You did it! You landed the deal of the century. After two hours of driving, meeting, looking and negotiating, you picked up a quarter of a million sports cards. Trying to keep your cool while handing over the money and loading up the cardboard into your vehicle, you head home. Between the prayers for the safe trip back and the pure wonder of what gems may be hiding in all of those boxes, the 45 minute trip back to headquarters seems to fly by.
Then it’s time to unload.
With every drop of sweat spent on unloading the cards, wonder turns into concern. Dreams of Mickey Mantle rookie cards dancing in your head are interrupted by a wife who is clearly agitated by your new find which is now blocking a pathway to the laundry room. It is quickly apparent that your better half doesn’t share in the cardboard dream like you do.
You get into defensive mode, while trying to keep her happy.
You tell her how much you paid for them.
She gasps in disgust.
You quickly back it up by saying you will quadruple your money.
She rolls her eyes.
You tell her they won’t be here for long.
She walks off, muttering something that you probably don’t want to hear anyway.
She doesn’t say out loud that she doesn’t believe in your ninja card flipping abilities, but it is apparent that she’s not happy.
You are left with your cards and your thoughts.
What if she’s right? What if this mega purchase isn’t going to pay off in multiples? Worse yet – what if you only break even (or GASP – lose money) after countless hours of work?
The deal of the century that probably wouldn’t have even fit in your first apartment is a constant reminder of failure, loss and a significant obstacle that needs to be negotiated with just to get into the laundry room. The question goes from “How can I make money on these?” to “How can I get these out of here, and what do I need to buy my wife to make her happy?”
Thankfully, this in no way describes the relationship I have with my wife, but I know some of you can connect with this on an almost spiritual level. I cannot tell you how many times I have had a potential buyer come to look at cards for sale, only to see him gun shy because of what the reaction might be at home. I give them an incredible offer, and they grimace. “That is a great deal, but I am really worried about what my wife will say.”
I suspect that many of these guys have purchased things to to flip before, but life may have gotten in the way to put the time necessary to turn a profit. They may already have a stockpile of watches, legos, comics & GI Joes at home that didn’t quite turn out to be the profit centers they hoped they would be.
If any of the above describes you in any way shape or form, then the odds are that you have learned your first valuable lesson: Buying is significantly easier than selling. Buying takes two things:
– Your money
– Someone else willing to sell something.
Selling, on the other hand, takes:
– Knowing what you have
– Understanding how to price
– Finding the right buyer
– Showing them your deal is much better than the other knuckleheads out there trying to sell their stuff. (Read: Showing them that YOU are the only knucklehead they should be buying from)
Here are a few tips to get you going in the right direction to move that cardboard and show your wife or significant other that you’ve got the skills to pay the bills.
1) Know Thy Product
In order to sell, you need to first know what you have. If you are new to the wheeling and dealing game, you may be tempted to try and sort everything by year, number, player, color, brand, etc. While some organization is good, it is probably best to stay away from getting too crazy. I understand that card sorting can become a labor of love, but if you really want to turn a profit without burning yourself out, you want to make sure you haven’t just purchased a $3/hr job for the next 18 months. You just might lose that lovin’ feelin’ somewhere along the way, and call it a day.
When it comes to sorting, get a generalized sense of what you have. Many collections out there may already have some sort of organization to them. Here is a working example of how the ficitious 250,000 card collection should be organized:
If any sorting is to be done, I would suggest doing it by player, and only for the semi-good & really good cards, if bulk exists of a certain player or players. Don’t forget to sort out any known fakes/counterfeit cards. Nothing can kill your reputation faster than trying to sell items that are not real.
If some of that bulk buy involves cards from 1987-1991, be sure there’s also a quantity of less overproduced material to give you a fighting chance.
2) Put Together a Game Plan
Armed with the knowledge of what you have, you can now begin to set prices for what you hope to get for everything. Did you pay $500 for the collection? What would you need to do to make your money back? Let’s run some numbers, and break up our imaginary collection in chunks.
30 5,000 count boxes of commons: Sell at $15 a box = $450
40 complete sets: Sell at $4 a set = $160
2 binders of semi-good cards: Sell at $25 a binder = $50
3 boxes of semi-good cards: Sell at $50 a box = $150
1 small box of really good cards: Sell at $200
Just like that, the big bad 250,000 number is now reduced to five “product types”. Sure, there are 76 items, but many of these items will likely sell in bulk. For instance, 50,000 cards (10 5,000 count boxes of cards) could be sold at one time. At the end of the day, this puts you to where you want to be, plus $10 for a celebratory pizza. Don’t call that pizza in just yet, though. The question remains: Will the cards sell at these prices?
3) Price Your Cards Right
Anyone can put prices on cards without knowing what the true value is. As a matter of fact, most people selling the cards of their childhood simply don’t know. They don’t understand that you can no longer get $5 for a 1990 Upper Deck Sammy Sosa. Don’t fall into this trap. Just because a price guide said you should get that for a Sosa rookie, doesn’t mean you will even get a fifth of that. Check eBay “sold” listings to determine what you can reasonably expect for some of your better cards.
If you ignore true sales data, you will be stuck with the cards for months on end, with unreasonable expectations that will almost assuredly keep the cards in your possession for a long time. Keep in mind that eBay will take somewhere around 10% and Paypal will take about 3%.
4) Where to sell?
The obvious answer to this would be eBay, but truthfully, the bulk of the collection you just purchased won’t sell there. Why? Because nobody will want to pay $15 shipping on a $15 box of commons. eBay is a good place to list singles, and higher dollar sets. For lower end stuff? Try Craigslist or put them in a garage sale (a very underrated method of selling, especially if you advertise that you’ll have cards). You can also look for people who live within driving distance via online collecting forums and Facebook groups who might have an interest in picking up some of that bulk buy for themselves.
5) Keep Records
Recording your purchases and sales are vital to understanding where you are at as a reseller. It also helps serve as a tool for the future in understanding what cards will sell for. A year from now, you could possibly look back at 10 bulk purchases you made, and easily determine how much you could reasonably expect to sell the boxes of commons and lower end complete sets for.
This doesn’t only mean recording what you sell. It also means recording who you sell to. Do not ever burn your bridges. Be kind, courteous and fair with pricing. Don’t be afraid to reward your buyers with freebies from time to time, and check in with them whenever you get something in that they might like. It is always nice to have buyers in mind for things BEFORE you actually make a purchase. That comes with time, though.
I hope these guidelines will help you to clear a pathway to your laundry room, and make some money. In the end though, there is no magic bullet. I am going to assume that you are (or want to become) involved with buying and selling cards because you love them. Be patient, and don’t be scared of trying new things when it comes to listing them for sale. Do you have one of those overproduced Sammy Sosa rookies? Put it with a bunch of better Chicago cards to sell that way. Have a run of Topps sets from 1985 to 1995? Sell them as a complete run. Are there 1960s and 70s cards mixed in with your commons? Pull them and sell them as a vintage lot. With hard work and time, the hobby you love will also become profitable.