Last Updated On: September 6th, 2023
This guide is intended to answer the most common questions for sports trading cards collectors, buyers, sellers, investors, and everyone in between.
Whether you’re new to the sports card market, or a 20 year collector, this frequently updated guide links to many valuable resources. Be sure to bookmark it!
- I’m new to sports cards, what resources should I follow?
- What are the best sites to look up values of sports trading cards?
- Where do I sell my trading cards?
- When selling cards, what is consignment?
- What are the fees to selling or buying Sports cards?
- How do I protect or store my sports cards?
- Why should I grade my baseball cards?
- I’m interested in buying sports cards, but what do I buy?
- What is the best sports card grading service?
- How do I find card collectors near me?
- … more being added continuously!
I’m new to sports cards, what resources should I follow?
Sports Card Dictionary: There are a ton of acronyms, abbreviations, and terms in the card market. Brush up on the slang and bookmark this ultimate glossary.
eBay: As a seasoned investor or new collector, you’ll likely use eBay.com a lot to research, buy, and/or sell sports cards.
PSA: a professional sports and trading cards grading company, PSA is the #1 grading company in the world for having your cards graded. You can look up the total population of PSA cards graded for a particular trading card, and also their recent values.
Beckett: One of the earliest authorities in sports trading cards price guides, Beckett has been in the game forever. Their BGS (and BVG for vintage cards) grading service is the #2 company in the trading card marketplace.
PWCC: One of the premier auction houses on the web, PWCC offers many different services where you can store your cards securely in their bank-like vault, consign your cards through them to be sold at auction (more on this later), and even leverage their capital services in case you need liquidity against your collection. They have also created a PWCC 100 trading card index which they track against the S&P500 stock market index to show how well the card market is performing relative to the stock market.
Heritage Auctions: A premium auction house, Heritage auctions some of the most valuable sports trading cards and memorabilia in the entire market. They also auction rare coins, comic books, jewelry, art, and other collectibles.
What are the best sites to look up values of sports trading cards?
eBay is a popular, and free way to look at how much sports cards are selling for especially because it’s an auction site with many card auctions closing frequently. This gives you a gauge of how much a card is in demand, and watch how it is moving in price over a rolling 90 day period.
Beckett has an online price guide membership service as well.
Be sure to check out this complete tutorial guide to learn how to look up pricing for free.
Where do I sell my trading cards?
eBay is likely the most popular, and quickest way to auction your sports cards. Within a few minutes you can snap a few pictures of your item, and list it for auction in a 3, 5, 7, or 9 day format, or even simply in a “buy-it-now” price format (non-auction).
As mentioned earlier, PWCC, Heritage, and other consignment services such as COMC, where you can send your cards and they do all the heavy lifting for a percentage fee of the sale, are great ways to sell your sports cards. These companies do a lot of marketing, and essentially have a brand and reputation in the marketplace that can command a higher premium for your cards.
Even PWCC flexes their muscle on their frequently asked questions page as follows:
“PWCC is the largest broker of trading cards globally, has a strong reputation and trust in the market, and markets our listings to over 85,000 past buyers.”
MySlabs.com is another great up-and-coming platform for peer-to-peer buying and selling of trading cards (particularly for professionally encased or ‘slabbed‘ cards). They charge a very low listing fee for both sellers and buyers, and the team at MySlabs screens sellers before accepting them. They also run a tight ship and do not tolerate delayed shipment for a paid order, buyer remorse, and refunds are more of an exception case than the rule. We highly recommend MySlabs!
Lastly, even local pawnshops and baseball card stores will be happy to buy your cards if you’re looking for a quick sale and cash in hand.
When selling cards, what is consignment?
Imagine the process of selling a trading card: you need to take pictures, describe the item accurately, list it up for auction, and manage the shipment to the buyer, along with the feedback you receive (hopefully positive but sometimes negative). If you sold 10 items, it’s very likely 10 different buyers will expect packages, which means you’re in packaging and shipment hell.
The process explained above is essentially what it’s like to sell on eBay.
So what is consignment, and what are the advantages more importantly?
Typically as with PWCC or other popular consignment services, you send your items directly to the consignment house, and they do the work of taking professional pictures, listing your items, and managing the shipment to each prospective buyer. They simplify the process for you, and sometimes charge slightly less than eBay would charge if you did it yourself! But be sure to compare different consigners and their fees to determine the best value for your trading card.
Another benefit of consignment is piggybacking their reputation – a strong reputation means your items sell for higher prices, and you don’t risk the possibility of getting dinged with poor feedback either.
What are the fees to selling or buying Sports cards?
When buying sports cards, expect to pay:
- The final winning price if you’re bidding in an auction such as on eBay’s website. For example, if you bid $500 and win, you’ll pay $500 in addition to the fees below. In comparison, you would pay a 20% “buyer’s premium” on top of the winning bid if you were to win in a Heritage Auction.
