How to Properly Pack and Ship Comics

Something that's always being discussed but never seems to reach people the most in need of the information, is packing and shipping. There's been more than a few articles over the years documenting the process, some more useful than others.

I've seen a lot of absurd packaging jobs in my day. I've shipped everything from artwork, comics and toys, all over the world and even did a stint at UPS. So I thought I'd seen it everything, but leave it to amateurs on eBay to find a way to surprise even me. I received a slab wrapped in a cracker box and shoved in a mailer. I've received slabs in just a bubble mailer. Raw comics shipped to me in a brown paper bag, no bags or boards, just shoved in a folded over grocery bag. It's unreal. Let's look at a really terrible pack job some eBay goon sent me recently.

 

 

Let's talk about how it should be done… let's start with some of the supplies needed.

 

Bubble Wrap

Do to the shear number of raw books I've seen improperly wrapped in bubble wrap, it seems prudent to discuss it. Bubble wrap is used primarily to protect from impact damage, but improperly used, it will create more damage than it guards against. When shipping raw comics, your main concern should be keeping the book as stiff as possible. Bubble wrap is the polar opposite of stiff, so that should be a clue. Sure, guarding from impact damage is important, which is why you need to use bubble wrap after, not before, insuring the book or books can not be bent.

 

 

Obviously graded books in a plastic cases you can use bubble wrap first, but raw comics should never be left in a bag and board then wrapped in bubble wrap. Because a comic in a singled boarded bag is not very stiff to start with. Adding bubble wrap around that is potentially a grade killer. I guess you can wrap it in bubble wrap, who cares that you listed a raw book as a 9.8 on ebay then did everything human possible to insure that it would not reach the buyer in that grade. Go ahead, deal with that unnecessary hassle.

 

Tape

Tape should be used for adherence and sealing, not reinforcement.

Less is more some times. if you are shipping multiple books, don't tape them together. Seriously, don't be that guy. Or the guy that uses priority mail supplies and ships media mail. Instead, get a pack of golden age bags, they'll fit 2 or more bagged and board books. Magazine bags work too, depending on the number of books in an order, usually they'll require more tape.

 

Blue tape is typically lower tack than packaging tape, and more expensive comparatively speaking. Both have their uses, figure out when and where to use both. A good rule of thumb, instead of making it so the buyer can't get into it, try thinking about what it's like to get the book out. While it's important to think about packaging something safely, if the receiver damages the book trying to open it, you've failed in your mission. Never create a package that requires more than a razor blade or a pocket knife to dismantle.

NEVER use tape on the spine side of a book you are shipping. This creates a leverage point. This leverage point will create both seen and unsense spine breaks. While the naked eye might not always catch these, you better believe a CGC grader having a bad day will… and downgrade a book accordingly. Instead, only apply an adequate amount of tape to the top and bottom of the bagged and boarded book.

 

Cardboard

Cardboard is important, but, the sheets of cardboard closet to the book should be uncreased. You can use creased cardboard on outer layers. That's fine, but the cardboard you have the book directly attached to can inflict damage to a book from creases or gaps in the board.

 

 

Mailers.

There's a lot of debate as to which mailers to use. If you are shipping first class mail, Gemini mailers are fine IF you have extra cardboard used inside to keep the book stiff. It's also fine to use them if you put them inside another box or sliding them into a priority mail legal sized mailer. A gemini mailer is not acceptable to use for media mail… which is the lowest level of service offered by the post office, i'll explain why in just a moment.

Granted, Gemini isn't the only company that makes them, Uline and other shipping supply companies have similar option. I like the Gemini's because of the price and the weight is low enough that it lends itself to the use of additional cardboard for support.

 

 

Media Mail. 

Alright, now to the part of shipping and package that's most improperly used by the majority of the online comic selling community. I'll try to make this as simple as humanly possible as it pertains to comics…

 

COMICS CAN NO LONGER BE SHIPPED MEDIA MAIL, PERIOD, FULL STOP!

Was that simply enough? There was a loophole that could be used, which revolved around paid advertising, but the post office has gotten wise and expressly said, no comics can be shipped media mail now. Want to argue it, cool, here's a link to the USPS website.

