This is the second of a two-part series on getting the most money out of your better baseball and other sports card sets if you decide to sell. Part I covered putting a plan together and showcasing some of the best cards in your set. In part two, Mark Arzoumanian offers some insight on how to pick the right place to help you with the sale.
If you’ve identified the sets you’re looking to sell and graded the better cards, I highly recommend you submit a “test set” to a sports memorabilia auction house. You have a lot of choices. It’s all about getting the highest number of buyers possible to see what you have for sale.
But which auction house?
Here’s what I did. I chose three well-known companies and decided to test them with one of my sets. I won’t mention specific names but they’re all well established and have solid reputations. Maybe you have an oddball set that’s been gathering dust in your closet for years. Pull it out, prep it as discussed in Part I, and submit it. Or it can be one of your core sets whose card design you never really cared for. It doesn’t matter.
You want to go through a complete cycle with these three companies, from preparation to submission to cashing the check.
How do you choose which three to use? Talk to your fellow hobbyists. Talk to dealers. Read the Net54baseball forum. Auction house complaints and compliments will pop up here. Listen to the “Great American Collectibles Show,” hosted by Tom Zappala and Rico Petrocelli. They’re always interviewing auction house executives and you’ll get a feel for whether they would do a good job selling your collectibles.
Understand the fine print. Be certain to ask about the commission most auction houses charge consignors. Some may not charge much at all while the service fee others implement could be 10-20 percent. In addition to seller commissions, auction houses make their money by charging the buyer 18 percent to 20 percent.
If you remember nothing else about this article, remember these two words when shopping auction houses: customer service. It’s probably unfair to judge an auction house by how much money your set sells for. That is totally out of their control. All it takes is two people vying for any item to make the final price shoot past previous documented confirmed sales. So I repeat: Judge the auction house you use (and perhaps will stick with) by its customer service.
So, what is good auction house customer service? Some might send examine your sets and opt to send some of your cards to a third party grader if they believe there’s additional profit to be made for both of you. You want them to keep you informed about when the auction will start and how long it will last. You should have the opportunity to review the write-up(s) of your set(s) that will appear in the printed and/or online catalog. I like auction descriptions that focus on the condition of key cards, not the history of the set itself and I think most buyers do, too.
Kudos should also be given to auction houses that return phone calls and emails promptly. And finally, when you talk to them do they answer all your questions courteously or do they make you feel rushed?
The auction company will try to provide an accurate description but they don’t want to be accused of overgrading by a potential buyer so be prepared to be a little disappointed when it comes to the percentage of raw cards the auction house deems very good or excellent. Your near mint might be their excellent.
Depending on your time frame or your ability as a seller, you can also consider putting your complete set (or individual cards) on eBay. It’s a faster way to sell in that you’ll probably have your payment in a matter of days after the item is listed, but it also means you might have to be your own marketer to try and draw as many eyeballs to your listing as possible and you’ll have to handle the shipping process. I’m in my 60s and don’t want to be bothered with the extra work. But it’s worth considering.
Once an auction with your item goes live, don’t obsess about the price movement. It’s easier said than done, I know. Most auction companies catalogs are live for 14 to 28 days. Sure, check more often on that final day but from firsthand experience I’ve seen that it’s only in the last hour (or minutes) that prices start jumping frequently.
Finally, enjoy the process. It’s exciting to watch your computer screen in that last hour or less as strangers bid for a set you’ve worked on for years or even decades to complete. Enjoy the experience. Isn’t that what the hobby is all about? And in the spirit of Yogi Berra, the auction isn’t over until it’s over.