Inside the Pack: A Guide to Free USPS Resources for Online Sports Card Sellers
For people in the sports card hobby, most of the conversation around the United States Postal Service takes a negative turn fairly quickly. Buyers and sellers alike love to hate the USPS bogeymen who raise postage prices and lose or damage packages. While there are certainly valid concerns with the postal service, they also offer a wide range of resources that are useful for all online sellers; this article, however, will focus on their utility for card collectors and sellers.
The most popular and well-known free offerings from the Postal Service are their Priority Mail flat rate boxes. Most post offices stock these somewhere in the lobby, but you can also order them for free from the online postal store. There are four different kinds and each can be useful for card sellers. Best of all, each priority mail shipment includes $50 of insurance at no extra charge.
The small flat rate box is perfect to ship several cards or a single high-dollar card in. Graded cards, which are at risk of getting cracked in a traditional bubble envelope, also do really well in one of these boxes when wrapped in bubble wrap to prevent it from moving around.
There are two sizes of medium boxes. My favorite is the long and shallow one, shaped to fit a small board game. These are perfect for single row long boxes of cards or box sets, which slide right in. The other medium box is a more traditional box shape, which is great for large lots of cards in toploaders. Given the added weight the plastic protectors contribute to a package, stuffing them all in a flat rate box is a much better move than using your own packaging and paying by weight. The large flat rate box serves a similar purpose and also fits binders of cards. Note that there is an additional online-only large flat rate box designed for game boards, but at just 3.25″ thick, it does not fit a single row box of cards easily; usually the cards will cause the box to bow out in the center, which is that the safest method when shipping.
Beyond the standard sized flat rate offerings, there are many specialty products that can only be ordered online.
My personal favorite is the padded flat-rate priority mail envelope. A large flexible bubble mailer, this is perfect for heavy items that aren’t large enough to warrant the cost of a medium or large flat rate box. I use these most often for sets shipped in a single row box, but have also used them in the past for baseballs and large lots of cards in magnetic cases.
While not a flat-rate product, the priority mail shoebox is a great tool for card sellers who may be dealing with large lots or complete sets. The size is often perfect to fit long boxes in and prevents you from having to locate your own box, which I find are usually either too short or to gigantic for what I need to ship.
If you aren’t purchasing shipping labels at home (which you should be doing!), the priority mail address labels (label 228) would be great for you. These are free address labels just like the ones at the post office, but having them delivered to you allows you to fill them out ahead of time and not be tethered to the pen station at the post office.
In addition to the aforementioned products, there are many other shapes and sizes of free priority mail boxes (not flat-rate) available on the USPS website. Anything you order gets delivered to your door free of charge. You should note, however, that it may take a week or two to show up, and possibly longer for some items that may be low stock. Since boxes ship flat and the envelopes don’t take up a ton of space, I preorder well in advance and store them in my garage for when I need them.