|The Highest Quality Advice...|
|Sending Coins by Post|
Over 40 Years Experience of Mail Order Coins
We have over forty years experience as a mail order numismatic business, so we think we are qualified to share and pass on some of our thoughts and advice.
Although we also, unlike many dealers, have a showroom, the proportion of our business which we transact by post has averaged about 90% . Our weekly postage bill is often over £1,000, and our annual turnover is heading towards £10 million.
Risky or Safe?
On a daily basis we have conversations with people holding diametrically opposed views on the wisdom of using the British or foreign postal services for valuable items such as coins. There are some who seem to believe that the whole postal system is staffed, and perhaps run by and for the benefit of crooks, and that anything of value will routinely go missing or be stolen. At the opposite end of the belief spectrum, we have a Scandinavian customer who has made a number of repeat purchases from us, each of high value, about £10,000; and has been very specific that we had to send by ordinary uninsured mail. We tried our best to talk him out of it, by he seemed very rational and was happy to assure us that he was prepared to accept that the goods were sent entirely at his risk. So far, none of our packages has gone missing, although we have had a few anxious moments when deliveries seem to have taken a good few days longer than either of us expected. So who is right?
The Middle Course
The answer, as most intelligent people would correctly guess, lies between these two extremes. Statistics are available, from Royal Mail and from Postcomm - the Postal Services Commission. There is also POUNC, the Post Office Users National Council, now renamed as Postwatch. Many people are afraid of statistics, and believe they can be made to prove anything. At Chard, we have never had the time or inclination to collect statistics, but we do try to keep at least a subjective view on the proportion of both incoming and outgoing mail which goes missing, so that we can offer our customers advice about the best choice for any particular "sending". If you want statistics, we are sure you will find more than enough from the three above mentioned sources, and we will not attempt to repeat them here. Incidentally, Postwatch's website is quite difficult to find, Their webmaster should be taken out and shot ( I hope we won't be prosecuted under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for this comment), unless it is part of a deliberate policy to deter viewers and enquiries.
It used to be our view that only a tiny proportion of valuable mail went missing. Certainly well under 1%, and probably closer to 0.1%. From this very approximate estimate, we used to use registered post (now renamed Special Delivery) for items over £300, and ordinary, first or second class post for goods worth less than £300. We also asked regular suppliers to use the same scheme, and this worked well for many years. When we suffered a loss, it was more than compensated by the saving on the insurance. Of course, this still did not stop us being disappointed that the item had not arrived, and we would also file a lost item claim form even if we expected no positive results from it. Occasionally, an item was found and delivered or returned, but it also, very importantly in our opinion, kept the Post Office informed about losses, and helped their investigation department to root out dishonest postmen.
In recent years, we have noticed a significant increase in the proportion of ordinary post containing coins going missing. Channel 4 TV recently broadcast a programme showing thieves at work in the postal system. The programme may have been somewhat hysterical, but it undoubtedly contained much accurate reporting, and quite rightly highlighted a lack of care in Royal Mail's management.
There has been a major overhaul of Royal Mail during the past few years, which is still continuing. This includes a necessary and admirable drive to cut costs, increase efficiency, and turn the service into a modern and profitable business. We, as heavy postal users, expected many of these changes to affect us, some for better and some for worse. The apparent increase in the number of casual workers employed and the laxity in their vetting has undoubtedly led to the increase in lost and stolen mail. In particular, it must have made it easier for organised criminals to infiltrate the collection, sorting, and delivery systems. It must be quite easy to guess that a padded bag contains metal, probably coins, or to use a metal detector. In February 2006, Postcomm fined Royal Mail almost £12 million in view of "serious" shortcomings during 2004/05, when 14.6 million letters, packets and parcels were lost, stolen, damaged or interfered with. Although Royal Mail's PR department protested, adding that they had since improved, we believe the action to be quite right, and hope that it will help to bring about a speedy and much needed reduction in postal losses.
In the meantime, we have revised our strategy described above and now tend to use Special Delivery for items upward of about £100. Rather perversely, this means that we reward Royal Mail's failure by spending more money with it to deliver the same items via a premium rate service. As a business, it is our customers who end up paying more. We suspect similar patterns have been followed by other businesses and consumers. It does seem unfair to pay more for a premium rate special service because the normal mail is so bad.
