When it comes to selling baseball cards online, eBay is still the most popular platform for cards of all types and values. There are, of course, other options depending on how many cards you want to sell, the types of cards you have to sell, and additional factors, but eBay is typically going to be your best bet.
Now, depending on when and where you were growing up, this might be hard to believe. Meaning, you might have only had your local neighborhood spots to visit when it came to places to buy or exchange cards. The local card shop was always an option, with “hit or miss” locations like garage sales, flea markets, or antique stores sometimes coming through when you needed them.
In those days, selling baseball cards was always an in-person event, along with the act of advertising the cards you had to sell. Classifieds? Poster boards directing traffic to your yard sale? Times were tough.
But luckily, times have changed, and for the better in terms of both sides of the hobby population.
Best Way to Sell Your Cards
So here is the best way to sell your cards online with eBay (and here is how to list cards even faster), along with my own personal expert tips and other best practices.
Really, it’s all about three steps:
- Price your cards
- List your cards
- Ship your cards
It might sound simple, and a good portion of it is, but you want to make sure to put in the time and the effort to ensure you’re getting the most out of your time and assets.
Price Your Cards Accurately
One thing I consistently see people struggle with is pricing cards. This includes sellers who price cards astronomically high either because they think the card is worth that amount or because they believe the player has a high ceiling, as well as sellers who price cards way too low because they can’t find a good comp, simply don’t know how to find a comp, or don’t really care to try to make an educated guess.
Not to mention that no matter how much data we have at our fingertips, there are other qualitative factors that seem to influence the value a seller assigns. From the original cost to obtain the card to the seller’s thoughts on condition, and more, things can become a little clouded.
It’s my personal opinion that if you can master the research piece, you can set yourself apart as not only an advanced card seller, but a card buyer as well; one who can take advantage of lower-priced cards because you know how to properly value them when the seller doesn’t.
So, here is how to look up baseball cards.
Properly Identify Your Cards
Before you start diving into your research, look the card over more than once. In doing so, note the basic pieces of information like:
- Player Name
- Brand and Product Name
- Subset/Insert Name
- Card Number
From the above, the player name should be pretty obvious on any card, so we won’t spend much time here. Not to mention that you probably know who the player is at this point anyway, so moving on.
Brand & Product Name
As for the brand name, this could be as easy identifying either Topps or Panini if it’s a card from the last few years, to something a little more complex if a little order, and then easy again if vintage.
But beyond the brand name, you’re going to also want to know the product or set name, and this could be a number of things. Point is, it could get tricky, so listen up.
Look at the front of the card and note any printed words.
With this example, we can easily see:
- Topps Chrome
- Mike Trout
- All Star Game
Beyond the basics, though, there are a handful of other things to note, potentially on the back of the card:
While there is more going on here, these are the parts you’ll probably notice:
- 2015 MLB All Star Game
- Fine print
For the sake of time, some of this information isn’t relevant. For instance, we already know the brand is Topps and the product is Topps Chrome, and the “2015 MLB All Star Game” is simply a description of the photo and not of the card.
The rest, though, is important.
First, let’s look at the fine print, because while it’s small and difficult to read, it actually tells us a couple of things we can’t find any where else on the card. One, the year of the product. Meaning, sure, it’s Topps Chrome, but is it 2018, 2019, 2020? In this fine print, you’ll see:
“2020 The Topps Company…”
While this isn’t 100% accurate on every single card, it is the best we can do with the information at hand. Either way, this is in fact a 2020 card.
Next, let’s look at the meaning behind the numbers on the back of the card and words in the top right corner. “U-69” is the card number, meaning of the entire checklist for this product, Mike Trout is card 69. And the U? Well, this product isn’t actually 2020 Topps Chrome…it’s 2020 Topps Chrome Update, and we know that because of that “U.” If this were a 2020 Topps Chrome issue, you’d see this:
Next, we see the word “Refractor” which tell us is this is actually a refractor parallel of the base version of that card. If this were just the base version of the card, that word “Refractor” would not be present.
Last, we see the 150/250 stamped on the card—this is the card’s serial number, at it means only 250 total of this particular card was and will ever be printed. The “150” means that out of all of the 250 cards printed, this is the 150th to be printed.
So, putting this al together, had you only gotten to the point of thinking this is a 2020 Topps Chrome Update Mike Trout, you might price this card for around $1. But, in knowing that it’s a 2020 Topps Chrome Update Mike Trout Refractor /250, you’ll also know that you should instead price the card closer to $20 give or take.
