You have shoeboxes full of trading cards just sitting in your garage, basement, attic or closet, but you do not touch them. Your father told you not to as that would affect the value. He was always adamant about hanging on to them since his mother threw his cards away.
Are they worth something? Who knows? You haven’t touched them in ages and with the holidays coming up, maybe it is time to bring them out and see what they are worth. Here are some tips on how to assess the value of your cards.
Remember the old Beckett books that would tell you the pricing? Well those still exist and you can grab them at your local card shop or visit their website and look up the values online. There is a charge to the online service. The only problem is the values do not always represent what they cards would sell for today. Beckett certainly provides a good starting point, but there are other options to get more current and regional pricing on your collection. I would recommend picking up one of the monthly publications first to and looking through pricing on sets you knew you have. Do any big prices jump out at you? Do you recognize any cards you had? By running through the guide prior to starting, you’ll likely get a good feel for which cards you want to watch out for.
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with some of the key cards to look for, set aside an afternoon or a couple evenings where you can really dive into your collection. If you have thousands of cards, you are not going to want to price them all out, you just want to look for some of the better cards and get a feel for what you have. Get your cards in an area where you can spread them out and go through them where they will not be disturbed in the event you need to take a break. Maybe have some family members or friends help as well, you’ll find it can be a lot of fun going through them together. Quickly scan through them for some of the bigger names you know and especially cards you remember being valuable. You may have placed those in cases or sleeves to protect them.
As you start to separate them, pay attention to the condition of the cards. It is important to realize that cards with rough edges, centering issues, creases or fuzzy corners will all be valued less than their mint condition counterparts. Try to categorize them in terms of condition while you go through them. Also keep on the lookout for rookie cards, autograph cards or other special looking cards. Those tend to carry premium values to them.
Probably the best way to see what single cards are worth is to go where most single cards are sold; eBay. Once you have signed up for a membership, you will be able to view completed auctions to see what similar cards to what you have sold for. That will give you a very accurate feel for what specific cards are currently selling for today.
Another great option is to visit your local card shop. Many will specialize in appraising trading card collections so don’t be afraid to call ahead and ask about appraisals and how much they charge for those services. You can also do this at trading cards shows coming through your area, but there are not as many as there used to be.
You may find you have a situation where some of the cards you have are so limited and rare that you just cannot find pricing information on them. While Upper Deck cannot provide pricing details on what cards currently sell for, you can ask our community of savvy collectors by posting images and details of your collection to the Upper Deck Facebook page. You may even find some fans who are interested in purchasing them from you there.
You will likely find you do not have enough to retire early on unfortunately, but as you go through them, hopefully it helps you remember what you really loved about them. It wasn’t really the values as much as it was how they made you feel. How they brought you closer to the game you loved. How they made you feel about the players like the rookies who never panned out and that one rookie that did. Maybe the experience of going through the cards will bring you back to collecting and if it doesn’t, just know there are other options besides selling your cards on eBay, to a dealer or a collector. Think about donating some to a local Boys & Girls Club to share that experience you enjoyed so much with others. There is another great charity called Cards to Kids that specializes in getting cards into the hands of kids for you. Any donation to charities like these is a tax deduction and we all could use a few more of those.
On a last note, I feel inclined to share that I sold the vast majority of my childhood collection through a variety of channels as I went through college. Most of my cards were from the 1980’s so I actually sold them off at a good time before people realized how mass produced they were causing values to plummet. Once I started working at Upper Deck I didn’t really find it necessary to restart my collection as I felt a closeness to the cards and hobby every day I walked in the office. One Christmas not too long ago my father gave me a crudely wrapped present of some cards he found of mine that I had not sold and it really brought on a rush of fond memories. I still have that small box and look at it from time to time. I’m glad I still have some of my original collection and wouldn’t part with it. If you are considering selling all your collection, make sure you hang on to a few of your favorites. You’ll be happy you did.