A lot of collecting is done through the mail now. With the Internet, collectors are able to connect with each other like never before. That’s a good thing. It also means that good mail etiquette is extremely important.
Whether you’re selling or trading, it’s important that you send things safely. And while there’s no exact science to shipping cards, some methods are better than others. You’ve likely experienced some highs and lows when you’ve opened your mail.
Here are some things to consider and mistakes to avoid when shipping cards in the mail.
Practice safe shipping. Use some protection.
You would think that it’d be obvious that even the newest collector shipping cards for the first time would think to use some sort of protection on their cards. Yet, there have been a few times where I’ve received cards that are simply tossed in an envelope and left to the graces of the postal gods. And while these cards have made it to me, they often show signs of a long, tough journey.
Without something as basic as a penny sleeve and a top loader, you’re leaving yourself open to easy damage and unhappy buyers and trading partners.
No siree to the PWE!
Plain white envelope is often a dirty word when it comes to sending cards through the mail. They may cheap and easy to find around the house, but they also offer very little protection. Bent, crumpled, ripped open – these are just some of the horror stories collectors have dealing with the dreaded PWE.
These envelopes are intended for pieces of paper like bills and letters from Aunt Petunia. Even a top loader can be enough weight to cause havoc in a busy postal system.
If you’re mailing a friend the last couple of commons they need to finish a set, a PWE is probably okay. A small bubble mailer is a much smarter option, though.
Even the finest Scotch is bad when shipping cards.
One of the most common practices when it comes to shipping cards is placing a piece of tape across the top of a top loader. This is meant to stop the card from slipping out. In theory, this is smart, but there are a couple of things to consider.
Scotch tape is what I see the most. It’s what I used to use. However, it’s wasteful. When I receive a card for my personal collection, I don’t want to have it stored with a big piece of tape on the top loader. When I go to peel the tape off, there’s usually some goop left behind. Not only does it look bad, but it can lead to top loaders sticking together. Worse still is when I’m able to get some of the tape off easily, but not all of it. Now there’s a mix of goop, tape and stickiness.
I also get a lot of cards that have stronger packing tape across the top loader. This has the same issues as Scotch tape and more. Scotch taped top loaders is pretty easy to get into. Most of the time you just have to tear into it and it opens right up. Packing tape is different. I need a knife or scissors to open it. There’s a little added risk that the knife can slip and end up leaving a nasty nick in the top of the card.
Rather than using Scotch tape or packing tape, consider masking tape. It’s plenty strong but when it’s peeled off, it doesn’t leave a sticky residue. It’s also easier to peel off.
If you want to win bonus points with the collector you sold to or traded with, fold a small tab at one end of the tape. This makes it even easier to peel off.
My preferred way to send cards in top loaders isn’t to use tape at all. I use team bags. They do a great job of keeping the cards from slipping. They’re also very affordable and available in bulk.
Leave the door open a crack.
Protecting cards against the monsters of the postal system is a good thing. But don’t be like the overprotective parent that makes their kids where knee pads on the jungle gym. Taping everything can actually be dangerous. If there’s no way to get into a parcel, the receiver risks cutting into the cards.
Boxes are generally okay. The cardboard might be a casualty, but they’re easily replaced. What’s worse is the card that’s completely entombed in plastic wrap. Doubly dangerous is a card that’s been entombed with strong packaging tape.
When you’re getting things ready to mail, leave an obvious road into the package. Be safe, but be reasonable as well. Who knows, you might even save a buck or two on supplies every year.
Beware the corners with cardboard boxes.
When it comes to shipping cards in bulk, like sets and team lots, there’s little choice but to use card boxes. It’s a common practice that’s fine, but you need to take a couple of simple steps to make sure a bunch of the cards don’t end up with damaged corners.
While in process, parcels get tossed around as they go from one place to another. While the postal system does their best to take care of things, there is some basic wear and tear. That means that it’s up to us to take some small precautions.
The main goal of packing a box of cards is to make sure there’s no room for them to move. Most people I’ve dealt with over the years have done a great job of making sure there’s no back and forth shifting, usually with bubble wrap or packing peanuts. However, there’s still a small part of the box that needs protecting, the edges along the top and bottom.
Even though this space is small, it’s easy for the cards to shift back and forth. A tumble off a shelf or a hard toss into a mail box and a good chunk of cards will have a mashed corner.
When I ship in card boxes, I fold up a couple pieces of paper to give some added protection along the edges. Normally, it doesn’t take more than a couple pieces along each edge to do the job.
If you want to be even safer, pack the box well and place it in a bigger box. This will give plenty of protection. That said, the added size could make shipping fees higher.
Commonly Used Supplies for Shipping Cards
Here’s a list of some of the common things you should have on hand when shipping cards (click on the links to shop for what you need on Amazon).
- Small Bubble Mailers – ideal when sending only a couple of cards.
- Larger Bubble Mailers – good for sending about 100 cards or less.
- Cardboard Card Boxes – For bulk lots and sets.
- Masking Tape
- Team Bags
- Top Loaders
- Postage Scale
The biggest thing to consider about shipping cards through the mail is that you’re doing your best to keep them safe. At the end of the day, it’s your responsibility to ensure they get there in the expected condition. If you cut corners or are lazy, expect to have a harder time getting strong bids on eBay or finding trading partners online.
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