Selling sports cards online has become the most popular way to sell or get rid of unwanted cards. Of course when you sell sports cards online, you’re going to have to ship them to the buyer. Many sellers practice safe shipping methods, but for some sellers, shipping is still a challenge. Poorly packaged cards can easily be damaged while in custody of the postal service. As USPS sorts through thousands of packages each day and handling packages carefully becomes less of a priority for them. That’s why the seller needs to ensure that the sports cards are packed with enough care to arrive to the customer safely. If you’re new to selling sports cards online or just want to refine your shipping skills, read below for some good tips on how to ship sports cards safely in the mail.
There’s three main reasons why sports cards are not packaged properly and get damaged.
- The Seller is trying to ship on a budget or cut cost.
- The seller does not want to put in the time and effort it takes to package sports cards safely.
- The seller lacks the knowledge of how to safely pack sports cards to ship.
Packaging sports cards safely is actually inexpensive. With that stated, cost should not be a factor in shipping sports cards to the buyer. You need to protect your product and if you’re not willing to spend roughly fifty cents (most of the times less) on shipping supplies, you’re going to eventually have issues with packages being damaged upon delivery. The same goes for not wanting to take the time to ensure cards are packaged safely. A philosophy I have is “If you don’t have the time to safely package cards to ship, you don’t have time to sell sports cards in the first place.” The last reason is becoming the most common reason cards are not reaching their destination safely. Many sellers are new to shipping sports cards and just don’t know how to ship them safely. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to ship out sports cards to better ensure that they arrive to the buyer safely.
1 Bubble Mailer
1 3 x 4 Penny Sleeve
1 3 x 4 Toploader
1 Team Bag (Or Painters / Masking Tape)
2 Pieces of Cardboard (Slightly Larger than toploader)
Scotch Tape ( I prefer invisible tape)
2 Strips of paper as wide as toploader (optional)
I prefer team bags over taping toploaders closed due to it looking a lot neater and more professional. A pack of 100 team bags will cost roughly four dollars and that averages out to four cents per team bag. Scotch tape should not be used to secure cards in a toploader as it leaves a sticky residue behind as well as risks damage to the card when a buyer attempts to remove it. I always use strips of newspaper along with a team bag to add extra security so the card will not slip out, but it isn’t necessary. Cardboard should be used in every package as it provides more stability. The cardboard will work as a brace to keep your sports cards from bending and will also absorb any weight that is placed on your package during shipping.
PACKING SINGLE CARDS:
Now that you have the supplies needed to ship your sports cards, now it’s time to pack them up to get ready to ship out. Below are the steps needed to get your package ready to send to the Post Office.
- Fill out the address on the bubble mailer before inserting contents.
- Place card in penny sleeve.
- Place card in toploader.
- Place card into a team bag.
- Cover the team bag with strips of paper and securing it using scotch tape. (Again, optional step).
- Use cardboard on both sides of the toploader to sandwich the card.
- Place the card into the bubble mailer and seal it.
- Use scotch tape around the flap of the bubble mailer to provide more security.
- After shipment, send the buyer the tracking number ASAP.
Note: If shipping multiple cards, place each card in their own penny sleeve and toploader then proceed to step #4. Team bags will usually hold up to five toploaders.
The eight steps listed above are all there is to safely packing up a card to ship. This process only takes a couple of minutes to execute. It may take a little longer if it is your first time packing up sports cards to ship out, but the process will become quicker as you pack up more cards and are properly prepared with supplies. Also, take more care into packing up thicker sports cards. Being thicker, they have no flexibility to them and will crease even with the slightest amount of pressure.
Here is a good deal to use as a starter pack for shipping supplies. 200 team bags, toploaders, and penny sleeves. This averages out to around eleven cents per card.
PACKING BULK CARDS:
Sometimes sellers will sell many single cards or they will sell sports cards in a lot. The quantity of cards shipped will determine if you can still ship in a bubble mailer or a box. My rule of thumb is I’ll ship up to fifty cards in a large bubble mailer. Anything more than that will be shipped in a box. The USPS offers three different sizes of flat rate priority boxes. These boxes work very well for shipping sports cards if packed properly. Small trading card boxes can be great at securing your sports cards and some will even fit inside a large bubble mailer. When you ship sports cards in bulk, you need to show the same card as you would with a single card in a bubble mailer. Below is a good system on how to package cards in bulk.
In a Bubble Mailer:
- Address the bubble mailer.
- Place all cards in a penny sleeve.
- Place cards in a team bag (team bags will hold 25 to 30 cards and will hold about 5 toploaders).
- Sandwich the team bag between two pieces of cardboard.
- Place the cards in the bubble mailer. I’ll place two packs of 25 cards side-by-side in a larger bubble mailer. I’ll also use two pieces of cardboard long enough two protect both packs of sports cards.
- Seal the flap of the bubble mailer.
- Use Scotch tape around the edges of the flap to add a better seal.
- After shipment, send the buyer the tracking number ASAP.
In a Box:
- Follow steps 1 thru 4 above.
- Place bubble wrap evenly in the bottom of the box.
- Place your secured cards evenly in the box.
- If you have to stack cards on top of each other, use cardboard or bubble wrap between each layer.
- Fill in any gaps in the box with a filler like paper, bubble wrap, packing foam, packing peanuts, etc. all the way to the top.
