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Dealing with Baseball Card Dealers: The Art of Haggling

One of the best places to buy cards for your collection is from baseball card dealers. While fellow card collectors and random eBay sellers are other sources, dealers need to make a profit and they can’t hold onto their cards forever. In fact, the quicker they are sold, the better.

What this means for collectors is that there’s a chance of negotiating a great price on a card.  Plus, the more cards you can buy from the same dealer, the better your chances of getting a percentage discount on all of them. You can find dealers online, at card shows, and even within your community, especially if you live in a large city.

Working with one particular dealer can be advantageous for collectors as well. When you have become a good customer who keeps coming back for more cards, you are apt to get some special discounts and maybe even a few free cards thrown in from time to time. If you are collecting a certain set, such as the 1965 Topps, for example, and buy several star or semi-stars from the same dealer, he or she may well throw in some complimentary commons to help you fill in some gaps.

Here are ten tips to follow to get the best baseball card deals:

1.     Keep a list of dealers with whom you won’t do business. That might sound strange, but it can help you can eliminate frustration later on. If you buy a lot of cards you might not remember the name of each of the individual dealers with whom you have had transactions. Whether it be not getting a card you paid for or a dealer who does not respond to emails, this list will help keep your failed transaction rate low.

2. You, the customer, should be dealt with in a friendly manner. There is no need to buy from people who have obnoxious attitudes. Sports card dealers should be happy to answer any questions you have. They should be friendly and approachable, whether on the internet or at a show. They should encourage questions about their cards.

3. Dealers should answer your emails quickly. Everybody is busy. It’s the way of life these days. If someone wants to sell you baseball cards, he or she needs to respond to your email fast. That means the same day unless some kind of emergency comes up.

4. Be respectful of dealers and don’t try to lowball them. They have their own money invested in the cards they are selling and need to have good sales to reinvest in more cards. This is the way dealers make their living. Always make a fair offer, not an embarrassing one.

5. Likewise, dealers need to be mindful of not over-pressuring buyers–if you need to stay within a certain budget, don’t spend more than you planned on. If you are in the market for a 1964 Topps Sandy Koufax or a 1958 Topps Bart Starr and you have strictly budgeted $100, don’t pay more than that, even when in discussion with baseball card dealers who specialize in vintage.

6.     When choosing dealers, check out their feedback (if online) and references. Until you can establish a good relationship with a dealer, you have to count on what others have to say about their experiences with them.

7.     Know what cards are worth. Look them up in Beckett price lists or if you are visiting a show or several shops, bring a Beckett magazine along with you. Better yet, grab a list of completed sales on eBay for the same item.  It’ll be more accurate and up to date. No one can take advantage of you as long as you know what a card is worth.

8.     If you can’t get the price you want on a card, bundle it with other cards. For example, if you want a 1954 Topps Ted Williams card for a certain price ($250) and the dealer wants more ($400) add two other lower valued cards and make an offer for $300.

9.     At card shows, revisit dealers at the end of the day. It’s a really hassle packing up everything to take it home. The end of the day is the time when you can usually get the best deals on cards. If you haggled over prices earlier, go back and see if you can work out a deal.

10. Establish good relationships with one or with a few baseball card dealers. Especially online, once a dealer starts to see your name and address appearing frequently in the orders to be shipped, their attitude will become friendlier and they may even email or all you to see if there are any cards they can find for you or for which they can keep you in mind. They may even offer small enticements, such as free shipping if you purchase a certain number of cards.

Click here to see the largest volume sellers of sports cards on eBay

About Rich Mueller

Rich is the editor and founder of Sports Collectors Daily. A broadcaster and writer for more than 30 years and a collector for even longer than that, he's usually typing something somewhere. Type him back at [email protected].

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