How To Sell Your Baseball Cards
If you haven’t been paying attention, sports card values have been on a tear.
In fact, an index of some of the most valuable vintage cards has outperformed the S&P 500 by over 200% since 2008.
Thus, if you’re looking to sell your baseball cards, now might be as good a time as any.
It can however be a complicated process, given all of the transformations in the hobby over the past decade.
Card grading has become a huge (albeit controversial) part of the hobby.
And with it many scandals that have left a bad taste in the mouth of card collectors.
This guide should be the only resource that novice collectors need in order to sell their baseball cards.
So, let’s not waste time- here’s the table of contents:
Feel free to skim through the sections if something doesn't apply to your situation.
Or read carefully and learn something new. It may just help you get top dollar for your card collection!
Is There Still A Market For Baseball Cards?
There most certainly is a very healthy market today for baseball and all sports cards. In fact, due to the widespread availability of fast internet access and various marketplaces, there has never been a more established and liquid market than the one that exists today.
Cards can be sold quite easily and for near full value, depending on the demand for the card in question. The advent of grading companies and their associated population reports has made it so easy for collectors to get an idea of what sort of supply exists for any particular card.
In addition, collectors can now easily view the latest sales prices on eBay or at auction houses to get a very up to date picture on the value of a card.
Thus, data, has led to a hobby with much less friction and more accuracy. Data has made it easier for collectors to purchase or sell cards online or in person, with a lot less variability in pricing as compared to years past.
This lower friction and ease of doing business has also led to a significant increase in prices for cards.
Below we can see that an index of PWCC cards has massively outperformed the S&P 500 over the past several years.
High demand vintage cards and newer cards with the fancy 1/1 designations and/or limited supply have been very hot collectibles.
This uniformity of the hobby via better data has led to a more structured marketplace. This has helped comfort collectors in knowing that they might have an option to sell a recently acquired card at a price close to what they paid.
This has also led to some taking on card purchases they might not have a decade ago, due to the reliability on the system itself.
This has given the hobby a bit of a 'stock marketplace' sort of feel, which for good or for bad, has likely led to the increase in card values in recent years.
How To Identify What Baseball Cards You Have
If you have a baseball card and have no idea what you have sitting in front of you, this section should help you identify your cards.
First, check the back of the card. Unless it's a strip card (which normally have blank backs) then it likely has some sort of manufacturer and date information on the back. This normally gets easier the newer the card, but it's definitely a starting place for figuring out what year and make your card is.
Here's the back of a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle, one of the most valuable of all baseball cards.
In looking at the back or front we know we have a Mickey Mantle card (and if you have one of these you're one LUCKY collector). If we look on the back, we can see at the bottom that we have a 'Topps Baseball' card but there is no identifying year.
This is where some of the text on the back can help--if we read the card, it refers to Mantle's 1951 season, thus we can get some sort of idea that this is likely a card issued somewhere in that 1951-1953 range. And indeed it is a 1952 Topps baseball card.
A quick Google search can always help--if we had typed in '1951 Topps Mickey Mantle' and click on 'images' in Google we actually get a bunch of photos of our 1952 Topps Mantle. (note there is no '51 Topps' Mantle). We could also click on one of those images and figure out more about the card.
One trick that many don't know about is the Google Reverse Image Search. If you go to images.google.com you can submit a picture and it will provide any matches to its search database. Just click on the photo as shown in the image below (circled in red)
I tried this with our 1952 Mantle Back and it identified it as 'Mickey Mantle Rookie Card', which is technically not true as Mantle's 1951 Bowman is his true rookie card, it gives us enough info to make an assessment that this is actually a 1952 Topps Mantle. That's a great start if we are selling a Mickey Mantle card worth multiple thousands of dollars.
So, whether it's a 1952 Mickey Mantle or a 1981 Topps Joe Montana, you can utilize this same method with whatever card you might have. If you're having any issues, get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will do my best to help you out.
How Much Are My Cards Worth?
In order to place a rough estimate on your baseball card collection, the easiest place to start is eBay.
The search results will show us all of the available cards for sale.
While this information looks good, the most valuable information is within the latest eBay completed listings.
Click on the 'Advanced' text as shown in the red circle.
Once you get to the next page, click on 'Sold Listings' . Note I also added a filter for sold items above $500 since there was a lot of junk coming up in the results, and I know from experience that most Jordan rookies sell for over $500.
This will bring up a list of the latest sales that can really help us figure out a price on our card.
Here we can see that the last sale was a PSA 4 Jordan that sold for $1025. So we can filter through the listings to find a good idea of what our card is worth.
In addition, we can also get a good snapshot of recent eBay sales (along with recent auction sales) at PSA's website.
If you google your card and just type in "PSA" at the end it should provide the first link to the PSA page for the card you are looking for.
I did this for 'Michael Jordan Fleer Rookie PSA' and the first link is the PSA Card Facts page.
If you click on the box 'APR' (which stands for Auction Prices Realized) from the PSA Facts page it will bring you to the latest eBay and auction sales.
PSA has made some big improvements on this part of their page, and provides a great breakdown of sales based on card grades. There's even a chart showing recent sales prices by grade as shown below:
Are Baseball Cards from the 90's Worth Money?
