Customs: Shipping Dice to Other Countries

by Paulina Drozdowska

If you’ve shipped dice internationally, you will have been asked to fill in a customs form/declaration. This informs the destination country about the contents and value of the package, and it helps them make a decision as to whether or not to apply tax and import fees.

When trading out-of-production dice, it is often difficult to decide on their value. As we know, some dice can go for astronomical prices on eBay, but they will also cost you $1 if you find them in an FLGS dice bin. Which one should you choose?

The lower one. A high declared value (or even worse, an overestimated one) will almost certainly result in your trading partner having to pay additional fees when receiving your dice. As a rule, I ship my dice with declared value of no more than £1 per die (which, realistically, is a very appropriate value for most mass produced dice). This is because in most countries, packages below certain value are not subject to the extra fees.

Additionally, marking the package as “gift” reduces the chances of tax/import duties being applied to it (and isn’t *technically* wrong!). In lots of countries, gifts are allowed to be of higher value before being considered for import fees.

As an example, in the UK a package below £18 total value (this is SHIPPING PRICE + DECLARED CONTENTS VALUE) will not have customs fees applied to it. Packages marked as gifts can have a total value of up to £39 before being considered for fees.

So if you’re shipping from USA to the UK (USPS: $14 = ca. £10), and declare the value of the dice as £20, the total value of the package is about £30. Assuming you haven’t marked it as a gift, the recipient will be required to pay £6 VAT (20% of total value) as well as £8 Royal Mail handling fee, so your trade will cost them £14.

For more examples on the threshold for customs fees for different countries, see the original discussion thread in the DMC, as the comments may be helpful:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/DiceManiacsClub/permalink/2475163099191192/

Please remember when shipping internationally to declare the value of dice as low as possible in order to help the recipient avoid unnecessary additional costs.

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Dice Shipping Tips and Tricks

Before I joined the DMC, I barely ever shipped anything.  But after a few weeks in the DMC, I started doing trades and eventually some sales in the Dice Market group.  Since then, I’ve learned a lot about shipping dice.  I’m sure there’s more out there to learn, but here are some useful tips and advice for shipping dice out.

Keeping Costs Down

A great way to save costs is to keep dice in bubble mailers.  A common reason to use a smaller box instead of a mailer is to ship the cubes that dice like Chessex, Halfsies, and some Koplow come in.  If you’re doing a trade or just swapping with someone who has some extra boxes, you might ask to just send the dice and inserts (labels) without the box.  For example, I don’t keep my dice in boxes, so I’m fine with people shipping dice to me not in packaging.  Boxes make a difference in shipping costs due to weight, and they can often crack in shipping.

Another easy way to keep costs down when shipping is to hit up the dollar store – not Dollar General, but stores like the Dollar Tree where items are literally a dollar.  I tend to buy bubble mailers from there because they have packs of two for a dollar.  These cheap mailers are usually just a bit more padded than a regular envelope, but there are also usually bubble mailers (the ones here are usually bright red) for a dollar that are a little more secure. 

Tape can also be purchased from a dollar tree type store, but I caution you there.  I actually prefer to spend the money on a bit nicer packing tape just because I’m willing to spend a little more to avoid swearing at the tape as it peels off in thin fringes.  However, if you’re careful and patient, you can save some money buying tape at a dollar store, too.

Convenience

My post office is about 20 minutes from my house.  To avoid the drive when I don’t need to leave, I print out labels from PayPal.  It’s really not hard!  The only thing is that you’ll have to estimate weight if you don’t have a shipping scale.   If you ship often, it may be worth getting a shipping scale to get the weight exact.   MAKE SURE you 1) set it to first class, and 2) set the DATE to the appropriate day it’s getting picked up.  If you print it out at 11 o’clock at night, for example, make sure you change the date to the NEXT day.

Important:  You can print a shipping label from PayPal even if you didn’t use eBay and even if the recipient didn’t pay goods and services.  Just go to https://www.paypal.com/shiplabel/create/  

Traveling Dice Boxes and Other Flat Rate Shipments

If you’re mailing a lot of dice, flat rate boxes are an option.  I recommend putting the dice in a box and just having the address handy when you go to the post office.  Ask them to let you know how much it would be to mail in a regular box, and they’ll usually weigh it and give you a price.  That way you can opt for a flat rate box if it’s cheaper to flat rate box the shipment.  Sometimes it isn’t cheaper to do it that way.  But – handy tip – you can request that the post office drops off some flat rate boxes for free (usually in sets of 10).  It’s nice to have extras around sometimes!

Ship Securely!  

Protecting dice is key.  1) Do not ship dice loosely just in the mailer.  Put them in a zip bag, drawstring bag, or wrap them in plastic.  2) Consider wrapping everything in a plastic bag, especially if you’re shipping several sets.  These steps are to prevent dice from falling out if there’s damage to the box or mailer.  3) Take a picture of everything you’re sending.  4) Take a picture of the receipt from the post office.  These steps are in case something gets lost.

International Shipping

International shipping is awfully expensive. If you’re mailing even a few dice from the States to a European country, for example, it’s still going to run I’d guess between $12-15.  That’s why it’s worthwhile to trade in large bunches if sending overseas.  However, you can put a few d6s in a regular envelope.  Note that it’s high risk to do that.  They can get damaged easier, and you never know if they’re going to arrive safely or if they’ll have extra postage due upon arrival.  Do this at your own risk.

Side note about Australia:  Australia is the most expensive place I’ve ever shipped dice to.  So think critically before trading or selling with an Australian location.  And know that if someone quotes you a large price to ship to or from Australia – it’s not their fault.  It really is that high.  Yes, even for Kickstarters.  Yes, even for Australian-friendly KSes.  I’m sure there are some similar expensive locations in Eastern Europe and Asia.  Just be aware that even a small bubble mailer can cost upwards of $20.

Have some additional shipping tips?  Please share in the comments!