In this series, we've primarily focused on what you have to do as a Seller up until the point where you actually ship a card. I've written about the ease of setting up an account , and also the importance of properly conditioning a card . Now, we're going to go over exactly what steps you need to take once you receive that email notification that you've sold a card on the marketplace. You want to make sure that the card arrives safely and quickly every time, without taking too much of a toll on the amount of money you receive. Let's get started.
From levels one through three, your shipping costs will be restricted at $.99 flat. Once you reach level four, you obtain Custom Shipping Settings . Making sure you have your items listed with free shipping will make selling cards a lot easier, and will make sure you take less of a hit when selling multiple items at once. What do I mean by that? Well, let's take a look at some math.
If you've ever purchased cards on TCGplayer, you might have noticed that you have the option to filter the visible listings by various price points. Let's take a look at an example of a card that I've sold a ton of recently, Cryptic Gateway. In the image below, the price is sorted by "Price + Shipping." The cheaper option floats to the top, because most of the other visible sellers have a shipping cost attached that makes the total cost higher. "Price + Shipping" is the default setting, so you can see why it would be beneficial to adjust your own settings to gain an advantage over other sellers.
The other main impact that your shipping settings will have on your sales is whether buyers will be encouraged to buy multiple cards from you. Because the shipping cost is only charged per order, it makes sense to buy more cards from a single seller if they have lower item prices overall with some of the costs tied up in shipping. Let's use Cryptic Gateway (currently an $8 card) as another example.
If I have Cryptic Gateway listed at $7.01 with $.99 shipping (the best way to match the current lowest listing and have my copy be more visible), it may encourage a buyer to click on your storefront and see some of the other cards you have in stock. Let's say for example you're also trying to sell Belbe's Portal; another tribal card that increased in price recently off the back of the Commander 2017 product. The least expensive copy you can buy right now is $4.51 with free shipping, and it's heavily played. Now as a level one through three selller, you're required to have $.99 shipping. If you want to sell your own heavily played Portal and match that $5.41 listing in order to make your product more visible, you're going to list it at $4.42 with $.99 shipping.
Now, what happens if the same person upgrading their tribal Dragons deck decides to buy your hypothetical Cryptic Gateway and Heavily Played Belbe's Portal? You'll be looking at $7.01 + $4.42 + $.99 ($12.42 total) before fees, instead of $8.00 + $5.41 ($13.41). This isn't to say that having your shipping settings at above free is completely obsolete, but most regular marketplace sellers will only be selling between 1-4 cards at a time to a single buyer. If you want to maximize the visibility of your sales and guarantee the amount you're receiving for each card ahead of time, it's better to go with free shipping rather than hope each person buys a single card from you.
Have you ever purchased cards though the mail? If you've done so on a semi-regular basis, you may have a good understanding of what constitutes a quality packing and shipping job, versus a lackluster one. When you sell a card on the TCGplayer marketplace, it's your responsibility to make sure the card gets to the buyer in a safe and timely fashion. So how are we going to go about doing that, while still retaining a good percentage of our full sale?
For most of your lower valued cards, you'll be sending via a Plain White Envelope, or PWE. This is your standard, no tracking, every day "birthday card" mail that you're used to getting from friends and relatives. It's reliable, cheap and gets the job done for almost all orders that you'll be receiving. A smaller PWE like the size in the picture below can usually hold around 12 cards and still fit through the automatic sorting machine, sometimes more.
If you're going into a local pharmacy or grocery store and grabbing a single envelope or two, it's going to be more expensive. On the Shipping Settings page, it's estimated that the price of an envelope can be around $.35. Personally, I've had luck getting the below 100ct boxes of envelopes at Walmart for $1.99, averaging out to around two cents per envelope! They're even the peel & stick versions, so you don't even have to worry about paper cuts on your tongue. Even if you only plan on shipping a few cards out, it doesn't hurt to have extra envelopes lying around.
In addition to envelopes, we're of course going to need stamps. There's not much to talk about here; they're stamps. You can buy them at your local grocery store or post office, and they're going to cost you almost $.50 a piece. No getting around that part.
