Thursday, March 21, 2013

How to Sell Your Baseball Cards: Advice from Dean Hanley, Owner of Dean’s Cards

Whether you are selling your boyhood collection or liquidating the collection of a family member, selling baseball cards or other card collections can be a difficult task. Every day at Dean’s Cards we are asked to offer advice on selling baseball cards. That’s why we are publishing this article to share the options open to you in selling a vintage baseball card collection – and, most importantly, how to get the most money possible for your collection.

Although this article contains my opinions, I hope the information provided here will save you considerable time and effort and also help you get the best possible price for your collection. Since I believe that what we pay for a baseball card collection is more than you will get elsewhere, it is in both our interests for me to give you as many facts as possible to help you make the best possible decision.

While there is no shortage of dealers who will buy vintage collections, Dean's Cards can offer a higher percentage of the collection's actual value than most traditional card dealers. How is that possible? What we buy goes directly into our own online inventory of more than 1 million cards. In fact, quite a few card shop owners who buy collections will regularly send them to us – because they know they will make a nice profit on the cards.

The Dean’s Cards Buying Team strives to make selling your collection an extremely easy process. We ask you to send the cards to us so we can review them, and we are usually able to provide you with our bid within two business days. We make our top offer right away – there are no games played and we won’t low-ball you. If you accept our offer, we will mail you a check. It’s that simple.

My hope is that we will be writing you a large check. This means you have some nice cards, and we always need the inventory. If the amount we offer for your cards falls below your expectations, we will pay the postage to return the collection to you.

Selling Baseball Cards You Have Inherited
Dean's Cards offers a large Selection of Mickey Mantle cards.
Quite often people that have never collected vintage baseball cards and other sports cards inherit the responsibility of selling a card collection. It can seem like an overwhelming responsibility. The first thing that some people do is go to their local baseball card shop (if they can still find one) to ask what the collection is worth. Most are surprised to discover that they are often offered a few pennies on the dollar of a collection's stated book value.

The dealer at the card store usually offers a brief economic lesson of card collecting in order to explain the low amount that he is offering. The dealer may explain that there are numerous reasons that the cards are worth such a low amount and gives examples such as: buyers seldom pay "full book price" on cards and the shop must pay rent, labor, insurance, and other types of store overhead to cover the stores' expenses. He may also tell you that a card may sit in inventory for months or even years before it eventually sells.

All of these reasons may be true, but there is a much more important reason that the "strip mall" card dealer can only pay the collector a few pennies on the dollar for a vintage card collection. The main reason that their offer is so low is that retail card stores sell mostly the newer collectibles. Unlike Dean's Cards, vintage baseball cards are not their specialty. Most card shops keep a few vintage baseball cards in the display case for show, but it is impossible for a retail card store to do enough traffic to sell more than a few vintage baseball cards.

Largest Inventory of Vintage Baseball Cards at Dean’s Cards
Visit to see more than 1 million cards online.
At Dean's Cards, we offer a different concept than you will find with other dealers. We buy collections from dealers all the time and pay the same percentages to them as we do the individual collectors. Dean's Cards can pay more for vintage card and memorabilia collections, because what we buy goes directly into our own online inventory. This way we can both avoid the middleman.

Dean's Cards is often called the "Amazon" of vintage sports cards and is recognized within the hobby as the #1 Online Seller of vintage cards. Although some other dealers came to be #1 in online sales, no other dealer has more than a fraction of our online inventory.