Anyway, this is one small example of all of the different types of cards out there. There isn’t any way for me to go through each, so just remember you’ll want to gather and and all markings as possible in order to accurately identify your card.
And while it might seem like a lot of work as you read through this post, it becomes quite easy with the more cards you deal with.
Check Sold Listings
Now that you know which card you have, you can easily go to eBay comps and check sold listings. These are completed auction or “buy it now” listings where you can see the price a card sold for. For example, how did I know the refractor version of the card should be priced around $20?
To access the sold listings on the eBay app, search for your card, in this case, something like “mike trout topps chrome update refractor 69 250” and then click “filter” in the top right. Scroll down to the “sold items” option and toggle so you see blue, as is shown below:
Now, click the “show results” button and take a look at the listings. You’ll probably see this card sold for:
- $.99 + shipping
- $72 + shipping
- $14.95 + shipping
- $30 + shipping
- $10.50 + shipping
You might be thinking these prices are all over the map, and you’d be correct. I wouldn’t say that you’ll typically see this much variance, but I’m glad we are for the sake of this example.
First, it’s important to note that you want to find comps (comparables) as close to your card as possible. Meaning, while these are all 2020 Mike Trout Topps Chrome Update Refractors /250, three of them are graded copies and two of them are raw. A graded card is one that has been submitted to a grading company, subjected to their grading standards, and awarded a card rating. A raw card on the other hand is one that has not been graded or slabbed.
So, the higher the grade of the card, the higher the value, relatively speaking, as you can see here between the cards graded 10, 9, and 8.
- $.99 + shipping Raw
- $72 + shipping Graded PSA 10
- $14.95 + shipping Raw
- $30 + shipping Graded PSA 9
- $10.50 + shipping Graded PSA 8
All of that said, the pricing picture still isn’t crystal clear given one raw card sold for $.99 and another sod for $14.95. Honestly, I feel like the $.99 is some sort of anomaly or mistake, but that only comes with card knowledge and experience. So, there is one more thing to check.
Check Current Listings
Besides sold comps, you’ll want to check current listings that haven’t yet sold. We will get back to Trout in a second, but think about it this way. If a card has 3 sold comps at $20, $30, and $25, does the price you’d like to sell your card at change if there is a current listing sitting at $15 compared to no other current listings? You bet it does. Meaning, good luck trying to sell a card at the high end of comps ($30) when there is a card available at half of that price.
So, getting back to this Trout example, when I search for current listings of this specific card, I see three listings:
- $28.14 + shipping Raw
- $49.99 + shipping Raw
- $159.11 SGC 10
In this case, if you’re going to list the Trout at a buy it now fixed listing, which is what these other two raw cards are being listed as, then you’ll want to do so for a price less than $28.14 + shipping to give yourself a good chance of selling. However, when we couple that with the fact that the last believable comp was sold for around $15, you might want to go even lower (because remember, this $28.14 card is still sitting there and not sold, so if you price at $27.99, is someone going to jump on that? Probably not).
Check Other Factors
If we were presenting these steps in a logical fashion, I would have put this section second, but since I’m trying to get a few points across as clearly as possible, I’ve saved it for now.
As mentioned above, there are a ton of potential card combinations and features that you’ll want to learn about.
For example, while this Trout was numbered and a bit easier to identify, there are other refractor parallel cards that aren’t numbered, like pink refractors, pink wave refractors, sepia refractors, negative refractors, x-fractors, and more. In that case, the card isn’t going to say “pink wave refractor” and in fact, it’t not even going to say “refractor.” You just have to know based off its appearance that it’s a pink wave refractor.
Because of this, I always encourage you to check out the card galleries and checklists for each product from either Cardboard Connection or Beckett, as they both will lay out all of the different types of cards you might come across.
Going back to the serial numbers, if you’re lucky enough, you might have a 1/1 you’re tying to price! That means there was only one card printed like it, and you have it. In Topps products, if it’s a 1/1 refractor, it’s called a superfractor.
I did a whole post on how to value 1/1 cards, but the trick here is to research similar 1/1 cards from the same player and product, perhaps from a different year’s release, or from comparable players with similar hobby value.
One thing we didn’t talk about with the Trout example was the presence of the “RC” rookie card shield or 1st Bowman Chrome designation. Again, there is a lot to unpack with both of these things, so I encourage you to check out the resources below. You can also feel the value of the rookie card when you look at the top selling cards on eBay right now, as most are RCs.
And with all of that, you should be well on your way to pricing your cards! Is eBay the end all be all, of course not, but especially if you’re just starting out and need an accessible info source with a lot of data points, it’s a great place to begin.