- Close the flaps of the box and seal it with packing tape.
- Use fragile stickers or have the postal clerk mark “Fragile” on at least two sides and the top of the box.
- After shipment, send the buyer the tracking number ASAP.
Be sure to pack the cards as tightly as possible inside the box from top to bottom and on all sides. Packing cards loosely could cause them to hop around inside the box during transit and could cause damage to the cards.
SEND THE BUYER THE TRACKING NUMBER ASAP:
The tracking number is your lifeline to determine if the buyer has received the cards or not. If the USPS happens to lose your package, the tracking number is going to help determine where the package is and what happened to it. Don’t take your tracking receipt for granted. That little piece of paper is easy to lose. If you have a smart phone, take a picture of the tracking number on the receipt and send it via message to the buyer or enter it on the proper website in the parking lot before you leave the post office. Doing so literally takes less than a minute and can save you some headache down the road.
SHIPPING CARDS IN A PWE:
If you don’t know what PWE stands for, it is short for a Plain White Envelope and is a big no-no as a shipping method to many collectors. However, it can be an economically efficient way to ship cheaper cards. If done properly. Paying around $2.50 to ship a card that sells for a buck or so would leave the seller in the red and most likely would either eliminate cheaper sports cards being sold online altogether or they will cost the buyer a couple times more than what the card is worth. This is a big gamble for the seller as no tracking number will be provided, but a proper packing job usually arrives safely and works out for both parties. I will ship in a PWE at times and I have a threshold I go by in doing so. First off, I do not charge the buyer shipping cost on any card that I ship in a PWE. Second, the card has to sell for $2.50 or less. Anything that sells for over $2.50, I ship out in a bubble mailer. If you ship sports cards in a PWE, you should never charge the buyer over seventy-five cents for shipping cost. Don’t charge the same price to ship a card in a PWE as you do a bubble mailer. Offering free shipping in a PWE is preferred. You can even ship sports cards safely, but there are certain obstacles you will have to avoid. Shipping in a PWE can be risky, but following these steps can ensure your card arrives to the customer safely.
- Address the envelope.
- Place the card in a penny sleeve.
- Place the card in a toploader.
- Place the card in a team bag.
- Wrap 2 strips of newspaper around the card
- Insert the card in the envelope.
- Close the envelope flap and seal it.
- Use Scotch tape on the flap for an even more secure seal.
- You want the envelope as flat as possible.
- Don’t ship no more than three cards in a PWE. Shipping only one per PWE is preferred though.
Note: If you happen to ship two or maybe three cards in a PWE, have the postal clerk stamp the envelope non-machinable. It’s a twenty-two cent surcharge. Sending more than one card in a PWE is too risky to go through the mail sorting machine. Some people stick two cards in one toploader, but I don’t use that method as it can be harder to get the cards out of the toploader and could cause damage to the cards.
A PWE will go through a mail sorting machine so you want the envelope as flat as possible to prevent it from being bent or caught in the machine, which will definitely cause damage to the card. Make sure the address is legible on the envelope and double-check the address ensure it’s correct. If someone in the household has better handwriting than you, ask them to write the address on the envelope. Remember, tracking isn’t provided so there will be no bar code for the post office to go by.
TIME SAVING SHIPPING TIPS:
Granted that mail handlers with the post office can often be careless with your package, most shipping mishaps with sports cards could have been prevented with proper care while packing up the items. Time is usually the reason sports cards are shipped carelessly. Sellers can get busy between shipping out numerous items among other things in life that can take time away. Sellers need to remember that the package is THEIR responsibility until it reaches the customer. Here’s a few tips that can save you some time and give you the opportunity to package all of your sold items with care.
- Organize everything you have listed for sale. The quicker you can find items that have sold, the easier and quicker it will be to ship items out.
- Have all of your supplies needed to ship out sports cards in stock and sorted out. Cut out cardboard pieces in advance.
- Write down your return address on bubble mailers in advance if you anticipate selling a lot of items. If you get personalized labels from non-profit organizations asking for donations, use them.
- Try to avoid the post office around normal lunch hours (noon). Clerks are usually cycling through their breaks and are shorthanded. A lot of customers patron the post office at that time as well.
- Print out the shipping label at home using a service like PayPal or Stamps.com. That will save you time at the post office. You can even have your mail carrier pick up the packages at your home.
CUSTOMER SERVICE INCLUDES SHIPPING:
Shipping is the most important part of a seller’s reputation. Some sellers think that once an item is paid for, they’re done. They think they can take as long as they want to ship the items and it shouldn’t matter. A common excuse used is that they don’t have time to ship promptly. If you don’t have time to ship, YOU DON’T HAVE TIME TO SELL! It’s that simple. Shipping is part of the selling process. Yes it takes time, but that’s how it goes if you sell sports cards online. Shipping out your sports cards promptly and properly is a part of providing good customer service. Keeping in communication with the buyer is also a good practice. Especially during shipping. Communicate and keep everything up front with the buyer. Don’t put yourself in a bind by not shipping the cards in a reasonable amount of time. All cards should go out within two days of receiving payment. If it takes longer to ship, let the buyer know upfront when you will be shipping. Give an exact date and message them the tracking number when you ship. Remember, once money changes hands, the transaction does become a priority in your life. Take pride and proper care when you ship sports cards. Give others the same service you expect.