Most collectors don't have their first experience with the internet market by trying to sell sports cards online. More often they start out as buyers, turning to online auctions or dealer websites to purchase items they can't find locally.
Many of these same collectors discover that the internet is a great place to sell cards they're looking to move. It's easier than attempting to sell them in person and allows them to be exposed to potential buyers all over the world. For cards in truly high demand, online auctions can help them achieve the highest prices possible.
It can be intimidating to start selling if you've never done it before, but it's actually simple enough for anyone to do. Keep the following advice in mind and your career as a seller will get off to a great, and hopefully profitable start.
These tips are written with eBay auctions in mind, since more sports cards are bought and sold there every day than anywhere else. However, you should find them general enough to be helpful if you're planning on using a different auction site, or even sites that allowed fixed price sales like SportsBuy.com.
Do Your Homework
Most auction sites have a feature that allows you to view the results of recently completed auctions. Using this feature should be your first step before you list any of your own cards for sale, as it will give you important information about sales of similar or identical cards.
You may find that some of the cards you want to sell have been changing hands at prices lower than you'd expect, or that auctions are closing without the cards selling at all. Either one of these cases can indicate a lack of demand from buyers, so waiting for a better time to sell could be a smart move.
If you see that demand for your cards is there, you can use other completed auctions to determine the best way to list your card for sale. Paying attention to how other sellers title their auctions, the starting prices they set and the shipping amounts they charge can aid you in those areas of your own card auctions.
Make sure you are correctly representing the cards you are selling. There are plenty of unscrupulous sellers who use dishonest or misleading descriptions to make more money, but if you aim to be in it for the long hall, these are practices you'd be better off avoiding.
For example, it would be easy to list that Reggie Bush insert card as a rookie card to take advantage of a buyer who doesn't know the difference - especially since not all buyers are knowledgeable collectors. But the internet auction community tends to be self-policing, and word will get around. A bad reputation is a headache you don't need.
On a related note, honesty about the condition of your cards is also important. For graded cards, the numbers will speak for themselves. The condition of raw cards is more subjective, but it behooves you to describe them to the best of your ability so buyers know exactly what they're getting.
Remember the old saying about a picture being worth a thousand words? That absolutely holds true for selling sports cards online, as auctions with pictures do much better than those that rely on words alone.
A digital camera can be used in a pinch, but the flat nature of sports cards makes scanning the way to go if at all possible. Scanners are readily available for under $100 and well worth the investment if you plan on selling cards on a regular basis. Your local FedEx Kinkos or similar stores have scanners you can use in the meantime.
It can be tempting to take shortcuts and swipe images from others to use in your auctions or to recycle pictures you've used before. However, most collectors view these actions as unethical - and depending on where you got the images, they may be illegal. The best practice is to include an image of the exact card up for sale, especially in the case of anything numbered, autographed or extremely rare.
Communication is Key
You can expect questions from interested bidders, and you should do your best to answer them as quickly as possible. Even if the answer isn't what they hoped for, buyers will appreciate any information that helps them make an informed purchase. Ignoring questions almost guarantees fewer bids.
That doesn't mean you should allow yourself to be talked into something you'd rather not do. It's not uncommon to have people ask if you'd be willing to ship a card somewhere other than where you've specified, or to convince you to accept an alternate form of payment. Answer these questions honestly and politely but stick to the conditions you've spelled out in the auction listing.
Communication doesn't end when a sale is complete. Continue to make yourself available for any questions the buyer might have. For cards valuable enough to require tracking information, it's a good etiquette to provide the tracking link personally instead of relying on the automated e-mails.
This final tip probably seems like common sense, but nothing frustrates collectors more than winning a card they want in an online auction, paying on time, then waiting forever to get the card. Fast shipping is a great way to build up a positive selling reputation and get great feedback from your customers.
If you accept PayPal or other instant payment methods, it's expected that you'll ship within the next few business days after receiving the funds. Buyers understand it will take longer if they pay by money order or check, but you should still ship as soon as you're comfortable that you've been properly compensated. Sending an e-mail notifying that more expensive cards have shipped also helps put the recipient's mind at ease.