Wednesday, October 10, 2012

How Not to Ship a Card: A Primer

I would like to thank the fine folks running iSoldit in Elmhurst, Illinois for showing me what has to be the worst possible way to ship a card.  Especially, a rather expensive tobacco card, which I paid $7.50 to have shipped to me and significantly more to purchase.




Two weeks ago, I won an auction for a 1910 Plowboy Orval Overall.  After spending the better part of a week researching how much to spend, looking at closed auctions, running deep searches to find out when and where copies sold in the past, looking at population reports for both PSA and SGC, reading about the set for the first time in great detail, I determined what I thought an acceptable price would be and despite some last minute action, I won the card.

In my searches, I found there were three copies of the card which were graded, all by SGC.  I also found that Plowboys were fairly rare.  If there are more than 10 copies of the above card in existence, I would be surprised.  So, paying a fairly sizable fee to the seller on eBay that night, I awaited the arrival of the card.

Days passed with minimal movement on the track package section for the auction.  In fact, the card made it to Pennsylvania and New Jersey before heading back to Illinois to try again.  In all, 14 days pass from purchase to arrival, which is 8 more days than expected according to eBay.  I noticed the card arrived in New Jersey again on Monday and was optimistic the card would arrive yesterday or today.  I went out to a licensing class last night, knowing the mail had not arrived.

I came home and saw a pile of items for me, including what appeared to be a FedEx box.  Now, I knew I hadn't ordered anything I expected to arrive by FedEx and became concerned.  The concern was due to the shape of the box, which looked like it was dropped, beaten and generally all around hammered about, with many creases and dents in the packaging.  Deep in my heart, I knew the Plowboy Orval Overall was inside.  After two weeks and much waiting, I was convinced this was about to become an insurance claim, depriving me of the card for both today and likely forever, given that this version was significantly cheaper than two other copies sold in the last three years.

I pick up the box and see it is from iSoldit, the seller who listed the card.  My wife told me the package needed a signature, which I knew from the auction listing.  What I did not know was that you can send a package that requires signature confirmation through Media Mail.  That's right, a very valuable and rare card was shipped via media mail in an effort to save a few dollars.  Even worse, the seller chose to ship the item in a box from a competitor.

Fun facts you may or may not know about media mail:

1. Intended for educational use.
2. Does not guarantee delivery.
3. Cannot be used to ship advertisements.
4. Can be used with signature confirmation.
5. Can be inspected at any point in time by the post office if they so choose.
6. Limited to use for books, other forms of media and educational materials.

Judging from the advertising tobacco card, properly categorized as a collectable, I would say that media mail would be a highly inappropriate way to ship this item based on the rules, let alone my reasonable expectations.

So, amazingly, despite the horrific shipping choice, the package arrived.  Safely is not a word I would use in this instance to describe the arrival, but is usually a word which follows arrived in the above sentence.

I open the package, filled with fear and dread, as a terror even worse than I anticipated happened.  Inside was a large mass of bubble wrap, with a few snippets of paper.  The paper contained listings from auction houses for other Plowboy cards, prominently displaying the minimum bid required at auction, essentially proving the seller knew they had a valuable item.

Inside the bubblewrap was the scariest item I've ever pulled from a box.  Once unwrapped, there are two flimsy pieces of thin, grey cardboard, taped to a plastic bag.  Not necessarily a plastic bag you would put produce in today, but one of those plastic bags from the 80s, which were more translucent and made of an amazingly thin material.  I knew there was a thin plastic bag inside, as small pieces of it peaked out of the cardboard.  Given what I saw, part of me was scared one of those pieces of cardboard was the actual card itself.

I gently pry the tape free from one piece of the cardboard and slowly lift up the panel.  Inside, is the card, unprotected, inside a plastic bag.  I remove it from its likely tomb and begin to check the card for damage.   The card was not a high-grade card when it started its journey, so it was quite the affair to determine if it was damaged in transit.  I will gloss over the details of this particularly gruesome exercise, only to let you know that I took the card to SGC today in order to provide the card with a safe home and confirm the authenticity of the product, as doubt crept into my mind once I saw how amateur and poor the packaging job was.

Once freed, I did write to the seller to let them know how inappropriate their entire packaging and shipping of the card was.  The seller replied promptly, failing to take any responsibility for the whole affair.  The seller claimed that I was being saved additional cost by shipping through such a substandard and likely against postal regulation matter.  And that it was eBay's fault for requiring signature confirmation on items costing over a certain price.  No other customer had their cards damaged, so this was an effective way to ship.  Essentially, a strong pass the buck on responsibility after an insincere apology.

I read the E-Mail, logged into eBay and left negative feedback for the second time in my life.  Also, given the exorbitant shipping charge for a media mail package weighing about three ounces, I also filed a report item on the shipping charges provided by the vendor.  Finally, I am writing to let everyone know what happened, so they can make the decision as to whether they would choose to buy from or consign to iSoldit in Elmhurst, Illinois. 

Most importantly, let this all serve as a lesson to everyone on worst practices for shipping a baseball card through the mail.  


  1. I've had some pretty terrible packaging come in through the mail but I don't think I can beat that one.

  2. lame. sorry it went down like that for such a major addition.