I’ve always vowed to never sell my baseball card collection unless I was absolutely broke and down to my last can of beans.
And every year my resolve to hold on to my childhood hobby gets weaker and weaker.
The thousands of cards I collected for fun as a kid mostly collect dust these days.
A few times I’ve asked my three millennial kids if they had any interest in inheriting my collection sooner rather than later. I’ve even considered adding a line to the will to force the issue, with a provision for three-way trades to divvy up players and teams. But do I want them to inherit the responsibility of selling the collection? Not really.
Besides, never have I heard them say, “Dad, I’ve always wanted your 1962 Pumpsie Green and Choo-Choo Coleman cards” or “It’s such an honor to be the guardian of your 1964 Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris cards.”
Which brings me back to edging toward simply selling my cards, pocketing the cash for my rainy day fund and moving on.
That, in fact, is what a friend recently decided to do. After researching the market and reputable dealers, he arranged a visit with one of them and got a satisfactory offer after one counter-offer. There were no games involved and the whole process was over in a couple of hours.
Here’s the kicker: He used the money to pay college tuition bills for one of his kids. Not a bad way to put his hobby to use.
If you’re like me and haven’t sold any cards since your playground days, you may need to bone up on your options. Do you want to try your luck on eBay, any of the auction houses that advertise online, mega card shows that come to town, retail card shops or private transactions? Are you looking to sell by teams or by favorite player? Have you considered dealing with an auction house that will sell your stacks on consignment?
Given all these options, the selling process can be daunting. And failing to do some research can shave more than just pennies per card off your profit.
Though prices peaked in the 1990s, the hottest part of the market these days appears to be cards from the 1950s and 1960s, said Michael Steele, a former sports card auction house owner who has more than 30 years of experience in buying and selling cards.
“High-end and even midgrade rookie cards of Hall of Famers from that era such as Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente and Ernie Banks are on fire,” Steele said. “And Mickey Mantle cards are insane, pricewise, right now.”
As evidence, a 1956 Mantle card in excellent condition and printed by the Topps company sold for $3,500 in August 2014. That same card fetched $5,500 this past August, Steele said.
Before selling your cards, get at least a general value on your collection. Websites such as Beckett Media, at www.beckett.com, provide reliable information on pricing and rarity and also offer a grading service for a fee that could further determine whether a card has real value based on condition and other factors.
Also, keep your cards as clean and as organized as possible.
What if you get a lowball offer? Don’t be in a rush, said Steele, and shop around. Don’t take your cards to a single dealer if at all possible.
Even if you don’t have a 1956 Mantle or a 1954 Aaron, don’t resort to tossing your collection in the trash. You just might have enough gems to cover a semester or two of your kids’ college education. How many childhood hobbies can produce those results?
Steve Rosen: 816-234-4879