Monday, March 11, 2013

The fall and rise of the PWE

Back when I first started this blog, the card blogging atmosphere was a little bit different. There were a lot more "how-to-collect" card blogs, or what I would call "card advice" blogs. They actually came in pretty handy because I was really only a couple of years back into the collecting game and didn't have a full grasp on what the hobby had become.

I came away with a lot of great pointers and am now in the position myself to give advice. If you're nuts enough to ask me for some.

One of the things that I heard back then related to shipping cards through the mail. Here is the gist of what that advice was:

"If you send cards in a plain, white envelope, you get everything you deserve."

I took it to heart. And when I actually dared to send out a plain white envelope, or PWE, I accepted the consequences with humility.

But then this year I joined Listia. I started shipping out more three-, two- and single-card packages than I ever had before. I HAD to use PWEs unless I wanted to go broke.

And I noticed something: all the packages arrived intact. No complaints on the receiving end at all.

Other collectors must have noticed this, too, because in what has become a total reversal in The Way To Send Cards Through The Mail, I see PWEs flying all over the place. It almost seems that PWEs are THE way to send cards these days.

I don't know what this says. The economy is a shambles? Nobody has any time? Envelopes are sturdier than they were four years ago? The post office no longer eats cards? No one gives a flying fig?

Whatever it is, I'm buried in PWEs lately. Just to clear off my desk, I gathered up all the PWEs I've received in the last week and am showing them here. ... well, the cards, not the envelopes. Nobody needs to see a pasty, white envelope.

I'll start with Jeff from 2-By-3 Heroes. He's one of the leading proponents of the PWE. In fact, he's such a fanatic about it that I can't keep up. He sent me one PWE with this very welcomed '01 Upper Deck '70s Rennie Stennett card and then I turned around and there was another PWE from him in the mail a few days later.

This Kershaw card also was in one of the PWEs -- the first one I believe. I've been trying to get this card for two years. I don't really remember what it was part of -- some Walmart exclusive I think. We're going to have a heck of a time explaining these types of things to future collectors.

I know this card popped up in the second PWE from Jeff. I'm supposed to send him a Heritage White Sock in exchange. By the way, Kershaw appears a bit off on this card. It looks like Topps Bieber-fied his eyes. And I hate that I even wrote that.

These two Target red Dodgers, along with the Blanton at the top of the post, came in another PWE from Spankee at My Cardboard Mistress. In fact, both Jeff's first PWE and Spankee's showed up on the same day ... along with ANOTHER PWE.

The old card advice blogs would never believe what's happening. The locks are off the asylum.

This emerald/rain forest parallel of Josh Beckett fell out of a PWE from Charlie at Lifetime Topps. Totally unexpected, which seems to be the M.O. of the PWE. You can send it off without warning someone first that a GIANT BOX OF CARDS IS COMING YOUR WAY, WIDEN THE DOORWAY!!!!!!

It was also very cool of Lifetime to send two of the online-exclusive Turkey Red Dodgers to me. I don't have the opportunity (or the drive) to go after stuff like this, so I'm very grateful.

The 2013 Turkey Reds look like your typical modern TRs, They don't have the grainy texture that you're probably used to, so that's gonna disappoint I think.

Oh, and that's my first Greinke Dodger card.

This came in a one-card PWE from Chris at Nachos Grande. I believe I requested it during one of his Fleer Ultra binges.

It's not like me to request Fleer Ultra, but I know a card I don't have when I see one. This one is actually pretty cool. And it gives me a chance to get rid of some 1990 Topps.

Winners everywhere.

Finally, there was a larger PWE from Sam at The Daily Dimwit.

Another emerald card fell out, along with a couple of other cards of the parallel/insert variety.

The Koufax is the white foil variety. Because I know you all wanted to know that.

This is one of the hobby shop exclusive Spring Fever cards. Another item that I have no chance of getting in person.

I was a little disappointed with the look of these cards in hand. They're very foily/metallic, a foil board extravaganza. That's fine for what it is, but when I saw the cards on various blogs, they beamed out in various bright colors, blue, yellow, etc. That said "spring fever" to me. Metallic silver doesn't say "spring fever." It says "prepare for robot domination," or something very un-spring-like.

Anyway, I'm happy to have the card, and I'm looking forward to getting the others, whether they look like the chrome bumper of a '60s Chevy or not.

Of course, the best part of getting all of these PWE cards is that not a single one of them arrived damaged.

No creases, wrinkles or dings.

That doesn't mean I've forgotten what those well-meaning card advice blogs said back in the day. I'm sure everyone is aware that if you don't write "non-machinable" on the PWE or have a conversation with your friendly postal worker behind the desk, one of your packages may end up in one of those post office body bags.

Also, if you're going to go the PWE route, I recommend that if you use top-loaders that you fold some paper around them or tape them to the inside of the envelope so they don't move and also let the mail folks know that it's got to be sorted by hand.

I speak from experience because I too am a PWE user these days.

How far we've come/what's become of us?


  1. I've been sending cards via PWE for years and have never had problems with them. They've been looking better and better with the rising shipping costs these days.

    While I love big boxes full of cards, there's something infinitely special about a little envelope. I think the whole "unexpectedness" factor is part of it, as you said.

    I had that AJ Ellis red border set aside to send you soon. Looks like another Dodger blogger will have to give it a good home.

    Shouldn't be too hard to find one around here. :)

  2. I've never had any problems getting cards in PWEs. The only complaint I have is when I pay $3 for shipping and the card comes in a PWE--that's just a seller ripping me off. Cards from Sportlots almost always come in PWEs, but you usually pay less than a buck for shipping.

  3. "Proponent"

    I will wear that badge with honor, cuz I love me a PWE. It is a great way to just send up to 6-7 cards to someone out of the blue with no warning. Especially if you are like me and don't care if anything comes back in return.

  4. BTW - that Kershaw came from my 2011 Topps box. My guess is I pulled it from some retail pack - I really cannot give you a solid answer.

    But it's a Kersh, which means it goes to you. Had I known you have been looking for it for so long, I would have pulled it sooner.

    (wow - that did not read right at all)

  5. I think it's generally worth the risk. If I was sending a $20 card - I'd probably go the package route. But 1 to 4 cards that won't lose me sleep if they get lost - why pay $2+ to USPS and another $1+ for the package to ship 3 cards you could sell on eBay for less than that!

    I got a bunch of doubles in my Turkey Red boxes. About the only plus with that was I got those 2 Dodgers and had reason to mail you those cards!

  6. As long as the cards were in some kind of top loader I have had no problems shipping or receiving PWEs. I have received a few Listia packages with no top loader that didn't fare as well.

    By the way, I'm sending out a few Vintage PWEs this week. Good chance one goes to northern NY.

  7. I think that A.J. Ellis is a leftover sparkle variation, check out the top of his helmet.

    With the ever increasing postage costs, I've reverted back to PWE's on occasion. I always use a "security" envelope, they're a little sturdier than a regular envelope and a toploader.

    Unfortunately, two of my recent Listia wins came PWE damaged. One was a Finest Fusion Tino Martinez, no big deal. But, the other one was a Gold Sparkle and Golden Greats Mantle. The Mantles weren't in a toploader, if I remember correctly and are bent around the middle of the cards. Probably as it went through those big sorters with the rubber wheels. The Tino was in a flimsy ultra-pro toploader. Tino is bent along the long side of the card, right down the middle, oh well.

    If anyone wants these cards, they're yours, I'll send them in a PWE.