- Shipping to have the items delivered to your address (unless the seller offers free shipping)
- Sales tax.
The sales tax could be a substantial amount that is tacked on to the winning bid, and it’s a percentage that you pay which varies depending on what state you live in. That said, you can pay 0% sales tax on your purchases if you have a PWCC Vault account. Your purchases can be sent directly to a mailing address at PWCC’s facilities, which are located in Oregon and therefore avoids a sales tax. Your cards are also secure, and insured, although there are fees associated with this service.
In regards to selling sports cards, most auction houses such as Goldin, PWCC, and Heritage will keep the “buyer’s premium” mentioned above as their cut of the sale. This could range anywhere from 10-20% of the hammer price. For example, if a card sold for $1,000 with the buyer’s premium at 20%, the buyer would pay a total price of $1,200 (plus tax and shipping) with the auction house keeping $200.
In contrast, eBay charges a final value fee as a percentage of the sale; the buyer does not pay any fees. It is roughly 13.25% of the final sale price up to $7,500, and an additional 2.35% on the portion of the sale over $7,500. Be sure to check eBay for the latest fee structure as it is subject to change at any time.
How do I protect or store my sports cards?
There are many popular sports cards cases that can protect your cards from dust, physical damage, and even direct sunlight. Top loaders, penny sleeves, and Card Savers are some of the most common ways to protect your cards. We have a comprehensive guide to storing trading cards with prices and recommendations for when to use a particular case versus another. If you’re looking for something more aesthetically pleasing to show off your collection, you need to get a wall-mountable display case!
Why should I grade my baseball cards?
One of the most important aspects of determining the value of a sports card is its condition. Obviously the player and card itself is going to dictate the price the market is willing to pay, but if you had two of the exact same card, the one in better condition will always get a higher price.
It’s common to send a card in for grading when it already has great eye appeal, and sharp corners, no surface or edge damage, and of course it’s centered well. Grading provides an expert opinion of the condition of your card (e.g. Near-Mint, Mint, Gem Mint, etc.) by a third party grading service such as PSA, BGS, or SGC.
Grading also encases your cards permanently, protecting them from most physical damage, and guarantees they are authentic so that the market of buyers can rest easy. This is much more important nowadays especially when buying cards over the internet where you don’t have the luxury to inspect a card in your hands like the good old days.
A PSA 10 GEM MINT card will fetch a premium price in the marketplace versus the same card in a lower grade, such as a PSA 9 Mint card. Some collectors claim to prefer raw, ungraded cards versus graded ones, although this is going to be a substantially smaller set of buyers in a marketplace that has changed drastically in recent years with new entrants seemingly entering every day. That said, many collectors are less sensitive in regards to card condition for super rare 1 of 1 cards such as Black Prizms, game used bat cards, and Nebulas, for example.
Simply put, the market of buyers will be substantially higher for a PSA 10 graded card when compared with a raw, ungraded version of the same card. And a larger market of buyers will undoubtedly always result in higher prices being paid.
As a rule, only send extremely rare, old, or cards that are in REALLY good condition for grading to ensure the fees associated are more than offset by the higher premium your cards will fetch. Be sure to check out this dude’s tips for achieving higher PSA grades.
I’m interested in buying sports cards, but what do I buy?
I usually highly recommend starting with your favorite players within your favorite sports. That said, if your favorite player is a scrub, then I’d suggest finding a new favorite player with a hall of fame resume 🙂 Think Jordan, Lebron, Jeter, Manning, Brady, Durant, etc.
To give you an idea of how I choose my cards for a given player, be sure to check out my Tom Brady Cheap Rookies Guide. You’ll notice I compare prices for many cards, how rare one is versus another, and how much they have appreciated or been ignored by the market. Another example is the Michael Jordan Fleer Sticker Rookie Card.
If you’re new to collecting or investing in sports cards, our how-to guide for getting started with sports cards is a must read.
What is the best sports card grading service?
PSA. It is one of the first companies to professionally grade cards, and PSA is usually one of the pickiest. While this may result in some lower grades when you send your cards in for a look, you can almost always expect higher premiums for your cards if they grade well.
There are many differences among the major grading card services, including price, turn-around times, and reputation.
How do I find card collectors near me?
The easiest way to find card collectors with shared interests is to network and search for trading card communities on Facebook and Instagram. You’ll find many groups dedicated to UFC Trading Cards, 90’s basketball, Lebron James, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, WWE cards, and even Bowman Chrome baseball prospects.
What is the fastest grading card service?
What is the cheapest grading card service?
Who is the most reliable grading card company?
Is PSA grading better than BGS or BVG?
Is there fraud in sports card collecting?
Do you have any questions not included in this list? Please add them below in the comments section and we’ll either respond to your question directly or add it to this post to continue building the guide! Be sure to hit the Follow button in the right rail of this page as well!