While some people are buying and selling stocks or works of art to make money, an increasing number of people are turning to buying and selling collectible trading cards. Is this really a viable way to make money? And where does a newbie start in this market? Let’s take a closer look at this niche way of making money.
How much money can you make with trading cards?
In 2018 PWCC Marketplace created two indices to show how the 100 and 500 most valuable trading cards fared against the S&P 500 over a 10-year period. According to these indices, the PWCC Top 100 (the 100 most valuable trading cards) delivered an amazing return on investment of 275 per cent from 2008 to 2018.
The Top 500 index managed to notch up returns of 165 per cent over the same 10-year period. Both percentages substantially exceeded the returns offered by the S&P 500 over this period.
This alone should be more than enough reason for someone who wants to make a little (or a lot) of money on the side to enter the trading card business.
Where does one start with trading cards?
Being successful with trading cards has nothing to do with luck and everything with educating yourself. Many individuals get caught up in the excitement of the moment and approach what should be a very enjoyable business as a gambling exercise. This can lead to losses in the long run.
When it comes to buying and selling collectible cards it’s important to first figure out what type of cards you want to invest in. For example, sports cards, superhero cards (DC, Marvel), or character cards (Pokémon). Your decision should be partly determined by what makes you excited and genuinely interests you, and partly by whether or not you already have some knowledge of the different types of cards in that genre.
Finding out how much you should pay for your first card
Your next step is to research the current supply/demand situation for the type of cards that you are interested in. If you find a card that you really like and that you think will appreciate in value over time, make sure you have the following information ready:
- The year the card was issued. First look for the copyright date. Otherwise, the included stats will show a final year, which is typically the year of issue.
- Find out the name of the company that issued the card.
- Find the name of the player (sports cards) or the character/superhero.
- Locate the number of the card.
Now head straight to eBay and do an advanced search (to the right of the main search button) for this card. Then find and check the ‘sold items’ box, but make sure you don’t check the ‘completed items’ box. Once the results are displayed, you will be able to see a list of all the recent sales transactions for that card. This will give you a fairly good idea of what the going market price is for a particular card.
You will also notice that some cards are ‘raw’, while others are shown as ‘graded’. Continue reading to find out what those terms mean and why they matter.
Getting a collectible card graded
The job of a grading company is simple: it evaluates the condition of a particular card. Since a card’s condition is one of the most important factors that determine its market value, this information is very useful for both buyers and sellers.
Currently, the biggest grading company for collectible cards is PSA. The second biggest one is probably BGS (Beckett Grading Services) and in the number three position, we find SGC.
Once you’ve bought your first card, you can submit it to one of these companies to be graded. They will evaluate its condition and give it a grade that ranges between 1 and 10. They will enclose the card in a nice little case.
Cards that have been graded by PSA are generally better respected and therefore sell for more than cards graded by one of the other companies. The highest possible grading a card can be given by PSA is the much sought-after ‘PSA 10’.
BGS, on the other hand, black labels collectible cards that earn a top rating in terms of surface quality, corners, edges, and centering. There is currently also a strong demand for these cards.
Which card trading company should you use?
If you are a new collector or investor who is only getting into graded cards now, we suggest that you start with PSA and later consider SGC and/or BGS.
Ten years from now there might be different grading companies using different grading systems. But right now, a card graded by one of the three companies mentioned above will be easier to sell and will sell for more than an ungraded card.
Of course, if you like to take risks, you are free to buy ungraded cards. This is also known in the industry as ‘raw’ cards. It’s not advised for new investors to do this. Leave that for once you gain more experience in card trading.
We know that some people disagree on this. They feel that, because raw cards are typically cheaper than graded cards, it’s better for beginners to start with them. What they don’t tell you is that the chances of you losing money are also significantly higher than with graded cards as the sale prices greatly vary with ungraded cards.
How to sell your trading cards
It has never been easier to sell your sports cards or other collectible cards than today. With the advent of the internet, there has been a huge surge in interest in this market. There are currently more ways to buy and sell cards than ever before. Below are a couple of places where you can sell your trading cards.
Selling trading cards on eBay
When it comes to finding a buyer for your trading cards, eBay is most people’s first choice. This online auction site has been a place where owners can sell their trading cards to anyone from across the world for years.
The best way to find the current market value of the cards you want to sell is to do the advanced eBay search. That will immediately give you a fairly good idea of what similar cards are selling for. This is useful information whether you want to buy or sell.
According to several sources, eBay is the best option for cards priced at anything between $5 and $11.
Selling trading card at TCGplayer
As you might have picked up from the name, TCGplayer is a website dedicated to the buying and selling of TCG cards. You can get good prices for these cards here, specifically the ones selling for more than $11. Sellers can either sell the cards themselves on the platform or sell them to the website’s buylist.
Selling trading cards in Facebook Groups
In recent years many groups dedicated to trading, selling, and buying cards have emerged on Facebook. There might, for example, be a group for your home town, so it’s well worth checking out. Even if there isn’t a group specifically for the card or cards you want to sell, you can still join any group where matters related to cards are discussed and ask members whether anyone would like to buy them.
Selling trading cards on Buylists
Buylists shows the lists of trading cards and prices that shops are prepared to buy from you. They normally offer some of the lowest prices in the market. The benefit here is they manage the card listings, paying fees, and shipping to several different locations. Thus, making it a breeze for sellers who want to quickly liquidate their holdings for cash.
Bonus tips to make it easier to sell your cards
Here’s a list of tips put together to help you make more out of your card collecting experience. Not only will these tips make the selling process much smoother. They will also help you get a better price for your cards.
- When selling individual cards, make sure you include the card’s number, set, and rarity.
- Put every card in a penny sleeve to prevent damage.
- Do an advanced eBay search to see what similar cards are selling for.
- If you are selling groups of cards, sort them into types and mention the number of every different type. For example: “This set comprises of 4 Pokémon, 12 energy cards, and 8 trainer cards.”
- Have your most expensive or rare cards graded.
- If your cards are in a top-loaded sleeve, use a short piece of masking tape with a tab on one end. This helps prevent the cards from falling out while it’s quick and easy to open.
- You have to make sure to pack bulk cards properly. Start with a strong box and put bubble-wrap in the corners to help protect the cards.
- If you are shipping a single card (or a few), it’s best to use a bubble mailer.
Similar to buying and selling works of art or antique furniture, trading cards can be lucrative and highly enjoyable. Don’t run where angels fear to tread though: start small and first get to know and understand what drives the cycles of demand and supply in the market. Do your homework, and before long you might become the Warren Buffett of collectible cards.