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