After a flurry of complaints on the postcard listserv about damaged postcards in the mail, it seemed appropriate that instructions for mailing postcards be available.First of all, NEVER mail a collectible postcard naked! That is, without an envelope around it to protect it. No intelligent person would ship a rare painting unprotected through any delivery system. Likewise, YOU should not ship a collectible postcard unprotected.Envelopes, when viewed from the top edge, are like tiny wedges. They whistle through the automation equipment at mail handling centers like pros. They rarely catch on anything and survive the cancellation apparatus, the barcode applicators, the barcode readers, and the sorting machines unscathed, though inked up with machine computerese.On the other hand, Murphy's Law applies to postcards. When viewed from the top edge, these unfortunates are like a straight line in a world of curves. They catch on everything, cancellation apparatus, barcode applicators, barcode readers, sorting machines, under flaps of letters, and forty-eleven other places no one would think of. Besides which, they are magnets for ink. Machines and barcode applicators use them to practice their machine-age graffiti.So here's the info on mailing collectible postcards:.
Step One - Insert the postcard into a postcard sleeve. That protects it from moisture. I've had people write, thanking me profusely for enclosing their shipped postcards in sleeves. A leaky mailbox during a rainstorm, or inadvertently dropping a letter in a mud puddle on the way to the house could do a job on an unsleeved postcard.Step Two - Consider the value of the postcard. If it's easily replaceable or costs less than $5, it can be inserted into a #6 envelope and mailed. BUT! Be sure to address the envelope BEFORE you insert the card. Otherwise you may have the person's name and address indelibly engraved in the picture side of the postcard.Step Three - If the card is not replaceable or costs more than $5, follow this procedure: Never use corrugated cardboard as a postcard protector in an envelope. Envelopes go through many machines that bend the envelope slightly. Corrugated cardboard in an envelope will not flex, but will suddenly bend, causing the postcard(s) to crease where it bends. Instead, use thin cereal box cardboard that flexes easily. Take an empty cereal box or potato chip box or even an old manila folder and cut 2 rectangles to size so they'll just fit into a postcard sleeve (manila folders are a bit thin, so use 4 rectangles, 2 on each side). Then insert the postcard(s) between the rectangles in the sleeve. Prepare the envelope ( a #10 envelope works best) prior to inserting the postcard(s). In other words, address the envelope and either write or stamp the words "Photos, Do Not Bend" on the address side. Then put the sleeved postcard(s) in the envelope, preferably enclosed in the note you send to the recipient.Note on addressing - It is much better to have a computer-addressed envelope that incorporates the bar code as part of the address. This will eliminate one of the machines the letter has to go through. The second choice is a typewriter-addressed envelope. Even if you have to address it by hand, print, rather than using cursive addressing. And ALWAYS address the envelope BEFORE inserting the postcard.Step Four - If you leave the addressed envelope in a mailbox for the letter carrier to pick up, enclose it in a plastic "sandwich bag". You'd be surprised at how wet some letters get before the letter carrier gets there. If you mail the letter at the post office, put it in the slot for the local postmark. This way, the stamp is canceled locally and avoids a high-speed cancellation at the mail handling facility.The preceding instructions are for sending one or as many as six postcards at once. For larger amounts of postcards, wrap the stack of postcards tightly with paper, taping the paper to keep it from slipping apart. Enclose the tightly wrapped parcel of postcards in a larger strong box, filling the extra space with soft packing material. Use strong tape to tape the box shut. Use large-letter addressing for the address and write or stamp the notation "handle with care" on all sides of the parcel.Lately, I've noticed some sellers are sending postcards in padded envelopes or large 9x12 envelopes with just light cardboard as a protector. Large envelopes and padded envelopes get much heavier pummeling than do standard size envelopes because they are sorted and handled very differently. A postcard that is shipped in a large envelope or padded envelope should be prepared for mailing like a parcel, with tough stiffeners to withstand the pressures of catalogs and magazines being tossed on top of them. This is where corrugated cardboard, in multiple-layer, crosshatched arrangement might be appropriate.If you're the fuss-budget type, you can insure your postcards. However, if you follow these guidelines, chances are very slim that your postcards will be damaged. I pay over $1,500 in postage each year in mailing postcards, rarely insuring them, and have had a minimum of problems in damaged cards. I must add, however, that I have received far too many cards that were damaged in the mails because of careless packaging.Good luck and happy postcarding.
By Larry Myers
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