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Proper Coin Mailing
united states postal serviceBy Alan Herbert, Coins Magazine
July 13, 2009
united states postal service

Someone ought to write a book about the process of mailing coins. Dealing with the post office can be frustrating, to say the least. Over the years, I have dealt directly with the post office and assisted dozens of collectors and dealers who have run afoul of federal bureaucracy.

Probably the biggest problem has been using first-class mail to ship coins. Mail clerks were often adamant that you can't do it, despite the fact that it is clearly spelled out in the postal manual, a telephone-book size tome that includes all the regulations affecting what can be mailed and how to mail it.

For instance, unless they have changed the rules recently, you could use paper tape for registered packages, but not plastic tape. You can argue the security benefits of plastic tape until the cows come home, without getting an inch of slack. The reason - plastic tape will not take the red ink used to mark registered mail. I'll make you a small bet that at least someone reading this has successfully registered a package of coins wrapped in plastic tape.

SASE stands for "Self Addressed Stamped Envelope." From long and painful experience I have one piece of advice. Either send a long, legal-size stamped envelope, or else a loose stamp, as one of the small envelopes is worthless for this purpose. Most business firms gear their mailings to the full-size envelopes, so you are only hindering your chances of getting all the information you want if you don't send the right size envelope.

I request the loose stamp exclusively because the majority of people who send stamped envelopes don't know the "rules," and send undersize envelopes. And please, don't cut the backing off so close that you remove the perforations from the stamp. This makes a 15-minute job out of removing the backing in order to use the stamp. If you have to fold the envelope to enclose it, that means one more problem for the postal sorting equipment.

I have another reason for requesting a loose stamp. Well over half of the mail I get, with an included return envelope, has at least one mistake in my address or the return address. We've lived for three decades or more with zip codes and two-letter state abbreviations, but the letters continue to come in with upper- and lower-case abbreviations, (Sd rather than SD), periods after the letters, abbreviated city names, and street addresses above the apartment number. Any of these can potentially cause problems sorting the mail, meaning delays in getting the mail to you.

Few people know that the post office charges extra postage if you try to stuff more than a sheet or two of paper in the undersize envelopes, even if the weight is within the lower postage limit. The post office adds a surcharge now if the small filled envelope is too thick, which means I can't enclose the information you have asked for, or have to pay extra postage for it.

Two things should be automatic whenever you write anyone for information. One, that you include return postage, and two, that it is in a form that will get you the maximum amount of information for your money. Don't be so worried about "fixing" that loose stamp, either. It will survive quite handily.

This will surprise some readers - but don't staple stamps to your letter. I have had instances where the post office considered such stamps to have been canceled and charged additional postage.

If you receive a damaged package through the mail, refuse to accept delivery until you and a mail clerk (preferably the postmaster) open the package and determine if coins are missing or damaged. If they are, then this is the point where you file an immediate claim, signed by the witness. I guarantee this will save you a lot of grief before you are through with it. If you are notified of a package arrival, be sure to take your invoice along. There should be one in the package as well.

Pack coins carefully, with the proper materials. Mylar flips are recommended for almost every use other than mailing coins. The flips are brittle and the coins will break out of them at the first opportunity, so use the soft flips or reinforced paper envelopes. To make the package really secure, wrap the inside package with plastic tape and then enclose it in a larger box, sealed with paper tape. Use foam peanuts to cushion the contents.





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Comments
On July 14, 2009 Glen said
Note:  Masking tape does not count as paper tape when sending a registered package.  I recently learned that when sending a package to NGC.
On July 14, 2009 Jim said
9-Digit Zipcodes and Delivery Confirmation work wonders.  To use Delivery Confirmation with First Class Mail package service (under 13 ounces) the package "must be greater than 3/4 inch thick or in a rigid container".  Delivery Confirmation can be viewed on line and helps to ease your mind knowing if your package arrived or not.  Delivery Confirmation can be purchased much cheaper with the online mailing options at Usps.Com or Stamps.Com, etc.  Instead of standing in line at the post office you can also use the APC (Automated Postal Center) in the lobby of most post offices to add postage and utilize mailing options such as insurance, Priority or Express Mail.  Registered Mail still has to be handled face-to-face with a postal clerk, however.   
On July 14, 2009 Bob said
My biggest problem is sending coins securely overseas.  If I send them Registered the maximum indemnity for loss is just over $40. and the majority of coins I send are more valuable.  They can also be sent Insured Air Parcel Post with insurance coverage up to $850.  But when a package is lost I've had claims with USPS take as much as a year to settle and this is IF you can prove it did not arrive.  Some dealers send coins International Express but if you read the fine print on IE you will notice that gold and silver coins are expressly excluded from delivery by this means.  So if you ever have a coin lost it will be excluded from any indemnity based on this exclusion.  Based on all this I try to avoid USPS for international coin deliveries and use them for US deliveries only.  

If you use Ebay/Paypal as a sales medium you have to have almost immediate online verification of delivery to avoid chargebacks if a buyer claims a package did not arrive.  Unfortunately there is no form of USPS delivery, at any price, that provides online delivery verification AND insurance coverage for gold and silver coins.  Thus World coin dealers have to make some pretty tough choices.

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