Monday, February 18, 2013

Anatomy of a Trade

Trading is the soul of the blogging community in this hobby.  Having completed a few trades now, I have come to the conclusion that while it is a very rewarding experience, it can get a bit time consuming and expensive.  In that vein, I have been developing a system for streamlining the process and reducing the cost that I'll share with you now. 

First, the cards themselves.  I keep a running stack of cards I know go to specific people; everything else gets split up by team.  The result is a small stack of cards about 200 thick, then three 3200-card white cardboard boxes arranged alphabetically by team.

This is not even all of them.

I also have a couple stacks of non-baseball-related freebies to include with trades such as stickers and random fun cards.  These are "lagniappe," pronounced lan-yap, an Acadian word that translates roughly into "a little extra."  We have a lot of goofy words down south.

Now, for a very small quantity of cards, a PWE will do.  If someone is looking for only a handful of players or enough cards to make a small stack, I have a few bubble envelopes I keep on hand.  I protect them by wrapping the stacks in top loaders and tape which seems to be fast and work fine.  These ship for two bucks so no complaints here.

The biggest issue I have run into is bulk shipping.  I still have thousands of cards I am looking to trade, but the shipping is getting a little expensive.

Four team stacks I recently paid out the ear to ship.....

For example, I recently did a trade with Tom over at The Angels, in Order, another great blog I read on the reg.  I just shipped his (and a few other bloggers') stuff on Saturday, and I'm sure his stuff is on its way to me. 

Anyway, he told me he had a couple of Griffey stacks for me.  Now, this is the perfect trade for me for two reasons:

1. I get a lot of Griffeys.  (w00t!)
2. He collects Angels cards, so I get to unload a whole team's worth of cards that aren't Griffeys.

Since I have divided up all non-Griffeys and non-keepers by team, I have hundreds of cards for every team in baseball waiting to go to bloggers who have Griffeys to trade.  It's a lot of cardboard.

If I ship these "hairy man-stacks" in regular white cardboard folding boxes, the shipping runs just under ten bucks (!).  That's a lot of scratch for a few Griffeys.

Now, keep in mind that I do not operate on a CPG system (cost per Griffey).  I wouldn't be in this if it was about returns.  I would much rather have to pay more for Griffeys and get to contribute to this awesome community than get them dirt cheap from a nameless eBayer.  The blogging community is all about the give and take, and I'm all about the blogging community. 

Also, there are a lot of you who are just stand-up dudes for whom I would have no problem shelling out a couple bucks to get you a stack of cards I know you would love and maybe even write about.  I get ecstatic seeing cards I've had since childhood that have languished in a box in a closet for years lovingly scanned and appreciated.  It's really quite remarkable.

But the fact remains that I can do more if I can spend less. 

So, to combat this cost, I grabbed a stack of small Priority Mail boxes the last time I was in the P.O.  A value to ship at only five bucks, I took them home and began testing.  I learned that these boxes, if done right, can hold right around 400 cards each with space left over.  We have a winner.

Can you tell who got this one?  That's right.  Dime Box Nick.

To fill the extra space I recently started throwing Mardi Gras beads in with the cards - yep, more lagniappe.  These are not the plain old single-color shiny little balls.  I mean real ones, with the name of the Krewe that threw them and caught at a real parade by an authentic drunken local.  You can throw them away, give them to the kids, hang them from your rear-view mirror, trade them for.....well, you know.  It's up to you.  Down here they are plentiful and free, and they're a fun way to keep the cards from shifting around in the box.

So, I grabbed all my Angels, put the Tim Salmon cards in the front, divided them up into 4 stacks, wrapped them up for protection, arranged them in the box with some Orpheus beads (they're Angel-red!) and sent them off.  That little box got real heavy, and I still have Angels I couldn't fit.

I also started putting the Junior Junkie seal of approval on everything I send out.  I've always been a sucker for personalized packages....


Anyhoo, if you have a bunch of Griffeys you don't feel too attached to, and a team to which you are hopelessly devoted, let me know!  I am highly motivated to turn all this spare cardboard into Griffey gold!

And if you have a shipping secret or trade system improvement to share, I'm listening.  I'm all about adopting best practices if it results in more Griffeys!

P.S. This post should win an award for most sentences begun with a coordinating conjunction, something I hate doing.  And if you don't know what that is, you are reading one now.


  1. Coordinating conjunction, what's your function?

  2. I'll have to check out those Priority Mail boxes the next time I hit the P.O. I don't mail a lot of big packages like those, but they'd certainly help for future big swaps.

    I've also had to cut back my shipping a bit due to rising shipping costs. Which reminds me, I have some cards set aside for you, so keep an eye on your mailbox in the near future!

  3. You should look into ordering (for free) the padded priority mail envelopes from the USPS site (for free). They are flat rate, larger than the slim flat rate envelopes available at the actual post offices, and currently cost $5.95 to ship (and they're free). Did I mention that they will ship you a bunch of them for free? They will do that. They hold a lot of cards. I usually slip a somewhat rigid object like a slab of cardboard to attach some team bags to, and it seems to work.

  4. Lagniappes was my favourite restaurant in Buffalo, NY. It was creole/cajun. Simply outstanding.

    Always curious how other people ship, too. So this was a solid read.

    And Griffeys. Love Griffey talk.

  5. Outstanding post! You might want to check into comparing the use of a standard padded envelope (not priority mail) against the flat rate box, it may save you a little bit on cost as well.

    Looking forward to those Angels!

  6. Sweet post. Thanks for letting us in on cost efficient ways to ship in bulk. Do you have some red and blue beads? I will come up with some more Griffeys for you.

  7. I have every color bead. :-)

    Yes, I'll also have to check out the USPS site. Those padded mailers may be the way to go next time.

    Thanks, everyone!

  8. I don't have a ton of Griffey's, but I do have this PWE ready to go for you. Please email me your address and I'll get this off to you stat.

    ...the potential Padres you have lying around inspires.

  9. email me your address, I misplaced it. I have some cards to send out for the Wallach's you sent.

  10. hey - i recognize those packages! thanks for sending them. i am putting together some stuff to send in return.