How to Sell Your Baseball Cards
If you need information on how to sell your vintage baseball card collection you have come to the right source. This guide was created to help you through the process and equip you with the knowledge to sell your collection with confidence and ease.
At Dean’s Cards we sell over one thousand vintage baseball cards per day and maintain an inventory of over one million cards, making us the largest online vendor for vintage cards by far. We are also the largest BUYER of vintage baseball cards in the hobby. We purchase hundreds of sports cards collections every year, dealing with dozens of sellers each week. Because Dean's Cards sells directly, we can usually pay more money for your vintage sports cards than you will get elsewhere, so it's in our interest to give you as many facts as possible so you make the best decision for your cards.
FIRST: Please fill out our form below for a free appraisal of your sports cards collection! Dean's Cards makes the process as straight forward and simple as possible. You get our best offer up front so we don't waste your time with dickering or bargaining. We can buy almost any card from 1969 and before, and most complete sets through 1985. We also buy vintage football cards, basketball cards, hockey cards, and non-sports cards.
All inquiries are answered within one business day. Please give us a general idea of how many baseball cards you have and from what years. We will then send you more detailed information on how we buy baseball cards and what we pay. Someone from our purchasing team would be happy to speak to you on the phone to answer any questions you have concerning our buying process, but PLEASE fill out this form as the first step.
We buy baseball cards from 1969 and older.*
* We can buy most 1970s sports cards, especially if they are part of a larger vintage sports card collection.
* Besides some complete sets, we rarely buy cards newer than 1980, as many do not hold enough value.
Everything You Need to Know to Sell Your Sports Card Collection
While Dean's Cards specializes in vintage baseball cards, we also buy and sell vintage football cards, basketball cards, hockey cards, and non-sports cards and sets. This information applies to all vintage sports and non-sports cards, even if our examples largely relate to baseball cards.
Whether you built your sports cards collection yourself, inherited it from a relative, or even stumbled upon a box of old baseball cards in an attic, selling vintage sports cards should not be taken lightly because they are a fascinating piece of American History and often hold sentimental value. If considering selling your cards, you must first determine if they have value. Then you must decide on a way to get the best return for not only the cards but also your time and effort.
How to Determine if Your Baseball Cards Have Value
Value can be oversimplified to two components: the rarity of the card and the popularity of the player depicted on the card. The most important factors affecting rarity are (1) the year the baseball card was printed, (2) the card manufacturer and how many were produced, and (3) the baseball card's condition, or how new it looks.
These considerations make the value extremely situational, which is why asking about the value of a card will almost always initially warrant the answer: “it depends.” For instance, a baseball card featuring a popular player may be worthless if easy to find (this is the case for most modern cards), and baseball cards normally bringing in a fair amount of cash might be worthless if in bad shape. All these reasons make valuing vintage sports cards a meticulous process, so we’ll break this down it down step by step.
As an interesting side note, the most valuable baseball card by far is the famously rare T206 Honus Wagner (1909-1911) with only about 60 known examples. A T206 Honus Wagner baseball card recently sold for over $3 million, setting the record for the most expensive card. While this card is so rare that very few people have ever held one in their hand, here are a few of the valuable cards that actually turn up at Dean's Cards:
- 1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle (Topps Rookie Card)
- 1933 Goudey #149 Babe Ruth
- 1939 Play Ball #92 Ted Williams (Rookie Card)
- 1935 National Chicle #34 Bronko Nagurski
- 1955 Topps #164 Roberto Clemente (Rookie Card)
To learn about how much money you can expect to receive for your sports card collection, read more here: How Much Money to Expect When Selling My Baseball Cards?
STEP 1: Identify the Baseball Cards in Your Collection
Before you can even begin to pin a value to your collection, identifying what you are working with is a crucial first step. Trying to sell cards without knowing any details will either get you nowhere or warrant a low offer, as buyers take a risk when bidding on the unknown. The more you know about your cards the better.
How to Determine the Print Year
The best place to start when determining the value of your cards is to identify what year they were printed. The earliest baseball cards were produced in the late 1800s, with sizable batches first printed in 1909 and the first legitimate set rolling out in 1948. The cards holding the greatest value are typically from the 1960s, 1950s, and older.
