Like most hobbies, baseball card collecting requires an investment of both time and money. Your contribution to the craft could be as big or small as you’d like, but you’ll most likely need to at least spend a little bit to get started.
Free baseball cards are to be had, though, and we will get to that.
Now, the beauty of collecting cards is that you can take your collection in any direction you please. Maybe you only want to collect Yangervis Solarte cards, just because his name sounds like that of a Star Wars character. Or, perhaps you only want to go for Game Used Autograph pieces, or the best baseball cards of the 1980s.
Point is, especially when you compare the former to the latter, your direction dictates your spend.
Which brings us to this guide.
You can decide your direction is to only collect cards you get for free. Novel concept, right?
I’m going to show you how you can start a great collection of cards without purchasing any of them. Ready? (If you are in the market to buy, and just aren’t sure where to find baseball cards, here you go.)
Ways to Get Free Baseball Cards
1. No Purchase Necessary
Now stop right there.
I know what you were thinking as soon as you read those words. “Isn’t that statement nothing more than meaningless marketing drivel stated at the end of advertisements?”
That’s where you’re wrong (or at least half wrong). It’s not meaningless!
Long story short, when you’ve heard or read those words in the past, it was probably in addition to some type of sweepstakes or contest, right? That’s because, to enter a a contest, you aren’t required to spend money in doing so (more on the topic here, from Rafflecopter).
What’s this have to do with baseball cards?
Because think about the rush you get when you purchase a pack of cards or break open a whole box; pretty amazing, right?
That feeling is fueled by the excitement of the unknown, and the fact that opening a pack of cards is essentially a game of chance. You’re gambling that the $9.99 you spent is going to result in a $50 card.
Thus, the major baseball card brands are required to offer the No Purchase Necessary, or NPN program to extend the same pack odds to everyone, no matter whether or not they made purchase.
What’s this mean for you?
You can enter yourself to receive baseball cards, for free. The wording is usually something along the lines of “For a chance to win the cards above, at the same odds…” Then, if selected, your card will arrive in the mail, and can be anything from base cards to inserts, to even autographs, and relics.
What can you expect? Well, given it’s odds-based, I wouldn’t expect a whole lot.
So, then, is it worth your time? We will get to that.
The process will differ with each company, but here is a general example breakdown:
Upper Deck makes things a bit easier by automating the process. Simply go to Upper Deck’s NPN site, and register for a free account. Once done, you’ll be presented with the available sweepstakes, as shown below. Simply select a product from the drop down, confirm your delivery info, and click “submit.”
Unfortunately, not all programs are automated, and thus, this easy, instead requiring you to invest in some good old fashioned snail mail supplies, including stamps, envelopes, and 3×5 cards.
To find opportunities, look on the back of card packs or on boxes, and you’ll find some very specific rules for entry. And yes, they’re weirdly specific for a reason—because they need to be followed to the letter, or you risk disqualification.
Here are some examples of info asked for:
Funky, right? Here are the key points to consider:
- Sorry, Quebec.
- “Hand print” your name and address
- Do so on a 3×5 card
- Mail it in a #10 envelope
- Include only ONE 3×5 card per envelope
- Mail entries separately
- Last, if you’re Canadian, you need to answer the skill question because “gaming” can only carried out in licensed casinos, etc. All others wishing to hold contests must make them a game of skill, and thus, the math problem.
Which brings us to the question, is it worth it?
Given your odds and the costs involved with stamps, etc., I would say just stick to the UD program for now, or any other that streamline the process by taking it online. If you see results, or get the itch and can hardly contain yourself, then have at it. “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” -Wayne Gretzky, –Michael Scott.
2. Craigslist Free Items (and any Forum, Really)
Now, this is an obvious one, and as a result, also one method you can’t count on to be very fruitful.
That said, if you’re committed, you’ll easily come across items for your collection. And I say “items,” because remember, your collection needs more than cards…it needs storage, or else you’ll inevitably damage everything you’ve worked so hard to pick up!
Just right now, on 2/28/17, I found these sleeves and boxes.
Now, is it worth my time to drive a couple of hours to Napa for boxes for organization? Of course not. It’s not even worth it to make the drive for actual cards, like even the most valuable of 1990 Score, but you get my point. You never know who will be posting what, and when. And, if your goal is to collect for free, that’s the fun, right? Word of caution, though, take caution with “too good to be true” scenarios and do your due diligence to ensure opportunities are legitimate.
Last, the same strategy can be used on neighborhood sites/apps like Nextdoor, or even Facebook groups, etc. I’ve found the best luck in being discreet about your wishes. Meaning, if someone posts they have “a bunch of stuff to just giveaway,” send them a private message asking about cards rather than posting publicly to the group. You’d be surprised how many “card collectors” come out of the wood works as soon as the idea of something free and valuable is put on the table.
3. Friends & Family
This is my favorite option given it’s the least time consuming/painful, and usually the most fruitful.
The key? All it takes is a conversation.
Meaning, just from talking about baseball cards, I’ve been the recipient of three separate collections.
Why/how? Because you’d be surprised how many people collected baseball cards at least a little bit at some point during their lives. Once they learn you’re a collector, you inspire them to do two things: 1) Tell you how awesome their collection is/was, talking about a “Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card that is really a 1990 Topps non-rookie, instead of this one you were hoping for. And 2) Eventually get to the point of saying “I have them around here somewhere if you wanted them.”
Like I said, it has worked multiple times for me, and reminds me that I have a couple of “prospects” I need to get in touch with!
And they don’t have to be close friends, either. I was gifted collections from:
- One of my sister’s old boyfriends
- An ex-girlfriend’s brother
- A good friend
As an alternative, your source might ask you to sell their cards online, or at least value them, if they don’t offer to give them to you. In either case, they’d probably be willing to give you a cut of the proceeds when all is said and done (which you can use to buy cards).
I put the asterisk here because this method has been debated. I’m from the school of though that, if you purchase something at regular price, and in return for your purchase, you also receive some type of gift, then that gift is considered free.
Case in point, if I buy tickets to the A’s game; a game that I’ve been planning on going to for a while, and on that day, the first 10,000 fans also receive an A’s baseball card team set, then those are considered free cards. If you don’t agree, then skip to the next option while the rest of us collect our free stuff.
Ideas for where this same idea applies:
- Sporting event giveaway (as mentioned)
- Cereal boxes
5. Via Trade
Ok, teetering on the idea of free, here, but if you have something you’re willing to give up in order to get baseball cards in return, that’s a solid way to build a collection. Old video games, books, games, etc. If those things no longer have value to you, I consider that to be close to free…you’re losing “nothing” and gaining “something.”
Let’s Get Collecting!
Contrary to popular belief, many baseball cards are worth something; both monetarily and in terms of sentimental value. Thus, collecting them can still bring joy to someone needing to keep busy, and others who want to use the hobby to make a quick buck.
So, have any other tips that have worked for you on your quest of scoring baseball cards for free? Would love to see so in the comments.