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How to Package and Ship Your Cards (Ultimate Guide)



How to Package and Ship Your Cards (Ultimate Guide)

A trading card’s value can crater if it suffers any sort of damage. One stage where damage is an acute possibility is during the shipment process. Imagine selling a high-end Kobe Bryant rookie card and a week later an email from the seller appears with photos of a damaged card.

Not only do you have to refund the seller but now the Kobe rookie card is worthless. Double bogey.


We’d hate to see your sale go bust because a card you shipped suffered a scratch, bent corner, or another sort of blemish. To help you avoid this fate, we’ve composed this guide of best practices for shipping trading cards of all prices.

How to Package and Ship Your Trading Cards- Ultimate Guide

Here is the thought process that you should go through before shipping your card(s). You may choose to skip certain steps (like card cleaning) depending on whether you’re shipping your card for grading, to fulfill a purchase order, or for another reason.


Consider the merits (and drawbacks) of cleaning a card

Those who are submitting a card to PSA, SGC, Beckett, or another grading service shoulder consider cleaning the card. That said, cleaning comes with real risk and is not always necessary.

If you’re going to clean a card, here’s the first step: be really fudgin’ careful. 

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If you want to remove unsightly smudges (or worse) from the card’s surface, you need to adopt the card collector’s Hippocratic Oath: first, do no harm.

If you have concerns about damaging your card through the cleaning process, just don’t clean it. However, some seek higher grades by using makeup wipes or other non-abrasive materials to clean the card’s surface.

DO NOT use Windex or any other cleaner on your cards. This is a sure-fire way to cause unintended and irreparable damage. You’ve been warned.


Put your card in a penny sleeve

Penny sleeves are the first layer of protection for your cards. If the package that your card is being shipped in a car, then the penny sleeve is the seatbelt.

Even if you’re not shipping a card, any card of even mild value should be protected by a penny sleeve. Failing to sleeve your cards is simply negligent.

You can buy a boatload of penny sleeves on Amazon for cheap. There’s really no excuse not to have them on hand if you’re doing any sort of collecting.

For best presentation, use a brand new penny sleeve with each card that you ship.


Transfer the card to a semi-rigid cardholder

The second, more robust layer of card defense is the semi-rigid cardholder. You can liken the semi-rigid sleeve to the airbag, protecting your card even if the penny sleeve fails.

There are a few different forms of semi-rigid cardholders, including top-loading and screw-down cases.

The top-loading sort is most common, as they are generally less hassle, consume less space, and cost less than screw-down cases.

Semi-rigid cardholders come in a variety of dimensions, which include the thickness of the case’s opening. Pay attention to these measurements, they’re important.

If you plan to store a card with a game-worn patch, for example, you should use a cardholder with a broader opening. Trying to squeeze a thick card into a too-tight case is begging for avoidable damage.

These cases, often referred to as Card Savers, come at a variety of price points. It’s an essential expense that anyone shipping a trading card must pay.

Some choose to put a rip of Scotch tape over the cardholder’s opening before shipping. Note that if you do not completely seal the opening, then the card could slide up and become stuck to the tape.

You’ll have to use your discretion of whether adding the Scotch tape is necessary. In many cases, it won’t be.


How to package multiple cards

If you’re shipping multiple cards then you’ve got a few different options for preventing damage.


1. The cardboard stack method

If you’re shipping multiple cards in individual semi-rigid cases, then place the cases in one or multiple stacks. Place cardboard bumpers (or equivalent material) on each side of the stack.

Wrap rubber bands around the entire stack, cardboard and all. If you don’t have rubber bands, use tape (like masking or plumber’s tape) that does not leave a residue.

This method keeps your cards compact, prevents sliding, adds a cardboard layer of protection, and reduces the risk of any cards being lost or singled out for damage during transport.


2. Use a card storage box

If you’re shipping cards in bulk, one or more card storage boxes maybe your best option. This packaging is specially designed for trading cards and comes in various sizes.

