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Selling Baseball Cards on eBay: Making Money off Cardboard

Updated on November 17, 2015
Baseball cards can make you money.
Baseball cards can make you money. | Source

Somewhere in the back of your closet you have, sitting in shoeboxes under the forgotten sweaters and jackets, money that is not being made. It comes as 2.5 inch by 3.5 inch slivers of cardboard, featuring the likenesses and statistics of star and no-name ballplayers.

Your baseball cards. Remember them? Those way-overproduced, seemingly worthless things that almost every boy (and lots of girls) had as a kid?

Well, they can earn you money. Even those from the 1980s and 1990s, when output and market supersaturation were at their zenith, will net you dollars, if you know how to sell them.

The disclaimer

For the most part, selling baseball cards will not make you rich, and it will not, generally, recuperate all the money you spent on the hobby. But it can put a little dough in your pocket. You can do better than selling them in 3,000 card lots for two bucks a pop, like I foolishly used to do.*

*Personal story: Back when I first started selling my collection, I put boxes of 3,000 cards on eBay with a starting bid of one cent. I figured they would sell for what the market would bear. Unfortunately, the market bore only one penny more than once. Giving away my cards like that was a painful learning experience.

Cardboard gold

Okay, maybe that subtitle is an exaggeration.

Let's get the obvious stuff out of the way first -- the stuff you probably already know.

Autograph and memorabilia inserts and rare/short-printed cards sell pretty well individually. Well, is subjective -- to me, it means they go for a profit. So, if I move an autograph of a nobody career minor leaguer for 99 cents, I'm not doing too bad. Bigger names will net you more.

Did you, or do you currently, collect sports cards?

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Team lots

But for every autograph you have, you probably have 1,000 commons. Those sell, too. In team lots.

Sort your cards by team, making piles of 50. Each pile is one team lot. Next stop: eBay.*

*This is written under the assumption that you have an eBay account and know the functionalities of the website. If not, consult an in-depth eBay "how-to" guide to understand what I'm talking about.

What to do

Take pictures your lots. I generally shoot one big picture showing all the cards at once. It makes it look like you're offering a ton of them.

List your cards under this category: "Sports Mem, Cards & Fan Shop > Cards > Baseball"

Write a catchy title. I begin mine with, "Lot of 50 Yankees cards," where the team nickname goes in the italicized spot. To save characters, just use the nickname and not the city (Yankees, not New York Yankees).

Add highlights of the lot. If it has inserts, say ("w/ inserts!"). If it has inserts and rookies, say ("w/ inserts & rookies!"). If you know the book value and it is more than $30, include that. With the remaining characters, list the biggest names in the group. If it has none of the aforementioned, just list the biggest names, even if they aren't that notable to the average baseball enthusiast -- Jorge Posada and Tino Martinez might be nobodies to a Marlins fan, but they mean something to a Yankees rooter.

Note the shorthand (w/ instead of with, & instead of and). The more characters you have to tout your product, the better.

Write your description. This is simple. "This is an awesome lot of 50 New York Yankees baseball cards," you can say. Then list the players in the lot. You can list the brand, year and similar card details, but that takes a very long time to do. Point out the "good" cards in the lot, if there are any -- the inserts, the rookies, the parallels. For those, include the year, brand and so forth. Include something about the condition of the cards as well.

Determine a price and shipping cost. This is up to you. Start the bidding at at least 50 cents. Don't go above 99 cents -- you don't want to scare buyers away with too high a price.

Shipping is a bit tougher -- I do $3 to $3.50. Make sure to account for all the fees when determining your prices.

List the product and wait for it to sell.

Lots of Hall of Fame players, like Nolan Ryan, and stars sell very well.
Lots of Hall of Fame players, like Nolan Ryan, and stars sell very well. | Source

Player lots

You can also sell your cards organized by player. The simple guideline: The less popular or well-known the player is, the more cards of that player you need to create a sellable lot.

For example, I could easily get a few bucks off a 10-card Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera or Mickey Mantle lot, because they are superstars. But if I tried selling a handful of Kyle Lohse cards, not only would the lot likely not sell, it would probably only get a handful of page views.

But, say I had 60 Kyle Lohse cards. That's different. I don't really know why, it's still the same mediocre pitcher, but perhaps people see getting 60 cards of a player on their favorite team as a real bargain.

Though I've recently adopted a 99 cent pricing scheme -- every player lot I sell for starts at 99 cents -- my old habit was starting the bidding at two cents a card. So if I had 20 cards, the initial price was 40 cents. Then I let the market bear what it would.

Note: You can usually get away with selling medium-sized lots of minor stars/no-names if they play(ed) for a big market team or one with an extremely devoted fan base. I might not be able to sell 15 Bret Saberhagen cards to Royals fans, but I could sell 15 David Cone cards to Yankees fans with relative ease.

Profit

Making money off cardboard is possible. You just have to know how -- and now you do. Good luck.

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