From the April 2003 issue of ACCent, the newsletter of the Anchorage Coin Club:
And Shipping Your Coins Cheapskate Style
I am sure that most of you have had occasion to ship coins through the mail at
one time or another. You have done it in the past and you will do it again in
the future. Buying, selling, and trading coins is part of the fun of being a
collector. Sometimes we conduct that buying, selling, and trading locally with
one of our several local dealers, or possibly among a group of collectors at our
monthly club meetings. However, in all likelihood, some of this activity takes
place across great distances. The time has now arrived to pack up and ship the
coin(s) that we are trading or selling. There are ways to do this reasonably
securely and inexpensively.
I have probably shipped at least 5000 or more packages since I started
collecting coins in the mid 1970's, and I have pretty well perfected my method
of packing and shipping. My focus is on getting the job done securely for the
least possible expense with materials that are available for free or very close
All of the shipping methods outlined below are designed based on shipping coins
in standard 2X2 coin holders. That is probably the safest and most secure way to
store the coins for transit, and it makes identification easy.
Lets start out with a small shipment of a few coins. What we will be doing here
is packing the coins into a folded piece of cardboard for protection, then
sticking this cardboard folder into a standard four inch by nine and a half inch
white envelope. There is nothing special about the envelopes that I use. I buy
them in boxes of 500 envelopes at Costco, though you can probably get smaller
quantities for a reasonable price at Walmart. Always get the security type
envelopes, which have a blue pattern on the inside to make the contents a bit
less visible. I think a box of 500 security envelopes runs about $7.50 or so at
Costco, which works out to about 1 1/2 cents each.
I am sure that you have received coins in the mail at one time or another, and
have noticed that they are probably packed in a folded cardboard holder that has
a kind of glue on the inside that sticks very well to itself but not to anything
else. These mailers are convenient and secure, and they work very well. They are
also very expensive. Even in quantity purchases they cost at least 25 cents
each, which really adds up if you ship a lot of coins. I manufacture my own
cardboard folders from cardboard which is readily available for free in the form
of used boxes. I make cardboard mailers in two sizes: 6 X 6 1/2 inches and 6 X 8
1/4 inches. The smaller size perfectly holds three 2X2's while the larger size
holds four 2X2's side by side. The 2X2's can be stacked also, so if you have 16
coins in 2X2's to ship, you can have four stacks of four coins inside one of the
large cardboard mailers. Do not make any cardboard mailers smaller than the 6 X
6 1/2 inch size because they will move around inside the envelope too much. One
or two coins will travel just fine in the 6 X 6 1/2 inch mailer. Not only that,
but if you are sending slabs, one slab fits nicely in the 6 1/2 inch holder
while two slabs can be placed in the 8 1/4 inch holder.
When you cut the cardboard to make the two different sized cardboard mailers,
make sure that you have the long dimension (6 1/2 or 8 1/4 inches) going with
the grain of the cardboard so that it will fold straight and easily. Place the
coin(s) into the cardboard mailer, fold it over, and seal it shut with tape.
Make sure that you seal it securely! I put one piece of fiber tape on each of
the ends and three or four pieces across the top to make sure that the mailer
does not come open inside the envelope. Write your name or the name of the
person that you are shipping the coins to on the outside of the cardboard mailer
just in case it does get broken out of the envelope (I have never had this
happen, but there is a first time for everything!). You can only make the
cardboard mailer so thick before it will not fit into the envelope. It works out
that you can stack thin coins like dimes and cents up to about seven deep (28
coins total) while dollars can only go three deep for twelve coins total.
Now that you have your coins packed into the well sealed and addressed cardboard
mailer, they can be placed into the envelope. Always address the envelope first
because it will become a much more difficult task once the cardboard mailer is
inside. Remember your return address! Seal the envelope as you normally would,
then turn it address side down. Get yourself two pieces of 2 inch wide clear
shipping tape about six inches long each. Each strip should be placed about an
inch in from each end of the envelope. Since the envelope is only four inches
tall and the strips of tape are six inches long, they will extend an inch or so
beyond the top and bottom of the envelope. These extra bits of tape will be
folded around to the front of the envelope so that they serve dual purpose of
holding the envelope closed and reinforcing the top and bottom seams. Get
another piece of tape about 11 1/2 inches long and run it lengthwise down the
back of the envelope, trying your best to cover the flap of the envelope. Again,
this piece of tape will extend about an inch beyond each end of the envelope and
this excess should be folded around to the front.
Lastly, use a bit of the clear shipping tape, whatever amount is necessary, to
cover the address of the person that you are shipping the coins to. The reality
is that mail occasionally gets wet, and this will protect the address from
getting obliterated by the water. By packing the coins in this manner, using the
free cardboard mailer that you made yourself, the total expense is only about a
nickel, 1 1/2 cents for the envelope and maybe 3 1/2 cents worth of tape.
