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Hobby How To Guide: Buying Trading Card Collections

Finding a large trading card collection for sale is like a treasure hunt. It can be a lot of fun, as well as profitable. But, where do you find collections at great prices that do not only include a stack of 1991 Fleer baseball cards? That’s the fun, and this guide will help you locate collections as well as profiting while having all of the fun.

Whenever someone finds a huge card collection – think truckload full of monster boxes big – onlookers will often make comments like: “man, why can I never find anything like.”

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You can find great collections. keep reading how. Before we get to that, though, I want to lay some ground work because everybody is different in what they see as valuable. The next key is finding a selling platform to actually make it profitable.

Strategies Will Differ

My strategy will likely be different than your strategy. I look at collections differently, as I am seeking to buy as both a collector and a reseller. My hope is to find a collection that will make a small to large profit while keeping the Chicago Cubs cards and memorabilia as part of my collection at basically no cost to me. Also, I value the hunt. We can call it entertainment value because sitting on the floor and sorting through boxes and boxes of baseball cards and memorabilia not knowing what is inside is like a treasure hunt. Finally, this is fun for me. As long as I can make a little profit I am happy. The more profit the more fun it is, of course. That is the foundation for how I go about flipping collections. Remember, this is only a guide and will differ for everybody. However, the practices inside this article will help any type of flipper.

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Getting Started

Now it’s time to get to work. Where to start? Before hunting for that collection we need to be prepared for the eventual flips. You will need supplies for your sales such as bubble mailers, storage boxes, penny sleeves, and top loaders. To limit your overhead cost, buy in bulk. You can find deals on used top loaders in various hobby related Facebook groups, or even eBay. My goal for top loaders is to acquire them for 3 or 4 cents per piece, which was much easier to accomplish three months ago. Be patient – supply prices will be going back to normal. On the bright side, many collections will include top loaded cards to add to your supply. It’s all about saving money to keep costs down and profits up. Save on postage by using Paypal shipping labels.

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Find A Selling Platform

This is something that will vary as there are so many different options available to resell. Ebay has been around for more than 20 years and has the most eyeballs of any selling platform out there. Sportlots is a great option for selling base cards and inserts. Many people in the hobby swear by COMC. I have very limited knowledge on COMC, so cannot offer any opinion. Social media and hobby groups are another option. While you’re not paying the third party fees, you are greatly limiting your potential customer base. I have decided to solely focus selling on eBay and have built up my eBay Store. Here’s a guide to starting up an eBay Store as they offer five different options for every type of seller.

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Where To Find Collections

Now we get to the fun stuff. The actual hunt for a collection. Again, many options exist and I will share my experience on finds. Every once in a while you can get great deals at estate sales and auctions. Typically, you can buy cards for pennies on the dollar. Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist have been my most common sources of finding collections. Going back to an earlier statement, “How come I never find these.” You must look on a regular basis. They will not just appear when you randomly check a site. I check these sites in my area on a regular basis (sometimes multiple times per week), and I find a really big collection about once a year. I could have better results if I looked more aggressively, as well as outside my immediate area.

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When To Look

As stated above, search often. It may take a while before you see anything worth while. Right now has also been a good time to look since so many people were in quarantine during the spring and had extra time to clean out basements, closets, and garages. Weekends are a prime time to search as well since people have time to pull out old stuff and list for sale. The key is to look often, because a great deal is not going to be available long.

Pricing A Collection

The most important step in the process is pricing a collection. My rule – as a buyer, you never set the price. The seller always sets the price. Always. If the seller is unwilling to name a price or a target range, I will walk away. If a seller really wants to sell, they will have a price in mind. Be respectful. If a seller is trying to move a few sets of 1991 Fleer for $500, that person may not know the current market. Do not insult or laugh at them, just kindly let them know the value has dropped significantly. Check eBay sold prices on various items in the collection. My strategy is to pay the amount of the highest priced items in the collection. That way the smaller stuff that will take more time to sort, list, and sell is the gravy. Again, this is just a guide and every collection is different.

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How I Price A Collection

What better way than to show you how I price a collection. Just a few days ago David from Yorkville, Illinois reached out to me via email. He had been directed to me from the Trading Card Database forums. David had been doing some spring cleaning and found a trunk with his old baseball cards. A lot of them were Chicago Cubs baseball cards. He showed me some pictures, and we came upon a price.

I’ll check pricing on the higher priced items first to develop a base line. In this case, David had a few vintage cards, and this was the perfect base line to get an idea of quick turnaround sales.

OJ Simpson rookie card

Checking eBay sold listings some of the highlights here were not selling for as much as I expected. Prices are all over the place on the 1970 Topps O.J. Simpson rookie card, but it seems like a $20 card. The 1969 Topps Hank Aaron sells for $10-20, and the 1970 Topps Fran Tarkenton is around $5-10. The Michael Jordan card can probably fetch a couple bucks, and of course the Ryne Sandberg cards will be kept in my own collection. There isn’t much cream in this collection, i.e. easy selling cards, aside from the few vintage. What else is here?

Michael Jordan Basketball Cards

An entire page of Michael Jordan basketball cards. Jordan cards will always sell for at least a couple bucks. So, I would put a $20 price on these nine Jordan cards.

Basketball Collect a Books

Basketball Collect-a-Books! A few of these will be able to sell for a couple bucks a piece. On the surface I’ll give it a $10 grade. Any Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird will likely quickly move. Others like Tom Chambers will probably sit unsold.

David said he was an error card collector in the early 1990’s. This page features the famous John Smoltz/Tom Glavine error from 1990 Donruss, along with other errors from that set. This page has about a $5 resell price.

He also sent several pictures of various superstars from the 1990’s like Ken Griffey Jr., Jose Canseco and this Bo Jackson page. The shoulder pads card has been selling for about $5-7 recently. I also consider other cards that may be dollar cards. Adding up these few items and I have somewhere in the $80 neighborhood. But, there were also a bunch of Cubs items.

Some autographs including Mark Grace and Shawon Dunston. He said there were probably about 1,000 Cubs cards total. With the $80 in value on some of the “hits” in the collection that I can probably move fast, I came up with a $100 price tag. That was my target considering I would also have to spend a few hours and gas to meet halfway.

I asked David what his target range was, and he said he received a $50 offer on Craigslist. I responded that it was a collection I would pay about $100 for, but he may get higher offers from Facebook Marketplace, and will likely make even more by piecing it out. He said $100 was a fair offer, and we arranged a time to meet.

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This is just one example of finding a collection, pricing it out, and extending an offer. It worked out well for both parties. Do not get discouraged if you can’t find a fun collection. Also, do not get discouraged if the seller is asking too much and turns down your offer. I have been turned down many times.

If you have any questions about finding collections, selling, or best practices feel free to reach out via email at onemillioncubsproject@gmail.com, or you can always find me on Twitter.

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