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but most cards produced in the 1980's and 1990's are worth very little. Known as the 'junk card era' the card companies mass produced cards in order to meet the surge in demand. I just heard recently that in 1991 Fleer produced 3 million copies of each card. And that was likely true for many other issues of the day.
Sure, there are exceptions. I'm sure you heard about the 1993 Derek Jeter SP card that sold for close to $100K and Michael Jordan 1986 Fleer Rookie cards continue to increase in value. But, for the most part, cards from the junk card era aren't worth a heck of a lot of money.
Vintage cards from the 1900's through the 1970's are still very popular among collectors. Value really all comes down to the relative scarcity of a card and the ultimate demand by collectors. Jordan's Fleer rookie card has nearly 50K copies or more in circulation, yet the card continually has increased in value. If the demand outstrips the supply then the card values will continue to increase.
Does Grading Cards Increase Their Value?
Normally, a graded card is worth more than a 'raw' card that is ungraded. Of course there are costs involved with grading (on average about $15 to $20 for bare bones services). So you have to weigh the costs versus the ultimate potential increase in value.
A card worth $10 would not likely be worth grading at all due to the costs involved. Normally I say that if it's worth $100 or more, it's probably worth grading. At the very least you get a cool holder that helps encapsulate your card.
Some collectors that are set builders will decide that they want a 100% graded set, thus this could entail grading all of the non-star players.
For me, I'm normally not in any rush to send my cards off to the grading companies, unless I want an immediate opinion on authentication.
One of my biggest mistakes as a novice vintage collector was sending off some T206 commons to PSA. At around a $12 average submission cost (I did a bulk submission) this did practically nothing to help increase the initial value I had paid for the cards. The only time this helps, is if you buy a card thinking it might be say a PSA 1 (Poor Condition) and it ends up getting graded a PSA 3 (VG) or PSA 4 (VG-EX).
Thus, before you send in for grading, weigh the costs involved versus what you think the card might actually end up being worth in graded condition (versus raw).
Where Can I Sell My Baseball Cards?
eBay is the easiest place to sell your cards, but unfortunately there are fees involved. eBay allows you list 50 items for free per month, but there is a 10% charge on the final value for selling your baseball cards. In addition, there is cut that you have to pay PayPal (.30 + 2.9% fee) along with any shipping costs that aren't covered by the buyer. The fees can add up quickly.
There are many active Facebook groups that allow for selling and trading cards. If you search for a particular sport and era, you'll likely find a big group engaging in card trading. Selling in Facebook groups can be done with no fees involved, but you need to make sure that you are dealing with an honest buyer/seller. Most groups will vouch for anyone in question, and a quick search of a person's name in the group can provide some further information into their past posts/dealings.
I've never done it but some collectors will sell cards at a Pawn Shop. I'd probably advise against this unless you're in a really desperate situation.
Collector's would be better served by visiting a local card shop if there's one nearby.
For higher end items, some of the big auction houses can be a good way to go.
Here Are Some Tips Before Selling Your Card Collection
Create A List Of Cards
It's time to figure out what it is that you own! Go and create a list! We've started a Google Sheet to help you with this. That sheet comes in handy when working with Dealers if selling your cards.
If you need any help in identifying your cards, go revisit our tips in helping to figure out what it is that you have.
Talk To Card Dealers
Go Visit A Local Baseball Card Show or search online for reputable dealers. You might find someone willing to pay exactly what you need in person at a card show.
Learn About Sports Card Grading
PSA and SGC are the most reputable graders, and while it's not necessary to grade your cards, you will tend to get more money for higher quality graded cards as opposed to those that are 'raw'.
One downfall - due to the surge in demand of card collecting in recent years, the grading companies are backlogged big time, thus you might find yourself waiting months in order to get your card back
Be sure to check out our resource guide on grading your sports cards.
Have a Price In Mind
Although you likely won't get auction pricing if selling to a dealer or at a show, it's important to understand your cards value.
As noted previously, a simple eBay search of completed listings can do wonders in helping to determine a cards most accurate value.
Consider Passing On To Heirs If Possible
Might sound crazy, but vintage baseball cards have outperformed the S&P 500 over the past 30+ Years. If you have a high quality collection and aren't in need of immediate cash, it might be worth considering!
Read Our Articles!
Invest In A Scanner
If you have a large collection, one that might take time to sell, it might be worth your while to invest in a scanner. Photos with your iPhone can work often times, a scanner will likely get you better returns due to the higher quality of the image. There's a great discussion here on some of the better options for use in scanning baseball cards.
And if you don't feel like being hassled with all the work involved in either listing on eBay or dealing with an Auction House, there are collectors that will pay top dollar for high quality sports cards and sets. One happens to be us here at All Vintage Cards (shameless plug). Below is some more information on our buying process:
Selling Your Sports Cards to All Vintage Cards
All Vintage Cards has been dealing in sports since the early 1980’s and we are one of the most reputable and trusted buyers in the hobby. While I encourage all sellers to shop around when selling a valuable card collection, I can promise that our offer will more often than not be near the top of the list.