The Science of Sports Collectible Consignment

Dozens of sports card and memorabilia dealers are busy packing up their inventory this weekend and pointing themselves in the direction of Baltimore where the National Sports Collectors Convention opens on Wednesday.

For most, there will be a day’s worth of setting up shop and some dealer-to-dealer sales before the show opens with the traditional Wednesday night ‘sneak peek’.  The show runs five days, but in reality, what happens the other 360 days of the year is most important.  For those who make their living on relatively quick merchandise turnarounds, like Just Collect Inc., it’s the consignments that drive business forward.

1934-36 Diamond StarsEach week, the phone or e-mail in box brings something new.  Not long ago, it was a collection of vintage cards that spanned two generations.  Within days, the massive amount of material was being readied for eBay.

“We have a consignment of ungraded cards from a father and son ranging from starter sets of 1935 Diamond Stars and 1939 Playballs to cards from the late 1970s,” said Just Collect’s Scott Greenwald.  “The father collected the earlier cards, then stopped. The son collected the cards from 1969 to the mid-1980s, then stopped. When the father collected, the son was too young to enjoy it. When the son collected, the father was uninterested in collecting.”

While the family didn’t bond over cards, they did get together on the decision to unload everything.  They made the trip to the company’s offices and a deal was struck.

“In this case, the father drove the decision to sell now, mentioning to us that he decided one day ‘What the heck do I need all these cards for?’ Greenwald recalled.  “When he approached his son about it, he felt similarly. “

So the cards are now being liquidated via Just Collect’s eBay listings.

Brokers in the sports collectibles business can’t live on cardboard alone, though.  You have to be an expert in everything from autographs to vintage sports memorabilia and oddball card issues.  Regardless of what’s being offered, sometimes the overly optimistic price guide becomes an obstacle.

“The biggest issue we see which leads us to determine it may not be a good fit is consignors with unrealistic expectations about the value of their cards who will be impossible for us to satisfy,” Greenwald explained.

Most, though, are willing to let someone else do the work in exchange for giving up a portion of the proceeds.    Any expectations can be corralled somewhat by a thorough examination of any collection that’s being offered.

1974 Topps“We begin by working off of a written inventory to get an understanding of what is included in the collection,” Greenwald said.  ” Then we review the cards themselves, set by set and card by card, to accurately inventory and describe the cards for eBay.  Depending on the agreement with the consignor, we may pull some of the cards for grading.”

Decisions are also made about which items should be sold individually and which would sell better as lots.  Collections or individual pieces of memorabilia can have a strong hold on the emotions, however.  Making the decision to sell isn’t easy and sometimes consignors have strong opinions about how their collection should be sold.  Generally, though, Greenwald said sellers defer to the company’s experience.  Being a “one stop shop” also helps.

“In addition to the service of actually inventorying, listing, selling, and shipping the items, Just Collect has also developed industry-leading marketing that benefits our clients.  We have an email list of over 35,000 active collectors who receive our weekly newsletter featuring our auctions.  We have ads running on top websites in the hobby.  We were even featured in eBay’s Bucks program which got our consignors huge exposure on their home page and in their email blasts.”

“The most important thing to remember is that everyone has a goal with respect to selling their collection and it is our job to help them achieve it.  For many, it is to maximize the value of their collection.  For others, it is to sell the collection in chunks that increase the likelihood that the collection will be kept together and be passed on to another collector who will treasure it.  Some people want to list everything at no reserve auction.  Others want to be more involved in actively pricing out the most significant cards.  We have a consignment solution that achieves your goals, and we are here to help you find it.”

See the ongoing ‘father/son’ collection’ eBay listings here.