Answering the Question: Should I Sell My Baseball Card Collection to the Neighborhood Sports Card Store?
This article was originally written about 10 years ago. At that time, there were still a couple thousand baseball card stores around. Since then, most have disappeared due to the cost effectiveness and time savings of the internet. It provides an interesting perspective.
Quite often people that have never collected vintage sports cards inherit the responsibility of selling a vintage card collection. It can seem like an overwhelming responsibility. The first thing that some people do is go to their local baseball card shop (if they can still find one) to ask what the collection is worth. Most are surprised to discover that they are often offered a few pennies on the dollar of a collection's stated book value.
The dealer at the card store usually offers a brief economic lesson of card collecting in order to explain the low amount that he is offering. The dealer may explain that there are numerous reasons that the cards are worth such a low amount and gives examples such as: buyers seldom pay "full book price" on cards and the shop must pay rent, labor, insurance, and other types of store overhead to cover the stores' expenses. He may also tell you that a card may sit in inventory for months or even years before it eventually sells. All of these reasons may be true, but there is a much more important reason that the "strip mall" card dealer can only pay the collector a few pennies on the dollar for a vintage card collection.
The main reason that their offer is so low is that retail card stores sell mostly the newer collectibles. Their clientele is often kids (and maybe their fathers) who collect the new sports cards, fantasy cards or even comic books. Unlike Dean's Cards, vintage cards are not their specialty. Card shops serve a different niche of the hobby. For every collector of the vintage sports cards, there are probably a hundred new card collectors. Most of the new card collectors prefer the current players that they recognize and can still see play at the ballparks. Most card shops keep a few vintage baseball cards in the display case for show, but it is impossible for a retail card store to do enough traffic to sell more than a few vintage baseball cards.
On a side note, the traditional "strip mall" card shop is quickly disappearing, mainly because it is so much more efficient and convenient to buy and sell cards online. Only a fraction of the stores remain from the ones that were in existence 25 years ago. Most vintage card buying and selling now occurs online. According to a top hobby newsletter, there were about 5000 sports cards shops in the early 1990's. Today that number is below 500 and getting lower every year.
The "strip mall" card shops simply serve a different niche of the hobby. They either quickly liquidate the vintage collection on eBay themselves or wholesale the cards to another dealer - like Dean's Cards. The card shops are forced to pay less for cards, because they do not have a direct way to sell the cards. Online auctions are usually not the best option, because they generally appeal to bargain hunters and rarely bring top prices for collectibles.
Most people are shocked to learn that it is not unusual for a large collection to change hands between four or five dealers before the items are made available to the individual collector. Each dealer in the process will take out some of the cards and then sell the remainder of the collection to the next dealer for a profit, even if you find a dealer who is experienced in selling online. The dealer must price the cards for quick sale and is rarely able to pay more than they are assured of receiving from the online auctions.
At Dean's Cards, we offer a different concept than you will find with other dealers. We buy collections from dealers all the time and pay the same percentages to them as we do the individual collectors. Dean's Cards can pay more for vintage card and memorabilia collections, because what we buy goes directly into our own online inventory. This way we can both avoid the middleman.
Dean's Cards is often called the "Amazon" of vintage sports cards and is recognized within the hobby as the #1 Online Seller of vintage cards. Although some other dealers came to be #1 in online sales, no other dealer has more than a fraction of our online inventory.
By Dean Hanley