For many kids who grew up in the late 1980s or early 90s, it came as a shock. Those baseball and football cards they faithfully accumulated like a fine stock portfolio were supposed to rise in value as the players’ careers ascended. By the time you were in your 30s, you should have enough to pay your first house, right?
As most collectors who kept up with the hobby know, there were too many made. Few were tossed out to elevate the value of those left behind. Everyone bought them. Everyone saved them. Card companies made millions of them to keep up with the demand. So now, they sit there, staring back at you. Ken Griffey Jr., Frank Thomas, Juan Gonzalez, Mike Piazza, Kenny Lofton and all the rest. Fine players, they were. The rookie cards you kept in plastic cases and binders look as fresh as they did when they were removed them from the pack or the sports card shop owner’s case. Still, that once loved collection is now worth approximately 1/100th of what they paid for it.
If you never lost the collecting gene, have bought a lot since then and have boxes upon boxes of commons and stagnant stars that won’t fit themselves into a set, you might also be wondering what the heck can I do with all of this junk?
Here are ten ideas to rid your closet of clutter, get your wife or significant other off of your back and maybe, just maybe, do the seemingly impossible: Find someone who really wants them.
1. Donate them. Call your closest boys and girls club or children’s hospital. Maybe a civic organization holding a summer camp. See if they’d like to have some cards at no charge. Deliver them yourself and ask if you can be there when they’re handed out. The reaction will likely be a positive one, maybe even better than that. There are organizations out there that will even do that work for you. All you have to do is send them in and take the tax deduction. It’s not a slam dunk, though. Some non-profits simply don’t want to deal with the bulk that is your monster boxes.
Another option is Commons4Kids.org which seeks out organizations that might want cards and other sports collectibles so they can give them to youngsters who want them. All of the information you need is on their website.
2. Put them in a garage/yard sale. You’d be surprised at the reaction you’ll get if you include ‘baseball cards’ in your garage sale ad. No doubt, serious collectors will show up, hoping they’ve stumbled on a stash of 1950s gold. However, you might find some flea market dealers or low budget collectors who will be glad to buy them at a price lower than they’ll find anywhere else. Think bulk and don’t ask too much. Mark $30 on your monster box of 3,200 1988-91 commons and minor stars and be glad to take $20 if someone offers it.
To make it look more attractive, stick a few 1960s or 70s cards or some low priced superstars in there. If you have a big league team with a huge following in your area, pull out the cards from that team and offer them separately for $5. Separate them by sport. Put out a separate box with a mixture of other bulky sports items you don’t want, toss in some cards and put a price on that, too. If your extra stock is from the era after overproduction, use the same philosophy but put fewer cards in the box.
3. List them in an online classified. eBay Classifieds, Craigslist or other locally-based online ads can usually generate some calls. If you don’t mind the phone ringing and people wanting to come over or meet you somewhere, you can make a few more bucks this way and save the time and hassle of holding a garage sale.
4. Donate them to a charity auction. Again, you might want to include a few vintage cards or showcase some stars just to make it presentable, but many small organizations raising money for charity welcome any donations. Keep an eye out for local fundraisers and offer to donate your extras. Chances are the gesture will be greatly appreciated and you’ll feel good about helping out–not to mention the tax deduction.
5. Give them to some neighbors. Even if you don’t know your neighbors well, if you see someone who lives nearby, ask them if they know a young person or group that would want them–no strings attached. You’ll earn some points as the generous guy who lives down the street, which might help you someday.
6. Advertise them in your local newspaper/shopper. Grab a cheap classified ad. It’s always interesting to see how many calls you get. Be descriptive, but brief in your ad to keep the cost down and the bargain hunting vintage collectors away.
7. Barter. There are online sites that specialize in bartering. Some may be local. Look around online and offer them to someone who has a service you can use like physical labor of some sort. You might have to include some better items, but it’s a good way to save money and get rid of your stuff at the same time.
8. Package them up and give them away at Halloween. Kids love to get something different in their trick-or-treat bags. Instead of a mountain of candy, give your visitors a small piece and a pack of 25 cards. You’ll get some unbelievable reactions from the youngest ones, especially those who come dressed as sports stars.
9. Use them for art projects. Ever seen what Tim Carroll does with those giant boxes of low end cards? He turns them into reproductions of some of the hobby’s most iconic cards. Very cool stuff! Maybe you have another idea.
10. Save them. You’ve held onto them this long. What’s another few years? Someday, you may have the chance to buy more cards from the same year and put sets together that you can sell at local shows, flea markets, give away to relatives or keep to pass on to the next generation. They won’t pay for your kid’s college education, but you’ll never have to worry about regretting the day you sent them packing.
Here’s a bonus idea suggested by a few readers: Use them to get autographs through the mail. Many of the players from the past are willing signers. You’re only out a couple of stamps if they don’t reply. Want to hear more ideas or offer your own? You can do it via our Facebook page.