Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Blue Tape and Pull-Tab Awareness Week 2017

It's that time again... Pull Tab Awareness Week! It's the week when we collectors rally together to bring awareness to proper sportscard shipping best practices. This year we're also officially bringing blue tape into the awareness.

It's one of the biggest plights for the sportscard collecting enthusiast of today:

Scotch tape.

Specifically, irresponsible usage of scotch tape to protect cards.

Don't get me wrong, tape is a must-have item for anyone who ever ships cards. A piece of tape over the opening of a top loader prevents the card from slipping out and potentially being damaged in shipment. At some point we've all been the victim of a negligent newb card seller who just throws a top-loader into a bubble mailer willy-nilly (or worse yet, a PWE) and you open to the horrific sight of the card poking out, with a dinged corner or two. A few cards secured between a couple pieces of protective cardboard by some tape is also a good way to keep them safe from the rigors of interstate travel.

But too often, the person mailing the cards doesn't take a moment to think about the recipient. I'm sure you've been in the frustrating situation many times: spending what seems like several minutes chipping away at a piece of tape with your fingernail, trying to free your newly obtained card(s). Such a pain! You could also use a knife or scissor blade to cut the tape, but you run the risk of slipping and cutting in too far, potentially damaging the card. And either way, if it's a top loader, now you've got a trashy-looking top loader with a cut-up piece of tape on it.. time to get your fingernails involved again. Depending on the tape, it could take just a moment, or it could be on there so badly (chipping off in tiny brittle bits, or not coming off at all) that the card holder is essentially ruined. Even in the best-case scenario, some Goo Gone is usually needed to remove the sticky tape residue.

This disheartening scene could easily be avoided!

All the sender needs to do is spend two seconds to fold over a tiny piece of tape, creating a handy pull-tab. This pull-tab makes it super easy for the recipient to grab hold of the tape and peel it off in one efficient motion. No dangerous blades or fingernail frustration needed!

And Blue painter's tape is the best tape to use! It costs a little more than regular clear scotch tape, but it comes off so easily and residue-free that your recipient will love you for it! For you thrifty types out there, know that blue tape can be reused several times! If somebody sends you a card with some blue tape, put it aside to use again later with someone else. In fact, here's a current look at the desk in my card room:

I'm well-stocked on second-hand blue tape! I should probably develop a less tacky-looking solution one of these days. But yeah, I use plenty of blue tape and have never had to actually buy a roll of it.

Now let's do a quick "how to" on pull-tabs.


Step 1: Apply tape to one side.

Step 2: At the end of the remaining tape, fold over a piece about a centimeter long, with the sticky part being stuck against itself, creating a non-sticky pull-tab roughly the shape of a square.

Step 3: Apply the remaining tape to the other side.

  • You can also double up on the pull-tabs to make opening cards later even easier. Just follow the above process for each side of the tape you apply.
  • It's also nice to write "pull" on either the tab itself or on the protective cardboard with an arrow pointing to the tab. This is helpful for individuals who might not immediately recognize the tab you've thoughtfully created for them.

Advanced Pro Tips:
  • To go that extra mile, consider putting a little piece of paper over the top-loader opening, and tape it on (with pull-tabs, of course!) This will help prevent the rare but tragic occurrence of the card sticking to the tape. This is especially a good idea with old vintage cardboard (more prone to sticking and being damaged than today's cards) or when using extra thick top-loaders, such as with relics or other fat cards.
  • Tape can be avoided all together with the use of a team bag secured over a top-loader. Some people, like fellow blogger RAZ (check out his method here), go all out and use blue tape, a paper buffer, and a team bag. Bless these heroes!

A+++++ transaction!!! Would deal with again!

  • Don't make the tab so big that there's not enough sticky part of the tape left to get a secure seal. You want at least a half-inch of sticky part remaining to ensure that the tape holds during transit. If you've got limited tape length to work with, it's better to have a "too small" pull-tab, than "too big". Even if it's too small, at least the recipient can have a good start for his or her fingernails.
  • If you write "pull" to identify the tab, be sure to write gently. Writing too hard could damage the card.


Step 1: Pull tab.

Step 2: There is no step 2; you're done, bro! Throw away the tape that easily came off (or if it's blue tape, consider sticking it somewhere to reuse later), and enjoy your new card(s) and pristine top-loader!

It's just that easy! How has this not caught on? It's so easy to do and so handy for the person getting the cards!


Please, everyone, spread the word. Mention Blue Tape/Pull-Tab Awareness Week on your blog, Twitter, Facebook, and to your trade buddies, frequented sellers, whatever! Even just one retweet or a little "P.S. It's Blue Tape/Pull-Tab Awareness Week. Please use blue tape and make pull tabs" at the bottom of your next blog or social media post! Let's get everyone on the blue tape & pull-tab bandwagon and make all our lives just a bit better.

