Are Board Games Media Mail? No. Here’s Why…

It can be tempting to ship a board game via Media Mail because of the reduced shipping cost. But are board games Media Mail?

Board games are not considered Media Mail. Media Mail was created to encourage people to send educational materials through the mail. A board game provides entertainment and it not in the allowable media list so it does not qualify for Media Mail.


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Twilight Imperium mail box
Twilight Imperium board game in a cardboard box for mailing – but not via Media Mail!

You may have heard people saying they regularly send board games via Media Mail and have had no problems. While some sellers may have had no issues, it doesn’t mean that you won’t.

What if you sell edutainment or educational games? Do they qualify for Media Mail? Read on to find out.

Why is a board game not considered Media Mail?

Media Mail was created in 1938 to help schools and libraries send educational media through the mail at a reduced cost. Back in 1938, this meant books. So Media Mail became known as the ‘book rate’.

As technology moved on, so did Media Mail. The category expanded to include films and music on DVDs and CDs – but only if they contain educational content.

This is a quote from a Customer Support Ruling from USPS updated in July 2018 which clearly states that board games are not Media Mail.

While video games may be read on computers, unlike books or films eligible for Media Mail prices, which predominantly further educational or informational goals, games, including board games and games in an electronic format, are used primarily for entertainment and they do not serve the same purpose as books, films, or other qualifying Media Mail.

USPS

What is and is not classed as Media Mail?

Media Mail includes media in the following categories but only if the media is for educational purposes. The definitions below are from the USPS website.

Are classed as Media Mail

  • Books (at least 8 pages).
  • Sound recordings and video recordings, such as CDs and DVDs.
  • Playscripts and manuscripts for books, periodicals, and music.
  • Printed music.
  • Computer-readable media containing prerecorded information and guides or scripts prepared solely for use with such media.
  • Sixteen millimeter or narrower width films.
  • Printed objective test materials and their accessories.
  • Printed educational reference charts.
  • Loose-leaf pages and their binders consisting of medical information for distribution to doctors, hospitals, medical schools, and medical students.

Are not classed as Media Mail

  • Game cartridges or game consoles (e.g. PlayStation or Nintendo game consoles and video game cartridges) that contain a computer chip.
  • Blank Media such as blank CDs, DVDs, audio tapes and/or video tapes.
  • Video Tapes with advertising (trailers for films are not considered advertising).
  • Photographs or photo albums.
  • Trading Cards, such as sports and hobby cards.
  • Films sent to or from commercial movie theaters.

You can read full, expanded definitions of Media Mail on the USPS website.

Excluding trading cards and hobby cards is particularly interesting. That would exclude Magic: The Gathering. If Magic doesn’t count, then I’d say a board game doesn’t either. They are both games, not media.

How can I know if my board game qualifies as Media Mail?

Ask yourself these two questions to figure out if something qualifies as Media Mail.

  1. Is the item for educational purposes?
  2. Is the item one of the Media Mail categories allowed by USPS?

Let’s take an example.

Imagine you wanted to ship some old board games to a university researcher to study and analyze. Even though the reason why you’re sending the board games is educational, the board games themselves are not on the list of allowable content. So the board games do not qualify for Media Mail.

Can an educational board game be shipped via Media Mail?

An educational board game cannot be sent as Media Mail for two reasons.

  1. Board games are not one of the media types allowed to be sent by Media Mail
  2. Educational board games do provide some entertainment, even if the player is learning at the same time.

Say I wanted to ship the board game CO2. It is educational because it raises awareness of global warming issues. However, it is still a board game. And board games are not a category allowed to be sent via USPS. So it does not qualify for Media Mail shipping.

What can happen if you ship a board game by Media Mail?

Anything shipped by Media Mail can be opened by your local Post Office. They will inspect the package to confirm that it qualifies as Media Mail.

The official guidelines say that:

Any package found carrying material that is ineligible for Media Mail rates will be sent back to the sender with a possible fine and other postal charges included.

USPS

However, this isn’t always what happens. Sometimes packages continue onto their destination and the recipient is asked to collect the charges on your behalf.

Should you ship board games via Media Mail?

It is completely up to you if you want to risk it. I wouldn’t. Board games are not media. They are games.

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Imagine that you do send a board game via Media Mail. To start with, it will take longer to arrive than standard mail because it is classed as a lower priority. Then, one of three things that could happen.

  1. No-one checks the package and it goes through to your customer. You save a little money.
  2. The package is checked, found that it doesn’t qualify and it is sent back to you with charges and possibly a fine. You have to pay the extra costs and there is a delay to your customer receiving their board game.
  3. The package is checked, found that it doesn’t qualify and is sent on to your customer. Your customer receives their board game later than promised, it has been opened and it has charges attached. You have an unhappy customer, have to refund the charges anyway and probably get bad feedback.

Does saving a little cash in option 1 outweigh the impact of option 3? Not to me.

If you want to try shipping a board game via Media Mail then take it to your local Post Office and ask if it qualifies. I think they will say no.

Are RPG books considered Media Mail?

Books are considered Media Mail providing that they do not contain any advertising. This includes RPGs and fiction novels because the USPS deems any reading as educational. Comic books do not qualify because they contain adverts.

Conclusion – Board games do not qualify for Media Mail

Board games are definitely not considered Media Mail. I don’t think it’s worth trying. Just ship them normally and pay the correct postage.

If you’re selling old games you could always donate them instead. I did this recently and wrote up some suggestions of where to donate old board games.

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Emily Sargeantson
Hi, I’m Emily, the tabletop gamer behind My Kind of Meeple. If this article helped you, I’d be honoured if you’d say, “Thanks!” with a £3 coffee on Ko-fi.

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