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collecting sports cards

Tips on Getting Back into Sports Card Collecting

Wow! Collecting cards is not like it was when I was 12 years old! Why is this fun hobby so difficult to figure out?  I need help!* 

See if this resonates with you a little… 

You collected as a kid, but then life got in the way – school, college, marriage, kids, work, whatever.  Thankfully, your mother (or spouse) did not throw out your collection (like my mother did in 1976 which contained Mantle, Aaron, May, Clemente!). You recently found your cards, and now you have some free time (and a little bit of money) to get back into the hobby. Looking through those favorite cards (no rubber bands!)  has piqued your curiosity, and now you want to get back into the hobby. You googled “collecting baseball cards,” but then your head exploded! Yup. Happens every time. 

We have all been there. For me, I took a break for almost 20 years (see above) until I recently jumped back in. I am loving it again! Beginning almost a year ago, I reviewed my collection and started reading online about what’s happening in the hobby. Holy smokes! The hobby now is so different. Graded cards. Raw cards. Vintage cards. Modern cards. Slabbed. Breaks. Relics. Trimming. Junk Wax Era. Blaster and Monster boxes.  What are these terms? I did not understand the new lingo! I love baseball, but the hobby had left me way behind! 

When you first get back into collecting, it can be like trying to drink from a fire hose. Not fun, confusing and frustrating. This article will hopefully ease your fears as you get back into collecting and trading.

Social Media is a game changer. 

Monthly print price guides and local card shops (LCS) were important when you last were collecting. They  are still important, but social media has changed the way the hobby reaches its audience. YouTube breaks (learned the new lingo yet?). EBay stores, solds, and auctions. Buy it Now. Make an Offer. Instagram pages. Facebook groups. Daily podcasts (Check out SVA Card Collecting Podcast) Blog articles. Grading companies. Online pricing guides.  All of these entities make up the modern card collecting experience. And through these social media platforms, collectors now can immediately view their favorite cards. Pay online. Never meet the seller. And a day or two later receive the precious purchase in the mail.  

From SVA Baseball Card Collectors Facebook group. Click here:  http://bit.ly/2m0OKrK

From a recent eBay listing.        

Screengrab from YouTube of a sample cards break.

However, … too much of a good thing can be too much. Way too much.

What is your collecting plan?

Ask yourself – Why do I collect? Have you evaluated your collecting goals? Try to focus on what interests you – favorite players or teams or sets or trading company.  

Are you collecting to maintain a personal collection?  Is this your way of connecting with the sport you love so much? Are you sharing your hobby with your children, spouse, siblings or friends? Collecting can be such a fun multi-generational experience. Are you out to make money by flipping? Are you in it for the hunt and quick score?  In short, determine your goals first. 

If you jump back in too soon and without a plan, you could be spending way too much money on cards that are not worth it – financially or sentimentally. Learn how eBay works. Do you know about eBay bucks? You should.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to learn who you are dealing with online. Most sellers are honest and great for the hobby. However, if you have read any of the hobby news in the past year, you will learn that there are some shady characters out there. Big time.  Look up the seller’s eBay ratings, read reviews, ask others. Join Facebook groups that discuss these topics. Learn this new version of the hobby from those who have experience. SVA Card Collectors Facebook group is a great resource. See above for link.  

You have figured out your plan, but what about your budget?  

Unless you are Gary Vee or have an unlimited budget, try not to chase everything that looks shiny and new! Some cards are very expensive, and you might not yet know why. Print guides have their place, but they are not really useful for current information. For the card you are interested in, go to eBay sold section and use other online tools to determine the most recent comparable prices. 

The prices of cards, much like the stock market, can fluctuate.  Here’s a quick example … A starting veteran quarterback goes out for the season with an injury, and now the young backup is the starter. The youngster’s cards will spike until his on-the-field-play is evaluated. Knowing when to buy and when to sell can make a big difference

(📷 cred: dubmentality)

Junk Wax Era (JWE is late 1980s to early 1990s) cards will not likely make you much money. Unless your cards are graded as 9s or 10s, selling in bulk or even donating them to non-profits might be the best way to get rid of your thousands and thousands of  worthless cards. (One quick example: 1989 Donruss KGjr raw sharp looking card might go for less than $10. However, a PSA 10 of the same card is currently selling for about $300.) Making money trading cards is not easy. So many people are online trying to do the same thing you are attempting. If you create an online store or page, figure out your niche so that you can begin  to build a specific audience. This will take lots of time and patience. Lots. Below is the front of my Instagram page – BudsBallCards. 

There is also a big difference in buying or selling graded (slabbed) and ungraded (raw) cards, see above example. The price of a raw card is more subjective and typically carries less value then the graded version. There are several grading services – some are better than others – and you need to learn how they operate and the reputation of each.  

Ungraded (raw) card. Graded (slabbed) card.

Find your local card shop! 

Local card shops are a dying breed. There used to be thousands of them around the country, particularly during the height of the JWE.  Most of them closed many years ago. However, some of these shops are still around and should be supported! How many of you remember visiting your LCS to hang out,  meet fellow collectors, shoot the s**t, and pick up some new cards? I try to help my LCS as much as I can. I have purchased some nice single cards there recently. I do not mind paying a little more there than what I would pay on eBay.  One advantage of purchasing cards at the LCS is that you can examine the cards up close in your hands. You cannot do that on the internet! I also buy all my supplies there even though I could buy them in bulk more cheaply online. I recently went to a trading card night at my LCS. We had a great time and I got some nice cards! 

I could go on and on about this awesome hobby – there is so much to write about. Just try not to be overwhelmed. Take it slowly. Enjoy what you are doing. But, most of all … have fun! 

Thanks for reading! 

Bernard Nomberg 

IG: BudsBallCards /  I’m just a fan back in the hobby. Go Braves! 

*You are going to make mistakes. We all do. Cut yourself some slack. Do research. Have fun! 

Links to helpful resources.

BaseballCardPedia.com: http://bit.ly/2mkTysb

Beckett Media: https://www.beckett.com/

eBay: https://www.ebay.com

Glossary Of Baseball Card Terms: http://bit.ly/2lY6QLh

National Sports Collectors Convention: http://nsccshow.com/

Old Sports Cards: https://www.oldsportscards.com/resources/

Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA): https://www.psacard.com/

Sports Card Collecting 101: http://bit.ly/2mt0l3n

Sports Card Guaranty (SGC):  https://gosgc.com/

Sports Cards Database: http://www.sportscarddatabase.com/

The Cardboard Connection: https://www.cardboardconnection.com/

Wax Pack Gods: https://waxpackgods.com/

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