The easiest way to find out what year(s) your cards are from is by examining the information on the back of the card, such as by looking at the last year of reported statistics. The stats usually provide information from a few consecutive seasons, but pay attention to the last year, i.e., the most recent year before production of the card. For example, if you have a card that lists batting statistics from 1962, 1963, and 1964 – you can conclude that the card is from 1965, as the card was printed after the conclusion of the 1964 season but before the 1965 season. In addition, some trading cards list the year in which the copyright was established at the very bottom on the back, which isn't the case with this example. The copyright can also be used to identify the manufacturer, but we will get to that a little later.
Some older cards do not list off yearly statistics on the back (such as the card in the example below), so another simple way to determine the year a card was printed is to conduct a simple online search. Look for the player's name as well as the card number (turn the card to its backside and look in the upper right or left-hand corner). Type this information into a Google search as shown below. The search results should disclose the year and manufacturer, but we also recommend looking at the image results to make sure you identified the correct card.
The "Four Eras" of Baseball Cards
Baseball cards are generally classified into four eras. Although the exact definitions of these eras may vary from expert to expert, you will find the Dean’s Cards parameters consistent with almost any other source of knowledge. Since the year of a card heavily influences value, cards from certain eras are treated differently and you should adjust your expectations for financial return accordingly. Click on these links to read more about the era, or eras, in which your cards fall.
- Selling Pre-War Baseball Cards (1860s – World War II)
- Selling Vintage Baseball Cards (1948 – 1969)
- Selling Semi-Vintage Baseball Cards (1970s)
- Selling Modern Baseball Cards (1980s – Present Day)
Dean’s Cards does not buy cards newer than 1980. However, some hold value. To read more, please click the link above.
Find the Manufacturer
Who printed your cards is important, as cards from the same year that are printed by different manufacturers can be valued very differently. While the baseball card market is currently dominated by Topps (companies such as Panini print cards for other sports), various companies released sets of their own over the years. Brands dominating the Pre-War baseball card era include Goudey and the many different tobacco, chocolate, or candy companies who included cards with their products. Dean wrote a book covering many of these sets titled Before There Was Bubble Gum: Our Favorite Pre-World War I Baseball Cards.
Bowman came onto the scene in 1948 with the first post-war set, only to be challenged by the Topps Chewing Gum Company (known today as simply Topps) once they released their first set in 1952. Topps and Bowman battled it out until Topps purchased Bowman after the 1955 season. If interested in this fascinating story, check out Dean’s second book, The Bubble Gum Card War: The Great Bowman & Topps Sets from 1948 to 1955. After the 1950s, few challenged Topps until the 1980s when the baseball card scene exploded, leading to hundreds of different sets and an oversaturated market. Read more about this on the page about modern cards linked in the section above.
To determine the manufacturer, flip a card over to the back and look for the copyright (the same way we look for clues to indicate a card's print year.) The copyright should say the company name, such as T.C.G. (Topps Chewing Gum).
Classify Your Baseball Cards by Set
Before submitting an appraisal form to Dean’s Cards, or trying to sell your vintage baseball cards in general, separate your cards by year and by set. Topps printed baseball card sets, football card sets, basketball card sets, and hockey card sets, which all vary in value. For example, your collection may consist of 1952 Topps Baseball Cards, 1953 Bowman Baseball Cards, 1953 Bowman Football Cards, and 1957 Topps Baseball Cards. Knowing how many sports cards you have from each separate set is important.
Trading cards are generally released in sets. Set sizes range over the years, but your typical vintage baseball card set consists of somewhere between 400-600 cards. In the hobby, sets are used to classify and value sports cards, as cards are sold individually or in complete sets. Due to our exclusive buying software, developed in-house, Dean’s Cards evaluates collections on a card-by-card basis, resulting in a more accurate offer.
Sometimes manufacturers release multiple types of sets in the same year. For example, in 1964 Topps released the ‘Topps Giants’ baseball card set, that featured over-sized cards. This was a special set that was issued in addition to the regular 1964 Topps baseball cards.
Another famous example is Topps Traded, first issued as inserts and included in the wax packs of 1974 and 1976 Topps These insert sets featured players who were traded mid-season in their new uniforms. Today, Topps has expanded the idea to exclude rookies and issues an Update set towards the end of the season.
