Really!? I Had No Idea
By Brendan White aka SteakNchop

It was my first day trading online and I had already spent $25. I bought a Mike Mussina jersey card for $6, a UD Ballpark Collection dual for $10 and an Albert Pujols jersey card for $9. To someone who was used to prices at my local card shop, these seemed like great deals. In reality, I probably could have ended up with all of these for less than half the price. I had more slips as well, getting bad feedback; “Nobody ever told me you are supposed send in a top loader and bubble mailer!”. Through this I did learn a lot, as well as a bit of compassion for the new collectors of the present. So I’m going to give anybody new out there a little bit of help.

All new collectors are subject to experienced sellers and traders whose exact business plan is trading and selling with and to new collectors. They know that the new collector doesn’t know the difference between an on-card autograph or a sticker autograph, the difference between a refractor and a normal card other than one is “shiny and looks nicer.” For those of us who have been here a while, we make our money off of you. As a new collector, myself included, we all made too many bad mistakes (Thanks Yogi).  Here are some tips on how to not fall victim to the dishonest sellers like me.

1.BV or Book Value is not the actual value of a card. It is the price that the Beckett Magazine or other price guides put on the card, usually much higher than the price it would actually sell for. So let’s say a seller says, “This Ken Griffey Jr. insert has a BV of $30 but I’ll give it to you for only $25!” Chances are that is going to be a terrible deal. In reality, most sellers’ offers are going to be terrible deals. That’s why you need to make the offer. Go to eBay and search for the item, then look under “completed listings.” The prices here are a good way to go, as they are market value.

2.Just because you are getting a whole box of cards and they are 20-30 years old does not mean it is a good deal. You might think, “Wow, he is selling me 5,000 cards for only $20!” “This guy is stupid!” No, it is actually you. Cards from the 80s and 90s are worth less than index cards. They are a good choice if you have a kid who doesn’t know much about collecting and will enjoy looking through all the cards, though from a money standpoint many people use these as kindling.

3.However cool it is to own a piece of a jersey in a card, these are not worth $10 a piece. More like $3 for a star player. Again, when they quote Beckett and give you this outrageous price, just use eBay’s completed listings.

4.If you want to make money, do not open boxes or “bust wax.” You have about a one in let’s say eight chance of coming out ahead. If the cards in the box were worth more than the price of the box, the company would just sell it. “Busting wax” is still pretty fun, so do it but do it sparingly.

5.Making money in sports cards is extremely hard, but there are several ways to do it. You can always get really lucky and pull some amazing card, though there is no way to guarantee it and chances are you will end up with the same lame thing you always get. You can buy and trade normal cards for less than they are worth and then sell them for more. But how do you do this? If this was possible the person you originally bought the card(s) from would have sold it for what you are selling it for right now. You can also be smart on your purchases. Buy up lots of stuff from that kid who plays on the minor league team nearby that nobody knows about. Buy cards that will increase in value. Or my favorite of all, buy inconvenient cards. What is this? Well how about ungraded cards that should be graded? An old T-206 tobacco card ungraded is worth a lot less than it is worth graded. So buy some ungraded and then when you get enough of them go ahead and cash them in at PSA. Or what about going on eBay and buying some redemption cards? That Mike Leake Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects autographed rookie card might only cost $6 as a redemption, but when you receive the card in the mail six months from now it will be valued a lot more because the buyer won’t have to wait so long.

6.Your cards are not worth as much as you think. That really cool Alex Rodriguez insert card your son has is not going to sell on eBay for $20. If you are new, it will probably sell with one bid. That’s why before trading and selling more expensive cards you need to build some feedback. And above all, never leave negative feedback on a sports card trading site or eBay without first consulting the offending party. If it is eBay, they will probably file some PayPal dispute and outsmart you out of $100 even though the card you bought only cost $5. If it is a trading forum, the member may very well be an experienced and well-liked member who will get you banned even though you did nothing wrong. You see, feedback is important to people so if you get a bent card, first ask the seller or trader to give you a refund instead of just leaving negative feedback right off the bat.

7.Last of all, stop being so uptight about everything. This is not a job. If it was, you would be bankrupt by now. You’re trading, buying and selling sports cards as a hobby. If you want stress, go back to the office. Feel free to trade your entire collection for a Joe Shlabotnik card, enjoy the hobby and stop worrying if you are getting the good side of the deal.

Before I let you go, I should tell a little story that illustrates the last point. Imagine you are outside a card shop where a guy has a big box of worthless 80s cards. You buy this big box for $30, go home happy and then realize you just bought a bunch of junk. Well, even with this, you search through the cards looking for something noteworthy, I guess. Nah, nothing found. Too bad. At least you now know a lot more players’ names.

Next day, look through it a bit more. Find a few Clemens rookies, maybe a Tony Gwynn or two, okay, these are probably worth a couple of dollars. Then you notice a card in a plastic sleeve all the way on the far left. Pull it out. A Mantle. Looks like a 1956. Good condition. You just made some money on this big box of cards. Shows that sometimes take a little chance on what would otherwise be worthless.