What You Need to Know When Selling Your Sports Cards Part 2 of 2

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In my adventures of buying sports card collections I’ve seen a lot of enthusiasm. I get it! You’ve had these sports cards in your possession for 20-30+ years now. These cards have been stored for so long you forgot you had them. You see my business card pictured above and you have an “aha” moment! “It’s been so long they gotta be worth something? Right?” Well, this is what I’m trying to help you figure out.

In recapping part 1 of this post, remember you should first; define your expectations for the purposes of having a realistic outcome. We should also determine the condition of the cards and finally do a little bit of homework so you know what era your cards fall into: Pre-War, Vintage, Mass Produced or Modern Day Era.

What are my cards worth? In this post I want to help you answer that question. I also want to shed some light on understanding the card market and finally how to sell your cards to a potential buyer. So to figure out what your cards are worth:

You need to know year, make and model – there is several ways to figure this out and it is a crucial first step in knowing what you have so you can determine card market value. It’s a lot like selling your vehicle, you can go to multiple websites to determine prices for vehicles but the first step of even that process is knowing the year, make and model of the vehicle. No need to feel intimidated though once you figure out a few cards you’ll be on track to answering your own questions. Here are the 3 ways to figure this out:

  • Some cards, on the front of them, will tell you the year and make. Using this card as an example notice the upper left hand corner of the card, it tells you that this card is a 1990 Score.

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  • But not all cards are created equal. For some cards finding it in the front is not that obvious but there’s two other ways you can tell year, make and model. Lets take this same card and look at the back of it: Zooming in on a couple of spots on the back of this one you want to look for the column that states the “Year” now take the last year listed and add one year. You can use this technique for just about any card. Or you can look for the copyright year and make. Not all cards are as friendly as this one but all cards will display at least one of these three.

So for this example the year is a 1990, the make is Score, and the model is Baseball. 1990 Score Baseball, card no. 265 of Andre Dawson.

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You need to know how to determine true market values –  here are some tools to help you do just that:

  • PRICE GUIDE VALUES – they will give you a range: low-end price and high-end price. So if a card has a book value of $50 – $100 the price guide company is telling you that in their research they have found that this card is selling within that range. Much of that range is determined by condition. Truth is, only in extremely rare occasions will a collector be willing to pay high book for any card. There are just too many options, for every one person trying to sell a card at high book there will 100 others that are willing to sell that exact card for half that amount. One common complaint about price guides is how long it takes them to list card prices for a new product release. Another common complaint is that they don’t give real-time data. Price guides do not reflect current day price adjustments that occurs for a certain player, overnight there could be a spike in demand due to player performance. The passing of a Hall of Famer usually will cause instant demand for their cards. The opposite holds true as well, last years hot rookie could be this years chump. Waiting on price guides you may have to wait a couple of months before it records those fluctuations in prices. However, at the time of this publishing the industry has started to take steps to get prices to collectors sooner.  Personally, I still get lots of use from price guides. One of todays industry leaders in price guides is Beckett.com. Do not use price guides you had 20 years ago those will not reflect proper pricing.
  • REAL TIME VALUES – many collectors turn to eBay for real time market prices. It’s a common way to figure out what your cards are worth today, but may be a debatable topic. Here’s an example on how many collectors do it. Let’s just say I used the steps described above and I figured out I have a 1984 Topps Dan Marino which happens to be his rookie card. I subscribed to Beckett Online and know that it has a book value of $25 – $50. But what’s it really selling for? Well I can login to my eBay account and do a search for a “1984 Topps Dan Marino” I’ll choose the Filter or Refined Search and turn on Sold Items and/or Completed Items – this will give me a current list of what that card has sold for recently. Next I’ll make note of the last 10 auctions or maybe those in the last month or so depending on how many have sold. We must be honest here and record all auctions to figure true value. Once you’ve made note the next step is to remove the lowest priced auction. In this example there were auctions that sold for $5 others sold for $60 giving me an average price of $28.70 in the last 48 hours. The average price is an important number when selling your cards to seasoned collectors.

What you need to know about potential buyers – well I’ve come to the last point on this post. I’ve brought you to a fork in the road. You need to ask yourself this one question, if I want top dollar for my sports cards am I willing to do the work myself? If no, then you’ll need to leave a margin of equity for the purposes of resale value. Because the hobby is no longer mainstream what remains are collectors who are knowledgable in card market values. Seasoned collectors are disciplined and do not buy into hype, they have options and know how to utilize their resources. These bulk collection buyers are interested in your cards to either auction them off, to replenish stock, or (my purpose) – to pull cards for their personal collection and with the remainder try to recoup some of the expense of the collection for their next purchase. For the example above we figured the Dan Marino RC average price was $28.70, if you do the leg work you can expect to get that much for it but if I’m buying your bulk collection of cards that means I’m taking the stuff that will sell and the stuff that won’t sell too. This means I’m doing the leg work and a realistic purchase price says I can’t give  you more than $12 for that Dan Marino card! Here’s why:

  • FEES – lets say I sell that card on eBay for $30. At the end of the month I’ll be charged with a significant fee from eBay for selling that card. Usually 10-15%.
  • POSTAGE – truth is shipping and handling is included at the end of an auction but many times (at least for me) it doesn’t cover all the expense of shipping. I need to get better at this. Also, consider the time it takes to go to the post office and the cost of shipping supplies as well.
  • RENTAL COST – say I want to do a card show in order to sell some cards. I will have to pay a rental cost. Depending on the venue I will have to pay $80 – $400+ per 8 foot table to do that card show.
  • PROFIT-MARGINS – if a card sales for $30 and I have $8 in expenses when I sell it that has to be factored into my profit-margin which realistically needs to be around 2X – 3X more than what I paid. So if I pay $12 that means I need to be able to sell it for $24 – $36 dollars. Yes there may be a chance that it sells for more than $30 but there’s also a chance that it sells for much less than that too.

If you can find a reputable card dealer they can give you a fair market value in a fraction of time because they have the experience and resources to buy collections if it’s something they can use. It does take some time and work to determine what your cards are worth especially if you’re inexperienced. It’s a painstaking process but this road must be crossed by either the seller or the purchaser of the collection in order for there to be fairness. I feel the deal has to fair to both parties. As a purchaser of collections I have a fear of getting ripped off too and believe me I’ve bought my share of duds. Understand when trying to sell your collection it takes time, don’t rush it. Do the homework. So let’s take a look at some takeaways.

REVIEW: What You Need to Know When Selling Your Sports Card

  1. Define your expectations
  2. Consider the CONDITION of your cards
  3. Determine what era your cards are from
  4. Know the year, make and model of your cards
  5. Determine true card market values
  6. Understand what potential buyers are up against
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Victor Roman Sr

I've been collecting for over thirty years. My goal is to inform and inspire collectors of cardboard. I believe there is nothing that holds its value better than rookie cards of Hall of Famers, nor is there anything more rewarding than learning the history of the All-Time Greats. I summarize it this way- LEARN. COLLECT. ENJOY.

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