Baseball Cards Rarely Sell at “Book Value”

Often when it comes time for people to sell a card collection, they are surprised to learn that no one will offer them anywhere near the Book Value Price for the cards. Here are a couple reasons why this may occur:
  • The Book Value are refers to cards that are in Near Mint condition. Cards that grade "NEAR MINT" still have sharp corners, good centering, and no gum stains or pen marks on the card. Less than 2 percent of vintage cards (less than 2%) grade as high as NEAR MINT. Since most cards were originally bought and handled by kids, a very low percentage of the cards remain in high quality condition. 
  • The "Book Value" is the Suggested or the "Pie in the Sky" Price. Few collectors are willing to pay the book value price for cards. 
  • Card Dealers need to make a profit on the cards to cover their time and expenses. Most card dealers have the expense of renting a table at a card show or, in the case of Dean's Cards, the advertising, labor, and hosting expenses of a website. Not to mention it takes months (or years) to sell the cards that we have in inventory. 
Less than 2 percent of Vintage Baseball Cards Grade as Mint Condition

Non-collectors tend to over grade the condition of cards. Card Collectors can be very picky! It is very common for a novice card seller to contact us and state, "My cards are in MINT Condition". Very seldom does this turn out to be the case. Dean's Cards will certainly buy vintage cards in almost any condition, but it is important to realize that the condition affects the value of the card.

The good news is that - if you bought your cards as kid - you are going to make a great return on your investment. How many of your other childhood toys can you say this about?

eBay and Auction Houses May Not Be Your Best Choices

Many people also are tempted to sell cards online through eBay on their own, thinking they can get the most for their cards there. But there’s a lot more to selling on eBay or other such sites than most people think.  A large collection could easily take months or years to liquidate. Online auctions are usually not the best option, because they generally appeal to bargain hunters and rarely bring top prices for collectibles.

Auction houses also get lots of attention, but they usually don’t work out well for collections. Auction houses normally handle the rarer, high dollar items – and large fees also are charged for listings and commissions.
When you consider the time and expense involved in eBay and auction houses, you’re usually much better off selling to a dealer for the best price you can get.

Reasons to Sell Your Vintage Baseball Cards
Send an email to the DEan's Cards Buying Team to sell your baseball cards.
But you should always remember that the bottom line is that they are your cards and you certainly do not have to sell them – especially if you are emotionally attached to them. Many collectors never do sell the cards, until there is a special event which encourages them to do so for the money. Typical examples include: weddings, sending Kids to college or paying off a big bill. Many collectors keep the cards until they die and then let their heirs worry about what to do with the collection.

If you have not looked at your cards in years, it may make sense to do something useful with the proceeds that you could get for them. It is often the family member that inherits the collection that ends up selling the cards. If you come to the point where you feel that the value of the collection could be put to better use, please contact us. You have my word that you will be treated fairly and honestly and that we will pay top dollar for your collection.

Dean’s Cards Back-of-the-Baseball-Card Facts:
  • We buy more than 500 collections every year and have been doing so since 2001.
  • Dean’s Cards sells more vintage cards online than any other dealer.
  • We have 12 employees and a 5000 square foot office in Cincinnati, Ohio.
  • If we don’t buy cards, we can’t sell cards – and that’s why we strive to offer you the best, no hassle price upfront.
  • Vintage cards – before 1969 – have the greatest value. But cards from 1950s and 1960 are condition sensitive – meaning cards in best condition are worth much more than cards in poor condition.
  • Pre-World War II cards are the most valuable and often have good value regardless of their condition.
  • Semi-vintage cards – from the 1970s – have more of a modest value and need to be in excellent condition to get the best price.
  • Modern cards – 1980s and on – are beautiful cards and fun to collect, but they were made in such great quantity that the value is not high – so we generally do not buy these from collectors.
  • Vintage cards peaked in value in the 1990s, then declined a bit, and now have been holding steady ever since.
Ready to sell your baseball cards? Visit us at Dean's Cards to start the process. We promise a prompt reply -- and our best offer..

Dean Hanley, founder and owner of, is considered one of the foremost experts on the subject of vintage sports cards and has a regular column in the Sports Collectors Digest and publishes articles on his blog. Dean has also written two books on vintage sports cards: The Bubble Gum Card War: The Great Bowman & Topps Sets from 1948 to 1955 and Before There Was Bubble Gum: Our Favorite Pre-World War I Baseball Cards.

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