The cards in these secondary sets often look somewhat similar to those in their corresponding main sets, but the designs are noticeably different. If you have trouble identifying cards in your collection, keep in mind that you may be looking at items from one of these various obscure sets printed over the years. This does not mean these cards are not worth anything, but they are valued completely differently than the mainstream sets.
Beyond Baseball – Other Trading Cards
Of the cards printed before 1970, about 80% were baseball cards. However, we also buy and sell Football cards, Basketball cards, Hockey cards, and Non-Sports cards, all popular in their own right. If your collection consists of cards for multiple sports, separate these and count how many you have of each.
Click the following links to find out more about selling a specific type of sports card other than baseball:
Non-sports cards can be hard to identify, as many obscure sets were produced with a wide range of themes. However, searching the card name and number will most likely help you identify these sets. Some of the most sought-after Non-Sports Sets in the hobby include 1938 Horrors of War, 1956 Davy Crockett (based on scenes in the motion picture) with Orange or Green back, 1962 Mars Attacks, 1962 Civil War News, and 1977 Star Wars.
STEP 2: Consider Player Popularity and Rarity
The player(s) depicted on a card can make or break value. Especially as Topps increased their set sizes throughout the 60s and 70s, players did not have to be good or popular to get on a card. Most cards in each set depict entirely ordinary players, even some of who went on to barely play in the major leagues. This is what makes finding a great player so much fun, whether in a wax pack in 1957 or in a shoebox today. If Topps only printed cards of the best players then kids would not have experienced the excitement of ripping open packs of cards, hoping to find a gem.
Baseball Cards with containing the image of the game's stars, and especially players who eventually were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, have more value than the cards featuring common players. Rookie cards for Hall-of-Famers are typically the most valuable baseball cards in a given set.
The sports cards featuring the ordinary (non-star) players are referred to as ‘commons’. While cards depicting Hall of Fame players are almost always more valuable than the common cards in the set, there are dozens of Hall-of-Famers in each vintage sports card set.
Pulling aside the star players is a good start to evaluating your collection, as they are the most important cards to value. When placing a bid on a collection, Dean’s Cards focuses on these items since they make or break the final offer. If you do not know a lot about baseball this step may be difficult, but you can use our website as a reference to find the Hall of Fame players for each set. Products featuring these players are labeled HALL-OF-FAME in the Dean’s Cards inventory. You can check the ‘Hall of Fame’ box at the top of a page for a certain year to only see products labeled as such. This applies to cards of all sports, not just baseball.
Vintage baseball cards featuring future Hall-of-Fame players, such as Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Cy Young, Ty Cobb, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Stan Musial, Willie Mays, Nolan Ryan, and Ted Williams will almost always have some sort of value, even when found in below average conditions. The same goes for Vintage Football Cards features Hall-of-Famers, such as Joe Namath, Jim Brown, Bart Starr, Walter Payton, Gale Sayers, Fred Biletnikoff, and Johnny Unitas. As for Basketball cards and Hockey cards, depicting Hall-of-Fame players such as Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, Jerry West, Gordie Howe, Wayne Gretzky, and Bobby Orr have seen their value increase over the years. These are just a few well-known examples out of hundreds.
A player’s rookie card is their first ever card, sometimes printed before their first professional season. One notable varation to this rule is the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle, which is considered as his Topps rookie card even though ‘The Mick’ was first pictured in 1951 Bowman. Both cards are some of the most valuable in the hobby, but the 1952 Topps version is worth much more since it is Mantle’s first appearance in a Topps set and was short-printed. As noted above, rookie cards of Hall-of-Fame players are generally the most valuable in a set. Other popular rookie baseball cards include 1951 Bowman Willie Mays, 1954 Topps Hank Aaron, 1955 Topps Sandy Koufax, and 1963 Topps Pete Rose. Although not quite as electric as baseball rookies, popular examples from other sports include 1957 Topps Johnny Unitas, 1986-1987 Fleer Michael Jordan, 1969-1970 Topps Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), and 1979-1980 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky.
Rare Cards - Short Prints and Variations
While not necessarily relating to player popularity, short-printed cards (fewer were printed than the rest of the set) and variations cards can be some of the most valuable in a set. One of the most famous short-printed baseball cards is the 1954 Bowman #66 Ted Williams, as Bowman was forced to pull Williams off the set early into production when it was discovered that the slugger signed an exclusive contract with Topps. The slot on the print sheet for card #66 was replaced by Jimmy Piersall, who also had another card in the set, making the Williams variation of card #66 much rarer.
