Why do so many experienced autograph sellers not know how to package properly?

I'm not talking about inexperienced sellers here. I'm talking about sellers with feedback in the thousands who feel that putting a photo in a semi-rigid envelope barely larger than the photo with just a sleeve or perhaps some semi-rigid cardboard around the sleeve is enough protection for an autographed photo.

I've been buying more online lately, a lot of it to fill holes in my Sopranos collection. And it's been truly disheartening to see what a high percentage of sellers don't use sufficient protection. I've taken to adding a note about packaging as bulletproof as possible because of past issues. Doesn't seem to matter with poor packers. I'd say it's about a 50/50 split between those who package adequately and those that don't. Now that doesn't mean that 50% of my packages get damaged. Sometimes USPS is good to me even when items are poorly packaged, but that's no more than 50/50 either. 

I've been collecting since the early nineties and been a small time dealer for over three years. I've sold over 500 autographed items and have never once had a shipping complaint. Not once. I ship using a box with several pieces of bubble wrap and the photo or other flat item goes inside a sleeve with a semi-rigid backing board. I will occasionally recycle a box if it is sturdy enough, works size-wize and is in decent condition. But usually I use boxes I buy. I feel like I make my shipments as bulletproof as possible and buyers are happy. 

Another way that is maybe not quite as good but still protects well is putting the item in a top loader and using rigid cardboard around the item, preferably with a bubble envelope. 

Even just shipping in a sleeve with two reasonably thick pieces of rigid cardboard surrounding is usually good enough.

But...what so many of these sellers I've dealt with don't understand is if you ship flat you have to make sure that the envelope and protection are not only sturdy enough but also large enough to protect the corners. The post office is notorious about dinging corners. And I understand. No kid gloves at USPS. Over and over packages get thrown into bins, slammed down conveyor belts, thrown onto planes, thrown into trucks, etc

Truth be told, although I've had a handful of moderately heavy to badly damaged items, most of the stuff I've gotten damaged has been minor or relatively minor corner damage. But still, any unnecessary shipping damage due to insufficient packaging bugs the heck out of me.

Anybody else here had shipping issues? 

OK, I feel better now that I've ranted out some of my prednisone edginess...LOL! 


Views: 503

Comment by meggs on March 23, 2024 at 6:37pm

Sorry findbooks, I know it's not funny to you but I had to chuckle. A shopping bag and address written with crayon, wow.

Haven't had a lot of experience with shipping books, but I would assume a sturdy box with sufficient padding would be best. 

Not sure from your response, if you live outside the US I dont think you'll be able to answer this. I was told that USPS has gotten stricter about inspecting media mail shipments which I know is the way a lot of books are shipped domestically because it is much cheaper. I'm thinking having inspectors rifle through a package is another way a shipment could get damaged.

Comment by crazyrabbits23 on March 23, 2024 at 9:28pm

Maybe I've just been pretty lucky, but most of the signed books I've bought through EBay were, at the least, shipped competently. The only horror story I had in the last year was a signed book that came from Waterstones in the U.K. that must have been dropped in a snowbank or a puddle by Canada Post, because it came to my door in a cardboard mailer that was soaked through to the bone. I clipped out the signature page as a memento, but at least Waterstones made it right when I informed them of the situation.

Comment by meggs on March 24, 2024 at 8:58am

You would think a book would be more solid and less likely to get damaged than a flat item, but if the seller just throws it in a bubble envelope without any other protection then it's going to be fair game for damage.

Comment by meggs on March 24, 2024 at 9:01am

Findbooks, I've had little experience with signed books, but I have several that I will be shipping in the future. With the issues you've had, I think you'd be a good person to ask for advice. I'd love to hear your suggestions for optimum protection if you don't mind.

Comment by Eric Keith Longo on March 24, 2024 at 9:16am

"You would think a book would be more solid and less likely to get damaged than a flat item,"

I think the weight...

Comment by Findbooks on March 25, 2024 at 1:11pm

Meggs, the key principle for packing a book is to make sure that it can't move around inside its box. I always box a book for shipping. Normally, I will wrap the book in bubblewrap, 3 levels with extra at each end which I then fold back to make a cushion. Once inside the box if it is not snug I will use more bubblewrap or thick corrugated paper to stop movement. No empty spaces.

That may sound extravagant and even wasteful in these days of environmental friendliness etc but I only use recycled cardboard and paper. Bubblewrap is a concern, I am trying to reduce my use of it but there is nothing better for protecting a book's corners and spine i.m.o.

Someone mentioned Waterstones and they wrap their books in cardboard it is true but it is not quite the same as a box. Also, they don't add any padding and I am afraid that as a result many of the books they send out arrive bumped or otherwise battered in some little way. It's very annoying.

Comment by meggs on March 25, 2024 at 1:34pm

Ooops, still learning the site. Apologies to the member whose post I just deleted. Don't remember who it was, but he had the bad luck of having three straight items damaged. 

Comment by meggs on March 25, 2024 at 1:50pm

Findbooks, that makes sense and I appreciate the advice. And I'm all for being green, but not at the expense of my business.  I try to recycle whenever I can, but I'm still going to take into account that I want my shipments to look professional so any box that looks at all rough I'm not going to reuse and I break all those boxes down and put them in the recycle can. I know it takes energy but I also look it at as trees are a renewable resource. The plastic in bubble wrap is another story of course. But as you say, it's hard not to use something that works best. 

Comment by JK on March 25, 2024 at 2:30pm

With books the most vulnerable parts are the corners.

When I shipped a book I sold for $1600 I wrapped it in tissue paper, then bubble wrap, then sandwiched it between two pieces of cardboard that were slightly larger than the book (held in place with heavy rubber bands).  I put all that into a sealed plastic bag, and then into a larger box with appropriate packing to ensure that no edge touches the inside of the box. 

There are sometimes books that I'd love to purchase from either ebay or a bookstore but I decline due to inadequate packaging. Books damaged in shipping are a huge letdown.  

Comment by meggs on March 25, 2024 at 2:36pm

Speak of the devil! My mail just came and since I saw him pull up from my window I carried our bag of outgoing mail to him and retrieved the mail he had already put in our mailbox by the time I got out. Low and behold, there was a bubble envelope with big red letters on both sides saying "Photo Do Not Bend" folded and placed in the mailbox. Since the carrier was still there I pulled the item out and politely asked him to please not fold larger envelopes to put them in the mailbox...especially when they say do not bend. Duh. He was very apologetic and I know he is new having just met him for the first time last week. But this is what we get having different carriers constantly. Hopefully he won't do it again, but who knows about the other dozen carriers we'll have over the next month or two.

Fortunately, the carrier only had to bend the envelope slightly and the photo was in a toploader, no sign of a crease on the mint condition JSA witnessed signed photo.

And while the toploader was enough to protect the photo this time, the fact is a bubble envelope and toploader only made the package semi-rigid. Something rigid (or boxed) would not have been able to be bent to put in the box in the first place. 


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