How to Ship Trading Cards

mobile ship trading cards
Jason Koeppel // ONE37pm

We have seen the trading card industry grow exponentially over the last three years, ushering in an era of new collectors.  This comes at a time in the hobby where social media and e-commerce sites are used for a large percentage of sellers’ business. Sites like eBay and MySlabs provide a virtual card show anytime you open your phone, allowing you to seamlessly browse cards of your favorite players. If you don't know how to ship trading cards, you could be costing yourself a ton of money.  

However, as Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben once put it, “With great power comes great responsibility.”  The physical act of mailing cards is not to be taken lightly, especially at a time when fans are paying millions of dollars for cards to be shipped to their door.

Selling online requires logistical prowess. The process of finding a buyer, negotiating a deal on your terms, and finalizing payment can be long and strenuous.  But securing a package after a transaction is just as important for the seller’s reputation.  Later on, we will be outlining a step-by-step guide on shipping a card.

But for now, let’s go over some essential do’s and don'ts to mailing out your trading cards.

The Do’s of Shipping

1. Sleeve and Topload Your Card

sleeve topload
Jason Koeppel // ONE37pm

The #1 rule of how to ship trading cards is to ALWAYS sleeve and top load the card. Toploaders and penny sleeves can be found online and at pretty much any local card shop.  The process is pretty simple: sleeve the card first, and then carefully slide it into the toploader.  Be cautious and avoid dinging corners, especially on thin 35 pt. paper cards. A protected card is a common courtesy that goes a long way in the shipping process.

2. Provide Tracking on Packages

mailman
Getty

When you are trying to legitimize your online business, there is no greater step that you can take than to obtain tracking information on shipments.  eBay and many big e-commerce websites have built-in methods for tracking.  However, if you work out a private deal, it is imperative that you purchase the service that issues tracking for your card.  Relaying that tracking number back to the buyer can save a lot of stress and tension if the item gets lost in transit, and it builds a sense of security around your online presence.

3. Buy Shipping Materials in Bulk

bulk
Jason Koeppel // ONE37pm

The costs of moving large quantities of cards can add up.  Large stores and post offices will carry the mailers and boxes you may need, but paying for each individual item will really put a dent in your profit margin.  A quick search on Amazon will bring up ample deals for the shipping goods you will need on your quest to become a logistics expert.  And as you build your online storefront and sell more slabs, you’re going to be saving hundreds by having a large selection of materials at your disposal.

4. Recycle Everything

recycle
Getty

Now that you are already saving money on bulk orders, why not double up? That cardboard box you got from Amazon containing your bubble mailers? Reuse it.  The box that your new hoodie came in? Reuse it.  Any box that will appropriately fit your cards can be reused, saving both the environment and your wallet.

Older toploaders can also be reused on shipments.  Over time, the plastic may become yellow or scratch, but it can still serve the purpose of protecting the card.  With manufacturing delays that have ensued over the pandemic, we have seen the prices of toploader cases skyrocket. Therefore, it is in your best interest to keep those cases around.  They will come in handy on a rainy day.

5. Ship Graded Cards in Boxes

usps box
USPS

The hard plastic of a PSA or Beckett graded card is oftentimes strong enough to slice through a thin bubble mailer. This can chip the slab and damage the card, which will anger the person on the receiving end.  Adding a cardboard box as an extra layer of protection can alleviate headaches and, yet again, adds a sense of professionalism.

You can even have some USPS supplies shipped right to your door for free, including small boxes and envelopes.  These boxes work great for packaging a slab and sending it securely.

The Don’ts

1. Leaving Cards Unprotected

raw
Jason Koeppel // ONE37pm

Once again, this goes without saying.  But getting a card without a sleeve and toploader is the biggest red flag for a seller, and it will strongly fracture your chances of working out future deals if you ship trading cards in this manner.

2. Using Scotch Tape on Cards

scotch tape
Amazon

While it may seem the same as any other tape, the regular Scotch tape will leave unwanted residue on the toploader, which can damage the surface of the card.  Instead, elect to use painter’s tape, which we will talk about later when we showcase some of the best products to ship trading cards.

3. Shipping Expensive Cards in Plain White Envelopes

White envelope
Jason Koeppel // ONE37pm

Plain white envelopes (PWE) are an inexpensive and accessible option for shipping.  Nevertheless, they offer little safety for cards and really shouldn’t be used to ship trading cards worth more than $5-10.  As a result, the card could show up at the buyer’s house bent 90 degrees or ripped altogether.  For all intents and purposes, it’s best to leave PWEs for bills and letters.

