Town's End Comics

How to pack comic books to mail without breaking the law

Over four decades, I’ve collected about 10,000 comic books, most issues are from the late 70’s 80s and 90s. Now with two kids in college, I have to figure out how to sell them and mail them.

Before I could start selling online I wanted to do some market research to learn how other comic book sellers were doing it. In this post you will discover the best way to pack your comic books to mail based on my own, real, market research. Along with the best practices comes an important warning that may keep you from breaking the law and forced to pay a fine.

The best way for me research how to pack and ship comics was to buy them – to see how other people were doing it.

Gathering the research

On eBay, I looked for a range of different comics, and bought single issues, multipacks and grab bags.

A side benefit from buying on eBay and being a good customer with fast payments is this builds your credibility on eBay by driving up your feedback score – but that’s another story.

NOTE: See my *account on eBay: http://bit.ly/Towns-End-Comics-on-eBay

Soon the comic books started to arrive. A few at first. They came in all sizes, with varying states of protection and decoration.

Inspecting the shipments

Once I started opening them I discovered some of them were a pain and took a lot of work, like one package that was actually a folded up bag covered in packing tape. A few, made of plastic, took a lot of pulling and cutting to open.

For other packages, it was as easy as pulling a string, or cutting a few pieces of tape. The comic book mailers were by far the easiest to open and seemed to provide the best protection.

A few stood out from the rest. I found comic books packed in all sorts of interesting things, like a “Word Play” card game box. And while I wondered why one box was wrapped in brown paper, it became clear when I unwrapped it to find a United States Postal Service Priority mail box underneath. The key here is the seller did not pay USPS to send the box Priority Mail. Instead the seller used the USPS supplies, wrapped it, and then used a cheaper mailing option.

That wasn’t the worst offender one envelope was like playing with a set of Russian nesting dolls – there were USPS supplies inside other USPS supplies – inside even more USPS supplies. More on this practice is a bit.

Back to the packages. Soon the mother lode arrived at my doorstep. This was getting serious and I had to get organized if I was going to gather all the research I needed.

So I split this latest big pile into two categories, paper or plastic flexible envelopes on one side, and comic book mailers and boxes on the other.

I tackled the envelopes first – most of the comics I bought were packed this way. None of the comic books were damaged, but with some of the packing I saw – that was a miracle.

One eBay branded envelope was a great experience, I zipped it open, and saw something very cool. The seller has folded over the tape to make it easier to pull away from the board. The seller even wrote directions and topped it off with a handwritten “Thank you!” Definitely a best practice! But I skipped the “pull” and grab the scissors. Inside, the comic was also secured to cardboard to keep it from shifting. All and all a good packing.

Note: *Buy eBay branded supplies: https://ebay.to/2GajA7T

Next came the mailers and the boxes. All were so much better at protecting the contents regardless of how the comic was secured inside. But on one medium sized box, I was a bit disappointed to see single issues inside, not bagged or boarded. I do cut the seller some slack here as this as a “Mystery box” I bought. But in general, I always expect a comic book to arrive bagged and boarded. That seems like a minimum standard, right?

When I finished unpacking, I had more than 100 brand new comic books (well new to me). Now before could start worrying about what I was going to do with them (even more comics for me to sell) — I summarized the trends in the packing I saw.

Packing trends

A lot of sellers included warnings on the outside of packages addressing the mail handlers to “Do not bend,” “Fragile,” “Handle with care.” One even sported a hand drawn, slightly evil-looking smiley face. Does anyone read those before shoving a package into a mail box or dropping it at a door? I’m not too sure. It was even written on one comic book mailer that you really couldn’t bend if you tried.

In my research, I saw lots of variations of dunnage. Yes, dunnage is an actual term – basically it’s the stuff you use to protect the contents of a package. I found bubble wrap. Small bubbles to big.  (Yes, I’m a sucker for popping the bubbles – even at my age!!)

Some sellers used backing boards to add protection. I also saw lots of cardboard. Material ranged from cardboard cut from produce boxes to the remains of long boxes someone recycled. But mostly, I saw new U.S.P.S supplies. And this gets back to what I was inferring before.

On all of the USPS supplies you will find this note: “This packaging is the property of the United States Postal Service and is provided solely for use in sending Priority Mail shipments. Misuse may be a violation of federal law. This packaging is not for resale.”

So here’s the warning I mentioned: you may face a fine if you’re caught misusing USPS supplies.

((And at the risk of getting blasted by the community, from a tax payer standpoint, do we really want the United States subsidizing these sellers? Leave a comment.))

I found 35% of the shipments I received misused U-S-P-S supplies. Given one-third of my sample does this, I can only assume this is a wide-sweeping practice.

Recommendations

Moving on to summarize my research, breaking down the type of packaging, 20 out of the 28 shipments I received used paper or padded envelops. That’s 75%. But despite that ratio, my recommendation from this research, include going with a comic mailer or a box.

Note: Buy GEMINI Comic Book Flash Mailers on *eBay: http://bit.ly/eBay-GEMINI-Comic-Book-Mailers

The mailers are a no brainer! They’re designed for this. A mailer, a U-S-P-S box (used correctly and legally), or any sturdy corrugated cardboard box — protect better and are easier to open for the customer.

Also remember, a limp book is an unhappy book.  Always, always bag and board your comic book. It protects the investment and shows your professionalism.

Avoid using the floppy paper, fabric or light cardboard envelops. I saw many with rips, but luckily here was no damage inside. Still. If you have to use them, make sure you sandwich the comic book between two pieces of cardboard that are at least a few inches larger on each side, and remember to secure the book to the inside of one of one the pieces or the comic will shift. Remember, if you shake your package and you can feel something move inside – you’re risking the comic book.

As for tape, packing tape vs painter’s tape? Clear packing tape may be strong, but it’s a pain to open. Keep the packing tape on the outside, but use blue painters tape inside. It’s a much better experience from the customer perspective.

What about warning “Do Not Bend” on the package? I guess if you think it helps by all means mark your package, but I’d invest a few dollars on some stickers – or better yet one of these cheap stamps. More professional in my opinion.

There you go. I hope you found my research valuable. I’d love to hear your comments. Please click the Like and Subscribe button – I’ll be sharing more how to sell comics online. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @TownsEnd_Comics to see when I put stuff up for sale. Leave a comment.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TownsEndComicsBooks/

Video lists:

The Collection

Videos:

Blog posts

*All eBay links are custom to me. If you end up buying something I will receive a small percentage of the listing fee to go to the college fund. This does not track what you buy or what you look at on eBay. Thanks for your support!

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