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From the April 2003 issue of ACCent, the newsletter of the Anchorage Coin Club:


Packing And Shipping Your Coins Cheapskate Style

By Mike Nourse  


     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 to it.

     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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