How To Sell Baseball Cards For Top Dollar: The Expert Guide
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from selling baseball cards over the years it’s this:
the marketplace you choose means everything.
What do I mean by that?
There’s a right and wrong market for every type of baseball card collection.
Each type of collection attracts a certain type of buyer.
Reaching the right buyers for your collection is key.
So if you have baseball cards for sale, this guide will walk you through which options are right for you.
Identify The Cards You Have
This may seem obvious...
...but it's the most critical step of them all.
Luckily for you, the hobby has divided cards into three main segments to help quickly identify them and their relative values:
- Pre-War: printed prior to 1945
- Vintage: printed from 1946 to 1979
- Modern: printed from 1980 to present
Each segment has its own set of characteristics that help distinguish it from the others in terms of both appearance and value.
Let's take a closer look.
Pre-War Baseball Cards (Printed Prior to 1945)
Some of the most valuable baseball cards you'll ever encounter were printed prior to World War II.
Typically, these cards are characterized by their smaller sizes, beautiful color artwork (or black and white photography) and reverse sides that featured advertisements of tobacco or candy companies.
Cards of Hall of Famers and stars from this era can easily be worth thousands of dollars, especially if they are in great shape.
Even common cards (those of non-star players) can be worth major money depending on condition or if it is more rare for some reason.
These are typically cases where a card has a printing error or it was pulled early from production for some reason and not many survived.
The reverse side of cards from this era will usually exhibit one of the following features:
- it will be blank
- it will not feature any statistics
- it will contain an advertisement for the company that produced it
Vintage Baseball Cards (Printed From 1946 - 1979)
Topps eventually dominated this era after beating out competitors such as Bowman, Fleer and Leaf.
Vintage cards are known for their beautiful color artwork and photography although there were still several black and white issues during this period.
And, the 1957 Topps baseball card set brought with it the standard card dimensions of 2-1/2 by 3-1/2 inches that we're used to today.
Like pre-War cards, vintage cards of Hall of Famers and stars can also easily be worth thousands of dollars, especially if they are in great shape.
Even common cards (those of non-star players) can be worth major money depending on which card it is and their condition.
Many vintage cards will contain a print date on the reverse of the card to help you easily identify the year it was produced.
And if not, one way you can tell is by looking at the last year shown in the stat box and adding one year to it since cards were issued the next season.
For example, if the last stat line was from 1958, then you'd say the card was produced in 1959.
Modern Baseball Cards (Printed From 1980 - Current)
I first started collecting baseball cards as a kid during the late 1980's and still have most of them to this day.
But, sadly, due to the massive print runs of this era the market is flooded with them today.
That level of production makes it a near certainty that a card from this time period will have no value at all.
In order for a modern card to have much value, it usually has to be a current or future Hall of Famer's rookie card in pristine condition, contain a printing error, or be personally autographed by the player himself.
The 1993 SP Derek Jeter rookie card is a prime example.
Those exceptions are extremely rare, however.
In general, the value of a baseball card will increase based on certain factors:
- which player is on the card
- the age of the card
- the condition of the card
- the scarcity of the card (errors, variations, etc.)
- whether the card is professionally graded or not
There are many quirks to this hobby that can determine a card's value.
Luckily for you, we've written an entire post about how to determine the value of your baseball cards and you can find it here:
Where To Sell
In my experience, determining where to sell your baseball card collection usually depends on two factors:
- what type of cards your'e selling (pre-War, vintage, modern)
- how quickly you need to sell them
Again, if you are selling cards printed from 1879 to 1979 and you need more guidance, please feel free to contact me using this form.
Now, let's take a look at the three most common ways to sell baseball cards and the pros and cons of each.
Private Online Auction Houses
Does your collection consists of pre-War or vintage cards?
Can you afford to wait for potentially a few of months to sell them?
Then consigning your cards to a private auction house can be a great option.
There are multiple private online auction houses that do nothing but sell old sports cards and they are great at what they do.
They already have networks of collectors eagerly awaiting to buy and they promote heavily to them via email, print catalogues, and even personal phone calls.
You don't have to worry about taking pictures of your cards, shipping them to buyers, or collecting payments--these companies handle all of that.
The downside is that there are many of them today so knowing which ones are professional and trustworthy can be difficult.
Additionally, some of them will hold auctions only a few times a year so you may have to wait a while to finally sell your cards and collect payment.
But, if you can afford to wait in order to maximize your sell prices then I would recommend you choose this route.
Card Dealers & Shops
If your collection consists of pre-War or vintage cards (and even some modern cards) but you have to sell quickly, then this is likely your best option.
By negotiating either in person, by email or by phone with a dealer or card shop you can sell quickly at an agreed upon price.
Sometimes this option can be difficult, though, if you want to do this face-to-face since there aren't many dealers and shops around anymore.
Another major downside is that it can be very difficult to find a dealer or shop owner that you trust.
Some will offer around 50-60% of market value for your cards but others will aim for much lower.
I've heard countless stories of people getting ripped off.
You have to be very careful and do your homework if you go this route.
I really only recommend it if you are in a hurry.
No matter what types of cards you have in your collection, eBay can be a great option--especially if you need to sell your cards quickly.
With eBay, you can have several formats in which you can sell your cards:
- fixed-price with ability to accept offers
The reach you have with eBay is massive since thousands of collectors buy and sell there everyday.
One major drawback, though, is the amount of time and resources you will have to invest personally.
You'll need a scanner to take professional pictures and you'll also have to manage the entire shipping process yourself.
There is also always the possibility of buyers scamming you in any number of ways.
eBay can be worth it if you have the time to invest but if you don't, I'd steer away from this option if I were you.