Home > Artist Tips, Artist Trading Cards, Mail Art, Uncategorized > How to Mail Trading Cards

How to Mail Trading Cards

This post teaches how to mail and prevent damage for traded sports cards and stickers, artist trading cards and mail art. There are a few basic steps you can take to armor the content of your envelope from dents, tears and water damage. Sorting and cancellation machines, hand delivery and the weather are all factors when you send your trade out into the postal system.

I am using this pile of traded hockey sports stickers as an example. They weigh 1.8 ounces (52 grams) and are all the same size.

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The first line of defense is plastic “penny” trading card sleeves. These stickers are smaller than 2.5 x 3.5 inches so I was able to fold the tops and tape them shut. You want to make the stacks equal or as close to equal as possible. Lumps can hang up on postal machinery.

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Tape the stacks down to a greeting card, free advertising postcard or piece of chipboard food packaging, such as a cereal box. If the items are secured, there is less chance of corner dings from sliding around or wear from friction.

You need to leave space between the items for the envelope to be flexible. The total envelope must be less than 1/4 inch thick. If the envelope cannot bend or exceeds 1/4 inch thickness, pay the small “non-machinable surcharge” by putting extra postage on your envelope. This costs less than sending a second envelope so long as you are under 1/4 inch thick and 3.5 ounces. A big envelope helps, use an envelope not to exceed 6-1/8 x 9 inches.

A letter is currently $0.49, the non-machinable surcharge is $0.22 extra and an international letter is $1.20.

USPS specs allow for up to 11 inches wide but I find postal staff will kick something that wide back as a “large envelope” and demand way more postage, similar to the price of a package. An envelope of 5 x 8 inches or an A9 5-3/4 x 8-3/4 inches for greeting cards are easily purchased in bulk from office supply stores. I use a plain metal caliper tool to make sure my envelope is under 1/4 inch thick. A basic 5 inch caliper like the one below retails for around $5:

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The sorting and cancellation machines in the Chicago hub alone sort tens to hundreds of thousands of pieces of mail an hour! A loose bundle of items can shoot out the back of your envelope like a bullet when it hits machine rollers. Businesses that try to mail people free ballpoint pens to customers have sent countless pens shooting out of envelopes like arrows. If your envelope is paid for the non-machinable surcharge, help the system by writing PLEASE HAND CANCEL very clearly on your envelope. If you are mailing art like a printmaking work, drawing or painting, you may want to add DO NOT BEND! A nice linocut print I received from an artist in Greece was folded in half and used with a rubber band to hold my delivered mail together. That was sad.

Make sure your trade is nested in a safe layer of protective material like a sandwich, both front and back. Center your trade away from the edges of the postcards, greeting card or chipboard food packaging so that any small tears, dents or corner dings are absorbed by the protective material. You want the protective “sandwich” to be buffer against the laws of physics. I tape the corners of the “sandwich” and the middle of each side. Greeting cards are taped on the corners and three open sides.

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For art, I often layer plastic film or waxed paper between drawings and paintings to protect the front of the artwork. This example trade has the hockey stickers bundled nicely in the plastic sleeves, but another step I recommend would be to wrap the outside of the “sandwich” with plastic wrap or place it inside a plastic bag to further protect the trade from humidity, rain and snow. Push out any air to keep the contents flat and tape the edges or seams to keep all water out. Comic book storage bags work really good. A smaller item in a greeting card fits well in a sandwich bag with the zipper closure trimmed off.

Here are the complete parameters for a letter from USPS.com as of this time. If you want to check for updates, go to the Postage Calculator for the costs of shipping and click the question mark (?) next to Letter. I often mail several items for art trades, so I get as much into each envelope as possible, especially for international trades.

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LETTER:

Dimension Minimum Maximum
Height 3-1/2 inches (8.890 cm) 6-1/8 inches (15.557 cm)
Length 5 inches (12.700 cm) 11-1/2 inches (29.210 cm)
Thickness 0.007 inch (0.018 cm) 1/4 inch (0.635 cm)

Any item smaller than the minimum dimensions is not mailable.
For items larger in length, width, or thickness, see large envelopes or packages.
For envelopes, length is the dimension parallel to the address.

For letter-sized items over 3.5 ounces (0.099 kg), large envelope prices will be applied.

Letters that meet one or more of the nonmachinable characteristics below are subject to the nonmachinable surcharge.

  • It is a square letter
  • It is too rigid – does not bend easily
  • It has clasps, string, buttons, or similar closure devices
  • It has an address parallel to the shorter dimension of the letter
  • It contains items such as pens that cause the surface to be uneven
  • The length divided by height is less than 1.3 or more than 2.5
Square Envelope

The minimum size for a square envelope is 5 inches x 5 inches (12.700 cm x 12.700 cm).

 

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  1. March 28, 2016 at 9:45 am

    Very informative thank you for taking timeout to explain.

  2. March 28, 2016 at 9:49 am

    My trading card friends say that your article was very informative and now they can trade there cards with other people around the world with the information in this piece.
    Thanks.

    • March 29, 2016 at 11:46 am

      Thank you! Check out some of the artist tradings cards on my site. When ATCs are mailed out, it is a unique drawing or painting. I put 2 – 4 hours into a fully painted card and want it to arrive in good condition.

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