What is the quickest way to sell a huge box full of baseball cards?
August 26, 2013 9:02 AM   Subscribe

My husband has a huge box of baseball cards, many too many for me to go through or sell individually. He says they're worth around 10k or so and i need to unload them and dont know where to start.

I imagine I can't just take these to a shop as it would take the shop hours and hours to go through them and I wouldn't be sure if I want to sell. My husband is asking to get them "appraised" but this would cost a lot of money right? Is here a person I could hire to get best price and take a cut?
posted by JJkiss to Work & Money (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Chances are that unless there are lots of really really old ones in there like 40s and earlier the collection simply isn't worth anything. For the most part the bottom has completely dropped out of the collectable market including baseball cards and comics.
posted by vuron at 9:06 AM on August 26, 2013 [10 favorites]

Agreed--see this recent post about the incredible devaluation of the collectibles market (comics in particular, but you'll see the same with the baseball cards).
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:09 AM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Pardon me for asking the obvious, but why isn't your husband taking charge of sorting through the collection and selling it? Seems like he'd have better knowledge of this.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:16 AM on August 26, 2013 [10 favorites]

Came to say that there's no way a box of cards is worth that much. Not unless you have a Mickey Mantle rookie card.

Do this.

Take a few cards at random and check them for prices on eBay or sports collectible sites. Chances are, it won't be worth anything.

Then, show him, and have a nice bonfire in the driveway. Give them a Viking funeral.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:17 AM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

You could take them to a shop without having them appraised. If the shop buys they'll take a quick look and pay bases on what they think they'll be able to sell for.

Shops will give you at most 60% of value unless they have someone who's looking for that card. But that's assuming tbey look through.

Your best bet is to separate the cards by set and go from there. Especially starting with 1980s cards the value had the bottom fall out.
posted by theichibun at 9:21 AM on August 26, 2013

Well, if you have a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle, it is indeed valuable. And if you have some potentially valuable cards you want to sell, I'd recommend identifying those and having them professionally graded.
posted by mattbucher at 9:24 AM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

My husband is still a baseball card collector. He frequents Blowout Cards. They have an active forum in which people buy & trade cards. You may find some super useful info from the members there. Heck, maybe someone would be interested in purchasing the lot (but not for that price). You may want to ask your husband which cards are the most valuable if he remembers, because you will get asked.
posted by MayNicholas at 9:35 AM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I used to have baseball cards that were worth about $1000 in the early 90s. I found them recently, and looked up prices out of curiosity. They're worth about $50 today, and only if they're in complete mint, untouched condition. Chances are if your husband hasn't checked prices in 20 years, they're worth way, way less than he thinks they are.
posted by empath at 10:03 AM on August 26, 2013

Why not look for a local sports memorabilia shop in your area (they seem to be everywhere!), or even an antiques dealer, and ask for an appraisal? I'd suggest going to a few, then if they buy, sell to the one with the highest offer. You'll probably get better, more knowledgeable advice if you talk to someone who specializes in sports collectibles.

I'm going to corroborate the comments that collectibles have declined in value over the past few years -- I've seen in in my own collectible hobbies. The economy has made it so that people just don't have the disposable income to spend on that kind of stuff these days. Simple supply and demand rules -- Demand has dried up, so prices have gone down.

Failing that, spot-check eBay and maybe list there. (The downside to selling on feeBay is the work involved in valuation, marketing, packaging, and sending the card, plus they take 10% of the sale -- including shipping costs! and PayPal also gets a cut in the highly likely event that your buyer pays that way.)
posted by tckma at 10:07 AM on August 26, 2013

Forgot to say -- Yes, the appraisal will take time. It's probably free or the cost is minimal, but I have no experience with that.
posted by tckma at 10:09 AM on August 26, 2013

You can definitely take the cards to a sports-collectibles shop, and it will not take them hours and hours to sort through. First, because no shop is going to spend that much time poring over your cards even if you were committed to selling them; but more importantly, because the task just doesn't take that long. A professional can make a very, very educated guess about your collection by (1) seeing the whole collection as overview, and (2) flipping through to scrutinize a few samples.

It's possible, as in life-in-Mars remotely possible, that somebody walks into a sports shop with a baseball card collection that looks to be one thing and then has a few out-of-place and très valuable cards hidden randomly among the mass. It's possible you found a Rembrandt at a yard sale, too. But that doesn't actually happen. What happens in reality is, you can generally skim a collection and get a quick idea of what this person has collected and whether there's value or not. The amount of value is a separate, secondary question. The threshold question is whether there's value, and that question is pretty easy to determine quickly in 95 percent of cases.

Good luck. I'm not a baseball card expert, but I have professional experience with collectibles including sports collectibles, and in my experience there are tons of people out there with boxes in their basement they believe to be worth thousands. It's almost never true. From a professional standpoint, you learn to brace yourself when a customer walks in and says, "These are worth about ten thousand dollars," because you're going to have to break bad news.
posted by cribcage at 10:10 AM on August 26, 2013

I have seen a situation where a girlfriend stole her boyfriends magic card collection and brought them into a store to sell them to piss him off. She thought it was worth $100 and it was immediately obvious when we skimmed through them that it was worth thousands and thousands of dollars. There were single pages of cards in the binder that were worth a thousand dollars. The store owner thought something was up and refused to buy them because nobody with a collection like that would have no idea what was in it.

