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Video games are one of the world’s most profitable businesses, and that includes the world of mail-order business. Video games tend to be very reliable sellers, so they are a natural choice when selling through the mail. Whether it’s a retro game, a console, or the newest release, there are certain rules you should follow when shipping this kind of merchandise. Let’s go over the most important of these rules.

Consider The Age Of The Item

Since video games have been around since the 1970s, some of that hardware is getting pretty old. Luckily for the retro gaming enthusiast, many consoles and games were made to be pretty durable. After all, most of these items were intended for children, and children don’t tend to be very careful.

It goes without saying that older games and consoles will need extra care in the packaging stage. When you have something that has survived intact after 20-30 years, you don’t want to be the one who ruins it in transit. Not only is it a lost opportunity for profit, but it also represents the loss of something that cannot be replaced.

Consider The Packaging Of The Item

Obviously, games and consoles will sell for a lot more if they are in the original packaging. For example, let’s consider the Sega Dreamcast, a console that was made between 1999 and 2000. When we take a quick look at eBay, we can see that an unboxed Dreamcast sells for somewhere between $50 and $100.

That same console, when purchased in the original packaging, will cost you somewhere between $225 and $350. Obviously, these price ranges are not going to stay the same forever, but this gives you a good idea of just how important the packaging is to the overall value of the product.

To protect the original packaging, we recommend that you do several things. First, do not put tape on the original box for any reason: No stickers, tape, or anything of the kind. When customers pay for a new-in-box item, they don’t want to take the risk of ruining that package by peeling off a strip of tape. Seriously, this is something that will irritate your customers greatly, so keep the tape outside the package where it belongs.

One thing you can do is wrap the item in Kraft paper so that you can tape the paper in place. In this way, you can basically give it an extra layer of packaging…but it’s a layer that the customer won’t mind destroying. Bubble wrap is also a good idea. Regardless of what materials you use, you want to provide as many layers as possible between that original packaging and the outside world.

Shipping Unboxed Games And Consoles

Shipping unboxed items is a little bit easier, but there are still certain things you must do to ensure that it reaches the customer intact. When someone is buying an unboxed game, they are probably more concerned with functionality than anything else. As you may know, some retro game collectors don’t even play their old games, choosing instead to treat them like treasured relics. When you sell an unboxed game, you probably aren’t dealing with one of those people.

Since the item is already unboxed, you definitely need to make sure that it works. If you don’t own the appropriate console to test the game, you should probably find someone who does. You might also try one of the many “knock-off” consoles such as the Retron, as these tend to be very cheap in comparison to the original hardware.

Since this game is almost certainly going to be played on arrival, make sure you go to great lengths to protect it from moisture. Sealed and padded bubble mailers are a popular choice in this category, but you should use one that is large enough to allow for external padding. This is especially important for games on optical discs, as they are much more fragile than cartridges.

For a cartridge, the ideal thing is to wrap the game in bubble wrap before placing it in a large bubble mailer. If this happens to be a really valuable game, you might also want to put some silica gel in the package to guard against humidity. In fact, a little bit of silica gel is never a bad idea when shipping electronics.

For a disc, make sure that the case isn’t missing. Once again, these games are very fragile in comparison to others, so don’t force the customer to supply the case. CD cases can be purchased very cheaply, so there’s no reason to skimp on this one.

To Clean Or Not To Clean?

In most cases, you will probably be shipping older games and consoles. Most people tend to buy their new games and consoles from specialized stores, so the retrogamer scenario is more likely in this case. That brings up an important question: Should you clean this old stuff before you ship it to the customer? In most cases, the answer is yes, but you have to be very careful.

Cartridge games have small tooth-like “keys” inside of them. You can easily see them if you look at the place where the cartridge plugs into the console. If these keys (sometimes called “pins”) are dirty or corroded, the game will not play. If the customer doesn’t take the time to clean the pins, they might think the game is non-functional and demand a refund. Thus, you should always clean these things.

The best way to clean a set of cartridge pins without damaging them is to use cotton swabs and rubbing alcohol. 91% alcohol should be used, as it contains much less water. All you have to do is dip the cotton swab in the alcohol and rub it along the surface of the board on which the pins are mounted. Make sure to get both sides, and then wipe them off with a dry cotton swab.