You can find boxes meant for naked cards, as well as those that accommodate Card Savers and even larger cases, like those that grading services store their cards in. Here is a sampling of card storage boxes from BCW Supplies.

These boxes can serve two purposes: protecting your cards and serving as the vessel for shipping the cards. Apply tape liberally, slap on a shipping label, and you may be ready to send.

Generally, though, you want to store these cardboard card boxes within a larger box for additional protection.


3. The entire-page method

Those who are sending entire collections of cards may already have them stored in plastic, nine-slot card pages. The cards may be relatively safe, and you may choose to ship them in their existing condition.

You can do this, but we don’t generally recommend it. Cards can fall out of these pages or become damaged within their slots, which offer little structural protection.

If you’re dead-set on using this method, ensure that the cards are positioned in a way that will prevent shifting, sliding, or complete expulsion from the sleeves. Ensure adequate padding around the sleeves as well.

As I said, this is not the method we recommend.


Don’t skimp on packaging

A key consideration when shipping cards is what to ship them in. When choosing an envelope or box err on the side of overkill.

You can never have too much protection. On the other hand, you can absolutely expose a card to damage and theft if you try to pinch pennies on shipping fees by skimping on packaging materials.

There are several options for shipping materials, including:


1. Plain white envelope

The cheap, risk-embracing collector’s preferred shipping method. We strongly discourage this method. It presents a high risk of damage, and for what? A few extra cents or dollars saved?

It’s always important to consider the value of the card(s) you are shipping. If the cost of shipping outweighs the value you are receiving for the card(s), you may be wise to go with a plain white envelope. Context matters.


2. Padded envelope

Padded envelopes can be perfect for single-card shipments or small stacks of cards. They add a sufficient layer of protection and are generally cheaper than shipping a box.

Also known as “bubble mailers”, the cost of shipping these envelopes depends on their size and the weight of the cards within.


3. Carboard box

Cardboard boxes offer the greatest measure of protection when it comes to packaging. You’re generally only going to pay the cost of shipping a box, though, if you’re shipping multiple cards.

If you are concerned about the safety of a card, you may choose to pay the additional cost of shipping a box as well.

If you do ship one or more cards in a box, ensure that it is properly protected with insulating materials.


Mailing Options

When choosing a shipping method, you have to consider both the shipper and the speed of shipment.

When it comes to the shipper, you may generally use:

  • the United States Postal Service (USPS)
  • United Parcel Service (UPS)
  • Federal Express (FedEx)
  • Another shipper

Hobbyists generally choose USPS, particularly for smaller packages. They will pick up your envelope directly from your mailbox and offer competitive shipping rates.

When you sell a card or set of cards, particularly on eBay, the buyer may purchase a specific shipping speed. You should do your best to accommodate that request, as the buyer is paying for it anyway.

Here is an overview of the USPS’ various shipping speeds and pricing.

In some cases, you may choose to go with UPS or another shipping service. There’s nothing wrong with that. Do your research on pricing and choose the shipper and speed that seems most appropriate.

Those who want to be absolutely thorough when shipping cards can:

  • pay for tracking services (though this may be provided at no additional cost)
  • require a signature from the recipient (to prevent package theft or fraudulent receipt of the package)
  • pay for insurance

Because most sellers are looking for margins, you may not generally elect for all of these options. However, you may take these steps when you’re selling a big-ticket item. These measures can insulate you from accusations of non-delivery by the buyer.


How to Package and Ship Your Cards: The final touches

Once you’ve packaged the goods and chosen a shipping method, you’re ready to put the package into the wind.

If you’ve already purchased appropriate packaging and postage, you may be able to simply place the envelope or package in your mailbox.

In some cases, you’ll prefer or need to visit the local post office or alternative shipping hub to purchase packaging and/or mail the cards.

If you care about buyer feedback or satisfaction, you may consider adding a hand-crafted thank you note, just like your grandmother taught you.

With this advice, you’re ready to get your wheeling and dealing on. If there’s anything we left out, it’s because we know you’ve got the smarts to improvise. Good luck!

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