Pokemon Cards and Media Mail: [Risks, Price]

After years of sending more Pokemon cards through postal services than I can count, I began to wonder if Pokemon cards are considered Media Mail and if people could save some money on postage fees?

Pokemon cards are not considered to be Media Mail. Collectible cards aren’t categorized by USPS as media or educational material and should be sent using a different postal service. Attempting to Send Pokemon cards by Media Mail may result in the parcel being rejected or subject to additional fees.

Although you’re technically not allowed to send Pokemon cards through Media Mail, there are still those among us that try to do so. 

However, it’s important to understand the risks associated with attempting to send collectible cards through Media Mail, and trust me, there are some risks you should know about. 

In fact, there doesn’t seem to be all that many benefits to trying to sneak cards through Media Mail in the first place. 

Why Pokemon Cards Can’t Be Sent By Media Mail

The United States Postal Service (USPS) Media Mail shipping option is an economy shipping service that is designed to be a cost-effective way to send media and educational materials.

Despite the fact that many of us may consider Pokemon cards to be a type of media, USPS has specific restrictions on the type of media that can be sent using their service. 

In the eyes of USPS these are the following permitted categories of media that can be sent by Media Mail:

  • Video and sound recordings
  • Playscripts and manuscripts
  • Printed educational reference charts
  • Medical loose-leaf pages and binders
  • Computer-readable media
  • Books (at least 8 pages)
  • 16-millimeter or narrower width films
  • Printed music and test materials

Video games, computer drives, and digital drives do not qualify for Media Mail prices.[1]

Even for goods that qualify as educational material or media, sealed media is a no-go.

Meaning, even if you were able to send Pokemon cards through Media Mail, it couldn’t be brand new and still sealed.

Bad news for those of you that were hoping you might be able to send booster boxes or other sealed Pokemon card products by Media Mail, you will definitely have to look for other alternatives. 

Why Aren’t Pokemon Cards “Educational”?

Occasionally I’ve heard people argue that Pokemon cards should fall under the “Printed educational reference charts” section of what is allowed to be sent by Media Mail. 

And at first glance, if you were to check USPS’s official statement on how they define this category, it seems as if Pokemon Cards should be covered here. 

“Printed educational reference charts designed to instruct or train individuals for improving or developing their capabilities. Each chart must be a single printed sheet of information designed for educational reference.”

– United States Postal Service

I don’t think any sensible person out there who has played a trading card game for any length of time, would try to argue that the Pokemon card game isn’t a great way of developing and improving a person’s capabilities and decision-making skills. 

I’ve had many matches of TCGs be decided by one wrong sequencing decision by myself, or my opponent, that I still think about until this day. 

Me losing at FNM, 2015

Following that, it seems perfectly acceptable to describe a Pokemon card as a “single printed sheet of information designed for educational reference”.

I mean, the only way we learn to play the game in the first place is by reading the information on the cards and referencing what they do during games. 

However, hopes of being able to send Pokemon cards by Media Mail come to a swift end when you see how USPS determines how information must be presented on a “Printed educational reference chart“.

“must be conveyed primarily by graphs, diagrams, tables, or other non-narrative matter.[2]

That “primarily” and “non-narrative” wording is the real nail in the coffin. 

No matter how you stack the deck, Pokemon cards are simply not primarily pie charts, tables of numbers, or diagrams, which makes them ineligible in the eyes of USPS to be considered Media Mail. 

I’m willing to bet the wording of that statement isn’t by accident either.

Yet, knowing full well that we don’t have USPS’s blessing to send Pokemon cards using the Media Mail service, what if we did it anyway?

Risks Of Sending Pokemon Cards By Media Mail

Media Mail could inspect your package and Pokemon cards.

Unlike a lot of other mailing services you could choose to send Pokemon cards by, Media Mail is in no way protected from being opened and searched. 

Meaning, if you are feeling a little confident and want to try and sneak your cards through Media Mail, USPS is fully within their rights to inspect whatever you’re sending if they are even a little bit suspicious.

“Media Mail and Library Mail are not sealed against postal inspection.”

– United States postal service

There is no real way of getting around this either as you have to agree to these conditions every time you send an item through the Media Mail service.

If your parcel is inspected for any reason, and your Pokemon cards are found, they will refuse to deliver your package and then charge you for the return shipping to your address.

During my research on this topic, I found a few reported cases where senders had refused to pay for the return shipping and USPS disposed of the parcel – Pokemon cards and all. 

In other cases, USPS did decide to try to deliver the parcel, but upon arrival, USPS charges the person receiving the package the difference in what should have been paid if the appropriate shipping had been selected. 

