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Book Title: The Sports Card Collectors Guide to Trading on the Internet

CONTENTS
(Book cover)

Chapter 1 - Now that’s progress!
Chapter 2 -
Tools required
Chapter 3 - How to trade
Chapter 4 - Packing and shipping
Chapter 5 - After the trade: the good, the bad and the…gulp…ugly.
Chapter 6 - Upgrade and MAKE $MONEY$
Chapter 7 - The BIG LIST of “Smart trader tips”
Sports card resources


Chapter 4: Packing and shipping

mailing sports cards

Knowing how to properly protect your baseball cards for shipping is essential if you plan to trade via the internet. There are several ways to pack cards safely; for starters it is a good idea to avoid using a standard envelope for mailing cards. Standard envelopes were designed to hold paper; they were not designed to hold hard plastic top loaders with sports cards enclosed. Consider yourself warned, use standard envelopes and one will eventually wind-up getting damaged or lost in the mail.

Listed below are some of the ways you can package your sports cards; I am only outlining a few that I see used frequently, so keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list of every method. The important thing is to ship your cards in a manner that will keep them from getting damaged during the shipping process. You do not want your sports cards to shift around allowing for the corners and edges to get dinged or the surface to get scratched.

Before learning how exactly to package your cards, it will be important for you to understand a few key components of basic card storage. These items historically have been used for card storage are a perfect set of tools to use for card shipping.

There are several good companies that manufacture these supplies. You will usually find these products available at your local baseball card shop or at the actual sports card storage distributor web sites such as www.ultrapro.com and www.bcwsupplies.com.

Top loaders
Top loaders are hard or semi-hard plastic holders for your cards. They are called top loaders because they are open on the top for you to slide your card into. They come in various sizes; some are thicker than others so that you can fit thicker cards into them. You’ll need to use a bit larger top loader when dealing with some of the thicker game used cards coming out these days. If you try to cram a thick card into a tight/thin top loader you risk damaging the card!

Here are a few models of top loaders:
3x4 top loader (semi ridged)
3x5 top loader Stock (semi ridged and good for those thicker cards)
3x4 top loader super thick (again, good for those thick cards)

Soft Sleeves
A soft sleeve is a clear soft cover for you to slide your card into. Usually people will put their cards into a soft sleeve first and then into the top loader. To help protect your cards, you will want to make sure that your soft sleeves have no PVC and are Acid Free.

Hinged boxes (15 card size)
These are great for shipping 1 thick baseball card or a couple of medium thick game used cards. You might want to stick a small piece of Styrofoam in along with the card to keep it from shifting around, but overall these are great.
 

Team bags
These are kind of like little zip lock sandwich bag only they are made for cards. There is a little strip that you peal off and then fold over to seal the bag shut.

Graded Card Sleeves
These are like the team bags only longer. These are great for putting graded cards into or un-circulated cards into. Graded cards and un-circulated cards are protected by a clear hard plastic case. The graded card sleeves can be used to keep those protective hard plastic cases from getting scratched up.

Card boxes
These handy boxes come in many different sized. Any good sports card shop will have them for you. If you are sending a large number of cards or an entire set you will want to use these card boxes.

Screw down card holders
These are a fancier card holder that come with screws to help them stay held together. I do not see too many of these used for shipping cards, but some people use them.

Bubble wrap/cushioned mailers – size #000 or similar padded mailer. You can get a good quantity of these at your local office supply store. Grab a box of 25 of these to get started.

Common packing methods

1. Basic packaging method.
This is the most common card packaging method I see being used. It might vary a little from trader to trader but the core method is the same. You can use this method for 1-10+ cards.

