Knowing how to ship a spinning top, or hand spinner internationally can be tricky. That’s not because the process is hard, it’s actually quite easy, but because a lot of people have no idea how. Really it only differs from domestic shipping in a couple of simple but key differences.

How to ship internationally

There is only one thing different that you need to do to the package itself to ship internationally, and that is to put a small customs declaration form on the outside. You can get that form here.

There are then essentially three main differences between international and domestic shipping, the price, the insurance, and customs. None of which are tricky when you know the problems or solutions they provide, so let’s break each one down.


This is the most obvious of the hurdles when it comes to international shipping. Your package is going further, so you have to pay for the cost incurred. Especially as most mail, especially trans-Atlantic, goes by air. So there is going to be an increase in cost.

Most countries offer a flat rate to ship from one country to another. For example the UK mail service Royal Mail, offers a flat rate to ship anywhere in the US. However, some companies in America for example will charge you for the cross country costs as well. So, for example, shipping to Europe from the west coast will cost more than the east coast. USPS tends not to add these charges, but companies like UPS sometimes will.

US customers can calculate an exact cost here for USPS

Here are some sample rates for shipping from the US, for a small package and value of up to $400. Prices can vary based on location in the US, time of year, and whether you are in store or not. These are just some loose guidelines.

Canada –  $15.50 – First Class Package International
$36.00 – Priority Mail International

Europe – $22.50 – First Class Package International
$48.50 – Priority Mail International

China – $22.75 – First Class Package International
$47.50 – Priority Mail International


You can also add insurance (see below), tracking, certificate of mailing, and registered mail with USPS. Most of these need to be done in store however.

These services are also available with other shipping companies, however the costs vary widely with suppliers, routes, and values, so it’s best to evaluate these on a case by case basis. They are normally far more expensive, but can be more reliable (though not always).


The choice of whether to add insurance is one that must be made between the seller and the buyer. However it is strongly recommended that you purchase insurance. If you don’t, then both parties are at risk. But obviously there is a cost incurred in adding insurance. In some instances it can cost as little as $5 more, but it can skyrocket as you may need to increase the service from First Class to Priority in order to add insurance for example (see above for price differences).

What if the package goes missing or is damaged?

If you have insurance and the package goes missing, then it is up to the sender to claim on the insurance. However, provided you have a proof of delivery this is often no problem. Please bear in mind that if it is an item bought on a secondary market you will need to provide a proof of purchase to claim on insurance. This can sometimes be tricky if using “Friends and Family” on paypal as you don’t receive a viable receipt. In which case you would only be able to claim for retail.

If the item is damaged, then it is the buyer who needs to claim on the insurance. Most shipping companies work on a “who touched it last” basis as to whom is responsible for taking further action. So if it is lost, the seller touched it last. If it arrives damaged, the buyer touched it last.

Remember, without insurance, even if the shipping company loses your package, they hold zero liability. That doesn’t seem “right” but that’s the way it is.


Customs is the bit which most people struggle with, and rightly so. Customs can be random at the best of times.

Customs is the process any item must undergo as it enters a country, whether that is a ship of 1,000 containers, or your $100 spinning top. This is so the receiving country can apply their taxes for imports. Some items like “essentials” (such as diapers or certain clothing) can be exempt from customs. But not luxury items like spinners and tops.

In the US, customs is the same rate as “sales tax” and so will apply by state, as long as it is below $800. In the UK, the customs charge is calculated as VAT, and is 20% above £40. For Canada it can range up to 35%. Other rates vary by country, so know your rates before you buy, so you don’t get a hefty unexpected fee when your goods arrive.

NOTE: for UK buyers. If you receive a package with customs charges, both royal mail and Parcel Force will add an £8 fee. Also, if you are charged Duty, AS WELL as VAT, this is incorrect and you can claim it back. You can do so using this form, and state the reason: “the item has the commodity code 9503007900, and therefore is not subject to duty as well as VAT. The VAT is correct, but Duty of £XXX should not be charged”
The commodity code 9503007900 refers to a metal or plastic luxury item.

Customs charges are completely the responsibility of the buyer, and must be paid by them in full. A hefty customs charge is nothing to do with the seller. Also note that the cost of the postage itself is used in the calculation of the value of the package.
So, if you buy a top for $100, and shipping is $50, then you will be charged customs on the full $150.