I’ll never forget it. I was in 5th grade, and myself along with some other baseball card loving kids pursuaded the school to allow us to put on a baseball card show at the school, and use the tables as dealers would. My folks allowed me to buy a few boxes of cards to sell them by the pack to customers just like my local neighborhood dealer / hero would. I was in heaven! Well, that is, until the kids started guilt tripping me into selling the packs for much, much cheaper than I should have. That was actually a very sour note in my shool career, but nevertheless, it gave me a taste of being a dealer.
When I got back into the hobby again, a little less than a decade a go, I started buying up cards to reclaim my youth. Like many guys like me, I was married and knew that my new hobby was going to become a problem if I kept spending money, and potentially could cause issues with my wife.
Every week, it seems like the #1 concern from my “customers” who are ages 20 to 50 is “boy, my wife is going to have a fit … I better find a place to hide these!” I have felt their pain – it flat out sucks! What I decided to do instead, is figure out how to make money on the hobby that I have loved so much for decades.
I’m happy to report now that sports card collecting is no longer a money sucking hobby that I feel guilty feeding. Instead, it is a profitable business venture that has exciting possibilities around every corner. In fact, the more time I spend searching means the more money I can possibly make, and the more fun I can have.
I would love to take some time here and write a little bit about how to help you make your cardboard obsession a profitable hobby too. Could you imagine your wife excited about having you go to a card show instead of dreading having to bring it up to her?
I admit, I may have a little bit of an edge here compared to the average, everyday collector – I have run a website development firm for about 14 years now, so I know a good bit about business and sales. The great thing is that I’ve been able to apply many business and sales practices to it, so my hope is that you will be able to learn from my findings here as well.
Here are a few pointers that you can put into action right away!
Test your ads – When using the internet to post an ad for sale about your cards, try several ways to do it to see what works the best. Some people like to sort and sell by team, some like selling by set, others by player. I personally have found that mixed lots do well for me. I like selling reseller lots, so dealers can purchase from me to make money off of them and keep coming back.
Do NOT give up – Some people will try to post an ad, and give up if no one buys. Don’t do this! Keep on keeping on. Be persistent. Just because your cards haven’t sold in 2 days doesn’t mean necessarily that a buyer doesn’t exist. It just means that he hasn’t seen your ad!
Know when to change your approach – Sometimes, cards just will not sell for the price you want for them, no matter what. For instance, that pile of beat up 1989 Topps you have online for $5 may not ever sell. Consider adding it into a different lot, and sell that way.
Buy Low, Sell Fair – The general make up of my customer is that of a part time dealer. That is, they are repetitive customers. Keep them happy by not gouging them – make your prices fair, and give them deals as an incentive to buy more from you in the future.
Check in with people who have bought from you periodically – I cannot tell you how many card sales I have had simply because I checked in with people. I put my name in front of their face. “Hey! How are you doing? I wanted to let you know I got in that special Danny Tartabull card that you were looking for.”
Know thy customer – When you know what your customers like to buy, you will know what to keep your eyes out for whenever you are cruising on ebay, or partaking in a little local card show action. The more you know what your customers (existing and future) could like, the better informed you can be for making purchases.
Expand your customer base – This may sounds a little too businessy for many of you, but hear me out. It is a good thing to know what one person will buy, no matter what. It is a great thing to know what five people will buy, no matter what. It is an outstanding thing to know what ten people will buy, no matter what. The sales will be easy from there! This doesn’t have to be rigid. Just make relationships with those you sell to. Talk to them and see what their interests are.
Expand your reach – The internet is far too powerful to just limit your sales to ebay, so use every avenue possible! Craig’s List, baseball card forums (I can name five off the top of my head right now!) your blog (post your blog in the comments here, by the way!) and various other places are a great way to gain more exposure to what you are selling, and give you the ability to meet new people. If I just used ebay, I wouldn’t be nearly as successful as I am.
Know your sweet spot, but work on diversifying – Are you most knowlegeable in vintage cards? Wax? Singles? Graded cards? Sets? Bulk lots? Most collectors have a good working knowledge of the value of some specific area of cards. I personally try to diversify as much as possibly myself, so I can offer people things that they may not think of. I have had many people come over to look at a few older cards I had for sale, only to find out that I also had a plethora of wax boxes as well. Sales that would not have been there, had I not had the product!
Give freebies – Turning a profit on what you buy is not about the cards you are selling. It is about your customers. Don’t focus on taking a $10 cut on a lot … focus on the 15 future $300 sales to the same guy because he is happy.
Make it a game – I have spoken about this before. This is NOT a business to me. It is fun. How? I make it a game. Aside from the other numerous benefits, keeping records allows you to see how profitable you are. I love doing this! Crack open an excel sheet and record each and every sale you make. Here is how I do it as an example:
1/1/14 – Bought $4,000 collection
1/3/14 – Sold 3 boxes from $4,000 collection for $800 ($3,200 left to recoup)
1/5/14 – Sold 1 big box from $4,000 collection for $1,500 ($1,700 left to recoup)
1/11/14 – Traded 5 boxes from $4,000 collection for 10 autographed baseballs
1/14/14 – Sold 10 autographed baseballs for $900 ($800 left to recoup)
1/17/14 – Sold top 50 star cards from $4,000 collection for $825 ($25 profit + 12 Boxes Left)
1/18/14 – Sold rest of 12 boxes from $4,000 collection for $1,000 ($1,025 profit)
Game Over – I Win!
I hope this helps you out tremendously, and also hope that this puts some fire under you to start putting these into action to start selling right away.
I look forward to hearing your comments, blog links and other selling tips that I may have missed!