A. Put each card into a soft sleeve then place each card into its own top loader.
B. Put the top loaders into a team bag so that the cards do not slide out of the top loaders. You can fit more than one into a team bag or you can put each top loader into its own team bag. You can also skip the team bag for this step and just tape the top loader closed. I prefer to use a "Team bag" instead of tape; when you start to use tape to keep your top loader closed the tape leaves a residue which is a bit obnoxious and makes reusing those top loaders less appealing.
C. Print out the email message that details what you agreed to and include it in the padded mailer along with a thank you note. Having this printout helps the person receiving the cards immediately identify who sent the cards and the terms of the trade.
D. Place the top loaders into a bubble wrap/cushioned mailer.
E. Write "do not bend" or "Do not bend photographs enclosed" on the envelope, this will help remind the series of people who handle your item to use care when handling your piece of mail.

2. Good methods to use with 5-15 cards.
The easiest thing to do when shipping this amount of cards is to send them in a small plastic “hinged box”. Use a small piece of Styrofoam to take hold your cards securely inside the hinged box and tape it closed; combined this with items C, D, and E from the basic method above to complete the job.

3. Top loader sandwich method:
A. Take your cards and put them into a soft plastic "Team Bag".
B. Fold and tape the sides of the team bag so that they are flush to the cards inside, sort of like wrapping a present; you just want to make it so the cards will not slide around inside of the Team Bag.
C. Sandwich the Team bag between two top loaders. For added security tape the outside of the team bag to the top loaders using folded piece of tape.
D. Tape the top, bottom, and both sides of the top loaders together (with the Team bag in the middle).
E. Place the top loader sandwich into a padded manila envelope.
F. Print out the email message that details what you agreed to and include it in the padded mailer along with a thank you note. Having this printout helps the person receiving the cards immediately identify who sent the cards and the terms of the trade.
G. Write "do not bend" or "Do not bend photographs enclosed" on the envelope, this will help remind the series of people who handle your item to use care when handling your piece of mail.

4. Set or bulk trade packaging
For those times when you are working with a larger volume of cards the goal is the same, pack them securely to avoid their moving around inside of the package while en-route to their destination.

Use a hard plastic card container or a cardboard set box from your local sports card shop. These containers come in all different shapes and sizes and it is best to try to use a container that most closely matches in size the number of cards you are sending. If your cards do not completely fill the container, you are using be sure to use some packing material to fill-up the space inside of the container. Foam pieces or bubble wrap work well for this. Tape your container closed. If you are using a cardboard set box, you can put the shipping address and postage right on the set box or you can put the set box into an additional shipping box for some added security as outlined below.

Place the container inside of a shipping box and fill-up any additional space around the set box with packing material such as Styrofoam peanuts or newspaper. Be sure to add the details of the trade and a thank you note. Before you tape up your box, close it up and give it a shake. If your container inside is moving around at all, open up the box and add more packing material. Repeat this process until it is completely free from movement. Tape up the box with packing tape. Write "fragile" or "handle with care" on the box in order to hopefully provide more protection from damage in the shipping process.

No matter which method you use to package your cards the goal is always the same, keep those cards from getting damaged in the mail! Once you start trading you will see the various methods people use and you will come up with the system that you prefer. It is important for you to remember that not taking the time to package cards your cards properly will quickly earn you the reputation of a careless trader. Play it safe, take the time to package your cards perfectly every time!

Money saving tip!
A great way to keep trading inexpensive it to re-use your packaging supplies including padded mailers, top loaders, soft sleeves, etc.

Shipping Options
Most of the trades that you make will require standard first class mail. This being said, there likely will be times that you will want to add some extra security or traceable shipping method into the mix.

Registered Mail: This is the most secure method of shipping offered by the United State Postal Service. If you are making a very high dollar sports card trade you should seriously consider sending via Registered Mail! Items you send with Registered Mail are placed under tight security from the point of mailing to the point of delivery, and insured up to $25,000 against loss or damage. You can also verify the date and time of delivery and the delivery attempts. The cost to send via Registered Mail starts at $8.00.

Let’s have a look at a few of the other shipping features you can add for some extra protection and or tracking of your package.

