Selling a sports trading card and memorabilia collection
July 3, 2007 9:31 AM   Subscribe

During my childhood and early adolescence, I collected sport trading cards and memorabilia from the 1990’s. A lot of it. During my teenage years, I lost my love for professional sports and now I’m willing to part with all of my memorabilia. What resources (online or in person) would you recommend to contact or pursue to sell my collection or parts of it ? Have any Mefi’s went through with this and offer any advice on their experience ?

About my collection:
My collection primarily from 1990 - 2001 (a few later pieces received as gifts) and consists of cards (estimated 10,000); some 10-20 autographs [no big names: Ray Allen, Warren Moon are the biggest); quite a few rookie cards, inserts, a couple complete sets.
The larger part of the collection consists of memorabilia like bobbleheads, starting lineups figurines, Wheaties boxes, ticket stubs, newspapers, plaques, pennants, and other things with the team’s logo on it. Also, a majority of my memorabilia is from the local teams (Cleveland - Browns, Cavs, Indians). I presume that I’ll receive more (or any) interest from local buyers.
However, I’ve been out of the scene for a while (since 2000/2001) and I don’t how the market has changed besides that the financial value have dropped significantly (There’s a article on it, though my google-fu has failed), and the internet (especially ebay) has become the de facto place or transactions.
I don’t mind giving away some of the cards for free if they aren’t worth much, but since I’m a college student, I’ll use this money for tuition and some investments. I realize I may not get too much money from it but I don’t want to be ripped off. It holds very little sentimental value to me.

How should I go about selling my collection ? Who should I get in contact with ? I don’t think my collection is large (or valuable) enough to warrant an auctioneer. Should I put everything at once on Ebay in one giant lot (and require the buyer to pick it up) ?! I appreciate any advice on the matter.

Magic the gathering cards:
a very small (200 card) collection:
posted by fizzix to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The 1990s was a horrible era to grow up in in terms of collectibles. Every company on the planet printed some stupid collectible, charged a lot of money to it, and people who hated the collectibles bought them assuming that they would be worth money some day. They're not and they never will be.

Sell your collection in pieces on ebay. This is going to take a lot of time on your part but it's going to be the best place for you to maximize your return.

Take the individual rookie cards, the autographs, and look at ebay for their current prices. If any card is going for over 5 dollars, list it on ebay.

Sell all the complete collections as "complete collections" unless the rookie card were removed. A complete collection in sports cards will be worth more than a small subset. A lot of collectors already have complete collections but you're hoping that the guys who are in their mid 20s who collected the stuff as kids and now have jobs are trying to relive their teenage years.

List the wheaties boxes as a collection on ebay then take all the memorabilia left over and break it down by team. See as a team lot and hope someone will see something specific in it they want and bit up the lot.

The value of any modern collectible from the 1990s is shit and always will be (except for the very few exceptions). You're aiming to tap into someone's nostalgia so they'll end up spending more money then they should on your stuff. The best place for that is ebay.
posted by Stynxno at 9:48 AM on July 3, 2007

(Warning: harsh reality ahead)

The collectibles market pretty much collapsed in about 2001-2002, for a lot of the reasons stynxno describes; most manufacturers printed up 500,000 of something, called it "limited", and then did it again three times in the same year.

So, as a result, your Ray Allen autograph, for example, would probably be worth $5 or less today; most everything you describe will be of interest almost exclusively to local buyers, and the amount of money you get will not be great; nothing you describe is truly "collectible" in the Honus-Wagner-Rookie-Card sense.

Bobbleheads may be an exception; they're almost exclusively of local interest, but there are people who, as they say, "collect 'em all", that may be missing that one bobble that was given away when they were at their cousin's wedding or something.

In short, I wouldn't really count on "using this money for tuition and some investments" unless you truly have a garage full of stuff - your 10,000 cards, unless individually sold, will fetch no more than a couple hundred bucks from someone who thinks there may be a hidden gem in there.

I wish you luck, but I hope you're not too disappointed with what you find out...
posted by pdb at 9:54 AM on July 3, 2007

I agree with Stynxno. I had all the Topps sets from 1988-1998 and loads of Upper Deck cards that were incredibly valuable when I first got them, like the Nolan Ryan with a football card from Upper Deck '89. Most of these cards are pretty worthless, even as a complete set. The other problem is that there is a real glut in the market. Before Ebay, it was rare to come across a Mickey Mantle autograph, now you can find them for $2,000 on Ebay most, if not all of the time.

You'll have good luck selling the Magic cards, except for those Wizards re-printed two years after their debut and the common cards are worthless unless in big quants.

The non-card baseball stuff might be more interesting to collectors of specific items, I am sure you can find websites and blogs of bobblehead collectors and ferret out what of your collection can be sold fast and well.

Your best bet may not be the internet, however. Try your local card shop. Don't bring in all of it, but a small binder with some (not all) of your best cards. Tell them you have more and you're willing to have someone come over and take a look. They will probably know about collectors who network with them looking for rare memorabilia and cards and will be able to help you with the next step. Also, there is rarely a fee, though as a courtesy you will be giving them first look and bid rights.
posted by parmanparman at 9:58 AM on July 3, 2007

My best stab at an answer to this question, from Best way to sell comic books?
Fact is, a fair price has as much to do with your expertise as it does with objective valuation.

Presumably you don't know anyone who could go to your place to look at the collection, but that would be best. It can't work online because you would have to type up a complete inventory - probably not worth the effort. The second best solution is buying a price guide and looking to see if you have any 'key issues'. The prices are meaningless, but you can get an idea of relative importance, with that information you could pursue more specific online assistance (ebay ended auctions, follow up here, whatever).
I've also said the following, in What to do with an old coin collection?
Consider, once you have invested the time required to understand the coin market to the point that you can sell your collection for "a good price", you will be in a much better position to invest profitably in coins than stocks.
Which is not meant to imply that getting into any given market is a good idea at any particular time - choosing a market is part of the expertise :P
posted by Chuckles at 10:51 AM on July 3, 2007

how disappointing...

I was just about to post almost the same question. My collection is much smaller, but I was wondering if some sort of consignment deal would work, i.e. Someone else sells them, and gets some % of the proceeds. But considering that they are almost worthless, that probably won't work.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 11:34 AM on July 3, 2007

Keep them and give them to your kids.
posted by jpdoane at 3:03 PM on July 3, 2007

My brother had 10,000 + hockey cards and wanted to get rid of them. A lot of them were in full sets, about 500 were misc. I charged him 10% and all the fees associated with posting on ebay. I sold all the sets and then looked up the individual cards to see if they were listed on ebay. If there were and over $1 I would post it. Figured it anything this would provide me with a great way of getting a hugh amount of postiive feedback. It worked out pretty good for the both of us. I received 400 postitive feedback, lots of confirmed paypal accounts and $250 for my troubles.

Good luck!
posted by bleucube at 3:07 PM on July 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the responses everybody. Should I use ebay for my local Cleveland-specific memorabilia as well ?
posted by fizzix at 7:28 AM on July 6, 2007

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