USPS Price Increases and the Impact on International Buyers

A week ago I posted about the US Postal Service price increases that came into effect from 27th January 2013, paying particular attention to the increases in the International shipping rates. It’s been common knowledge that USPS has been operating at a loss for some time now, as was our own Royal Mail for years, so I guess these increases were an inevitability!

Now it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this will (potentially) have an adverse affect on the collecting habits for many sports card fans outside the US, as prices have increased by almost 100% in some size and weight categories.

Here’s a breakdown again for all of you who might have missed it the first time round –

I’ve given myself a week to let this news sink in and to mull it all over, and I’ve given some thought to what we (as non-US sports card collectors) might be able to do as an alternative.

Now, I’ve not counted our brothers and sisters over in Canada in this because although they’ve had a similar percentage increase in their postage costs as well, the actual amount they are charged for postage is still smaller than what we non-Canadians will have to pay.

I’m not being insensitive, I feel your pain as much as ours, but I just wanted to take a UK/European-centric look at things (as well as the rest of the world that is affected by this – if there’s one thing that writing this blog has showed me is that we’re living a global Hobby folks).

So, here’s a few thoughts/ideas that I came up with over the last several days that might help mitigate the USPS increases…

  1. Stop Collecting Completely – OK, I thought I’d get this one out the way first so please bear with me, I’m not being as facetious as I probably sound. It’s important to remember that this great Hobby of ours is meant to be fun… AND a hobby!! Many of us out there have now got more important commitments in our lives such as our families, our jobs, other financial commitments, and so on. Collecting cards is meant to be a fun diversion, a way of embracing the sport(s) that we love and hold dear. But there are times when it’s good to step back and ask ourselves why we’re collecting and what it means to us… If extra postage costs mean that there may well be an extra financial burden placed upon us then surely it’s as good a time as any to ask ourselves questions like this? Is it worth it in the short term or long term? I gave up collecting for a good few years, only to come back to it again… I know that there are plenty of other collectors out there that have also done this!
  2. Be More Selective – There’s a very real danger (I should know as it happens to me all the time) where something new arrives on the market that immediately catches our eye… and we want it!! My own fickleness when it comes to Baseball cards has seen me change the focus of my collecting habits many, many times (try saying that it a Commandant Lassard voice, for all you Police Academy fans out there). So are these postage increases a good chance to re-assess our collections and to maybe scale things back a little. Rather than trying to go for as many cards for a particular player, why not concentrate on just their base and parallels? Team collector?? Maybe just go for the base cards? There are sensible ways of dealing with this that meant you don’t have to stop collecting at all, just be a bit more discerning about what you collect in the first place. Anything extra that’s nice and sparkly, just consider it a bonus!!
  3. Use Alternatives To eBay – Get your singles from Check Out My Cards!! COMC has an ever-growing database of singles for you to browse through at your leisure. This is an incredibly handy resource because I firmly believe that singles purchasing off eBay will be one of the areas that will be impacted the most through the USPS changes. The cost of a 3oz packet (between 6 and 10 cards) from the US to the rest of the world has risen from $4.56 to $8.88 – that’s a 92% increase!! The best thing about COMC is that, as I write this, they haven’t increased their postage rates (yet)!!! Unfortunately COMC don’t do boxes so the range of product available to you will be more limited at this moment in time.
  4. Buy More From Canada – Outside of the US I’d say that Canada is the next best place to pick up sports cards – but with cheaper postage rates. With three of the four major sports having a presence in Canada you’re safe in the knowledge that sports cards will be available north of the US border. Granted there may not be as vast a selection of dealers as there will be in the US but there are still enough to warrant your time and money! So give Canadian sellers a look… And if there are any Canadian dealers out there reading this, think well of me as I try my hardest to increase your revenue streams!!
  5. Buy In Bulk – This strategy is solely based on your ability to have a large amount of cash to hand that you can spend on sports cards! But the strategy is sound… Simply put, the more you buy the cheaper you’ll get it for! Postage costs do reduce quite dramatically if you buy more items so this is one of your better (albeit more expensive) options available to you! In an ideal world we’d have a small group of like-minded collectors who can pool their cash together to buy several boxes in one consignment, thereby spreading the postage costs across the number of buyers involved and helping reduce the costs in the process. All well and good…! Unfortunately, since us UK and European collectors are quite a fragmented bunch this solution isn’t a realistic option unless someone is prepared to put in a lot of work. And it also involves a lot of trust amongst your fellow buyers with regard giving your money to a stranger in the hope that they’re honest! However if you have the money yourself, why not go for it?! You can always sell of some of the boxes to recoup some of your initial outlay, so in the end everyone wins!!
  6. Search Out Sellers Who Use eBay’s Global Postage Program – Stop smiling at the back… You knew I’d have to get the GPP in there somewhere, didn’t you? The GPP removes the need for US sellers to send overseas, therefore removing the need to increase their postage costs as they will be sending to a domestic destination. eBay’s GPP partner take care of the rest! Now, while the jury may well still be out regarding the GPP I just wanted to let you know that I’ve used it twice, and it’s worked for me! Postage costs were lower, that was always a given! And yes, you’re forced to pay any import duty in advance, but it’s not that bad!! Since buyers run the risk of being hit by the import tax anyway (especially in the UK as our threshold is so low) is there really any point in coupling this risk with increased postage costs? The seller I’ve used previously is ebay ID – pittsburghsportscards. Feel free to check them out!! On the surface they have pretty good, competitive prices and I’ll definitely be using them again in the future! The GPP will not work for singles unfortunately… The costs of the cards are usually too low when compared to the cost of shipping and admin, but for boxes the GPP works a treat!
  7. Suck It Up, And Live With It – Sorry folks, but the reality is these price increases are here to stay and there’s not a lot we can do about it. Will it stop the majority of us collecting? Probably not… but it will gives us pause for thought when it comes to shopping on eBay in the future. Eventually we’ll come around and the increased prices will just seen commonplace and ‘business as usual’

