This post isn't a rant or a way of whining publicly, but just a way of informing people of how it is, exactly, to collect baseball cards overseas. I've written about those issues numerous times when I first started, but a lot of things have changed over the last couple of years.
First and foremost, the cost of postage : this makes it difficult to find trade partners, as you really need to be committed in a relationship to dish out $20 to $30 to send more than 50 cards(around $14 for less). I'm fortunate enough to have such friends, and I'm always ever so grateful. I believe Canadian collectors have the same problems. The cost of postage has really gone up in 2 years, with successive waves. I used to be able to find Ebay sellers who'd send cards from the US for $7. Now it's $14 minimum, and $20 more often than not. It's a lot for just a couple of cards, especially considering I hardly buy any cards worth more than just a few dollars.
The cost of postage has an effect on Ebay and trading, but also on my other sources : justcommons and COMC. They're absolutely great at justcommons, and will charge you exactly the shipping cost, minus the advantages they offer to US residents. Which means I could pick out 300 cards and only pay $14 postage. Now, it's closer to $24. It's "only" $10 more, but it's for $40 to $50 worth of cards at best. The cost per card drastically goes up. I'll still continue shopping there because I love their service and it's still way worth it, but still, it's more money put in S&H and less in actual cards.
With COMC, it's worse. They used to have a $3 flat rate to send out to Europe. It takes 6 to 8 weeks, but with such cheap rates, you can be a little patient. Now, it's $4.99. Still worth it if you only buy directly on COMC. Where it becomes tricky is if you use their mailbox service.A great idea perfect for overseas collectors who can have, for basically free, a mailbox in the US, for Ebay sellers who won't send overseas or who charge ridiculous postage for it. Comc would just charge .50ct per card, with a $2 minimum. So if you win say a couple of cards for $3 each, you'll pay $6 + $3 shipping to the seller, plus $2 to COMC, plus the shipping from COMC to your place (but that doesn't really coun't, you always find more cards to add to the shipment to make it worth it). $11 for $6 worth of cards. This forces you to shop as much as possible by just one seller, but that's the case with any collector even in the US who wants to absorb the $3 shipping. But now it's changing. COMC want to offer a better service, and for this they need to charge more. It's now $3 per package PLUS .60cts per card. So now, it's $6 + $3 + $4.2 for Comc. $13.2 in all. I just won an Aparicio card, that cost me $13. Add $3 shipping and $3.6 COMC fees, and it puts it at close to $20. Out of my usual range for that type of card. This means I'll now have to be even more selective when it comes to Ebay purchases, as I never buy anything high end or really valuable. When you buy a $100 card, it doesn't really matter if you pay $6 more for various fees.
Shipping also has an impact on my box purchases. Places like Dave & Adams and Steelcity offer great rates, but only with UPS. If you go with the postal service, it'll usually cost $20 more than UPS once you've reached a certain weight. Before that, it's roughly the same. The problem with UPS is that you know you'll pay customs fees and you also know you'll pay their brokerage fee ($15 more). I just bought a bunch of boxes for a friend and me. There was $280 worth of product in it (about 15 boxes (yes, we like bundles and cheap 90s cards)). I paid $120 shipping plus $110 for customs and UPS fees.
I'm used to all this, it comes with the overseas territory, and I'm basically really glad I have access to cards to begin with. It wasn't the case 25 years ago before the Internet. But outside costs are really escalating. There are a few retailers who sell boxes here, so you don't have to pay customs and shipping, but they include those in their own final price, so it comes out the same. You just need to try and buy smart and go for what you really need. It's fun to bust open packs, but I know that I'll have to pay at least an additional $10 in fees for each box purchased, and that's if I'm really good at optimizing costs. And since I'm mainly interested in boxes that are in the $10 to $25 range, that's a lot to add...
Hope this wasn't too long, I guess I just needed to vent a little !