Hello again, and welcome back to the top article series for Magic finance on TCGplayer! I'm your host DJ Johnson, and I'm here to talk you through the various ways to spend less and save more while playing the game we all know and love. Last week I delved into the process of shipping less expensive cards through plain white envelopes (PWE), and demonstrated one of the step by step processes you can follow to make sure your cards arrive quickly and safely.
Thankfully, you're given a lot of flexibility even at level one in regards to higher value cards. At seller level one, you can list anything under $100, so we can start selling Tarmogoyfs and Aether Vials right off the bat. Picture yourself as a buyer, spending close to $100 on a couple pieces of cardboard. Most buyers are going to expect some additional forms of protection other than just a sleeve and toploader in a plain white envelope. That's where a bubble mailer with tracking comes into play.
This is going to be your best method of sending more expensive cards (or a larger handful of less expensive cards), so let's go through the steps individually. The cool part about this method is that you don't ever have to leave your chair or go to the post office; you can print out the label from home and get a tracking number instantly, then have it picked up with your outgoing mail or drop it off at a USPS box.
Before I continue, I'm going to preemptively answer a question that I get asked a lot. "What's the cutoff that you provide tracking at?" If you're making sure to list your cards with free shipping like I advised last week, then it's certainly not going to be worth it to ship at $5 order with tracking. It's going to cost us $2.61 for the label alone, before TCGplayer fees and other shipping supplies. Even for a $15 order like Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh, you're probably better off PWEing it or selling the card locally versus going through the effort to track it.
To be frank, it really depends on your own judgment and the margins you're willing to accept. TCGplayer recommends that you ship orders that total over $20 with tracking, as shown in the image below. However, the cost of shipping with tracking has steadily increased over the past several years; I remember paying $1.31 for a label back in 2013. Back then, it was a lot easier to justify shipping a $20 or $25 order, but the costs have been going up and margins on buying and selling have gotten thinner. Personally, I tend to only track orders that total $35 or higher. I sell enough cards to know the success rate I have with PWEs, and I almost never have orders be claimed as missing.
Once you get to a $50 order, shipping with tracking is mandatory on TCGplayer, regardless of how much you trust your PWE. First of all, we're going to want to protect the $50+ card(s) in a bubble mailer. You may have seen these at your local USPS or drug store for around fifty cents, or even 99 cents for some of the larger ones. Before you start filling a shopping cart, don't worry! These can be purchased for much cheaper online if you decide to buy in bulk. There's no reason for us to add another dollar onto our shipping cost if we have the ability to pay $.05 per bubble mailer by buying a couple hundred. Even if you only have a few dozen tracked orders to ship, I'd rather pay ten dollars for 200 bubble mailers versus 99 cents for 10 of them.
Now that we've got our bubble mailers (and the other shipping supplies mentioned in last week's article; toploaders, sleeves, and tape), we're going to need a way to secure the label onto the bubble mailer once it's printed out. Scotch tape might seem fine, but I've learned from my mistakes to know that you'll need packing tape. Scotch tape can get peeled off during transit, and you'll be left with a package that doesn't have a label (or a destination). Then all that time and money you put into protecting it will backfire! We don't want that, so definitely always use packing tape as shown in the picture of the bubble mailer. You'll likely only need one roll when starting out, and it should last you a good while.
Now for the actual printing of the label myself. I use Paypal.com/shipnow, because it's quick and painless to actually print the label. You'll need to connect your Paypal to your bank account, but I vastly prefer that to the alternative of spending an hour at the post office to ship a few of my orders with tracking. The form is simple enough to fill out; just plug the information that TCGplayer provides into the fields, and click through to get to the shipping information. The carrier will be USPS, the service type will be First-Class Mail (2-5 days), and the package type will be Package/Thick Envelope. For the weight, you can put up to four ounces without increasing the cost of the postage. Unless you're shipping out a hundred or so cards in one order, five ounces will be more than enough for what we're working with.
After that, it's as simple as calculating the shipping cost and printing the label. The tracking number provided can then be copied and pasted into the Shipping Information section on your TCGplayer Orders tab. If you happen to sell an order on the site that totals over $250, first of all congratulations! Secondly, you'll need to ship that one with signature confirmation. That's as simple as checking a box on the Shipping Information page on Paypal, and it will cost you an additional $2.45 for a total of around $5.00 for the label.
As with the rest of our orders, be sure to print out and include the packing slip for the customer so they know exactly which order they're receiving. This packing slip can also help if by some chance the label gets ripped off during transit (which I've never had happen when using proper tape), because the USPS can use that packing slip to help find out where the cards are supposed to be headed. It serves a double use when shipping more expensive cards in a bubble mailer, so I highly recommend printing, folding, and sliding it in versus just writing the order number with a sharpie on the toploader.
Lastly, I want to go over how to package an order that might have more than 12 cards. If you're a newer seller to the platform, getting sales that involve more than four or five cards will be really rare. However, there might be certain situations where you sell many copies of a particular card. For example, it can be worth listing Shadowborn Apostle or Relentless Rats at $1.50 or $2.00 apiece if you have a dozen or so copies, because it increases the chance that someone will buy all of those copies at once. This saves both you and the buyer from having to ship out or receive a larger number of packages!
So, let's say that you ended up getting an order that totaled over $50, and it had 15 or 20 cards in it. You won't be able to fit all of those into a single penny sleeve+toplader combination, and it certainly won't fit in a PWE. Let me introduce you to something called a "team bag."
Originally used for packaging entire teams of baseball cards, a sealable team bag can hold a lot more than an individual penny sleeve. As shown in the image, I was able to fit 20 cards inside the bag with ease. Then, I put that sealed team bag inside another identical team bag, and slid a toploader behind the first team bag for support, before sealing off the second one. This makes sure that none of the cards are touching the plastic toploader, and it gives two layers of protection from the outside elements should our bubble mailer be damaged in transit.
How has everyone's TCGplayer store been working out? Does anyone have awesome sales so far, or something they're interested in learning more about? Let me know in the comments section below! Things have still been crazy with the price corrections in Reserved List cards, and I'm always an advocate of selling into the hype. If these are cards you don't plan on playing with for the foreseeable future, you're going to have an easier time now finding a buyer by listing them on the site.
- DJ Johnson