*

So… that’s just a few suggestions I thought I’d throw out there. Not an exhaustive list by any means and no doubt there are dozens more that some of you will think of. If you come up with anything then please let me know and I’ll try my best to get it out there via The Wax Fantastic!

Of course I could be completely wrong and the price increases might not have THAT much of an impact. Time will tell on that score I suppose. We’ve just got to hope that US sellers charge at the correct rates (based upon the item or items that they’re selling) in order to help us International buyers out. There’s always the issue that sellers will might inflate their postage costs even further to cover their own costs and fees. I know that eBay frowns on this but it doesn’t stop sellers doing it. And it’s a universal problem I know… I’m not picking on US sellers here, but my concern with this particular issue is that if any US sellers do it, on top of the recent USPS price increases, then it will push cards completely out of the price range for most International buyers!

For example I was having a quick look at some of the relic cards from 2013 Topps Baseball and I came across this particular listing. I’m not trying to say that this seller has purposely inflated their postage costs for this particular card, but the cost of sending this card to the UK (even under the new rates) is not $14.75.

eBay Listing - 2013 Topps Cal Ripken jr Jersey Card

eBay Listing – 2013 Topps Cal Ripken jr Jersey Card

This may well be a simple error in the listing, one that’s easy enough to correct if the seller is contacted – he/she does have good feedback. At the moment these sorts of singles seen to be averaging at around $6.50-$7.00 USD (around £4.30-£4.40 GBP) under the new packet rates, although some sellers are putting the postage costs at around $3.95 USD (£2.50 GBP) which looks to be more like the small packet/letter rate! From what I understand if an item is up to 0.25″ thick then it can be sent as a letter, which does work out a lot cheaper!

I’d love to hear from any US sellers out there regarding you experiences of shipping overseas! I’m aware of issues of false claims for non-receipt of goods, and so on. But in general are your experiences positive or not?

Thanks for taking the time to read all of this!

Andy

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16 thoughts on “USPS Price Increases and the Impact on International Buyers

    • Hi Lee.

      It all depends on how much you’re sending. I tested out the USPS price calculator and it looks as if a small international packet weighing about 1.5oz came out around the $6.95 mark.

      Until you just mentioned it I never really appreciated that all the changes must be just as confusing for you guys as well! There are probably thousands of listings out there that haven’t been updated since the changes came in last weekend!

      • Yep, that is correct. I changed everything (I think) to $6.95, but again, multiple ounces outside North America will be a killer. I’m close to stopping international shipping and I don’t want to do that. I sent a 2013 Topps Silver Bat insert to Canada for $6.91 so between fees and supplies, I lost money. It really is a no-win situation. By the way, did you check out my website? http://www.sportscardmemories.com. We are re-launching in a few weeks as a full fledged website, not a blog. Please feel free to pass the link around.

      • You’re right about the no-win situation… At the end of the day we’ll all suffer. You guys because you’ll be losing money if you don’t hike your prices up in line with the new increases (and beyond to make sure you cover any extra weight at the time of sending)…

        And us because our avenues for getting hold of cards will become less and less…

        Do you do a lot of international business? Roughly what sort of % would you estimate?

      • I don’t do a huge international business because I don’t do hockey and basketball, but I do sell some baseball to Canada and occasionally find myself shipping odd items across the ocean. It won’t hurt me much, but I feel bad about it. Because so many sellers don’t sell international already, I will feel bad one day when I join them and you guys can no longer buy from me. But really, I’m screwed if someone from outside North America buys an item that weighs more than an ounce, and I sell a lot of $1 and $2 items.

      • I can sympathise there Lee.

        I sell bits and pieces but it’s only as a hobby rather than a business! The amount of times I’ve undercharged on postage is scary!

        But at the end of the day if it doesn’t work for you to do it then I completely understand you pulling out of international sales altogether.