List Your Cards for Sale Quickly and Completely
Selling baseball cards online will differ depending on where you’re selling—meaning, there is no “one tip fits all” model here. That said, you’ll want to follow a few basic principles regardless of sales venue or format.
When selling cards online, you have to remember that potential buyers obviously can’t see or hold the card(s) you’re selling. If it’s a card that has been in your collection for a long time, you might know it inside and out, and if you’ve recently acquired it, you have the base knowledge from the original seller before you.
But the potential buyer? The only things they know about the card(s) are those details that you communicate to them.
For instance, think about the impact of providing a photo versus leaving it all up to the imagination. Many potential buyers can look at a single picture of a card and not only know who the player is, but also from what set the card was born.
But in a time of parallels, prizms, refractors, and a number of other variations, even a great photo (more below) won’t be enough, and thus there is no harm in being clear and obvious with your listing titles and descriptions.
Probably more important, you’ll need to also point out any flaws your card might have. Yes, doing so might turn some buyers off, but selling a flawed card that appears to be perfect can lead to potential headaches like refunds and returns down the road, and unhappy customers who might not want to purchase from you again (and who leave bad feedback scores).
How clear is clear enough? I’ll even go as far as to put “READ” in the main listing title, because some buyers don’t look past that point when it comes to purchasing. So, at the very least, doing so lets buyers know that they’ll want to read the longer description to glean valuable information about the card they might soon be purchasing.
Here is an example of one of my past listings:
2016 PANINI PANTHEON RICKEY HENDERSON Relic 3000 HIT CLUB /49 Oakland A’s
- Set Name
- Insert Name
- Serial Number
- Team Name
I probably should have included “jersey” if possible. Others include “game used” or “gu” if the enclosed piece of material is actually game used, but you get the point.
Take Good Photos
If you’ve ever shopped an online marketplace, you’ve probably viewed a range of quality when it comes to photos. With many items, photos might not make a huge difference as long as the thing being purchased still functions and serves a purpose, and any damage is disclosed.
But with cards that carry value, a single white corner or small surface blemish can mean the difference of hundreds of dollars down the line. Thus, good photos help put buyers at ease when purchasing and allow them to make their own decisions, and when paired with a detailed description, helps with reducing the risk of return, and improving buyer satisfaction.
Not to mention that you want to be as appealing as possible with your photography. Some treasure a card’s beauty as they would a piece of art, so showing off a card’s essence via photography is a good way to increase your chances of a sale.
Messy backgrounds, pieces of dog hair, cards pictured without protective sleeves, and more can be enough to turn a potential buyer off from wanting to purchase.
When it comes to taking photos, some prefer to take pictures with their phone, which can be an easy option, but it really depends on the available lighting. Thus, others prefer to use a lightbox, or even scan their cards in.
Here are a few examples of different photos I’ve used—you can tell the first two, Rickey Henderson and AJ Brown were scanned, and then the Bellinger was taken with a camera.
Ship Cards Appropriately
Part of listing your cards is choosing a shipping method. For cards that are going to sell for more than $20, I prefer the BMWT as the best card shipping method, which stands for bubble mailer with tracking. For cards less than $20 you can choose PWE or th eBay Standard Envelope option. PWE shipping is cheaper, but introduces more risk.
Then, once your card sells, congrats, but your job isn’t done! Getting the card in the mail is obviously a major part of selling a card, but shipping safely will also help the chances of positive feedback and repeat buyers.
This is my preferred method when shipping BMWT:
- Place the card into a soft penny sleeve
- Put the sleeved card into a toploader
- Insert the loaded card into a team set bag
- Seal the team set bag
- Sandwich the bagged card in between cardboard
- Use painter’s tape to tape the cardboard sides
- Place the card into a bubble mailer
Now, of course, this is going to vary depending on the type of card you sell and the volume. Meaning, there is also a PWE shipping option, which is cheaper, but less secure and can’t be tracked—as mentioned.
I make it a personal rule to not ship PWE, but I will ship with eBay’s Standard Envelope option:
- Put card into a penny sleeve and bubble mailer
- Put piece of painter’s tape over top loader opening
- Put sleeved card into top loader
- Put card into team set bag
- Add painter’s tape to all four sides of team set bag
- Secure card to inside of photo mailer using tape from step 5
- Seal photo mailer
- Add shipping label
- Drop in mail box
And don’t forget it’s OK to recycle—I routinely use Amazon prime boxes to ship via USPS.
If you’ve made it to the end of this guide, congrats! And, if after reading all of the above you still have specific questions, that’s OK too! I’m here to help answer anything that wasn’t covered or needs more clarification.