Let’s say you need to send some baseball cards in the mail. Shouldn’t be complicated, right? Well, it is—at least, a little bit.
You would assume that baseball cards could be sent by USPS Media Mail. Well, even though they are technically paper printed with text—like books, a common item sent via Media Mail (so common that it’s often referred to as “Book Rate” by booksellers—trading cards are currently not permitted for Media Mail by the USPS.
The best way to ship your baseball cards in the mail is via first class package, or priority mail. When shipping baseball cards through the mail, you must make sure the cards are protected so they get to your buyer in one piece.
Protecting Your Baseball Cards When Mailing
Package with Protection
Although it seems obvious, some people think it’s perfectly fine to just drop a card in an envelope or package and send it off. This will very likely result in a damaged card.
So, be sure to at least drop the card in something as simple as a penny sleeve and top loader, which can be found relatively inexpensively.
This inexpensive investment will definitely lead to happier buyers, as no one wants to receive damaged cards—or, at least, cards that are damaged in transit.
Use a Bubble Mailer
What’s PWE? That would be “Plain White Envelope.” These are to be avoided in almost all scenarios, especially when sending anything of value.
They’re just too fragile and offer limited to no protection of your cards. They’re also more likely to be on the receiving end of tampering or theft, as people might suspect there’s money or some other valuable item(s) inside.
If you’re mailing some lower-end cards to a buddy, then you can probably get away with a PWE. Otherwise, you should be reaching for something else, like a bubble mailer at the least.
Some people put tape over the top loader when mailing cards. Why? Well, the idea is that it will prevent the card from sliding out.
While it seems like a good idea, the tape—usually scotch tape—can be hard to peel off and, worse, leaves a sticky residue.
Packing tape presents a similar problem and is even harder to get off.
So, if you’re going to go this route, use masking tape, which is easier to peel off and leaves no goopy residue.
It is probably best to not have any tape directly over the top loader, however, as the card can possibly stick to it and become damaged by the residue. To solve this, simply place a small piece of paper over the top loader and tape that instead.
Finally, if you’re shipping a lot of cards, especially for sets or team lots, you don’t really have any other choice than card boxes.
This is a fine option if you take care to ensure that the cards are packed in there. Make sure any extra space is stuffed with bubble wrap, newspaper, packing peanuts, etc.
Less Can Be More
Don’t entomb your card and suffocate it with pounds of tape and bubble wrap. This ends up being more dangerous because the card can get bent or otherwise damaged when the recipient struggles to open it and has to resort to using more force or a sharp object like a knife.
Instead, ensure that there’s an obvious way to get to the card(s).
What Is the Cheapest Way to Ship Baseball Cards?
Now that we’ve covered how to safely ship cards, what’s the most cost-effective way to do so? This will cover shipping options through USPS, as it’s a standard and widely available form of shipping.
Avoid Shipping in Plain White Envelopes
As covered, these should typically be avoided. If you are sending inexpensive cards, however, especially to a friend or someone who isn’t as concerned with the possibility of damage, then you can use a PWE to most inexpensively send your card or cards (probably up to 10 at the most).
First Class (Bubble Mailer)
You can fit around 100 cards or fewer before surpassing the 16 oz limit for First Class Mail. This is a standard and pretty safe way to send cards, as long as you take care in packing the cards. It’s recommended that you use cardboard or something stiff to help protect the card or cards from getting bent.
Padded Flat Rate Envelope
Although these usually aren’t found at your local post office, you can order them from the USPS website for free. They cost about the same as a small flat rate box but hold a good deal more. For example, two 330-count boxes should fit just fine.
Medium Flat Rate Box (11×9)
These boxes are squarer and will fit four 400-count boxes, although you will need to add some packing material (like the kinds previously mentioned) to help secure the cards during shipping.
Medium Flat Rate Box (14×12)
These will take three 660-count boxes.
Large Flat Rate Box (12×12)
These boxes are better avoided as they can be a more awkward size for shipping card boxes.
Look For Postage Discounts
Be sure that you look for discounts when shipping. You can usually get a discount on all shipping options apart from stamps if you go through eBay/PayPal.
As for packaging, bubble mailers can be found cheaply on eBay, and also be sure to take advantage of free packaging from USPS (priority boxes and padded flat-rate mailers).
Invest in a Label Printer
Lastly, if you’re frequently mailing cards, you might want to invest in a label printer (the Dymo brand is a solid choice). This will save you a lot of time and energy in the long run.
We recommend this DYMO label printer. It prints wirelessly, produces high-quality prints, and is great for USPS and UPS labels.
Most collectors or people interested in turning a profit on their cards will end up needing to mail a card at some point.
The main thing is to ensure that the cards are safely protected, as this respects the recipient of the cards and helps assure good feedback if you’re using a site like eBay.
Apart from that, no one wants to end up making a $10 sale and then spend $10 on shipping, so be sure that you take shipping costs into account and do what you can to keep them minimized.