        As an aside I’ll be doing a post soon on blogs/sites worth following… I’ll make sure I slot you in!

        Thanks for taking the time to respond!!

  1. I recently spotted an ebay dealer using the Global Postage Program……..on a single card with a BIN price of $3.00. Cost of shipping including pre-paid tax and duty? $16. There seems to be a MAJOR anomoly in the system in that it does not make allowance for an item with a value below that which triggers tax/duty charges. Worrying.

    You could also add two more collecting tactics to keep costs down. The first one is easy. Take every advantage you can of friends and relatives who may visit North America. Get them to bring a box or two back to the UK with them when you can. Secondly (this is one that I use), if you buy lots of singles and have a friend or relative Stateside, ask if you can use them as a go-between. Have your cards shipped to that person, then get them to periodically send them on to you in a Priority Mail International Flat Rate Small Box (described above by Andy at a cost of $23.95). This is an excellent way to cut down on multiple shipping costs if you buy singles and small lots.

    • Agree with you Glenn. For single cards of miniscule value the GPP is an incredibly flawed system at the moment. It might be the case that the GPP checkout process recognises if there is any import tax to pay (based upon buyer location) at then end of the checkout and doesn’t charge the buyer as part of the final payment!

      It’s a big IF, I know!!

      I was going to test it once but now that the prices have gone up it hardly seems worth it!

      And I’ll include the ‘friend in the US’ suggestion this evening!

  2. The sad fact is many sellers had already stopped selling to international buyers, a few years back just about everybody in the US would send to the UK, but the numbers have dwindled and I think these increases will put the final ‘nail in the coffin’ for US to UK (Europe)shipping. COMC is at the moment the best way to go, but how long before they start to feel the squeeze on their profits and end the flat rate price they now have.
    ebay postage prices are sometimes comical – $50.00? and clearly show they are either: not interested in posting overseas, don’t want to post overseas or not researching prices.
    But GIVE UP THE HOBBY! NEVER, cut back maybe, find a friend in the US sounds like a pretty good idea. I’m still not convinced by GPP.
    However give up, I hope it doesn’t come to that.
    Another really great post.

    • Hi John.

      I think that not researching prices tends to be a big issue. There have been a number of occasions where I’ve queried the cost of postage with a seller and they’ve been all to happy to change it when they realised it was incorrect.

      And no, I’ll never be giving up collecting 🙂

      Seriously though about the GPP. If you can get past the idea that the import tax is part of it then it works fine for those larger valued items. I imagine that buyers will still prefer to risk having a package sent that ‘might’ be caught at customs and have the extra duty added… The only problem with this now is that with the extra postage costs pushing the price up, plus the potential customs charges, it will be a more expensive risk than ever before.

      It won’t be too long when the postage + customs + Royal Mail admin is the equivalent cost of the item that you originally purchased… which is pretty scary!

  3. Absolutely brutal for anyone wanting to buy singles off ebay, as you say. After returning to the hobby last year it wasn’t long before I discovered COMC and I pretty much determined then that I was all but done with ebay. If I hadn’t made the decision then, I would now. I’ve given US sellers some stick on various fora about their parochial shipping policies but I don’t think they need to say ‘ships to US only’ anymore. Just list it with the entirely justifiable shipping cost of $7 for one card and we’ll not bother anyway! From a selfish standpoint, I wish that USPS had raised domestic shipping by a similar amount as that would surely steer buyers further in the direction of sites such as COMC, meaning more potential buyers of my 1974 Topps Wacky Packages!

    • I know Shay mate!

      The singles market could potentially dry up completely for international buyers! COMC will be the way to go and hopefully more US sellers will start to use it for their singles. It works for them as there’s no need for them to worry about posting overseas, especially when COMC does all the work for them!

      It’s a real bugger!!

      I’ll spend some time soon doing an experiment with a few cards and some scales, gauging the weight, then putting the details into the USPS website just to see what the actual prices should be coming out at!

  4. By the way, I’d just like to give 2 thumbs up to Lee, who seems to be a dealer who has taken the time to learn about international shipping and genuinely cares about the fact that these price hikes could result in his losing some of those customers. What’s your ebay name, Lee?

    • Thanks Glenn. My ebay ID is swami-lee. I’ve been doing ebay for nearly 14 years and I’m near the end of my rope. I just had a guy from Finland email me about a Gretzky card I’m selling for $3.99. I’m going to either have to tell him $7 shipping making it an $11 card or roll the dice on a PWE which I’d be lucky if it got there. I really don’t know the best way to do this. It’s a shame really. The same envelope cost $1 or so just 2 years ago. I know the USPS is having trouble, but killing business is supposed to generate more income??? What am I missing?

  5. Pingback: Is It Even Worth Buying Singles Off eBay Anymore? | The Wax Fantastic
  6. Pingback: eBay, USPS and the Death of the International Singles Market | The Wax Fantastic

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