I've heard the argument "When you buy a card, you're not buying a toploader or other supplies, only the card." By that logic, you have dinner at a restaurant and expect them to dish out the food directly into your hands. No, of course it's expected that they'll provide a clean plate and any necessary utensils for your food. Buying a card online similarly should imply that the seller will provide adequate service when packaging and shipping the card.

Thanks for reading and thank you for your commitment to excellence in packaging sports cards!

Before we go, let's take a look at a couple trade packages that I've just received and see how they measure up.

Matt P. from Summer of '74 kindly sent me a one-card PWE. As you can see, he's put the card in a penny sleeve, top loader, and team bag... that's a winning trifecta! Blue tape has been used to secure the card to a piece of cardboard (a second piece for the other side was also involved, but not pictured here).

I'd give him good marks for this packing job. One obvious area for improvement would be pull-tabs, but blue tape isn't very hard to peel off, so we'll overlook it. (Now, if he had used packing tape instead of blue tape, it would have likely stuck more stubbornly on the team bag.) Also, I have heard stories of top loaders in plain white envelopes causing trouble from time to time, getting chewed up in the postal sorting machines and whatnot. But the use of 2 sides of cardboard helped mitigate that danger here. You ideally want to have a smooth PWE (not lumpy), that's slightly bendable.

Hey, it's a David Denson auto. Nice! Thanks, Matt!

- - ---o

Next is a sweet thank-you package from ketchupman36, the winner of my 1000 Posts contest a little while back.

No tape necessary here. Shipped in a poly/bubble mailer, a team bag with 2 thick blank/decoy cards. Between them are 2 cards together in one penny sleeve.

Oh, cool! 2017 A&G Gavin Cecchini mini auto! As for that blank looking card on the right, it's actually a glow-in-the-dark Constellations mini from 2017 A&G, specifically Aquarius.

There it is in action. Thanks, man! Much appreciated!

As for packaging, again, great job here. I feel kinda bad that he paid Package Rate to mail a couple cards (as opposed to using a PWE with a Forever stamp), but it was noble of him to pay the extra postage for a safe shipment of the cards in a bubble mailer. Memorabilia cards are generally best not shipped in a PWE due to the non-solid nature of the cards often causing creases around the relic piece when the envelope is slightly bent by the machines during sorting (not to mention by postal workers who might not always be gentle with mail). Similarly, framed minis, such as the Gavin auto here, probably wouldn't be wise to send via PWE either.

Ok, that's it for today. See you next time!


  1. Pull-Tab Awareness Week >>>>> Shark Week
    Just sayin'.

    1. Yes, seems like Shark Weeks has... shall we say.. jumped the shark.

  2. This is very important week every year.

    I always do team bag sending to avoid the tape :)

  3. Phew! Glad my package passed the test!

  4. Excellent post. These tips should be sent to every Ebay and sportlots seller. Some of those tape obsessed folks may use a paper buffer between tape and card but then wrap a mile of tape around the entire thing so you unwrap a mummy before you even see the toploader. I've had entire envelopes mummy wrapped in tape and of course the shipping box has been mummy wrapped. Ah no wonder some sellers charge so much for their cards and the shipping they are using a mile of tape for every box they ship out.

    1. Ha, yes.. very annoying! Peeling an onion to get to the card.

  5. Let me add one thing...when using a team bag, don't tape it! Just use the adhesive it comes with! I can't tell you how many times I've gotten a team bag that was taped with the protective strip still over the adhesive. But the fact that it's happened multiple times is mind boggling.

    1. Yeah, I agree taping a team bag instead of using the adhesive strip is big pet peeve. An exception would be if it's an old team bag that has been reused a few times and the adhesive strip no longer sticks very well.. then it's acceptable to put a piece of tape on it to help seal (with pull tab, of course!)

  6. I always enjoy your pull-tab awareness week. Lately I've been having more of a problem with sellers going way overboard in protecting their card. Tons of scotch tape, pieces of cardboard and empty toploaders used like pieces of bread for the actual card. I get so pissed when it takes me ten minutes to get the damn card out.

    1. They're so concerned about the card making it through shipping undamaged yet they totally ignore the end recipient's situation. Annoying.

  7. one tip for PWEs, write "Hand Sort Only" or something similar on BOTH sides to avoid the mangler machine...

    1. As Julie mentions below, I'm not sure that does a whole lot in these days of automation. I think your best bet is to streamline the envelope (no lumps) so it can slide through the machines without incident.

  8. Lol. I'm pretty thrifty... but I draw the line at reusing my painter's tape. My OCD wouldn't allow me to have painter's tape all over my office. The unsorted stacks of cards are bad enough.

    1. Blue is Beautiful, bro! I should do something more creative with it all, though. Perhaps some sort of "Blue Tape Monster" sculpture that I can add to and remove from as I please.

  9. i learned about blue tape right here, a couple years or so ago! thanks for that lesson! I also worked 15 years for the postal service. Hate to say it but letter mail hasn't been "hand-sorted" or "hand-stamped" for MANY years. Handing mail over the counter to the clerk is most likely the only time hand sorting occurs. After that, it goes through machines.