Selling Your Sports Card Collection–Part 2

Last week, in the first part of this two-part series, we provided some basic guidelines and recommendations to follow when it comes to selling the most commonly owned or found sports card collections. In this second part, we will examine those collections of a little more sophisticated nature.

Gone are the days of people not knowing, or not being able to easily discover, the value of Grandpa’s old baseball cards collection. So, what do you do if you stumble across or suddenly take ownership of a vintage sports card collection?

It’s no secret that the hobby of sports card collecting has been around for decades.  However, the big business that has evolved from this once simple hobby is much younger. Driven in large part by card grading that started in the early 1990s, the values for high-grade vintage and more rare cards has escalated exponentially in recent years. Gone are the days of people not knowing, or not being able to easily discover, the value of Grandpa’s old baseball cards collection.

Despite the proverbial “cat being out of the bag,” stories abound detailing the discovery of newly unearthed cardboard treasure. So, what do you do if you stumble across or suddenly take ownership of a vintage sports card collection? The answer here is simple: seek expert advice and do not sell anything on your own before talking with the representative of a reputable auction house.

Pre-war cards, most commonly tobacco cards, are much rarer than their bubble gum cousins of the later era. Shown here: 1910-13 T215 Red Cross Tobacco Baseball Cards.

The most valuable sports cards have typically been baseball cards and come from two eras: pre-war cards–those that were produced prior to World War 2, and high-grade vintage cards from the sports’ Golden Age of the late 1940s through the early 1960s. Obviously due to their age, and form of distribution, pre-war cards, most commonly tobacco cards, are much rarer than their bubble gum cousins of the later era.

When it comes to selling a sports card collection, from either era, there is a typical process followed by most auction houses. While WorthPoint certainly can’t recommend a single service, here are the names of several of the sports collectibles hobby’s most revered and esteemed companies that specialize in cards from these two eras:

  • Heritage Auctions
  • Memory Lane Inc.
  • Goldin Auctions
  • Huggins & Scott
  • Robert Edwards
  • Lelands
  • PWCC

So, at this point, let’s assume you have determined that you do, in fact, have a collection of cards from one, or both, of these eras. The first thing to do is to take as many, detailed pictures as possible. Thanks to modern technology, this can be most easily accomplished by using your cell phone. Be sure to take pictures of the card backs and pay particular attention to the corners of the cards. The condition of the cards will play a huge part in determining their value and desirability for an auction house to sell on consignment.

High-grade vintage cards from the sports’ Golden Age of the late 1940s through the early 1960s are among the most valuable. Shown here: 1954 Topps Willie Mays baseball card.

Next email yourself the images and keep them centrally located in a single folder on your computer desktop. This will allow you to quickly access them when you start to contact auction companies. Most of the aforementioned companies will quickly respond when reached via email with pictures of a vintage sports card collection. After an initial conversation, via phone, often times a company representative will travel to your locale to see the collection in person.

At this point, the sales process starts. As previously mentioned, vintage sports cards and memorabilia is BIG business. As a result, it is a very competitive field. Each company will tell you the benefits of why consigning your collection to them will maximize your return. As with every business relationship, people do businesses with people, not businesses. You will have to choose, after weighing each company’s pros and cons, based on a feeling of trust and/or a connection between that company representative and yourself.

Fortunately, most companies work on a similar fee/pay structure. In addition to charging the buyer a percentage of the final sale price for an item, referred to as a buyer’s premium, the auction house will take a percentage of the item’s sale price. Those percentages are fairly similar from one company to the next, but it is your responsibility to find out this information as part of your selling decision.

One of the benefits of consigning a collection to a major auction house is that they will pay to have the cards graded. In addition, they market and promote the sale of your collection through hobby and social media outlets. These two things alone will save you a tremendous amount of time and money. The relatively turnkey process of auction consignment definitely has its advantages.

Selling a valuable collection can certainly be a daunting but thrilling and ultimately, rewarding experience. Just be sure to take your time and be patient. No matter how much you want to “cash-in” on that potential cardboard treasure, be smart about the process. Follow the above guidelines by taking the time to be an educated seller and enjoy your eventual payday!


Rob Bertrand has been an active collector of sports cards and memorabilia for more than 25 years. His involvement in the hobby community is well documented, having been involved with multi-media content development for several sports collectibles websites. Currently the Senior Marketing Manager for Sports & Entertainment at the hobby distributor GTS Distribution, he is also the co-host of the sports collectibles hobby’s only live streaming and nationally broadcast web show, Go GTS Live – The Hobby’s Web Show. He is the author of the highly respected and trafficked blog, Voice of the Collector and you can follow him on Twitter @VOTC. A dealer himself, Rob runs an online business through eBay, and is frequently asked to consign collections.

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