Optical discs are a little more sensitive, so be very careful when cleaning them. You can use rubbing alcohol, or you can buy a cleaner that is specially made for this purpose. Common glass cleaner also works well for cleaning optical discs. Either way, make sure you wipe it with the smoothest cloth you can find. We would recommend an eyeglass cloth, but toilet paper can do the job if you have nothing better. Whatever you do, don’t use a rough fabric like jeans or flannel, as you will probably ruin the disc.

The Importance Of Verification

You should know that some people will attempt to scam you out of your valuable merchandise. While most of your customers will probably be honest collectors and hobbyists, you are sure to encounter a few scammers. These people look for any way in the world to screw you out of your merchandise, so make sure you don’t leave them any loopholes.

The most common trick used by scammers on merchant sites is to abuse the return system. Most merchant sites have a way that defective merchandise can be returned, and unscrupulous types will use this to their advantage. They will claim that they did not receive the item, or they will claim that the item does not work (among other complaints). Of course, these are false complaints that are only intended to get their money back (while keeping the item).

Make sure you verify and record as much information as possible. You should take pictures of the item at every step of the process until it leaves your hands at the post office. In particular, you need to make sure you can prove that the item was sound at the time of shipment. These pictures should also document the measures that you took to keep the item safe.

Once you ship the item, make sure to get a tracking number. This tracking number should be immediately sent to the customer via message or email. This proves that the item was shipped and allows you and the customer to track its progress. At any given time, you or the customer can go to the shipper’s website and verify the location of the package. Without this tracking number, there is no way to prove that the item was shipped.

Shipping A Console

Shipping a console requires a little bit more care than a single game, so there are some simple instructions to follow. First, a word about cleaning consoles. While you can use a paper towel and a little bit of rubbing alcohol to clean a console, you need to be very careful when doing so. Some consoles can suffer cosmetic damage as a result of this, so avoid touching any lettering with the alcohol.

As an example, the 8-bit NES console (the old gray box, not the top-loader) has some red lettering on its outside casing. This lettering can be rubbed away with rubbing alcohol, so don’t use alcohol to clean that console. A damp paper towel should be good enough. After cleaning the console, you will need to find a box that is large enough to hold the console and all of its components.

Be sure to wrap the console itself in multiple layers of protective material. Bubble wrap is probably the most common solution, but there are many other options. You could even use newspaper if you have nothing else, but it won’t provide much protection against moisture. For those on a budget, we would recommend picking up a sheet of painter’s plastic (usually costs $1-$3 for an 8×10 sheet) and a roll of packing tape. You can use the plastic, much like Christmas wrapping paper, except that it will be watertight.

When it comes to the components (cables, controllers, etc.), try to resist the temptation to throw them in the box haphazardly. These items are essential to the functioning of the console, so they need to be treated with the same degree of care as the main unit. Package each item separately, preferably in a plastic bag with a well-sealed top.

The last step is to fill in empty space in the game box. If there is extra room in there, the console and its components will have room to move and bang around. Obviously, this can cause all kinds of damage, so we must prevent it from happening. The easiest way is to use some kind of filler material and fill in the extra space. You might use air pillows, more bubble wrap, styrofoam peanuts, wadded-up newspaper, or any combination of them. Whichever filler material you choose, don’t forget to add a little silica gel for good measure.

Consider The Distance Traveled

When packaging a game or console, you also need to think about how far it must go. Obviously, local shipping (within the same nation as the seller) is the easiest, the least expensive, and the least likely to go wrong. However, you will probably be selling your item on a site that gets visitors from all over the world. As a result, you never know where you might have to send the merchandise.

If you are shipping a game or console internationally, we would recommend that you avoid the use of bubble mailers. Although they are perfectly fine for domestic shipping, international shipping presents a much greater list of hazards. Use a sturdy box with plenty of padding for international orders. When something is traveling over longer distances, there is simply more time for an accident to occur. Also, the postal systems of some countries are much more effective than others, which creates another opportunity for breakage.


We hope that we have given you all the information you need on this subject. The buying and selling of video games is a fun and profitable experience, and our goal has been to make yours a little better. If we have succeeded in this goal, we ask that you fill out the contact form below to receive more interesting articles like this one.