If you want to split the hobby world into two factions mention one of three topics: clearing out retail shelves of trading cards, investing in baseball cards, or shipping in a plain white envelope (PWE).
Earlier this week, there was quite the Twitter warfare about the topic of investing in trading cards. I’m not going to tackle that subject…today, at least. Mike Sommer from Wax Pack Hero wrote up a great piece today on investing in baseball cards.
This topic will highlight the benefits of PWE shipping. It’s something I have been passionate about as both a buyer and seller. Recently, I discovered I was likely a near-victim of an eBay user that frequently claims packages not received. That article led to many people blocking johkoprowsk_0 and even more stepping up to reveal they to had encountered the same scheme from this guy.
The article was posted to the Scammers Facebook group, and the first comment was a dig on PWE shipping. Others claimed they would block eBay users that ship this way. I was forthcoming and told at least two of the commenters to block me and provided my user ID.
There’s absolutely a place in the hobby for PWE shipping. Before I even get to the benefits, I want to clearly spell out when NOT to slip on a forever stamp on a white envelope.
Do NOT Deceive
Make sure you communicate that an item will be shipped PWE. It should be assumed that an item for $1.50 with free shipping will be coming in a white envelope, cover yourself and state that it’s coming PWE in the item description on eBay, or whichever platform you are selling.
Do NOT Charge a Premium
Charging a premium for shipping and sending in a PWE is a no-no, and this could also be a part of the above because it’s being deceptful. If someone is charging $2.50 or above for shipping I am expecting it to come in a bubble mailer. This also opens up an entirely new discussion because as a buyer you are expecting to receive an item safely at a gross amount shipped. If it arrives safely, despite being shipped PWE, the process was completed successfully. However, that is unethical for a seller. So, what is the proper amount to charge? That is up for debate, but my range is no more than $1.50. On eBay, a seller is charged the final value fee that includes whatever you charge for shipping. Example: If you charge $1.50 shipping, you as a seller are automatically being charged a $0.16 fee from eBay.
Do NOT Send Lots or Slabs in a PWE
For some reason I have seen a couple different posts with people trying to sell graded cards PWE. NO…NO…NO. Do not send slabs in a PWE. The slab will crack. It’s inevitable. Also, I keep a limit of no more than four or five cards per PWE. I’ve received up to 15 cards in a PWE safely, but as a seller I stick to four or five tops.
Do NOT Send High Dollar Cards PWE
What’s a high end card? Also up for debate, as is the price cutoff in deciding to ship either PWE or bubble mailer. My max is $7.50 shipped. Some people cap it at $5, while others go to $10. I once had a vintage Lou Brock Cubs card I paid $20 shipped in a PWE. I was not happy, but the card got to me safely. Typically when I price cards in my eBay Store I will go up to $7.50 shipped PWE, and then skip to $9.99 and above goes bubble mailer. On occasion I’ll get offers on a $9.99 card and I will do $7.50 shipped PWE. Again, make sure to disclose the shipping method to remove any uncertainty.
Okay, now to the benefits. I wanted to get all that out of the way to remove any confusion from those collectors that despise the PWE shipping method. If you collect graded cards or high dollar cards this method simply does not fit. It’s not for you, and that is okay. But, there is a large segment of the hobby population that wants to save money any way they can, and also collects low dollar cards.
The main reason I am writing this particular post is because I did an eBay search for Cubs cards. I found a Bowman Mega Box Green Refractor of Oscar De La Cruz. He was once a top prospect for the Cubs that was released this spring. Obviously, he is no longer a highly touted pitcher.
When I stumbled upon the card I nearly placed a $0.99 bid. And then I saw the $4.00 shipping charge. I am not paying $4.99 for a De La Cruz card. I wouldn’t even pay $5 for a De La Cruz autograph. But, I would pay $2.00 or maybe $2.50 for this card. Sellers need to look at this from a customer’s perspective. This Oscar De La Cruz card is a $1 card. Nobody will buy a dollar card for $5. Too many anti-PWE hobbyists are thinking too much of losing money on scammers like the aforementioned johkoprowsk_0 that claims he never received it because you don’t receive tracking on PWE. Or, PWE gets damaged too easily.
Yes, on a rare occasion an envelope can get lost in the mail. It is not common. I would estimate most claims on eBay of a buyer not receiving a PWE are false. Either lies, or it was an honest mistake the buyer did get the card and misplaced it. I have tracked my “non-received” claims on eBay and it is less than a half percent. What about damage? I have had so few damaged shipments sent and received I could count on one hand…and that is from thousands upon thousands of shipments. The only damaged PWE I have seen were coins and relics. I have not had a standard card damaged in a PWE.
Now that we have tackled those issues, let’s analyze the cost of sending PWE against a bubble mailer. I am going to use the Bowman Mega Box green refractor of Oscar De La Cruz assuming it sold at auction for $0.99 plus $4.00 shipping. In this example, we are assuming the standard 11% eBay final value fee and the standard Paypal fees of 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction. Another variable is the exact shipping cost. Assuming the seller prints the label from eBay opposed to going to the post office and using the average zone price of $2.87 (zone pricing varies from $2.68 to $3.05).
If you offer PWE shipping, you can net more money at a $2.50 selling point opposed to charging for a bubble mailer at $4.99. Now, what if a majority of your sales were less than $10 on eBay. And, you were able to save on Paypal fees by signing up for micropayments. Let’s crunch the numbers in this scenario. The only thing that changes for the example below is the Paypal fees. Micropayment fees are 5% plus a $0.05 transaction fee instead of the traditional fee of 2.9% plus a $0.30 transaction fee.
An even bigger savings by using Paypal’s micropayments. Be advised that when you sign up for micropayments, your entire account is set to that fee structure. You cannot pick and choose which transactions fall under that fee structure. You will have to crunch your sales numbers and projected numbers to see which option best fits your sales.