As for the card itself, we're not just going to toss it in the envelope and cross our fingers; it's going to need protection. Any wear or damage the card receives in transit is the fault of the seller, so we want to minimize the chances of that happening by using a sleeve and toploader.
You might have extra sleeves lying around from past events; even a "broken" sleeve that's too worn from competitive play can do the job. If you're looking for the least expensive option, I recommend going with "penny" sleeves, or soft card sleeves. As the name suggests, you can usually find these at your local game store (LGS) at $1.00 for a hundred of them. The sleeve simply protects the card itself from getting damaged on the toploader. A toploader, or hard sleeve, is where the real protection comes in. You have to really apply force or actively try to snap it in half if you're going to break it, so it provides a lot of extra structure to the card(s) that you're mailing. Toploaders can also be found at your LGS, or in the Magic card section of some big box stores like Target or Walmart.
That might seem like a lot of supplies just for a single $5.00 card that you're trying to move, but trust me when I say that it's worth it. Buying supplies in bulk will come in really useful if you ever plan on increasing the amount of selling or trading you do online, and you'll also get into the habit of saving any toploaders and sleeves you receive when you buy cards. Oh, you'll also need tape. Don't forget tape.
So, you got the email notification that you sold a card. Awesome! What you're going to want to do first is head over to your seller portal, and check out the "Orders" tab. All of your orders that you haven't marked as shipped yet will be highlighted in green. You can click on the order number to get access to all the information you'll need; what they bought, where you're shipping to, and exactly how much you'll be receiving from the sale. You'll also notice a "Print Packing Slip" button; click on that to download a PDF file that you can print out. As a seller, you have the option to either include that printed out piece of paper, or you could write out that 17-digit order number on the toploader itself with a sharpie. I personally prefer to print the paper.
You've stuck with me this far, now let's get to the actual meat and potatoes of packaging a Magic card. When first putting the card in the sleeve, you're going to want to place it upside down in the sleeve like the picture below. For those of you who are familiar with double-sleeving your decks, it's the same principle; we want to make sure the card is completely protected with plastic on all angles, and prevent any possibility of the card stock from being exposed to tape or the inside of the envelope.
Next up, you're going to put it into the toploader, in the opposite direction that you put the sleeve on. Make sure that the card goes all the way to the bottom of the hard sleeve, to prevent the possibility of it somehow wiggling free in transit.
Now for the finishing touch. I mentioned earlier that we would need tape, but it's important not to go overboard. A common mistake I see when receiving cards is that sellers will overtape the entrance to the toploader for fear of the card escaping the hard sleeve. However, sealing over the middle of the sleeve can end up making the card incredibly difficult to open, especially if the entire opening is covered in tape! I've had to resort to Surgically Extracting a card with a steak knife, carefully making sure I didn't cut the card (or my hand) in the process.
To prevent all that hassle, let's minimize the tape while still protecting the card and making it easy to access. Check out the picture below to see my example "pull tab." The card itself is still protected by plastic (because of the inner sleeve), so even if it wiggles up to the top of the hard sleeve, it'll get stopped by the tape. From the buyer's side, they can just peel that tape off the corner easily, and retrieve their Cryptic Gateway.
So, let's add up the total cost of all those shipping supplies. The stamp is $.49, the penny sleeve and toploader average out to around $.05 depending where you buy them, and the envelope is $.02. All in all, that's only $.56 to ship the card.
However, that cost ends up increasing if you decide to list higher-end cards. TCGplayer's current guidelines recommend that you ship any order totaling $20.00 or more with tracking information, and that recommendation becomes mandatory if you end up getting a $50.00 order. It starts to get risky to ship really expensive cards without protection, so how are we going to go about doing that? What's the best way to save money on shipping with tracking? All of these are great theoretical questions, but we're out of time for this week. I'll be back next Tuesday, so keep an eye out for the sequel! Thanks for reading!
- DJ Johnson