How to Sell Your Cards: Get the Most for Your Basketball Card Collection
Did you recently find a card collection from when you were a kid? Or find some cards at a local tag sale or flea market and want to know what they are worth?
You may have seen recent news stories about record-setting sports card sales in the hundreds of thousands, and even millions of dollars. Could the cards you have be worth that much? It's certainly possible!
I started collecting cards in the early 1990's and have lived through many changes in the card market. In the last year I've seen the card market grow more than ever before. And there are a lot of cards that were worth very little when they were purchases, that can be worth a small fortune now if they are in good condition. I've put together the following guide to help you take some easy steps to see what your collection may be worth, and understand your options in selling it if that's something you'd like to do!
If your cards are loose in a box you'll want to purchase some cases or a binder for them. You want to protect the corners, edges, and surface of the cards and these collectible protective cases are the best way to do it. Soft sleeves and top loaders are a great start.
Card values are determined by a variety of factors. The two main factors are subject matter and rarity. If you have a large collection you want to start by looking for the big name players- The stars like Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Kobe Bryant etc. are the first cards you should look for in a basketball collection. Be careful as you handle the cards. If you have them in a binder, keep them in the binder and take a look at them without removing them as best you can. You'll want to figure out what year the cards are from and what the card may be called.
Next you want to see the online market values for the cards you have. The easiest way is to use the website 130point.com. This site allows you to search 90 days worth of past sales from eBay. It's important to note that the value of your cards will be tied to their conditions. So you may see a card like yours on 130point that sold for $2,000. But your card may only be worth $10. That's where the details of your card come in.
The details surround overall condition and grade (if applicable). Professional graders and collectors alike look at 4 main areas of a card to determine the condition of it:
If each of the above look perfect, or even close to perfect to you, it might be worth grading the card. Grading is a process by which you have a professional "grader", or third party expert on card conditions, look at your card, assign a numeric grade based on its condition, and place it in a protective case that will include a label for the card and grade. These cases are tamper proof and can add a lot of value to a card if it received a high grade. So if you see a card in a special case with the name of the card on the case, that generally means the card is graded. A simple $10 card raw (meaning not graded) can turn into a $2000 card in a "Gem Mint 10" grade.
Where to Sell
Once you know what you have and have an idea of what it's worth you have a variety fo choice of places you can sell it, and who you can sell it to. The best person you can sell the card to is a collector who desires the particular card you have. They will typically be willing to spend the most, and will not be looking to resell it, so you can get a full retail value for it. Finding collectors of individual cards can be challenging on your own, that's why so many people use stores, card shows and websites to make the connection.
Let's dive into each place you can sell cards to understand the positives and negatives:
eBay is the world's top marketplace for sports cards. Listing your item on eBay will attract the attention of people around the world who are searching for it. And that's eBay's greatest advantage: their reach, and broad active audience. There are a however few downsides to eBay that are worth noting:
1) eBay has fees for the transactions
2) eBay does not force a buyer to actually pay for the card you sell. This can lead to cancellations after the fact that can be very frustrating.
3) eBay allows buyers to return cards after they receive them, meaning even after the transaction if over, it's not necessarily over. You may be stuck with a return, and will still owe transaction fees and shipping despite the fact that your item(s) haven't actually been sold.
Going to a local card shop can be a good place to get rid of a large collection of cards. Card shops can relatively quickly go through your cards and give you a price they are willing to pay. Many will pay you cash on the spot, and you don't have to worry about returns like on eBay. The biggest downside of selling to a local card shop is that you will typically get a lot less than other methods. Card shops are aiming to resell the cards you sell them, so many will want to build in a large margin. They also may not go through your collection in great detail, so you may be giving up a lot more than you think when selling to a store.
Card Shows (Selling to a Vendor)
Card shows take place across the country and offer a similar opportunity to the Card Store approach. Individual vendors at shows may offer you cash on the spot for the cards you bring in. The downside here is that they typically don't have the time to go through your collection in great detail and may short change you on value in their purchase.
Card Shows (Buying a Table for the Day)
You can buy a booth at a local card show (if they have availability) and sell the cards you have directly to the public. This is a way to maximize your revenue by selling directly to collectors without having the fees of eBay. The downside of selling at card shows is that you can rarely if ever sell everything during one show. You will likely need to set up at multiple shows to get rid of all of the cards, but it can be fun if you have the time to do it.
I'm a card hobbyist at heart, I remember being a kid in the hobby that could have used more help when I was trying to value and sell portions of my collection. Because of this I often advise folks with collections on how to value them, and help with any cards that they might not be able to look up, or with deciding whether or not grading is a good idea for the cards they have. I also buy portions and occasionally small collections when it's the best option for the owner of the cards. I am transparent about what things are worth, and what I can pay for them. I legitimately want to help folks get the most for their collections and am no-pressure with my approach. I have no problem telling people that they will generate more revenue on certain cards by going certain routes, even if those routes have nothing to do with me.
If you have a collection, first take the steps I provided above to understand what you have and separate out the highest value cards. Then feel free to reach out to me if you'd like to get my thoughts on your best path forward! You can use the form below to reach out.