Insured Mail:  Adding insurance to your more expensive sports card packages is affordable and smart to do. Insured mail allows you to insure your package from loss or damage for the amount of what the contents are worth. Keep in mind that you are only covered for the actual value at the time and place of mailing. Although using insurance is definitely a good idea and one that many traders use often, it will not offer much protection from a sports card thief who takes your cards and you never hear from them again. This is because that in order for you to qualify for reimbursement from the post office, the person you sent the cards to must state in writing that they did not receive the baseball cards from you. I do not know too many crooks that will write this letter for you. In other words, if someone steals cards from you and you never hear from them again insurance will not help you at all, but if your cards are lost or damaged in the mail having insurance will help a lot!

Delivery Confirmation™ (DC) – Provides date and time of delivery or attempted delivery. Many people use this option because there’s a tracking number that can be looked up online to confirm that the cards were sent and when they were delivered. It does not however guarantee your item will get to its destination. If you use DC, make sure you have the post office do this for you manually instead of using the self-service machines on your own. That way you’ll be sure that your tracking number is scanned into the system.

Signature Confirmation™ – Provides date and time of delivery or attempted delivery, the name of the person who signed for the item, plus signature proof of delivery upon request.

Return Receipt - Provides a postcard with the date of delivery and recipient's signature.

Restricted Delivery - Confirms that only a specified person (or authorized agent) will receive a piece of mail. Only available with Certified Mail, Insured Mail over $50, or Registered Mail.

Sports Cards lost in the mail
Unfortunately cards do occasionally get lost or damaged in the mail. The postal service is amazingly effective but not perfect. People tend to struggle with believing that something can actually get lost in the mail, and when it happens it often becomes an opportunity to accuse someone of being a thief. Take my word for it, items do get lost in the mail! I have spoken to postal workers and postal management numerous times about this topic and can assure you that it does indeed happen. If you have done your home-work and have been reassured by the manager of the site that the person you are trading with is a good trader; it is likely your cards were lost in the mail.

What To Do
Let’s say you made an average value sports card trade and although you shipped them, the person you traded with never received the cards from you. Let’s also say that since this was not a high-end trade you sent via regular first class mail with no traceable shipping method. Here is what you should do to try and resolve this type of problem:

1.      Contact the site manager explaining the situation. You should already have a good idea of the person’s reputation that you are trading with since you are a smart trader and check references before making a trade. You may have even traded several times with this person already!

2.      Let the person you are trading with know that you would like to give it a week to see if the cards finally show up. You would be amazed at how often baseball cards appear 7 to 10 past when they should have been delivered.

3.      If the cards do not show up you should offer to send them replacement cards. Now, here is where the compromise part may come into play. If you are the person who is still waiting for the cards and you know that the guy you are trading with is a good trader you might want to let them know you would be willing to give them some time to find some replacement cards. You might even consider letting them send less than they initially sent or perhaps you would just like to have them send you your cards back and leave it at that. You are not obligated to compromise, but being a little flexible in this situation can be very helpful.

If your cards get damaged in shipping, the post office will return them to you in plastic bag along with the envelope in which they were sent. I have only seen standard envelops become damaged and returned, never a padded mailer. Standard envelopes should not be used to send cards.

Sports Card mailing tips

1.      Make it exact. Have your items metered and weighed by the post office so that you do not pay more than is required for shipping. (Postage rates are continually changing, but as of 2007 you're looking at $1.13 or $1.30 in postage for your average #000 bubble mailer.)

2.      Save time by getting a postage scale and buying stamps online, have the post office deliver stamps to your home, or use the self serve postal kiosks now at most post offices.

3.      You can also get a P.O. Box. Though only a small percentage of traders do this, it serves as a safety measure as you avoid giving out your home address. A disadvantage of using a P.O. Box is that many people like to have the real street address of the person with whom they are trading. A street address gives the impression that the other trader is legitimate. It is much harder to trace a P.O. Box if anything goes wrong with the trade. However, when it comes to personal security, using a P.O. Box is safer than giving out your home address over the Internet.

 

Chapter 5 - After the trade: the good, the bad and the…gulp…ugly.

 

 

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