Packing and Shipping Chips - A guide for beginning buyers and sellers by TX_Kiwi This article is aimed at people who are new to shipping chips. It is a distillation of advice that I have received from others and my own experiences after over a year on Chiptalk. I have focused on the use of United States Postal Service (USPS) 'flate rate' envelopes and boxes, since this is the most cost effective service in the US. Link It is also surprisingly swift. I have also offered a couple of hints if you are using Paypal for the transaction. Paypal Send the buyer an invoice via paypal. This allows you to itemize the shipping and additional charges (e.g. insurance). Under the tab “Request Money”, look for the line “Create Invoice" and click that link. <O Printing Shipping Label If you print out the USPS shipping label directly from the paypal transaction, then you automatically get the buyer’s and your addresses populated on the label. You also get free delivery confirmation (worth 65c) by clicking through from Paypal. Delivery confirmation is good protection for both parties, because the buyer has proof that the chips were shipped and the seller has proof that the package was indeed delivered. You can also add insurance in the same transaction via Paypal. The cost of the shipping itself is $10.35 (or $13.95 for the larger size) for a flat rate box with discounts for online purchase. All the USPS charges (shipping and insurance) can be debited directly from your Paypal balance (or paid by a further Paypal transaction). Printing the label is also possible directly from the USPS site and this also provides free delivery confirmation on all Priority Mail labels. Using the USPS site you get a 5% online discount for the cost of the postage in many cases, a discount off the price of upgrading to 'Signature Confirmation', and you don't need Paypal. E-mailing or PMing the USPS confirmation number to the buyer is a nice touch so that they know that you have sent the package and they can track progress. Packing over 100 Chips Roll the chips in rolls of 50 in letter size printer paper (if you use printed paper, use the blank side against the chips to prevent ink transfer). Or you can use bubble wrap to tightly wrap each roll. It’s easier and faster to use an empty row of a chip case as a guide when forming these rolls. Lay the paper in the empty row, place the 50 chips and then roll it up using the row as a former. Try and get each roll as tight as possible (the objective is to prevent any movement between chips within the wrapped bundle) and tape up each roll. Rolls of approx 50 are small enough to roll tighly and to keep the roll compact and robust. Longer rolls (say 100 chips) tend to split open easier. Once all the rolls are wrapped, then tape the rolls tightly together (e.g. for 500, perhaps a row of 3 bundles, then a row of four with a final row of three bundles on top). Tape the whole bundle in multiple directions to make a strong and tight package. The advantage of this method of packing is that even if the outer box is damaged, it is less likely that the chips will fall out, since they are taped into one large mass inside the outer packaging. A bundle of 500 chips (10 rows of 50 each) Click to enlarge Flat rate boxes and envelopes are free from the USPS. You can pick them up from any post office or they will send them to you free of charge via their web-site: Link Use a 11" X 8.5" X 5.5" (or the 12” x 12” x 5-1/2”) flat rate box. Don’t use the 11-7/8" x 3-3/8" x 13-5/8" flat rate box, because they are longer and thinner and tend to deform in shipping under the weight of the chips (I had one lot arrive in one of these boxes and the box had split open - I was lucky that they all made it!). The general rule of thumb is no more than 800 chips per 11" X 8.5" X 5.5" box. Any more than that means that you don't have enough room for padding. Furthermore, although well within the USPS weight limit, 800 chips is getting heavy enough to potentially attract shipping damage. The bundle of 500 chips in a 11" x 8½" x 5½" box (plenty of room for packing fillers) Click to enlarge Use plenty of packing (bubble wrap, packing peanuts or crushed newspaper) around the bundle of chips to take up all the airspace inside the box. The goal is to provide padding and, again, prevent movement. Try to prevent any chips being in direct contact with the internal surfaces of the box. You should use enough packing that the box should bulge ever so slightly when you tape it closed. Click to enlarge Tape all the seams of the box with packing tape so that they are less likely to open up in transit. Tape on all seams, including the pre-glued seam down the side of the box. Click to enlarge Here's a few pointers about USPS boxes and taping the seams: All flat rate boxes are 'Priority' and you are entitled to use the 'priority mail' tape available at the post office (saves your packing tape!). You can ask to use the tape to seal the box seams and wrap it about 4-5 times around the box or your friendly post office worker may even do it for you if you ask nicely. Exercise caution with USPS self adhesive boxes. These are apparently priority boxes that look a lot like