Four Words: Don’t Forget the Signature

When shipping valuable sports cards, sometimes tracking just isn’t enough

T206 Nap Lajoie PortraitShipping is an unfortunate part of selling sports cards. It’s one reason that, frankly, many collectors have turned to consignment services that handle everything from soup to nuts when trying to sell a card.

Sure, the physical shipping of an item can be somewhat cumbersome if you’re talking about anything other than a standard card. And with rising costs, there’s that to hate that part of it, too. But one of the concerns at the top of the list for most sellers is ensuring a high-dollar card actually ends up in the hands of the buyer. After all, while the U.S. Postal Service and other carriers have a nearly perfect success rate, problems do occur. And, unfortunately, some of those problems can happen with some very expensive items.

The term ‘very expensive’ is, of course, relative. For you, that may mean something like a five-figure card or something like a $20 card. I’m somewhere in between.

Case in point — I had a nearly $1,000 card arrive from a major auction house a few weeks ago. Said card was delivered well protected, quickly, and, as I suspected it would, required a signature.

Today, however, I received another card in the mail that I consider to be a valuable one since it fell just short of $500. The card was protected well and arrived extremely quickly. However, I was somewhat surprised to see that it did not require a signature and only carried standard tracking.

Now, it should be pointed out that the seller quite possibly added insurance to the package. In fact, I would expect that he or she probably did. But from everything I’ve read about insurance, if an item shows as delivered by the mail carrier, you could be out of luck there, even with it. And if that’s the case, you could have two problem scenarios — both of which can and do happen.

T227 CobbFirst, it’s possible that the card shows as having been delivered but was not actually delivered. I know this happens because it’s happened to me a few times. In every case, the item was delivered the following day but it shows a definitive flaw in the system. And I have read other (albeit, limited) cases where others have not been so fortunate with the item actually showing up.

Second, even a package that was successfully delivered could have been stolen. And if that’s the case, good luck with sorting that one out. The seller will claim that the item shows as delivered and, most likely, will not want to take any responsibility. The buyer will claim that the item did not reach them and will want to be compensated. Negotiating fault in that instance is going to be like navigating through a mine field and you don’t want to be the buyer or the seller in stance instances.

Signature confirmation can help combat that. Now, I’m not suggesting it’s a cure all of any sort for any kind of postal ills. But if you require a signature on a package you’re sending, you have some kind of record exactly what happened to it — certainly better than just standard tracking.

I don’t sell many cards these days but if I do, my general rule of thumb is to require a signature on an item that’s about $200 or more. Yes, it costs something like $3 extra but, in my opinion, it’s well worth any potential headache you might experience with a missing package that shows marked as delivered.

It should be pointed out that not all buyers will be thrilled with needing to sign for something. After all, most people are working during the day when the mailman comes and that can mean making an unnecessary trip to the post office during a lunch break or over the weekend.

My response? Too bad. Why should I take the unnecessary risk of a card not showing up just because a signature may be a hassle? Now, I have had buyers specifically request that I avoid requiring a signature for a package and I am happy to do that. However, that buyer must, in writing, tell me they’ll be responsible for a card that shows as delivered and magically disappears.

Tracking is a wonderful thing and sellers don’t have many problems when using it. But I’d always recommend, at a bare minimum, getting a signature for the more expensive stuff you’re selling.

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