Nothing gets collectors more riled up than a discussion about “the proper way” to ship sports cards. Some cling to the notion that every card needs to be wrapped in a combination of Kevlar, bubble wrap, and then secured within two levels of priority mail boxes. Others casually toss loose cards in a plain white envelope(PWE) and send them on their way.
So what is the proper method? As with most things in life, the correct answer is somewhere in the middle of those options and ultimately gets answered with, “It Depends.”
Higher end cards should absolutely be well protected and handled with care when shipping. The Utilization of both insurance and tracking protects the interests of both the buyer and seller. However, not every card warrants that level of protection or the expense that comes with it.
There is a time and place for utilizing a good ole’ plain white envelope to brighten someone’s day with a fresh delivery of WaxPackHeroes. The proper utilization of this method creates a cost effective solution for the buying and selling of low end cards. It doesn’t make sense for a set collector to pay a seller $3.50 in shipping to receive a few commons needed to fill out a set. I may want that $1 Kris Bryant card for my PC and would be willing to pay $2 including shipping, but no way am I going to pay $4.50 to get it delivered to my door.
So here for your reading pleasure is the WaxPackHero’s Definitive Guide to PWE Shipping!
1) Get Supplies
In order to safely ship cards in a PWE you will need a handful of supplies. Here’s what you need:
Plain White Envelopes (I use the #10 size with security tint)
Card Savers (optional)
Blue Painters Tape
Thin Cardboard strips
Stamps (both 1oz and 2oz)
Post Office letter sizing template (optional)
2) Size up your order
For a letter to be sent 1st class it needs to weigh less than 3 oz. and be less than 1/4 of an inch thick. My experience has shown I can typically send up to ten cards safely in a PWE. After that, I’ve found that either the envelope is too thick or the weight is too heavy to meet the first class standards.
3) Prepare the shipment
Now that you have your 1-10 card order ready, it’s time to prepare it for shipment and here’s where it gets interesting. There are a number of options and combinations of supplies based on the number and thickness of the cards in your order.
Let’s look at a few:
When I get a single card order I always place the card in a penny sleeve and then place it in a toploader. I use a small strip of painters tape to cover the end to make sure it doesn’t slip out during shipping. I then tape the toploader to the packing slip and fold the paper like you would a standard letter.
There are a couple options here. Sometimes two cards in penny sleeves will fit in a toploader. If they fit, feel free to use this method. If I happen to have some used “card savers” lying around I will also use those to put the sleeved cards in. Just be sure to tape the top and then tape the toploader to the packing slip like I described above.
If the cards don’t fit in a toploader then you need to prepare a “Team Bag”. Put each card in a penny sleeve. Put one card in toploader and stack the other cards behind it. At the bottom of the stack I place a toploader sized piece of cardboard, and then I put the whole stack into a Team Bag. Tape the team bag to the packing slip and you’re set.
Six -Ten Cards:
Once you get to six cards you need to make two team bags as outlined above using a slight variation of the cardboard backing. For this preparation I make two team bags with an equal toploaded and penny sleeved stack in each. I then tape the two team bags to a longer strip of cardboard end to end. After that, insert the cards into the folded packing slip.
I always address my envelopes prior to inserting the cards. I want to be sure that the pressure of the pen doesn’t do any unnecessary damage to the cards or toploaders. For shipments of 2-10 cards, I also write “photo - do not bend” on the front and back of the envelope.
4) Apply Postage
Now that your packages are prepared, it’s time to figure out how much postage to apply. For a standard single card in a standard size toploader, you can get away with a single stamp. The card is protected and the envelope is still flexible enough to be machine sorted. If the card is thick like Museum you will need to apply a “2 oz” or “non-machinable” stamp.
For the most part, I always send two or more cards as non-machinable. You can either use a postage scale or a kitchen scale to find out how much your letters weigh. Letters up to 1 oz can use a single “2 oz” or “non-machinable” stamp. If it falls between 1 oz and 2oz you can put two first class forever stamps on it. Finally, if it is between 2 oz and 3 oz you put on both a “non-machinable” and a forever stamp.
5) Mail Away
The final step seems straightforward, and typically I just drop them in my mailbox. However, sometimes you may need to take precautions depending on how your mail gets picked up. I have a traditional outdoor mailbox, so if it is rainy or snowy outside, I will typically drop the letters at either the post office or into the outgoing mailbox at my office. I don’t want the paper envelopes exposed to the unnecessary moisture. Other people I know feel their outgoing mail is more secure if dropped off directly at the post office.
Typically I use the PWE method for orders containing ten or less cards and whose value is about $5 or less.
You may hear fears of damaged cards and claims of undelivered mail. Dire warnings of getting your eBay account shut down from negative feedback are shared by those who hold the “bubble mailer only” perspective.
First of all, I almost always use the “free shipping” option in my eBay listings and I clearly indicate that I am planning to ship via a PWE. On Sportlots the “budget” option essentially specifies that cards will come via PWE.
In over 2,000 orders between eBay and Sportlots I have 100% positive feedback and have somewhere between 5-10 claims of the package not arriving or being damaged in shipment. I’m willing to eat the cost of those few items for the ability to generate thousands of orders. As long as you are clear with your shipping methods, you should be fine from a feedback perspective.
Selling base, inserts, and other low end cards is foundational to offsetting as much of the cost as possible of busting wax or buying collections, and effectively shipping these cards via PWE might be the single most effective tool in enabling you to do so. If you do it right, you have a chance to break even or maybe even earn a profit.
If you liked this idea, read about some other ideas I have to help grow the Sports Card Industry here!
Pro PWE? Anti-PWE? Let me know in the comments section below.
And as always I appreciate your help in getting the word out by sharing the blog with your friends!