More traditional instances of card variations involve a card being released with two different font colors or player images, one scarcer than the other. A more interesting example is 1969 Topps #151 Clay Dalrymple. The remarkably ordinary Dalrymple started the calendar year with the Phillies but was traded to the Orioles in January. Topps initially printed card #151 with a picture of the catcher in a Phillies uniform. Topps quickly corrected the mistake, substituting in a hatless headshot of Dalrymple (with no Phillies logo visible) and changing the team name to the Orioles. The latter variation was printed in larger numbers and is considered the 'common variation’ of card #151, while the Phillies version is the ‘rare variation’.
STEP 3: Evaluate the Condition of Your Vintage Sports Cards
Condition is probably the single biggest factor which affects the value of vintage cards. Some sellers assume that all old cards must be extremely valuable no matter their condition; these folks are disappointed to receive underwhelming bids for beat up cards.
Grading Vintage Cards
Professional Sports Authentication (PSA) is regarded as the grading expert in the hobby, and their grading scale rates cards from 1 (Poor) to 10 (Gem Mint). At Dean’s Cards, we evaluate cards on the same scale but keep Near Mint/Mint (8) as our highest grade. Deciphering whether a card is an 8, 9, or 10 can be highly subjective, as cards of these grades look nearly the same.
Casual sellers are not at all expected to grade the cards in their collection, but obtaining a basic understanding of your collection's condition makes you a more educated seller and helps set realistic expectations for a return value. Since today’s cards are printed on higher quality material and people take better care of them, modern cards are expected to be in nearly perfect shape so their condition is generally a nonfactor. The exception to this generalization is valuable modern rookie cards, as the prices vary dramatically amongst professionally graded 8’s, 9’s, and 10’s.
Our Grading Scale
Our standards lie at the upper end of the hobby, for we are known as conservative graders. We set our standards high to ensure that our customers receive the best and are never disappointed. Our cards come with their grades stuck on the back-side of their sleeves, and full scans of EVERY single vintage card in the Dean’s Cards inventory are available to the public eye, so what you see is what you get.
For more information, check out this page dedicated entirely to this topic: Dean’s Detailed Guide and Standards on Grading Sports Cards
Should I Have My Sports Cards Professionally Graded?
Many people looking to sell their collections are told that getting their cards professionally graded makes them more valuable. While this is sometimes true for rare and expensive cards, sending a bunch of mid-grade common cards (featuring ordinary players) to PSA is not worth the expense. With the expensive shipping and insurance fees the cost is routinely $14 - $17 per common card, and much more for stars. At Dean’s Cards, we do not usually advise getting a card graded unless it is old, in great condition, or a star card (depending on the year). We often see people that inherited collections spend far more on grading fees than the collection is actually worth. The key is knowing which cards to submit for grading. Dean says that if a card has a high value it's because of the card, not the graded case it's in! Usually, the safer and more profitable move is to sell your cards ungraded.
For more information, check out this page dedicated entirely to this topic: Should I Get My Baseball Cards Graded by PSA?
Should I Sell My Baseball Card Collection?
Now that you’ve valued your collection, you can accurately assess if you’re willing to part with your cards based on the estimated return. As Dean always says, the bottom line is that this is your collection and you do not have to sell it, especially if you are still emotionally attached. If you have not looked at your cards in years then it may make sense to sell them and use the money for something useful. Many collectors never sell their collections until there is a special event which encourages them to do so, such as a wedding, sending a kid to college, or paying off bills. However, it is often the family members who inherited the cards which end up selling them.
What if I am Just Not Ready to Let Go?
If you are not to the point where you can emotionally part with your boyhood memories then my advice is not to sell. Especially if you do not have any ideas for how to use the money, as you would probably be better off letting your cards continue to accrue value over time rather than putting your returns in a savings account with almost no interest. Many collectors keep the cards until they die and let their heirs worry about what to do with the collection. We certainly understand a man’s attachment to a boyhood sports card collection.
That being said, refusing to sell your collection simply because you’re banking on their value increasing is not necessarily a safe bet. After all, that is what everyone said about internet stock a few years ago and we all know how that played out.