4. Getting Unorganized/Lack of Branding

branding
Jason Koeppel // ONE37pm

This is pretty applicable for all facets of the hobby, but losing track of cards or shipping supplies adds unnecessary anxiety to your online endeavors.  

We recommend taking some time and designating a space for a shipping station.  This could be an area to keep all mailers, toploaders, and eBay-listed cards in one place, which will avoid fiascos and negative reviews in your eBay account.

Additionally, a quick note or business card can go a long way in building your brand.  Large collectors will have dozens of shipments rolling in every week, so a stamp of your brand can distinguish you from the rest.

5. Shipping Late

empty mailbox
Getty

Last is yet another necessary step to building a healthy reputation online.  If you ship a package 4-5 days after a deal is finalized it's a huge detriment to attracting business.  This hobby sees the values of cards change daily, so getting those pieces in the hands of the buyers quickly should be a huge priority.  

Next, let’s break down the correct steps in how to ship trading cards.

How to Ship a Trading Card (Step-by-Step)

Jason Koeppel // ONE37pm

Step 1: Sleeve and Topload- This may sound like a broken record at this point, but this is the first and most important step in the shipping process.  

Step 2: Tape the Slit of the Toploader- Cut a piece of painter’s tape and create a seal over the top of the toploaded card.  This prevents the card from falling out in transit.

Step 3: Team Bag- A team bag is another handy piece of plastic that covers up your card.  Place the card inside the team bag and seal the team bag using its adhesive.

Step 4: Place in Small Bubble Mailer- Now that your card has multiple layers of protection, go ahead and drop it into your small bubble mailer.  Secure the adhesive and seal up the mailer.

(Optional) Step 5: Put Small Mailer in Bigger Mailer- To go above and beyond, you can place your small mailer into a bigger one for extra padding.  This can also distinguish your shipping methods from others, which can become an important component of your branding.  If you are shipping a graded card, make sure to add this big mailer into a cardboard box before proceeding to the next step.

Step 6: Add Layer of Tape Over Mailer- Whichever mailer you decide on, make sure you use some Scotch tape to secure the outer seal of your mailer.  In this case, the old adage applies: better safe than sorry.

Step 7: Write/Print Out Label- Most e-commerce sites have readily-available methods to print out your shipping label, but you can always manually write it on the outside of your mailer/box.  

Step 8: Tracking- Finally, make sure you always communicate the tracking number to the seller after shipping.  After you complete this step, the rest is out of your hands, but you have done all the right things that a shipping expert does.

Shipping Products You Need:

Penny Sleeves/Toploaders

Top Loaders Penny Sleeves
UltraPro

This duo is the Shaq and Penny of sports cards.  Classic, iconic, and necessary if you are ever going to ship a card.  Check at this site or your local card shop, for they may carry the 100-pack of toploaders.

Team Bags

team bags
Ultra Pro

If we are continuing on this Orlando Magic theme, team bags are like Dennis Scott or Nick Anderson: still vital for the shipping process.  Check here to purchase some, but they are usually in stock at hobby shops as well.

Bubble Mailers

bubble mailers
Amazon

As we discussed earlier, you need to buy these in bulk.  You’ll save hundreds on the back end over time.  Smaller mailers can be found here, while bigger mailers can be purchased here.

Tape Gun

tape gun
Amazon

Say hello to my little friend! This can be used to secure and fasten openings on the exterior of the package, and they can be picked up online relatively cheaply.

Painter’s Tape

painters Tape
Amazon

We picked the frog tape because it looks cool, but any brand of painter’s tape will suffice.  One roll can make it through hundreds of cards, so you shouldn’t have to worry about restocking too often.  Although if you are having to buy more, it is a sign that business is booming.  Painter’s tape can be found for sale here.

Thermal Printer

61MapT3ETAL. AC SL1000
Amazon

This last entry is not necessarily a requirement, but it makes a huge difference when you start shipping high volumes of cards.  The printer attached here is one of many you can find online. Some even connect to Bluetooth and will ship in correspondence to your eBay app.  If you’re looking for a more clean, crisp look in your shipments, we highly recommend picking one of these bad boys up.

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