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…
- 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!
- 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!!
- 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.
- 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!!
- 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!!
- 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!
- 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.
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!