For more information, check out this page dedicated entirely to this topic: When NOT to Sell Your Baseball Card Collection
Where and How Should I Sell My Old Baseball Cards?
After deciding you want to sell your collection, the process is not over. You must decide where and how, as this is ultimately the most important part. Trying to sell them on your own requires hours and hours of work, and does not guarantee you sell them at all. The most painless way to sell your collection is through Dean’s Cards. We make the process quick and offer much more than other vendors. However, not all cards fall within our specific interest. In that case, there are alternatives to selling to Dean’s Cards but require more effort with the risk of being ripped off. Dealers and vendors often give lowball offers on collections when they are unsure of the current market value. This is never the case when selling to Dean’s Cards, as our purchasing software generates a fair price based on what each item sells for. This eliminates the need for negotiation and haggling which was commonplace in pre-internet card transactions.
Selling to the Local Sports Card Shop
People used to ask why they shouldn’t sell their cards to the local sports card store. Today, most of these shops are gone, due to efficiency. cost-effectiveness and ease of buying baseball cards online. This article written by Dean around 2003 is still interesting: Should I Sell My Baseball Cards to the Neighborhood Card Store?
Should I Sell My Sports Cards Myself on eBay?
Many people wonder why they shouldn’t sell their cards themselves on eBay, and the answer is quite simple: it’s not nearly as easy as you might imagine. Many of the card sellers on eBay are actual professionals, or at least part-time, who have dedicated years to mastering the online marketplace. A few years ago, Dean made a list of the 21 steps Dean’s Cards takes to buy and sell a single baseball card. Our procedures have changed since then, but this list (available in the ‘Selling Your Baseball Cards on eBay’ link) provides a good idea for the large workload of selling cards online.
Selling your cards on eBay can bring you a higher return through diligent work, but this is not always the case. First-time sellers on eBay are not able to get a large return as it takes years to slowly build up enough credibility and feedback to sell for top prices. Even experienced amateur eBay sellers cannot sell for the prices that Dean’s Cards can. Also, keep in mind that our revenues because of the added value of convenience, selection, security and customer service that we can provide with our professional staff and award-winning website. Dean's Cards has an 8,500 square foot office, an inventory of over one million cards, and a website running numerous custom-made and technologically advanced programs. Our tough grading, quality insurance, and great service make this worthwhile, but it’s taken Dean decades to perfect the process.
All in all, we may encourage some sellers to turn to eBay if they are both knowledgeable about vintage cards and e-commerce, but generally, we say that Dean’s Cards will take care of you best. You can count on us to offer you our best price upfront when we bid on your sports card collection. We do everything we can to eliminate the hassles, confusion, and stress of selling a baseball card collection.
For more information, check out this page dedicated entirely to this topic: Selling Your Baseball Cards on eBay
Why Should I Sell to Dean’s Cards?
The bottom line is that Dean's Cards sells thousands of cards every week. This means WE ALWAYS NEED CARDS and pay "top dollar" for collections. Based on the customer feedback that we receive, we pay more for cards than other dealers. We would appreciate the opportunity to bid on your collection (click here to see the seller testimonials for yourself).
Back in the day, selling at cards shows or card shops was a hassle, as you often had to drive several hours with your collection only to end up negotiating with dealers without a clear idea of what they need. Dean's Cards keeps the process simple and straight forward. You mail us your collection, our custom-made bid software generates an offer based on current market prices and availability, and we send you our best offer up front. If you don't like our offer we will send it back, but sellers end up accepting our bid over 80% of time.
We do everything we can to eliminate the hassles, confusion, and stress of selling a baseball card collection. Since purchasing private collections of vintage sports cards is our primary source of inventory replenishment, we take all steps necessary to make sure that every client that decides to sell their collection to us feels as though they have been treated fairly.
For details on the process and regarding what cards we are looking for, click on the 'Selling Your Baseball Cards to Dean' link below this paragraph. After reading this page, if you have further questions or concerns regarding the sale of your vintage sports card collection, please do not hesitate to contact us. A member of our Purchasing Department (click here to meet the buying team) would be happy to address your questions and concerns. Please send an email to Sell@DeansCards.com, or give us a call at (513) 898-0651.
For more information, check out this page dedicated entirely to this topic: Selling Your Baseball Cards to Dean's Cards