See, there it is, comics do not meet the standard for media mail. Pretty simple, so stop doing it.

Now you're probably thinking, well who's going to know?

Fun fact, the postal service can and does open to inspect packages. If they catch you, in some cases they will return it and not refund the postage… that's best case. Most of the time they lose it, because let's face it, if you are shipping media mail you are probably too cheap to spring for insurance. So you are out the postage, product and have to refund your customer the money, all to save a couple bucks. If the Post Office is feeling spiteful, they'll hold the package and extort money from the receiver. Expecting them to fork over the remaining postage difference. They calculate between what was paid and what the postage should have been if it was mailed using the correct service.

As I said prior, media mail is the lowest level of shipping, it also travels though the most hands, most machinery and is treated poorly throughout the entire process. So in all reality, you are going to have to use more packaging material to get it to its destination, making the dimension of the package thicker than it needs to be and costing more.

 

Is there any bulk mail option for comics besides Priority Mail? 

Well, funny you should ask. Yes, it's called Mail Innovations, a service UPS provides. As I understand it, it starts with UPS pick up and ends with the final delivery made by the USPS. I believe you have to contact UPS and set up an account to do that.

FedEx might have some options also, it's been a while since I used them for shipping.

 

Click here to check out the supplies we use.

 

Well, that's it for this week, I'll be back next Friday with another random comic related  diatribe…. Till then!

23 comments

  • misfit138

    I worked for the PO for a few years. The carriers took great pride in their work (I don’t know about the gorillas in the transfer buildings) . I never once heard of them opening and inspecting anyone’s mail. Can they do it yes. Is it likely, no. I just shipped over 100 book to someone who bought them from me on ebay. I shipped them media mail, told the buyer I am going to address them to them with Dr. in front of their name. I told the clerk at the PO it was books and pamphlets for a professor. They arrive just fine. Media mail was around $16 compared to over $70 going regular ground. I probably won’t do that again, but it did work. The bottom line is that people don’t know how to pack books for the most part and yes they are cheap and you see everything imaginable used for packaging material. Thanks for the article.

    • Skot Whitman

      Thanks for commenting, I know for a fact they do spot check packages shipped media mail out of the state of Florida at least. Because I’ve had more than one package coming out of their shopped for that exact reason.

    • Avatar

      Be careful here. I always at least use First Class. I don’t mess around with media mail or modifying names. You’re playing around with the US gov and some things we consider not a bid thing is actual mail fraud. Not worth it.

  • Jonathan Hedrick
    Jonathan Hedrick

    Fantastic article Skot! I’d like to add that USPS’s medium Priority Mail box (the cuboidal shaped) is great for shipping 50+ books bagged and boarded with some added support on the long sides (I use empty paper towel rolls). I do this often when shipping books for credit to mycomicshop.com. It’s about $14ish, you get $50 insurance, and it usually arrives in 2 -3 business days.

    • Skot Whitman

      Thanks for commenting. I wish I had the time to go into greater detail on this, but I agree, using priority mail flat rate is great. I use both Medium box and legal size all the time. Priority is my prefered way to ship.

  • Avatar

    Here are a few more tips for those out there.

    If you’re not using a designed Gemini or similar mailer, then use 4 layers (2
    On each side) of THICK cardboard. The USPS boxes do NOT qualify as thick. I’m talking about stuff that’s at least twice as thick which makes it 4 times as rigid per piece.

    I’m not sure if Costco does it, but BJs has bins of empty cardboard boxes free for their customers to use to carry items they bought. Just go in, look for some hefty cardboard and take them with you. Invest in a sharpe exacto knife to carve them up for sandwiching comics.

    My favorite boxes are Fabuloso (laundry detergent) boxes. They’re heavy and sides are practically the same size as comics. Less cutting, less waste.

    And always use blue tape when adhering the boarder comic bag to the cardboard, board up and comic face down. Only tape top & bottom like you said. Lay the next stuff board over top and then tape only the sandwiched boards on the sides. Again with blue tape. Shipping/packing tape should only
    Be used to seal the exterior wrapping.

