received in the mail, air pillows, etc.
I frequently keep packing materials I receive with inbound shipments from other sellers in a ‘junk drawer’ so I do not need to buy new materials often. And, reusing dunnage is good for the environment 🙂
Here are some Amazon quick links to the primary kind of dunnage I buy:
Shipping Boxes and Envelopes for Baseball Cards, Including Free Supplies From USPS
USPS offers flat rate pricing for shipping using their Priority Mail service. I traditionally use the small flat rate box (pictured below), which is great when shipping a single trading card or just a handful of trading cards. It also works well using our recommended approach of placing a sports card into a top loader (or simply when shipping a graded card), then into a bubble mailer, then finally into a small flat rate box.
Flat rate shipping boxes help streamline packing and shipping many sports cards quickly given they are predictable in size, weight allowed (up to 70 lbs), and pricing. It’s easier to assemble cards into boxes and get them into the USPS’s hands versus measuring or weighing custom-sized boxes. You can also drop off packages right at the post office, or even at any third party shipping retailer. USPS also offers free pickup of packages that are ready to ship.
With their flat rate service, the USPS offers free shipping supplies, including envelopes, small, medium, and large boxes, and even sticker labels to adhere to packages. Supplies can be delivered right to your door by your mailman or mailwoman.
The convenience afforded by using USPS will work for most shippers of sports cards that are not concerned with small differences in price as a trade off for the convenience of quick shipping and handling. However, if you’re shipping bubbler mailers via first class, or a business shipping a lot of volume (e.g. a sports card retailer or online store), you can consider a thermal shipping label printer and weight scale, which we cover in the following two sections.
Comer Thermal Shipping Label Printer (Model RE418)
I personally use the Comer thermal shipping label printer for most of my baseball card shipments. It’s compact, super fast (prints shipping labels in 1 second), and does not require ink or toner. The printer also starts up really quickly and plugs into my iMac via USB without any trouble.
The Comer printer uses 4×6 inch shipping labels, which are approximately 3 cents each when purchasing two rolls of 350 labels each (700 total labels).
Using a thermal label printer allows you to package your baseball cards right at home, calculate pricing, pay, and print labels without needing to ever step into a post office. If you’ve ever been to the post office you know how slow the process can be, not unlike going to the DMV to renew your license — it’s brutal.
I highly recommend this printer with the accompanying 4×6 labels even if you’re doing light volume of baseball card shipments.
Best Shipping Scale to Use When Shipping Sports Card Packages
A shipping scale will come in handy when you’re shipping a complete set of baseball cards, large lots of sports cards, sealed trading card or Pokémon wax boxes, or just any package that requires its own custom-sized box and weight requirements.
The #1 best selling digital shipping scale is ACCUTECK, as it is a great choice given it’s digital, affordable, and very easy to use.
I use the same scale when my sports cards shipments do not adhere to USPS flat rate shipping options and compare shipping quotes specifically for my package for the best quote. We’ll cover this in detail below for determining shipping costs.
How to Ship a Single Trading Card
Now that we’ve covered the supplies necessary to ship baseball cards, let’s connect all the dots to learn the best way to ship a single trading card properly.
Earlier we mentioned how a raw card can be placed into a penny sleeve, then a top loader to prepare it for shipment. The top edge of the top loader where the card is inserted is now sealed with painter’s tape as shown. This prevents the card from flying out of the top loader during transit.
Next, let’s assume in this example this card will be shipping in a bubble mailer only (no box). Let’s take two rigid pieces of cardboard and cut them to be slightly larger than the top loaded basketball card. This will create a shell for the card to sit in between and protect it further from any bending, or corner dings.
With the card in the top loader, we will use packing tape to sandwich the card tightly between our two pieces of cardboard. Notice each side of the rectangle we have formed has been taped.
Here is a side profile of our card sandwich:
Our sports card is now ready to drop into a bubble mailer.
Seal the bubble mailer by removing the peel from the adhesive, and let’s tape the closure with some tamper-evident tape as such:
The last step in preparing our sports card shipment — aside from dropping it off at the post office — is to print a label sticker using our thermal label printer and placing it on the bubble mailer we have assembled. You can alternatively write the recipient’s address directly on the bubble mailer, or on a USPS label sticker.
Note: it’s best to place the address label on the side where the bubble mailer opens (as shown), as this provides additional protection by acting as another layer of seal on top of the tamper-evident tape, and the bubble mailer’s own adhesive seal.
What’s the best way to ship a graded card slab?
We would effectively follow the same steps we did in the section above, except our cardboard cutouts would be sized to cover the graded card slab instead. Also, we will place the bubble mailer into a small flat rate box for durable protection, and affix the address label on the outside of the flat rate box this time.
Here is a view of the card within a bubble mailer, and surrounded by some bubble wrap for a snug fit. Tip: close the box with your hand without sealing it, and shake it to ensure the contends do not shift around. If the contents move even slightly, it’s better to add a little more packing material just to be safe.
Now that we’re confident the package is ready to seal, we’ll place tamper-evident tape around all the edges of the small flat rate box where there are seams. Normally this involves taping three edges, including the primary flap where the box opens and closes, along with each side edge of the same flap closure.
Don’t forget to add the recipient’s shipping address in the designated From: and To: areas of the flat rate box, or simply affix the shipping sticker label printed using our handy thermal label printer.
How to Ship Multiple Trading Cards
When shipping a high quantity of baseball cards (e.g. a complete baseball card set), a small flat rate box or bubble mailer is too small for the job.