Recorded Delivery - An Illusion
We notice that there is a popular belief the Recorded Delivery includes compensation for up to £26. For coin collectors, this is illusory, as valuables including precious metals, coins, money and jewellery are specifically excluded from its compensation scheme. Because of this we refuse to offer Recorded Delivery as an option to our customers, unless they specifically request it, and then only when we have explained it shortcomings. Despite this, we see many of our competitors wasting their customers money by using Recorded. It is likely that the only extra benefit it gives is to protect sellers from dishonest customers claiming never to have received goods, and this is probably quite rare.
It may seem that we dislike Royal Mail, or are being harsh in our criticism of it, but its Special Delivery service remains one of the most competitive means of transmitting valuable goods within the UK. There are three insurance bands, starting at £500, and going up to £2,500.
Our experience using Special Delivery is that very few packets indeed go missing, and compensation is always forthcoming in a reasonable time for the very small number of failures. A small additional bonus is that Royal Mail will refund the Special Delivery charge if they fail to deliver, or attempt delivery, within the guaranteed delivery time
Most courier services are much more expensive than Special Delivery, and many of them specifically exclude coins and other valuables from their compensation schemes. A good guide to the reliability of various carriers is the rate which insurance companies charge to cover excess values. Our own insurers happily cover us for up to £50,000 per package sent by Special Delivery, but only up to £500 for Fedex. This statistic speaks volumes, as we are sure the insurance actuaries keep accurate statistics on the relative performance of all major carriers.
One large high profile carrier advertises that it delivers anything anywhere, but when asked to ship coins, flatly refuses. We should have reported them to the Advertising Standards Authority for their dishonest and misleading advertising claims.
Airsure & International Signed For
The nearest equivalent to Special Delivery outside the UK are these two services which are confusingly similar to each other, and have generally replaced International Insured, The exact cost and cover varies from country to country, but compensation usually covers £250 or £500. Of the two services, Airsure appears to be the more secure, with the higher compensation limits. Strangely though, Airsure does not require the recipient to sign, and this often leads to complaints from our customers who lose confidence in the service because of this. Nevertheless, our own insurers will allow us reasonable excess cover using this service.
Many collectors probably are not aware that until a few years ago, there was no insured mail service to North America. The availability of the Airsure service has created a major and much needed improvement. It used to be possible to send insured mail to a surprising number of third world countries, but not to the USA. It was incredible that consumers in the world's biggest consumer society, and the world's leading economy and democracy could not receive goods from overseas by insured mail.
First or Second Class?
We have been told numerous times by people who are well placed to know, that in most cases, there is now no difference between first and second class post. You may have noticed that separate first class and second class posting boxes disappeared from Post Offices some years ago, and although first class stamps used to contain phosphor strips for sorting them, we have been informed that Royal Mail no longer bothers to sort them. It is likely the only difference occurs when large mail users make bulk postings, and all their mail is pre-sorted into classes, This does not directly affect most small businesses or consumers who do not use discounted bulk mailing.
Our advice is to use Second Class or Special Delivery only, although when we send out large cheque payments, we actually waste the extra few pence to ensure the desired psychological effect. What To Do Next
If you would like to send your coins to us, we will happily make you an offer. We would ask you to send it to us, along with all the information you have and a covering letter explaining how much you would like to get for the piece(s) and a cheque for £10. Please ensure you include your contact details, especially your telephone number as we find it a lot quicker and easier to telephone you with an offer rather than spend time writing to you! If you accept our offer we will return your £10 cheque along with a cheque for your coins. If you decline our offer we will use the £10 cheque to cover our costs and the cost of insured return postage.
Our Buying Terms
Please read our buying terms prior to sending your goods to us.
Posting Coins to Us
A page specifically about using Royal Mail to post coins to us.
|...At No Extra Charge!|
32 - 36 Harrowside, Blackpool, Lancashire, FY4 1RJ, England.|
Telephone (44) - (0) 1253 - 343081 ; Fax 408058; E-mail:
The URL for our main page is: https://24carat.co.uk