Wow, lots of speculation in this thread regarding shipping! I think some clarifications are in order. When shipping to the UK, these are generally your options and approximate costs:
1. USPS First Class (handed off to) Royal Mail ~$25-50 depending on size/weight of tube
2. USPS Priority Intl (handed off to) Royal Mail or ParcelForce UK ~$60-80 depending on size/weight of tube
3. USPS Priority Express Intl (handed off to) ParcelForce UK ~$75-100 depending on size/weight of tube
4. FedEx/DHL/UPS (no handoffs) ~$80-120+ depending on size/weight of tube
Keep in mind we are not talking about one collector sending something to another collector here. I am a dealer and I run a business that I must keep in good standing — both with my name and reputation in general and with my payment processing gateway, PayPal. To meet those obligations I have to make sure the following happens:
A. Item must arrive to buyer.
B. Item must arrive to buyer in stated condition.
As everyone who has sold using eBay/PayPal before, to meet (A) you have to have tracking. Right off the bat that eliminates shipping options (1) & (2) above. There is no tracking what so ever on first class mail (1). Option (2) has tracking on the US side, but you loose it when it arrives in the UK. It doesn’t matter if the package doesn’t arrive or if the buyer simply states that it never arrived — I’m responsible. PayPal will refund the payment to the buyer regardless of any protest on my part. Using an end-to-end traceable service is my only option to be fully protected.
To meet (B), I have to package the item well — which is not a problem if you know what you are doing. Still, forklifts happen (as T can attest!). Insurance is admittedly costly, but even if the buyer says they don’t want to pay for insurance and that they will accept liability — PayPal doesn’t care. If the item arrives damaged, I, me the seller, am responsible and they will refund my payment back to the buyer regardless of any protest. Using insurance is my only option to be fully protected.
So as a seller, not only do I need to use shipping option (3) or (4), but I also have to use some sort of insurance to be fully protected in the transaction. However, insurance will not pay out for damages if you declare the customs value as something low or a gift. The two declarations of value — insurance value and customs value — must match to be fully protected.
Also please keep in mind some of my recent experiences selling three different $1000+ posters to three different buyers in the UK. The first two were sent via option (3) — fully insured, tracked, and matching declared values for customs. USPS Priority Express Intl should have arrived in 4-5 days. Even with all those supposed protections ParcelForce caused huge delays both times. In one case, it took 3 weeks to finally get the poster delivered. In the second case, ParcelForce literally LOST the tube for 3+ weeks (with a VERY nervous buyer during that time!) before it magically reappeared in their system. It was finally delivered after 5+ weeks total. Ugh. The third poster I send was via FedEx (option 4) and so far so good, although it hasn’t arrived yet.
How does this all change when sending from one collector to another? In that case, it is possible to shift all the risk to the buyer. You can use PayPal gift payment, any shipping option you want including basic first class postage (1), use no insurance and send as a gift.
Hope that helps clear things up a bit. If anyone knows of cheaper, equally safe options that are PayPal compliant... please let me know!