If your boyfriend really has valuable cards, he'll be able to pull out the 5 or 6 of the most valuable ones out in an hour of skimming through them, and you can look them up on eBay. Unless there are several selling for $100 or more, you're probably looking at a collection you're probably going to sell by the pound, not for a big payday.
posted by empath at 10:47 AM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

empath reminds me of my conversations with the Magic card guys at the flea market.

They'll routinely buy boxes of cards. Most Magic cards aren't worth very much. And people who play know which ones are and either hold them or sell them individually.

The last box I saw before they started sorting it had one of those card binders on top of it. They paid something like $2-300 for the box just based on the fact that the binder was there. The logic was that anyone who had a binder like that would have valuable cards in it and so they were looking to make most of the money back just with the binder. For those that are curious, Jace, the Mind Sculptor ended up being in there. What a steal...

The sports card guys barely buy anything. This kid brought in a small stack of cards he wanted to sell. I didn't see anything because I was on the other side of the booth looking at NES games. But I did hear the guys running the booth that they'd give him basically nothing and all they'd be able to do with them was put them in the quarter machine. Which was an actual baseball card spitting out machine that cost a quarter. Again, they could have just been your basic dollar store pack of cards. Or they could have been some of those super shiny 1990's cards everyone thought would be worth big bucks.

TL/DR: If you're looking for quickness in the sale just take them to a shop. You'll get an offer right there. If you're looking for money then comb through and pull out the valuable ones.
posted by theichibun at 11:03 AM on August 26, 2013

I had a friend that used to sell cards on eBay. I'd suggest pulling all the valuable cards to sell separately, and selling the rest in lots. Maybe organized somehow, maybe a random selection. Like others have said, the market is not great now. If there are some really valuable ones, it may be worth hanging onto for a while.

My friend used to sell unsorted boxes of cards... I forget what their official name was, but they'd be boxes of several hundred from certain years, that were in their original packaging. These could go for maybe $100 because there was the possibility of a valuable card being included, and serious collectors knew what years had several good cards. If you have something like that, you could give it a shot. I remember that appraising certain cards can cost a lot for the possible return, so it would probably be a significant amount to get the whole lot appraised, probably not worth it. I'd suggest going through a small number of cards a week and posting them online. The condition of the cards makes a huge difference in price.
posted by catatethebird at 3:33 PM on August 26, 2013

Response by poster: Well, the dilemma is I spent two years asking him to pick out the valuable ones and at least sort of sort them in a way of what was important to him. He failed to do so and I'm the one trying to get the down payment on a house so it's upon me to do as he says which is "get it appraised". It's thousands of cards, he's given me only one valuable name, and I just wouldn't know where to begin. I can't even lift the box.
posted by JJkiss at 10:08 PM on August 26, 2013

I understand that dilemma, and I'm sorry for you. If you'll pardon a stranger's perspective, only because this is something I saw often (and still do, in a different context): what you've described echoes what I often heard from people who felt emotionally invested in a valuation (eg, "around 10k or so") that was based on nothing but that they'd believed for a very long time. It's easier to hear bad news about a "Rembrandt" you bought yesterday at a yard sale than one that's been handed down from your grandmother, who has spent decades telling the family it's secretly authentic.

If you can't lift the box, then split it into two boxes and lift those. I don't mean that to sound callous, and I hope it doesn't. But those are exactly the type of excuses you hear when you do this for a living. "There's just so many, I haven't gotten around to sorting 'em. But it's thousands of dollars!" Sure it is, pal. You hear this a lot. People procrastinate because they don't want bad news. You do become somewhat calloused. I think it's unlikely you'll get someone from a store to visit your home, but hey, I don't know where you live and maybe it's worth a shot. Call a few stores and ask. Or maybe you can post an ad on Craigslist, "Come appraise my baseball cards. Twenty dollars up front, plus 15 percent of whatever I can sell them for." Give it a shot. But I'd pack them into my car and trek to whatever Google says is the nearest sports collectibles store, and whatever happened, good or bad, I wouldn't bring them home.

Good luck with your new house. Whether the cards get sold or trashed, you'll reduce clutter. That's huge when moving. The sooner, the better.
posted by cribcage at 12:51 AM on August 27, 2013

It's thousands of cards, he's given me only one valuable name, and I just wouldn't know where to begin. I can't even lift the box.

Can you give us a general idea of the date range and brands of the cards (1980s Topps or 1990s Upper Deck, for example) and the most valuable card he says he has? Maybe we can give you a guesstimate of what they're worth and how much effort it's worth putting into this.
posted by empath at 12:53 AM on August 27, 2013

Or if you like, just plug in "1985 topps complete set" (or whatever brand and year of cards he has) into google and see roughly what a full set of that year of cards is worth in mint condition, then take 30-40% of that to see what you'd get from a dealer at best (and much less if the set is not complete or in mint condition). I think you'll soon find that in order to get up to a $10,000 valuation, you'll need either have an attic full of cards, or sets going back to the 1950s and 60s.
posted by empath at 1:06 AM on August 27, 2013

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