by Diane Carter
The internet has changed the world of sports cards forever and you can scarcely bring up the topic without hearing “‘eBay” almost immediately. Love them or hate them, anyone who buys or sells cards online is eventually going to have to deal with the company that has fundamentally changed collectible commerce. While buying that card you so desperately want is easy enough on eBay, selling cards and making a profit can be complicated.
It’s not necessarily true that you can never make a consistent profit by selling cards and sports memorabilia on eBay, but the ordinary person who wants to buy card collections and resell them to make a living in Ebay is going to be hard pressed to do so.
Let’s face it. There are a lot more cards which are worth a few cents apiece than there are of those worth a $100 or $500 each. And, when you are dealing with products that often sell for under $10, the chances of making a profit decrease substantially, unless you’re able to do massive volume.
There is also some faulty thinking being done by many eBay sellers. People often declare a profit if they sell a card for more than they paid for it. Let’s say you find a baseball card in a pack and pay $4 for it. You think if you sell the card for $8 on eBay you will have doubled your money on it.
Unfortunately, there are many more things to consider than the cost of the card. First of all — people want to buy cheap on eBay. They want deals–they do not want to pay book value on a card. One of the good things eBay has done is to make sports cards more assessable to collectors. Need a hard-to-find card–somebody on eBay is bound to find it for you.
On the negative side of the equation, eBay has caused a devaluation of many items once valued at a higher level. They have done this with every product, not just sports cards. Say you want to buy a certain TV which retails for $900. A retailer with a normal 50% markup would be buying the product for $450 and selling it for $900.
But on eBay, to compete with other sellers and be the one who gets the buyer, sellers will cut their profits down to almost nothing. You are competing against hundreds of other people listing the same electronics at lower prices. If you look at the wholesale cost of a TV, for example, you will see that some buyers will add as little as $9.99 to the wholesale price and sell it for $459.99. Their faulty thinking is telling them if they make $10 on each TV and sell fifty they have made $500. After all, isn’t eBay all about volume?
Now, when you are discussing buying and selling baseball cards, you are talking for the most part about cards which sell for under $10. You may well buy a box of new cards and pull an autograph or relic worth $50 but those are few and far between.
There are many other costs to consider as well if you plan to make selling sports cards a real business and not a hobby. You have an insertion fee the minute you list an item on eBay and you have a final value fee when you sell the item. There are many variations on these fees–they depend on the price of the item, the listing category of the item, and whether or not you have a store, etc.
Below are the calculations for selling a single card in fixed price format and not at auction. If you prefer to sell at auction rather than at a fixed price, eBay is eliminating the insertion fee on your first fifty auction listings per month beginning April 19. The item cost is based on a 40% markup–higher than that of most sellers.
Sale price: $5 $10 $50 $100 $500
Insertion fee: .50 .50 .50 .50 .50
Final value fee: .60 1.20 6.00 12.00 60.00
Paypal fees: .15 3.00 1.50 3.00 15.00
Item cost: 3.00 6.00 30.00 60.00 300.00
Packing: 1.00 1.00 1.00 1.00 1.00
Shipping: 1.58 1.58 1.58 1.58 1.58
Profit before taxes(-1.83) (-3.28) 9.42 21.92 121.92
Don’t forget the value of your time in buying, listing (writing a great description and taking photos), packing and shipping this merchandise. Also if you intend on having an inventory of sports cards in your home, give lots of consideration to where you are going to store the cards, how much full card boxes weigh, and how much space they need. Can you envision how much room 375,000 cards takes up?
Also consider that in May this year, eBay is going to start charging a Final Value Fee on the combined sales price and shipping cost. They are going to charge a fee on a business expense: postage. This is to encourage free shipping. If you have purchased USPS postage or UPS or FedEx delivery services lately, you probably know they haven’t caught onto this “shipping is free” idea.
If you sell boxes or cases of baseball cards, you will be hit especially hard by this change. Once again, for people selling sports cards, profit margins will be cut and very likely many people will be going out of business.
There are many advantages and disadvantages to selling sports cards on eBay. If you have a lot of low value cards from the last ten years, it’s going to be hard to make a profit. However, if you sell vintage cards and can obtain your inventory at a good price, you will still be able to make money selling your cards on eBay. Before you list your cards, just make sure to consider how much money you need to cover all of the fees and still make a profit on the card.
In many ways eBay has been good for people who love baseball cards. You can find and purchase cards to fill sets or build a collection within seconds. But if you want to make a living on eBay doing something you love, you have to be on top of every expense, almost down to the penny. The profit margins are slim and the work is hard.