Refusal to pay on delivery could see your Pokemon cards disposed of as well as having to issue a PayPal refund to a very upset buyer.

Either way, the money you’d hoped to have saved using Media Mail to send your Pokemon cards just evaporated and has ended up costing you way more than just sending it by another option in the first place.

Side Note: Media Mail is not a type of priority mail. You can not use priority mail packaging when sending items with Media Mail. You will be required to use your own packaging materials that you have purchased.

Shipping Pokemon Cards By Media Mail Is Slow

Media Mail can take up to 10 days for your cards to arrive. 

This is significantly slower compared to other domestic shipping options that are only slightly more expensive than Media Mail depending on the weight of your package.

Infact, I have sent packages internationally from Japan to America faster than that!

Shipping Pokémon Cards By Media Mail Is Slow.

If you’re not letting your buyer know ahead of time that you’re planning to try and send by Media Mail, you could find yourself receiving negative reviews for slow shipping times on whatever platform you’re using to trade or sell cards. 

Even if you do tell the buyer beforehand, assuming they will be ok with you taking a risk with their new Pokemon cards to save a few dollars is a bit too optimistic – I know I wouldn’t be ok with it. 

Pokemon Cards Are Not Insured With Media Mail

If you manage to send Pokemon cards through the Media Mail service without your parcel being inspected, but the cards arrived damaged, you’re in trouble.  

I hope no one would ever try to send any high-value Pokemon cards through a postal service such as Media Mail, however, it should be mentioned that the value of your cards will not be covered by USPS if something goes wrong. 

As, technically, you shouldn’t have sent them that way in the first place and USPS will not compensate you in any way. 

This is definitely a situation where potentially saving a few dollars on shipping is not worth the risk of trying to send any Pokemon cards of value through Media Mail. 

Pokemon Card Singles By Media Mail Aren’t Cheaper

From what I had heard about USPS’s Media Mail, I thought a person would be saving a substantial amount of money by sending pokemon cards using the shipping service.

However, when I started looking at the price of Media Mail shipping compared to regular First Class, I was surprised to see in most instances for the average collector, it is more expensive to ship Pokemon cards by Media Mail.

WeightFirst Class Mail EnvelopesMedia Mail
1 oz. (28.35 g)$1.00$2.89
10 oz. (283.49 g)$3.00$2.89
1 lb. (453.60 g)$4.00$2.89

USPS’s Media Mail starts their prices at $2.89 for up to 1 lb. of weight. [3]

Even if you only use a fraction of that weight allowance, they will still charge you $2.89 for just using the service. 

This minimum weight allowance creates some issues for the average Pokemon card collector when you start to examine the pricing structure. 

To get any savings from using the Media Mail as a shipping method you need to be sending more than 10 oz. (283.49 g) of Pokemon cards through USPS. 

Just how many Pokemon cards is that? 

Number Of Pokémon CardsWeight
10.06 oz. (1.7 g)
1005.99 oz. (170 g)
16610 oz. (283.49 g)

Well, if the average weight of a Pokemon card is 0.06 oz. (1.7 g) we need to be sending around 166 Pokemon cards to a single individual before we start to see any savings using Media Mail over First Class Mail Envelopes.

Even if you try to account for the fact that the cards you will be sending will be in card protectors, adding to the weight and reducing the cards needed to reach the 10 oz. (283.49 g) threshold, you still need to send a large number of cards before it starts to make sense as a shipping option. 

If you’re someone trying to rehome a large collection of Pokemon cards, I could see how Media Mail as a shipping option would be appealing as the savings using the service becomes much more apparent.

However, for the average Pokemon card collector who is just trying to trade and sell off a handful of singles at a time, the more cost-effective shipping method to use would be USPS’s First Class Mail options.

Alternatives To Media Mail For Pokemon Cards

Although, to the best of my knowledge, there isn’t anything out there like Media Mail that will give you the same kind of rates for shipping large collections of Pokemon cards. However, there are cheaper alternatives than just going to your local post office.

Something I have been hearing a lot about late is a service called “Pirate Ship”.

Although the company name does not initially inspire confidence in me to ship my expensive cards with, I have heard nothing but positive things about the service that aims to provide you with discount shipping rates when compared to buying directly from your post office.

Although I strongly advise against you trying to sneak Pokemon cards through Media Mail, I’ll never say no to saving money that you don’t need to spend.

Below I’ll link to a great video I found that explains and goes through the process of using the Pirate Ship service so you can decide for yourself if it might be worth your time to try it out.


Nicholas Lloyd

Hi, I'm Nick, a professional writer living in Japan, and have been a part of the Trading Card Game community for over 20 years. I share tips, answer questions, and anything else I can do to help more people enjoy this wonderful cardboard hobby.

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