It seems like nowadays there have been many newer people getting back into the hobby of collecting items such as trading cards, personal photo cards (often referred to as postcards, promotional giveaways or handouts) than in the last few years. There seems to be a mini resurgence in collecting once again. Along with new people to the hobby come questions about how they should package their items when making trades or sales with others to ensure a safe delivery to their respective partner. Here are some time proven suggestions as well as some just common sense info.

It’s all a matter of the PRIDE you take in trading or selling, and how you want others to view you and your trading or selling practices. Basically, it’s a showing of mutual respect between traders and your fellow collectors! The saying of “Do Unto Others As You Would Have Others Do Unto You” comes to mind. I always try to pack my trades/sales the best way possible so that the person I am trading with receives their end of our trade in excellent condition, as I want them to be satisfied with EVERY deal they make with me. I also expect the same courtesy from my fellow traders!!!

You should NEVER, EVER use white envelopes (small or large) to mail cards to fellow traders without your trading partner’s approval! The cards can and usually do get damaged during the mailing process in the postal machines the packages flow through during the sorting and routing process. Often times, the envelope may make it through safely, but when you open the envelope and remove the card, the card may have a line or ridge in it where a roller wheel left an indentation on the card. Yes, it’s cheaper for both traders to mail the cards in white envelopes, but the cards can arrive damaged!

For smaller trades, bubble mailers should be the best the way to go from a packaging and cost standpoint! Cards should either be packaged in soft sleeves inside of top loaders, screw-downs or in snap-tites with fillers so the cards can’t move around inside. Snap-tites are not the best thing to use as the bubble mailer could get crushed and the snap-tite may crack or break and could cause possible damage to the cards inside. However, they do offer decent card protection, but if used, they should be completely filled with spacer cards or bubble wrap (cut to fit on the top and bottom of the cards inside of the snap-tite) as there is less of a chance for them to get damaged should the case get crushed.

If you are trading or selling larger amounts of cards (IE: complete sets or more then say 15-20 cards), I would suggest cardboard boxes for shipping. You can still pack the cards in top loaders, screwdowns or snap-tites and then put those containers inside a cardboard box as that offers better protection for shipping. Pack any leftover space in the box with styrofoam peanuts, crumpled/shredded paper, old newspaper, paper towels or pieces of bubble wrap. This will keep the cards from shifting around in the box and possibly causing damage during the mailing process.

Most traders feel that it is perfectly acceptable to use “recycled” bubble mailers (and it makes perfect recycling sense) but you should ALWAYS black out and/or remove any previous mailing address information, postmarks, postage labels, etc. that are on the bubble mailer. By removing and blacking out the old information, there is less of a chance of the package being returned to the wrong person in the event of damage by the post office. The mailers should also be in good re-usable condition (no holes poked through them and should be able to be resealed. Staples should NOT be used to seal “recycled” bubble mailers (the post office frowns on using staples to seal packages as they can catch in their mail processing machines).

It’s not 100% necessary, but this suggestion is just a really good practice to do when mailing your trades/sales. Include your name and address inside the package with your cards. It can be a business card, a sticker or just a piece of paper taped to the card holder with your info on it (if multiple containers inside the package, an address on each is recommended). Personally, I place a sticker on the card container that tells the post office that I “guarantee to pay for return postage in the event that the card(s) get separated from the original packaging.” This way, if the bubble mailer (or even a box) gets destroyed, they can still figure out who the cards belong to, and they can return them to you. It’s a small price to pay to get back that “rare card” that you traded or sold to your buddy for his collection that you can’t readily replace if it gets lost in the mail. Your trading partner will truly appreciate you going the extra mile to help save that “rare card” from loss!

If you make a trade or sale to someone for any of the postcards, promotional giveaways or handouts, be sure to pack them to arrive in good condition as they can be damaged easily in the mailing process! Simply sticking them into an oversized manila envelope and writing DO NOT BEND rarely insures that the card(s) will arrive safely without being bent or damaged (corner damages DO happen often in the mailing process, sadly that’s just a simple fact of mailing). A couple of other important notes… DO NOT write the mailing address on the envelope WITH the card inside. Doing that leaves the address embossed into the front of the card. It’s usually best to prepare the address on the envelope PRIOR to inserting the card(s) into it (or just use a mailing sticker). Also, just writing DO NOT BEND on the envelope does not ensure that the card will arrive safely and undamaged. You can help the card arrive safely by cutting two pieces of cardboard, slightly larger then the postcard(s) and sandwiching the card(s) between them, taping both halves together and then putting the cardboard sandwich into the manila envelope for mailing.

Proper postage is also an important key in trading. There is no excuse when it comes to adding the proper postage to your package when you mail! Don’t just guess at it, if you’re not sure how much postage your package requires then go to the post office and have them calculate it for you. Nothing feels worse then making sure you did everything right when sending your portion of the trade out only to have the package arrive from your trading partner with POSTAGE DUE!!!

Lastly, you get that excited feeling at the prospect of adding that “rare find” to your collection from a fellow trading member. They are just as excited with the opportunity that you are providing them to add that “elusive card” to their personal collection. Do all you can to protect BOTH parties in your trade. If that means spending a little extra money for insurance to cover the value of the package (especially if there are high dollar cards involved), then consider it. Possibly also some type of delivery confirmation? Whatever it takes to get the cards to your trading partner safely! Just think that when you mail your package, you’re protecting both of you in the event of loss or damage by the post office. We often times think that mailing problems happen to others but can’t happen to us. The simple fact is that it can happen, and you should be prepared in the event something does go wrong.

In closing, it is always good to ask your buyer or trading partner if you have any questions about packing and shipping. It is always better to know in advance what someone may want BEFORE mailing. Many trade problems can be avoided with some simple communications PRIOR to mailing. Proper mailing of all cards should be Top Priority with ALL trades no matter what the items being traded are. Mailing and packaging supplies are not terribly expensive and should be 100% part of your regular routine when mailing. You can often times reuse some of the same supplies over and over in other trades (soft sleeves, top loaders, snap-tites, screwdowns, bubble mailers, boxes, etc.).

If you can afford to buy the cards for your collection and extras for trading, you should be able to afford to package the cards safely & properly, including the proper amount of postage for ALL of your trades.

I would like to leave off on one final quote from a good friend and fellow trader when this subject first came up several years ago on a different trading site:

“Come on folks, show a little pride in what you do. For some of us this is part of our business, for others it is still an enjoyable hobby, but for all of us it should be a place where we can show a little mutual respect for each other.”


Les (aka Lesracing)