If you have more coins to ship than will fit inside one of these cardboard
mailers inside an envelope, then the time has come to use a box. I save all
small boxes that come my way for use in shipping coins. It does not matter what
the box has written on it, or if it already has used stamps on it. At Walmart or
many other stores you can purchase a roll of shipping paper, either brown or
white. Brown is better so that nobody can see what is wrapped up inside. Use
rubber bands from your junk drawer to hold the coins in their 2X2's together so
that they do not drift around inside the box. Fill in any empty space remaining
in the box with some of the Styrofoam peanuts that you have sitting in a bag in
your garage. If by chance you do not have any Styrofoam peanuts, crumpled up
newspaper works just as well and is also free.
Tape the box closed securely, ideally using fiber tape. See to it that your name
and address is visible somewhere on the box in case the shipping paper gets torn
off. Wrap the box up like a present inside the shipping paper, using the 2 inch
wide clear shipping tape to seal all seams. Put the shipping and return
addresses on and then cover the shipping address with some of the clear shipping
tape to keep it from getting wet. By re-using a used box and free packing
materials, your total investment in getting this package ready for shipment
should come in around a dime, five cents for the shipping paper and maybe
another nickel worth of tape. I told you we were going to be cheapskates here!
Now it is time for a quick lesson about shipping rates. Unless you are shipping
the coins fourth class (not recommended), a package that weighs 13 ounces or
less will be considered first class, while anything over 13 ounces will travel
by priority mail. You can ship a package that weighs less than 13 ounces
priority if you really want to, but it will just cost more in postage and will
not get to it's destination any faster. What I am trying to say here is that you
only should use the wrapped up box packing method detailed above for shipments
that will weigh 13 ounces or less total. I use a small $3 kitchen scale to
figure if I am going to be over the 13 ounce threshold. This scale is really
intended for use by dieters to weigh lettuce and other vegetation, but it works
just fine for weighing packages too, and it does not take up much space.
For our packages that will weigh over 13 ounces, packing materials are available
for free right from the Post Office. The item most likely to fit the bill is a
small box that they usually have available in the lobby at no cost. The box is
not assembled, it is laid out flat, and you just fold it along the easily
visible creases to form it into a box about 8 inches wide by five inches front
to back by about 1 1/2 inches tall. You can fit quite a few 2X2's in one of
these small boxes, and then fill in any remaining empty space with Styrofoam
peanuts or crumpled newspaper. These little boxes seal by pulling a paper strip
off a flap to expose the adhesive underneath, but I very highly recommend
reinforcing this with some strategically placed tape. It does not hurt to add a
piece or two of tape on the sides as well to prevent the lid from being pried
open. Again, rubber band the coins in bundles to prevent them from floating
around loose in the box. A single 2X2 can slip out of a small gap somewhere and
then it is gone forever. Total cost is about 5 to 10 cents for the tape you will
be using, and the rest of the materials are free.
For small but heavy shipments (read: rolls of coins), the greatest bargain going
is the flat rate envelope. It is a large flat envelope about 10 by 12 inches in
size that is marked 'flat rate priority mail' on the flap. If it does not say
flat rate, it isn't! Those words must be there to get the cheap shipping rate.
This will require a bit of work on your part, but it is worth it.
Your first task is to lay out the rolls in a format that will allow them to fit
inside the envelope. For cents, you can put two rows of 16 rolls in an envelope
for a total of 32 rolls. With the rolls laid out, you will have to get some
cardboard and manufacture a box to hold the rolls very securely because the flat
rate envelope is rather flimsy and will break open easily. Wrap the cardboard
tightly around the rolls and use plenty of fiber tape to hold it together. As
usual, put your name and address on this manufactured box. Slide it into the
flat rate envelope and seal the flap. Use some clear shipping tape to reinforce
the top flap and all four edges. The beauty of these flat rate envelopes is that
you only get charged for one pound no matter how heavy the package actually is.
That charge is currently $3.85. My own record is getting 18 pounds of nickel
rolls into one of these, which is an extraordinary bargain for $3.85. Just make
sure that you do not try to overstuff the flat rate envelope as the flap must
close properly to be eligible for the one pound rate. Your total packing cost
here will be in the 10 to 20 cent range as you are going to go through a bit of
tape, though all of the other materials used will not cost anything.
Well, thus concludes my master class on packing coins up for a safe and secure
trip through the mail at the lowest possible cost. One final topic that needs to
be revisited is tape. Do not skimp on your use of tape! It is always advisable
to use a little bit extra to make sure that the seams are reinforced, flaps are
closed, lids on tight, etc., etc. A little bit of extra tape will save you a lot
of hassle by avoiding your package breaking open and having the contents lost.
However, do not go overboard either. Remember that stamps and postal meter
strips do not stick to tape well at all. And never put tape over stamps, as they
will not be accepted at the Post Office.
I hope that helps you out when it comes time to ship coins by mail. Good luck!
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Questions, comments, or suggestions? Mail to: Mike@alaskacoinexchange.com