    Speaking of wrapping, Trader Joe’s paper pages are the best. They’re thick, and when you lay them out flat each bag can wrap a couple stacks of comics. And being thick when you fold the paper over it doesn’t tear and provides good corner reinforcement.

    That’s it for now! Pack safely out there!

  • Avatar

    I find Gemini mailers leave almost no room to apply tape to the top and bottom edges with most bags/boards. How do you tape on a Gemini?

    I don’t love it but I tape the sides, leverage points be damned.

    • Avatar

      You don’t tape the comic. Ever. You simply put the comic in between 2 correctly sized flat pieces of cardboard and you tape the cardboard, 1 piece on all 4 sides. You then put it in the Gemini holder, fold it up, tape it up, and you’re good to go.

      • Avatar

        Two additional pieces of cardboard is not worth the extra postage and hassle at all if already using a Gemini unless you are selling 100$+ books.

        • Avatar

          What’s your ebay name. I’ll make sure never to buy from you…

          • Avatar

            There is ironclad shipping and good shipping.

            I reserve cardboard sandwiches inside a gemini for raw 9.8 candidates and expensive books. If it’s a really expensive book, I use a cardboard sandwich in a box. I do not use the cardboard sandwich for lesser books.

            I’ve had 1500+ positive sales on ebay. I’ve had zero complaints about shipping & condition; I’ve had “one” case of USPS damaging a package beyond recognition. When people suggest room for improvement, it’s usually that my 3.99 shipping cost is too expensive. Without a cardboard sandwich, it costs roughly 4.40 to ship a single book to the other coast. I’ve heavily weighed whether it’s worth charging them another dollar to cardboard sandwich their 5-10$ book. I’ve opted to tier my service.

            So please, give me your ebay buyer name and I’ll add you to my blocked buyer list. You should also go ahead and blacklist Midtown, GC and every other online retailer who doesn’t use a cardboard sandwich and opts for acceptable shipping over ironclad shipping.

      • Avatar

        I second this.

        Cheaping out by not adding that extra piece of board is ridiculous…and taping along the spine because you don’t want to add an extra piece of flat cardboard to secure the comic from sliding around side to side? The ones who think that his is acceptable are the ones whom this article is for.

  • Avatar

    Every dealer on Amazon should read this before they are allowed to sell comic books. Seriously, 90% of “comic dealers” on Amazon have no clue how to pack and apparently think every postal worker in the world handles mail as if it is made of razor sharp glass.

  • Coswrd

    I use paper bands to secure the books and place them in a magazine bag to contain them. I don’t use cardboard but instead I use foamcore (artboard or craftboard). It is lighter and when books are sandwich between them, they are stronger than cardboard, and absorb impressions better. It works so well that when I ship 8-10 books or more, I not only sandwich the books but I use the foamcore to construct sides thus encapsulating the books

    • Avatar

      I am considering foam board…you can get a sheet for $1. I have used them for the inside of Gemini mailers….I will say they feel rigid, but I’d still back the foam up wih cardboard if you’re not using a Gemini or similar mailer. That foam can fail quite catastrophic.

  • Avatar

    This is the best way to ship and still make profit? What is the best way to ship a book you sold for a $1 and still ship it safe and still make at least ad $0.50 profit?

  • Avatar

    …”media mail may not contain advertising. Comic books do not meet that standard.”

    That is 100% horseshit. SOME comics don’t meet that standard, plenty do.

    • Avatar

      Correct. Especially the “prestige format” books, reprints, special editions. etc. Howard Johnson had a series of comics promoting their own business, Howard Johnson hotels. Is that an ad? If I ship a trade paperback via Media Mail, which has no ads, but the inspector flags it as a comic book? It’s such a dodgy premise, and that’s probably why it’s enforced so selectively. I actually received a package of comics via Media Mail that were inspected and passed. Go figure.

  • Avatar

    Over 90% of the single comics that I purchase on eBay are shipped via media mail – including very large comic shops AND publishers – go figure.

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