When I created Wax Heaven in late October I never once dreamed of trading baseball cards through the mail. To me it seemed just plain strange. Of course, that all came to an end when White Sox Cards made me an offer I couldn’t refuse and at the same time turned me into a trading monster. Since that first trade a few months ago, I am now closing in on twenty trades completed through the mail without one single incident.
While I am no expert, I can offer a few words of advice to keep trades from going sour.
1. Know book value – use Beckett
While Beckett Baseball is dying a slow death, you will be shocked at how many people still use it to price their cards. I have never once had anyone ask to use eBay average prices, or even a rival publication like Tuff Stuff. My advice is to get yourself the latest Beckett and hang on to it for a few months. The prices shouldn’t fluctuate that much over 4-5 issues unless you collect a “cant-miss” prospect who, suddenly missed. Also, people love their baseball cards and don’t want to accept a single dollar less than high book value so expect that 2005 Upper Deck Chris Sabo game-used bat to trade for $15 and not a dollar less, even though you could pick one up on eBay for $5 delivered.
Finally, take in to consideration supply and demand but don’t rely on it. Just because you have a Joba Chamberlain ’07 Bowman Chrome refractor worth $200, don’t expect to receive $500 worth of cards because of what a hot prospect he is at the moment. It’s not out of the question, it could happen—but don’t hold your breath. If you really want a good price for it, take your chances on eBay.
2. Get to know who you trade with!
This is very important because just because you sent out a baseball card worth $150 to some unknown from Wisconsin, authorities have a lot more important things to do than to track down the guy that ripped you off. If you are dealing through a message board private message system (Beckett, Blowout Cards, etc.), get a personal e-mail as well. That way if you get ripped off and their I.S.P can’t help you, you can always do a Google Search to find what comes back to that personal e-mail.
Look, I’m not asking you to get their eye color and weight, but get to know who you are trading with. One thing to look for is response time. If the prospective trader takes 3-4 days for one single reply, he might be a little too busy to send out your package on time.
3. Your package is everything
God, I love innuendos. Seriously, it’s important to send out your cards in the safest way possible. No plain, white envelopes! Get yourself some bubble mailers, tape, team bags, top loaders, penny mailers, and some postage. Personally, it’s best to secure loose cards in a team bag, tape down the bag so there is no room for moving, and then place the cards in between two thick pieces of cardboard. Afterwards, tape all four sides so your package doesn’t slip out and place into your bubble mailer. Trust me, it sounds more complicated than it actually is.
4. Who sends out first?
This is a tough one. No one likes to get ripped off so many times it can be awkward and somewhat of a headache to select. This is where #2 on the countdown helps. If you have built a good repoire with your potential trader, you might be able to agree on sending out on the same day. If not, you will have to hope you have built a strong reputation which brings us to….
5. Reputation matters!
If you trade through a message board, a lot of the trade can be found on the site, as well as messages for good trades and well-done deals the person has made in the past so you can always do your research. Also, believe it or not…post count is important. If you have a choice to trade with member #1 with 7 posts or member #2 with 12,000 posts I am guessing you are more than likely going to go with the latter.
It also helps to see the guy’s trade bucket. If he doesn’t have a scanner, I have seen people use cell phone pictures. Anything that proves the guy has the card helps. Also, if he doesn’t have a scanner or cell phone, check that he has his cards available for trade listed on a personal page. Not many scammers will take the time to type up a list of cards with the company, player name, card # and serial #, if applicable.
Also, for your sake, don’t overdo it! I know it’s exciting when you first hit the Trade market and find 20 of the cards you have always wanted but keep in mind that you will have a lot of e-mails to exchange, cards to scan, and supplies to refill on. If work or personal life get in the way, you can leave a lot of traders very upset with you and can damage your rep in one fell swoop. Start small and when you find time, go on to bigger and better trades.
These are just some of the many tips for trading through the mail. There are many more that I hope some of the readers of Wax Heaven can share. After all, 20 trades doesn’t make me much of an expert when there are traders out there with over 1,000 completed deals!
Check out this short video I made for those who have never shipped cards through the mail. I hope you find it helpful!