For starters, let’s assume you’re shipping a 200-card trading card set. If each card in the set is in a top loader or penny sleeve, ideally you can place it into a cardboard storage box with rows. Make sure the contents of the box do not shuffle around by placing bubble wrap or similar dunnage in excess spaces, and seal the box with packing tape when complete.
Next, you’ll need to find a shipping box that is large enough to place the baseball set box we just sealed into it. Amazon offers a variety of cardboard box sizes, or you can try a medium or large flat rate box through the USPS if the costs are fair (read below to learn how to get multiple shipping courier price quotes based on package size, weight, and speed of delivery).
How Much Does it Cost to Ship Baseball Cards?
Earlier we discussed how USPS offers flat rate pricing when using their Priority Mail service, along with free shipping envelopes and boxes. But sometimes it pays to shop around among different shipping couriers to find the best rate for your shipment.
ShipStation via PayPal is a great tool to obtain a price quote among different shipping couriers from one single interface. All it takes is entering the recipient address, dimensions of the shipment, and weight, and ShipStation will display pricing for each courier based on service level (e.g. express mail via USPS, first class, UPS or FedEx 2 day delivery, etc.).
In the example shown, we have chosen a custom package and entered dimensions for a box that is 7x7x7 inches all around. This hypothetical package is 2 pounds and 4 oz, which we obtained using our shipping scale, of course. We were given choices for delivery confirmation, signature, and insurance, although we chose none for each.
It is important to consider whether you need delivery confirmation, a signature, or specifically an adult signature when the package is delivered to the intended recipient. At a minimum, it is recommended to obtain delivery confirmation for most package shipments.
If you frequently sell sports cards on eBay, they have a Seller Protection program which has specific signature requirements based on the value of the shipment and country/location you’re sending to. For example, if the order total is $750 or greater and being shipped to a U.S. based address, you’re required to get signature confirmation to be protected under the seller protection program in the event the buyer claims the card was not received. Keep this in mind when selecting signature confirmation in the ShipStation quote system (it also includes delivery confirmation, too).
When adding insurance, expect to pay much higher costs for your sports card shipments. The cost of your shipment will jump two to five times (or more) higher if you add insurance. In the example quoted above, adding insurance of $500 increased the USPS 2-day Priority mail from $13.17 to $21.77. At $1,000 of insurance, the cost jumps to $31.67. And finally, adding $2,000 of insurance will take the original $13.17 quote all the way up to $49.17. Needless to say, be selective when choosing to insure sports card packages. The eBay seller protection program offers some comfort when followed verbatim, although expect to pay a lot more when fully insuring shipments.
How to Keep Costs Low When Shipping less Valuable Cards
The eBay standard envelope service is likely the cheapest way to ship baseball cards. The service costs between $0.60 and $1.08 per envelope based on weight ranging from 1 to 3 ounces. They ballpark approximately 15 raw cards would be shippable using the program, or two cards in top loaders since they’re heavier in card holders. Graded cards are not accepted.
In the event a shipment does not arrive, the eBay standard envelope service includes $20 of shipping protection for a single card order, or $50 for multiple cards in the same shipment. Package tracking is also included with the service, which is fulfilled by USPS. Keep in mind if an eBay sale goes over $20 in value, the program will not be eligible for use, and the seller will need to ship through a different option. Nonetheless, eBay’s envelope program is a worthy low-cost service worth exploring if you’re an avid eBay seller shipping low-value cards.
Outside of using the standard envelope with eBay, bubble mailers via USPS first class shipping will normally cost around $2 to $5 per package to most U.S. based addresses. This assumes only a card or two in the package (graded or top loaded), no signature confirmation, no insurance, or any other premium services.
As we discussed in the section above, comparing shipping prices from multiple shipping couriers through ShipStation is highly recommended to find the best rate possible otherwise.
Tips, Dos, and Don’ts for Shipping Baseball Cards
Alas, you have made it to the bottom of our comprehensive how-to guide for shipping baseball cards. The following tips and tricks are key pointers to ensure you’re well on your way to becoming a shipping expert!
Baseball Card Shipping Tips:
- Use new boxes and packages when shipping. While reuse of packages is more cost efficient, using new packages makes it much easier to spot whether a package was opened, inspected, and resealed versus using boxes or envelopes having prior wear and tear.
- Take pictures of the contents of your shipment, including the card in its top loader or case, and all sides of the final package once assembled. Refer to our section about shipping a single card for inspiration, although no need to get carried away like we did. The pictures (or video if possible) will serve as your evidence of shipping like a professional in the event an issue arrises and a claim is filed by the buyer.
- Send a picture of the assembled package to your buyer, along with tracking, if applicable. Your buyer will appreciate a picture that shows the effort you put into packing their order, and tracking for them to follow along until the package arrives. More importantly, they get to see exactly what the package looks like before it heads to the post office, and can identify any changes in labeling, packing or tamper-evident tape, etc.
- Avoid paying for shipping services directly at courier locations such as FedEx and UPS unless you can confirm the quote online. The markup in shipping costs is substantial when you head to a UPS retail store, so it’s best to quote prices online using ShipStation for the best rates possible.
- Keep scrap material as reusable dunnage versus paying for new packing materials. You’d be surprised how much weekly marketing mailers, bubble wrap, beat-up bubble mailers, packing paper, etc. comes along with your own mail that can be reused as dunnage for your shipments to save on costs.