their flat rate brethren, but aren't flat rate. Apparently, you will need to get the post office to tape up the seams on this type of box - i.e. can't do it yourself. (myself, I prefer to use the flat rate box). USPS will even uplift the package for free: http://www.usps.com/pickup/welcome.htm Packing Under 100 Chips Envelopes (cardboard or bubble wrap mailers) are ideal for small consignments of chips - e.g. up to 5 - 8 chips. Just make sure that each chip is lying flat in the envelope, is adequately protected and they can't rub against each other. However, be wary of the temptation to use these envelopes for larger numbers of chips to save on shipping costs. If you must insist on using an envelope for a moderate quantity of chips (i.e.15 - 50 chips), then don’t roll the chips into bundles. The envelope needs to be as flat as possible to go through mail sorting machines. I have successfully received approx 50 chips in a 11” x 8½” envelope where the seller taped the chips in a flat layer between a sheet of cardboard (that was cut to the right size to slide into the envelope) and a layer of bubble wrap over the top. However, those chips were at liberty to move around and rub against each other inside this inner envelope and they were only okay because they were the nearly indestructable Faux Clays. Another Chiptalker reports success using this method of shipping in envelopes: Notice the cost on the envelope for shipping those from USA to Germany (US $11.95), which is the main reason to use this method (lower costs). However, I personally would think long and hard before sending any significant quantity of chips in a cardboard or bubblewrap envelope: A. The edges and thin seams of an envelope can more easily open up during shipping and you run the risk of an empty envelope with a hole in the edge arriving at the destination. Remember, the items inside aren't papers, but relatively rigid and heavy items that can force open the edges with their own mass and shape due to their movement inside the envelope during all the handling. B. You cannot put adequate packing around the chips to buffer them. The chips are close to the extremities of the envelope and are more susceptible to damage. C. The envelope contents usually can't be insured. D. Depending on the degree of bulge, some post offices may refuse to accept the envelope. There is a new USPS small 'Flate Rate' box, available from January 2009. The 'Priority Mail Small Flat Rate Box' measures 8-5/8 x 5-3/8 x 1-5/8 inches (about the same size and shape as three stacked DVD cases). This smaller sized box appears to be a good option for moderate sized consignments of chips ( e.g. 15 - 100 chips) and is a much better option than a flat rate envelope IMO. However, this small box does have some limitations. The first limitation is that this box appears to lack sufficient depth for chips in rolls (the depth of 1 and 5/8" equals 41.3mm and most chips are 39mm or 40mm diameter) so some other form of packing them tightly would be needed (perhaps 'flattened rolls' like in the picture above, that are taped to a single piece of cardboard and then layered in with packing protection all around). The second limitation is that the cardborad is thinner than that used other flat rate boxes, so it will be more susceptable to splitting open. This box can be posted at a flate rate of $4.95 regardless of weight ( Link ). The smaller box (notice that there is no space to pad chips) Click to enlarge Shipping to Canada Ask for First Class Mail International and have the Post Office weigh the box. Unless the box is very heavy it will be much cheaper to go First Class by weight than by sending it via International Priority Mail Flat Rate. Also Priority mail is more likely to attract the attention of customs. International First Class Mail will still get a tracking number. The Golden Rules Prevent movement of the chips, Ensure that the chips are a single bundle inside the outer shipping container (less chance that they will slip out if the outer container is damaged) A box gives more protection than an envelope (the few dollars more is worth peace of mind), Reinforce the envelope or box as much as possible (tape reinforcement), and Space = problems. Horror Stories Chips wrapped in aluminium foil, Chips rattling loose inside plastic containers, Chips loose in boxes (with or without a token gesture amount of packing peanuts) Conclusion This is what you are guarding against: Special Delivery Way to Go Brown! At The Airport No matter how well you pack chips, postal mishaps can, and do, occur. However, the suggestions in this article may help your consignment to get through, even if the package suffers damage in transit. There are, of course, many options and others will have different preferences. However, these techniques have worked for me; both as a buyer and a seller. I hope that the information is useful to people who are new to Chiptalk transactions. Indeed, buyers might want to request that sellers follow these guidelines. May all your shipments get through unscathed ... Thanks to Jamby, Guinness, UW85, Cidertown, Blaster, Snake, Midnight Rose and Cdnmoose for their valued input to this article.