Also see: 10 tips for scoring deals on eBay
I will assume my readers are casual collectors who occasionally find it helpful to turn extra cards into money. Serious dealers will have tools and tricks at their disposal that go well beyond what I’ll present here.
1. Use a scanner!
This is the ultimate do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do since I am just plain too lazy to scan my cards. That said, I am very aware that I often bring in only half what I could based on the bad (but fast!) cell phone pics I rely on.
There are two reasons to use a scanner.
- High quality scans will jump out at buyers and attract interest much more than typical cell phone pics.
- High quality scans give buyers the confidence to evaluate the condition of your card.
This second point is particularly important given that the distinctions among Excellent, Near Mint, and Mint often require a loupe to discern, however the price differences may literally be orders of magnitude apart.
When a buyer isn’t really sure what condition your card is in, he will generally bid assuming it’s in worse shape than it is.
2. Use a high-contrast backdrop for your scan
Many scanners have a white inside cover that will place a white background around your scan. If the card itself has a white border, it makes it hard for buyers to see corners and edges clearly. As such, buyers will reduce bids out of worry that there might be hidden flaws.
You can solve this problem buy putting a colored sheet of paper on top of your card prior to scanning. This not only makes it easy for buyers to see corners and edges but can also help your listing pop off the page. (I especially take notice when the backdrop is a bright color such as the one Greg Morris Cards uses below.)
3. Pay attention to when your auction will end
In my article on buying, I mention how auctions that end when most buyers are asleep or busy don’t tend to go for full value. To avoid being on the selling end of this, plan ahead with your auction end times. As a default, if you list at 3 AM, your auction will end at 3 AM, which is bad. Aim for a time when buyers on both the west and east coasts will be awake.
4. Research the sold listings
A rookie mistake among sellers is to scroll through similar Buy It Now listings before pricing their cards. What they fail to realize is that the cards they’re viewing are specifically the overpriced ones. After all, that’s why they’re still unsold! If you price your card similarly, it will likely also go unsold.
Though the prices you’ll see won’t put the same level of dollar signs in your eyes, the correct prices to look at are the ones under the Sold listings. These give you accurate information on what buyers are actually paying for cards like yours.
NOTE: As you study the “comps” go beyond just condition (e.g., VG, PSA 5, etc.). Aim for as close a match as possible on other “eye appeal” considerations such as centering or color.
5. Be sure buyers know your card is authentic
Not really an issue if you’re selling a 1980 Topps Garry Templeton, but the more prized the card the more buyers worry it might be fake.
If your card is graded by PSA, SGC, or Beckett, you’re probably safe here. However, if you’re selling 1959 Topps Mickey Mantle raw, there are still a few ways you can give buyers the confidence to pay full price.
- List as Original, guarantee authenticity, and accept returns. Not all buyers know this, but eBay will help them get their money back if they purchase a counterfeit or reprint card listed as Original. Therefore, your own guarantee and/or return policy can help buyers feel protected.
- Provide any level of provenance you can, but it had better be true! When I see “found these in my grandpa’s storage locker!!!” all kinds of alarm bells go off.
- Having a lot of other items, including in your Sold listings, that are almost certainly real can be a confidence boost. Let’s say a seller has a 1954 Topps Hank Aaron RC, and their only other listings are 1952 Topps Mantle, T206 Wagner, and 1955 Topps Clemente RC. You’d (hopefully) run the other way as fast as you could. On the other hand, if their other listings included dozens of 1950s commons, semi-stars, and stars, an Aaron RC feels a lot more plausible.
6. Provide great service and build up your positive feedback
Piggybacking off the last tip, many buyers look at seller feedback in determining if a listing can be trusted. If your very first eBay listing is a $500, your zero feedback will scare buyers away. You’d be better off making numerous other sales first to end up with a feedback rating and track record of sold listings that increase your trust among buyers.
True story. My very first eBay sale was a collection of vintage Lou Brock cards. I had about 8-9 lesser condition doubles ranging from 1966-1979 that went very cheap at auction–something like $6 + free shipping. Well after the sale was made, I heard from the buyer that he never received the cards. As I chose to ship economically, there was no tracking, hence no way to know what happened to the cards. Was the buyer even telling the truth? Impossible to know.
When I offered to refund the purchase price, I got what I felt was an unreasonable argument that the buyer felt he had purchased about $30 worth of cards, hence a $6 refund felt inappropriate. You can call me a sucker, but I also knew I would need great feedback if I was to have any future in selling. I packed my Brock singles into a bubble mailer and shipped with tracking. While I lost some great cards of Lou Brock in the process, I protected my rating and have since been able to sell several items in the $50-200 range.
7. Be sure your listing title is strong
Your title determines whether buyers will see your listing in their searches. If your listing is 2016 Topps Cubs Team Set, you will get some Cubs collectors. On the other hand, buyers looking for a 2016 Kris Bryant won’t see your listing come up. Better to say, “2016 Topps Cubs team set – Bryant, Rizzo, Baez, …” You will also want to be very careful to avoid typos. No surprise that a 1934 Gowdy Lew Gerhig will sell for less than its correctly spelled counterpart.
8. Boost your listing
If you are actively part of a community of collectors–e.g., a baseball card forum, Baseball Card twitter, a Facebook group–it can be helpful to share your listing with your group, as long as this sort of thing is within the rules and norms of your community. This sort of thing not only adds eyeballs to your listing but generally draws buyers who tend to trust you more based on your being part of the community.
9. Don’t be afraid to start your auction at $0.01
Admittedly, I’ve had this backfire a couple times, but more often than not auctions tend to finish at least in the ballpark of a fair price. Starting very low will encourage more buyers to bid or add your card to their watch lists whereas starting anywhere near your card’s actual value tends to make buyers keep scrolling.
The nice thing about a $0.01 auction is that several buyers may jump in before the price even hits a dollar or two. Once buyers are in, they tend to be more vested in winning, and that leads to the kind of competition and bidding wars that drive prices up.
10. Sell singles vs lots
I mention in my buying article that some of the best deals are on lots. Conversely, this is where sellers do the worst. It is a big time saver to take all your extra Nolan Ryan cards and sell them in one fell swoop. However, most buyers will bid or offer based on the value of the best card or the small handful of cards they actually need. Unless the extras in your lot carry almost no value, you need to create separate listings for each.
I hope these tips help you out. If you have other ones, please share in the Comments. And best of luck!