A Dealers Tips: Selling Sports Cards

When I was an early teen I had my own business selling sports cards at flea markets and city fairs. I outsold the big boys. Grown men making $20 selling the same cards if they were lucky while I was making easily $70 a day much of it profit.

Times have changed and so has the market for sports cards, but much of the buying and selling sports cards methods are the same. Remember to invest in quality versus quantity. The old hero's will always hold value over the new phenoms who's cards are printed in excess. Keep your inventory organized and don't sweat small changes in value.

Getting Organized For Selling Sports Cards

Some helpful supplies

If you have a large collection you will be parting with and don't already use these supplies please let me recommend the following.

Beckett Price Guide

There are a few options when pricing your cards. In my own experience the most respected and utilized among dealers is the monthly publication called Beckett. Beckett sports card price guide puts out a different monthly book for each the following sports; baseball, football, basketball, hockey, and racing. Unfortunetly you will need a separate price guide for each of the sports you plan to be selling cards from. If you have only a handful of cards you will be selling you can borrow a copy of a Beckett magazine for most sports from your local public library. If you can not find any Becketts in your area you could subscribe online through a magazine company or enroll at Beckett.com.

Soft Sleeves

Even if you use Top Loads listed below you should keep all your cards in soft sleeve. These sleeves can prevent water marks on your cards and help keep corners from getting bent. Unless the card was valued at below 25 cents I kept all my cards in a sleeve.

Top Loads

I highly recommend buying Top Loads for all the cards you plan to sell. These will keep your cards in very good condition. Your cards already placed in soft sleeves will slide right in. You can mail these in padded envelopes when selling online and be worry free that they will arrive safe.


As long as there in Top Loads, cards can be stored just about anywhere that you would keep important papers. Obviously don't leave them down in the damp basement. You can purchase boxes specifically for holding cards. It isn't necessary to go out and spend a bunch on boxes though. Any cardboard or plastic storage box kept at room temparture will do fine as long as the cards are stored with care and not just tossed into the container.

Establish What You Have

First of all, establish which cards you are going to be selling. If you're not sure what you have, start by sorting cards in to their production years for example 96-97 season for basketball or 96 seasons for baseball. Then begin sorting by brand. Separate by Fleer, Topps, Upper Deck, etc.

Most cards are numbered both in regular sets and in special addition sets, also known as insert sets added in to the circulation of the card packs. Some may use letters such as

A thru K to give an order to the set. Once you have these organized you can begin searching for the prices.

Labels and Tracking

There are a few ways to keep track of what a card is worth once it's been looked up in the price guide. You could keep track in a paper notebook or in Excel. If you like bookkeeping this may be for you. Listing all cards by year, brand, player, etc. I liked an easier, "fast find" way of pricing. I purchased small label stickers and wrote the price on the sticker then placed it on the outside of the soft sleeve for every card I planned to sell. Then slipped these back into the Top Loads and placed them in my storage container.

The prices can change every month but once you get to know your cards and where they are located in a Beckett, pricing can take only an hour or two for hundreds of cards since there will be many that don't have any changes.

If selling online, remove the sticker from sleeve or place in a new sleeve. If selling at a flea market make sure that it is in a sleeve that has only one price on it.

Pricing flaws

As you start through the different piles you've created by organizing your cards, pay attention to any bends or tears in the cards. If there is serious damage you can pretty much consider it a loss. On very valuable, older cards some tear and bends can be ok and will just reduce the price to whatever someone is willing to pay. On newer, less valuable cards any damage can make the card basically worthless because someone looking for the card will have many options and will most likely looking to build a collection with mint condition cards.

Selling Sports Cards


Depending on which route you plan to take for selling will determine what price you should expect. The trick to selling sports cards is to always make sure the buyer walks away thinking their getting an awesome deal. You could sell well always charging just below the Beckett price. If you really want to bring in profits try to give a fair discount off the Beckett price. When I sold I often put a 20% to 50% discount depending what I paid or how I acquired them (bulk, discount through another dealer, packs, etc.) If I paid $100 for $500 worth of cards and sold them all for a total of $250, not only did I make a $150 profit but I gained some repeat customers. Pretty good marketing strategy for a 13 year old. (I was selling a LONG time ago.)

Doing the Swap Meet Thing

I did it every weekend the swap meet was open for over a year. The only exception was when I accompanied my father to city fairs such as Maple Valley Days or Kent Cornucopia Days.

