What You Need to Know When Selling Your Sports Cards Part 1 of 2

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During the mid to late 1980’s through the mid to late 1990’s there was a sportscard boom that swept the nation. Much of it in my opinion was brought on by several factors: sportscard manufacturers competing against one another creating new designs, new concepts thus creating high demand. Mammoth homeruns being hit with alarming frequency, and lets not forget about the influence Michael “Air” Jordan and the Chicago Bulls had on the hobby.

When I decided to start collecting again I took stock of what I had. Had a great time shuffling through boxes of cards that I had stored away years ago but when I took inventory I didn’t have much of a personal collection left. I sold most of what I had because I was a sportscard dealer prior to to 2004 so just about everything that was purchased was quickly sold.

So in an effort to kick-start my collection I took to friends and family on social media and got the word out that I was interested in buying collections. I created business cards like the one pictured above and started to spend the weekend visiting Yard Sales and Garage Sales – following up on leads. The number of responses I received from people wanting to sell their collections was overwhelming. My takeaway in all this was, people have cards they want to sell BUT people have questions. There were some who collected years ago and just wanted to get rid of them all without doing any of the leg work in trying to sell them individually. Some just need to free up the space that all those boxes of cards take up. And others were just looking for a quick buck.

Whatever the scenario I noticed that people were hesitant because they were uncertain about what they had or what the value of the cards were. They did not know who to turn to or what to ask once they did. “I don’t want to get ripped off.” Some would flat-out say, while others would say it in a nonchalant kind of way. I did my very best in being helpful and answering all their questions. Many were relieved and happy to sell me their collections after we talked, others opted to pass but were grateful for the help. And often I passed-up on purchasing certain collections but I always took the time to tell them why. In this post I want to share with you some things I learned through these experiences. Some things you need to know (or consider) when selling your sports card collection.

  • Define your expectations – this requires determining within yourself what is the objective? Why do you want to sell them? Is there sentimental value involved? What is your bottom line dollar amount that you would be content with? Whatever your reasoning determining your expectations is a crucial first step when selling your collection. Also, have realistic expectations. Don’t have such high expectations realize that more than likely you will not become a millionaire with that 1987 Topps set you got for your 10th birthday. So don’t set your expectations in concrete just yet, not until¬†after you also consider…
  • CONDITION – take a good look at your cards, what kind of condition are they in? If you have 10,000 cards just thrown in a plastic tote odds are there going to be in really bad condition. If there bundled up with rubber bands, not good. If there inside a plastic bag out in the garage, no bueno. In this hobby it’s all about condition, the better the condition the better chance at getting serious buyers interested. For help understanding conditions check out my article here:¬†Sports Card Lingo: Condition
  • Do some homework – a common frustration I see with many folks selling their collections is they don’t know what they have. I like to break it down into four era’s:
    1. Pre-War Era – these are cards produced prior to 1942. These are sought-after by just about any collector I know. Cards from this era will get the attention of any respectable sports card dealer. These can carry a slightly higher premium, especially cards of well-known players.
    2. Vintage Era – these are cards produced between 1948 – 1980 some would say that 1970 is the cut off date but I disagree. Arguably, I would say, cards from this era have more popularity and greater demand by most collectors than pre-war cards. This is the era of Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Ted Williams, Roberto Clemente just to name a few.
    3. Junk Card Era – this term really bothers me, that’s why I feel a more correct term is the Mass Produced Era – these are cards produced between 1981 – 2000. Between 1964 – 1980 Topps was the only manufacturer of baseball cards. In 1981 Donruss and Fleer make their debut and give Topps a run for their money. Competition arises and a sports card boom is born. Supply was not meeting demand and so manufacturers just kept printing, and printing, and printing, to the point that supply not only met demand but super-ceded it. The result unfortunately is diminished card values. That’s not on all cards printed within this era but on most of them. There are some gems that exist but you have to know what you have. You will have a harder time selling cards from this era.
    4. Modern Day Era – these are cards produced between 2001 to Present. Although not printed in high quantities like the previous era, there are many more makes and models available. For example in 2016 there were 74 different types of card brands manufactured just for baseball alone, but this is a topic for another day. The point I want to make with this era; modern-day cards are like the stock market, up one day down the next and much of it depends on the consistent or inconsistent performance of modern day players.

In part two of this article I will take this process a step further.

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Victor Roman Sr

I've been collecting for thirty years. My goal is to inform and inspire collectors of cardboard. I believe if you understand certain principles of collecting sports cards then the decisions you make on purchases will be good ones and that will make your collecting experience more enjoyable. All-Time Greats is for the novice, the returning or the seasoned collector!

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