Part 1 in a series chronicling the One Sorry Blog Baseball Card Sell-Off
By Paul Rivas
Editor’s note: One Sorry Blog founder Paul Rivas is selling off his baseball cards on ebay with seller name onesorryblog, keeping only a precious and worthless few. He intends to sell every last card that will bring money at auction and donate the remaining 30,000 for no tax break. Realizing that his last hurrah in the hobby is upon him, Rivas is recording and reflecting on the experience at One Sorry Blog, the thinking collector’s blog.
Greetings to all you noble collectors out there, millennial hobbyists. I’m selling my sports card collection for whatever I can get for it on ebay, trading memories for cash. This blog series is my contribution to the hobby, a chance for everyone who has ever collected cards in the last 20 years to see exactly what their cards are “worth”.
First, here’s a few things that are important to remember but too depressing to repeat: baseball cards from 1986 to 1996 are the most difficult to sell of any in history due to overproduction and steroids; baseball cards are difficult to sell in February because the season doesn’t properly start until April; football season is well over, and basketball playoff excitement is still months away.
Laughing at these negative market forces, somewhere along the big schlep I decided to sell my cards. It was all part of moving back to my home country for a third time and getting rid of a bunch of stuff that I’d even forgot I had because it’d been stored in my parents’ closets so long. Stuff like Pulp Fiction posters and t-shirts that are no longer appropriate for an engaged man to wear in public. The only differences was that I had over 30,000 baseball cards. Shortly came my first major realization of how this whole process was going to work:
Nobody cares what sets you have!
Aside from the fact that they’re a hassle to ship and almost impossible to grade accurately for prospective buyers, sets are out. I had success selling my boss’ sets from the 70s on ebay about ten years ago, which is not at all relevant to my case today. As a set collector, this was probably the most heart-wrenching revelation of the whole deal: if I ever wanted to sell anything, I’d have to break my painstakingly assembled sets wide open and sack them for the one or two cards in each that someone might buy. In preparing to do so, I learned the most important factor in the card business today:
Condition is king!
Since there is no shortage of even the best cards from each set, the overriding determinant of price is condition. There are plenty of 89 Upper Deck Griffeys, but they’re not all in certifiable mint condition, as identified with a professional grade of PSA 9. Having a handful of cards graded in my final days as a collector was the smartest thing I ever did. Graded cards are the easiest to sell, as their condition is assumed to be indisputable. My graded cards were the first to go on ebay and brought in the most money, by far, per card. In turn, this simple fact drives all card sales on ebay. Any card that is a legitimate candidate for a mint or gem mint grading is one that will command a good price at auction. Check out some completed auction results if you don’t believe me. I have posted 75 cards for sale this week, the condition of every one of which I scrutinized and described as best I could. I’d gained a reputation for being a scrupulous descriptor of the condition of those 70s cards, and I feel that dedicating five minutes per card (the time it takes to scan the card, write the description and post the item on ebay) to describe each card accurately is a good investment. The last thing you want in a firesale is customers returning things. And in a true firesale…
Everything must go!
I ritualistically sorted through my singles eight or nine times, sorting and resorting into smaller and smaller piles, until I realized that I’d rather have the money for all but one or two of them, which comic man Shane Amaya aptly described as more pop art than sports cards. A stack of very nice 70s and 80s basketball cards that I’d set aside for myself went on ebay the next day. Why in hell was I selling them if I didn’t want to sell the nice ones? Five minutes per card is a lot of work when there are 30,000 to go, and if anything was worth selling, it was the historically and stylistically influential cards that I’d handpicked in my last couple years collecting as being culturally relevant. Surely the point of selling any collection is to sell the best pieces. Here I began to understand the crucial role that guys like me play in the sports card hobby:
Save the baseball card hobby – sell your collection!
When you commit to selling your collection piece by piece to the highest bidder, holding nothing back and accepting practically any price, you have a chance to do something great. Nice cards are injected into the hobby at a rate of 25 per day (two hours at the computer). By writing even a one-line explanation of why one of my favorite cards would be a worthy addition to any collection, I initiate a relationship with potential buyers. I can be sure that potential bidders will at least be aware of my point of view, which I hope will be inspiring. Just because I’ve decided I don’t need a great 87-88 Larry Bird showing his leg way up in the air after a rebound and Kurt Rambis in the background anymore doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy it. It’s a great card! That’s why I got it in the first place! And because it’s in great condition, it’s suitable for even the most discerning collector. Whether it goes to a Larry Bird fan who doesn’t care what the corners are like, to somebody trying to build an entire 87-88 set in NM-MT+, or to a white power group, I can be sure it’ll be appreciated. Buyers get exactly the carefully selected cards they’ve been looking for and I am assured of getting exactly what their cards are really “worth”, and…
They’re only worth what somebody will actually pay for them on ebay!
There must be other sports card selling sites out there, but none can have anywhere near the traffic that ebay has, or be as easy to use. I’ve been astonished at how much simpler ebay is to use than I remember it and also at how much more I can do on ebay. ebay keeps track of everything. Paypal is awesome, and payment can be instantaneous. The trick is to get as much money as you can out of each card. When there were no bids on my graded Gwynn, McGwire and Piazza cards after three days, rather than risk somebody being the only one in seven days to be looking for a 93 Finest Piazza PSA 9 and grabbing the card for the starting bid of $0.99, I ended the auction and relisted them at $8.99, $5.99 and $4.99, respectively. They’re all selling now. I didn’t do that for my 95 Bowman Andruw Jones PSA 8, and after a week of very low traffic the winning bidder only had to shell out $5.50, probably a bit lower than what he would have had to pay if I’d started it at $4.99. There’s no danger of starting high-traffic items, like PSA 8 94 SP A-Rods, at $0.99, because the market will not let one of those sell for less than $120 or so. There is, however, a very real chance that there’s only one person looking for a Darryl Dawkins rookie card this week and that that person is willing to pay more than the $0.99 starting price tag. Cards like that one may only worth paying $0.20 to list on ebay, whereas $0.70 spent to list an exceptional 93 SP Jeter with pictures all over the place may have more than a $0.50 impact on the price of the final bid. ebay takes this fee plus 1% of sales, in my case, and Paypal takes another bit from credit and debit card payments.
So those are the dominant themes from these first couple weeks, which thus far include eight sales for about $280 (with one deadbeat buyer not having yet paid his $180 bill) with another 67 cards currently on auction. I’ll put another chunk up today, and hopefully every day, until they no longer bring in enough money to make it worthwhile. I’ll be posting new blog entries as often as interesting stuff happens.
How much would you pay for a 93 Finest McGwire showing his red mullet on front and back?
What’s one card from 1986 to 1996 that you’d like to have?