PWE: Plain White Envelope. In the baseball card hobby, buyers and sellers can ship in a PWE to save money on postage.
Shipping baseball cards in a plain white envelope (PWE) is risky. When doing so, both buyer and seller should agree on taking that risk. More than 99% of the time the PWE will reach its destination safely, but there is that 1%. Using this method to ship does not give you the safety net of tracking information. There’s also the way you handle the packaging of cards inside the white envelope. Here I detailed how to safely package baseball cards to send in a plain white envelope.
Most of my eBay sales are done using PWE as the shipping method, which is disclosed in the description of each item, and shipping is free. In the past year on approximately 1,000 PWE transactions, I have had two “no show” envelopes. A third incident occurred this week which prompted this article.
Last week I sold a Ronald Acuna 2019 Topps Archives Coin. I have been leery shipping these Topps coins in the past based on a small sample size. While a majority have arrived intact, there have been two other instances where that was not the case.
The first incident happened a couple years ago and attempted to ship two coins in the same envelope. The envelope was too thick and got jammed in a machine damaging the coins. While two coins were too thick for a machinable envelope, you can safely ship a single coin in a PWE.
In some cases of the “no show” envelopes you wonder if it actually did not arrive, or is the buyer taking advantage of eBay’s policy of automatic refunds without providing tracking information. I will automatically refund a buyer if it doesn’t show up, and this has only happened twice on 1,000 transactions in the past year. The benefits of shipping PWE far outweigh the one-off refunds.
Back to the Coins
Early in 2019 I sold a Topps coin, and received a message upon arrival from the buyer. He claimed I shipped an empty top loader. That’s bizarre, I thought. Maybe I did. It’s possible I got distracted and tossed the top loader inside the envelope. I looked through all my boxes, around my desk…no coin. Curious, I asked the buyer to send me a picture of what he received. He sent a photo of an empty top loader. Admittedly, I was suspicious, but issued a full refund.
Still to this day (or yesterday…stay tuned), I questioned that whole transaction. It appeared there was no “funny business” with the envelope, and everything appeared normal with the exception of a missing baseball coin. It’s been almost two years since that happened, and that coin never did appear in my card room.
Last week I sold that Acuna coin. It arrived yesterday, May 11, to the buyer. Well…the envelope arrived, but no coin. It happened again?!?!
The buyer was away from home when he sent the message, so he did not have access to take a photo. I was curious what it looked like, since there is precedent for this. Since he didn’t have photos, I explained how it would have been packaged. I knew this coin was inside the envelope when it left my mailbox.
I explained that the coin would have been inside a penny sleeve, inside a top loader. The top loader should have had a piece of blue painters tape over the top and a piece of cardboard should have been taped to the top loader. The buyer said a top loader with a penny sleeve arrived without the coin nor was there a piece of tape over the top loader.
These two incidents will not deter me from shipping PWE, but it will end my shipping of Topps coins in PWE. As always, PWE shipping is risky, but I find it an excellent way to buy low dollar cards without spending more than $3.00 on postage. And on the other end, it opens up a market for sellers to move cheap cards and make a small profit.