If you have a free weekend and want to try the swap meet my best recommendation would be to go the weekend before and see how others are selling. Take the most appealing thing from each sports card booth and incorporate it into yours. Everyone is selling the same thing. It's the booth decoration that sells the card. The more professional the better. Nothing I could tell you would help more than you seeing for yourself.

Auctioning it off

I highly recommend selling online. If you plan to use EBay or another auction site, do some research to see if your card is selling well or if there are just too many posted to get a price your comfortable with. There may be cases where your card isn't even listed by anyone else. In this case check out other cards you player has and see how well they're selling and what percentage of their Beckett price their getting. Just like when selling at a flea market, see what the competition is doing. What are they adding to their descriptions to get the price they want? Look at the specifics in both their titles and descriptions.

The most important thing to get your item looked at it the title. In the few words the auction site will allow you to use, put as much info as possible. Year, brand and player, should always be included. Avoid words like rare, hot, or any other adjectives. When people are searching for the card they want; the card you have, they will be looking for specifics. Adding adjectives only lessens the detail you could be providing in your title.

Make sure you include card condition and shipping information. A buyer will want to know that they are getting the card they paid for in the condition they expected after reading your description. Consider that some buyers are grandparents looking to get their grandchildren some player cards from their favorite team. Consider this for both the title (only if their room) and definitely for the description. There are many different types of buyers and many different reasons to buy different cards.

Sports cards are cheap to ship individually if the buyer doesn't mind you shipping in a #10 business envelope. An added bonus to the buyer if you chose to pay the $.37 cents. Unfortunately, these can get caught in mail machines on occasion and can be "lost" in transit. Bubble mailers are the best way to go. You may not be as willing to spring for the shipping charge but at least both sides will know card will delivered the way it was sent.

If you are selling cards in bulk I recommend grouping the cards you have to sets and then selling them together. Someone looking to complete or start a set collection (set: all of one brand, same year, beginning to end. Avg: 70 to 200 cards) would find this to be a good find. The cards may be worth only a nickel a piece but selling 40 of them for $3.00 is a lot more than if you tried to break up a bunch of common cards (common: cards without their own price and all have a common price usually .05 to .15 cents).

Play with the bulk selling leaving out any cards that can sell on their own. Consider selling a valuable card and then "including" common cards as an added bonus.

Selling to a dealer

It is possible to sell in bulk to a dealer and make some money but don't expect to pay the mortgage with it... Do not accept what he offers to be the only price you're going to get. I had tons of people come up to me offering cards. I had a good source and really didn't need to take on extra inventory so I offered very low if I didn't turn them down all together. If you have tons of cards, have already gone through the ones worth more than you'd be willing to sell for than just a few dollars, and are ready to just unload, do some homework. Before even presenting those to a dealer add up the total values of the cards. Get an idea of what you want to be paid. If I had a total of $600, counting cards from $1 to $10 I'd expect $120. As far as counting common cards, these are of almost no use to a dealer. Don't bother with these. The only use for common cards is to make sets. Most dealers buy sets complete

I would suggest included the junk with the jewels as part of the package. If he is going to buy the good stuff you want him to take the trash with it. A dealer doesn't want it but he can find a place for it. Do not take less than you are comfortable with. With that in mind do not expect more than 30% of what Beckett say's their worth. You would be lucky to get more. Consider that a high number when selling to a dealer. Most dealers also know to sell for less than their worth to the consumer so they have to buy for way less. Avoid trying dealers if you have less than 20 cards. Use this route if you want to move a lot of cards all at once. If you only have a few try the EBay route.

Should You Keep Them

Something to consider is keeping any cards that family may like. Cards worth anything such as $10 or more, that isn't a new card may become more valuable over the years. If you found your deceased grandpa's old vintage cards and you aren't in money trouble consider passing them down further to another family member that would enjoy them for the fact that they are a part of the family. If they belonged to your college son and he doesn't want them anymore pick through what he may want when he's older (favorite teams, players, etc.) and have a blast selling the rest. Younger siblings or other children in the family or of friends may also enjoy starting a collection of their own. How much more fun would it be to give 200 cards that aren't worth more than a few pennies to a 7 year old boy who will enjoy them for what they are, then get a few bucks selling them and dealing with the hassles of shipping.

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Comments 2 comments

isaaccarr 8 years ago

You are wise beyond your years

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tectonic 5 years ago from Singapore

Handy discourse that you have made. Will check out your other hubs

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