Still, the card world can feel like an impenetrable insider’s game, adjacent to the crypto and sneakers crazes. There are so many categories, and valuations are all over the map. How can you tell if you’ve got something really good, and what do you do next? And is it too late to get in?
Good news! It’s not too late, and therefore Downtime has decided to do a whole guide about it. In this guide, we’ll cover how to find out which cards in your collection have value and how to get them graded and sold. (We don’t have a guide for what to do with your new riches, but might I suggest a celebratory apparel purchase?)
A few disclaimers, before we get going: This guide will not cover the really high-end of the market. If you have a PSA-grade 10 Honus Wagner, you almost certainly already know about it and congratulations on your upcoming purchase of a private jet. Moving on!
Your valuable cards from way back when are your valuable cards now
Going through my old collections, one thing was abundantly clear as I worked through the stack: the cards I had that I considered valuable when I first collected them are still my most valuable cards. Sure, there’s a few exceptions to that, but in general, if you had put aside your keepers separate from the volume of your collection, go straight toward that pile, because that’s where the value still likely is. You might find some gems working through piles of randos. But, that’s a more time-intensive hustle.
So, if your game is Pokémon cards, head straight for the holograms. Basketball cards—like always, whip out those Jordans you encased in plastic the second you unwrapped them, dreaming about the eventual value. Now is the time to realize it.
Like with anything, you know what your time is worth, so act accordingly. If you want to rip through old stacks, though, go for it. Trust your gut.
Find your card’s value and log it
One of the benefits of the card-a-ssaince is that there’s information aplenty when it comes to card values. Like with most flipping subjects, eBay is my go-to, but you can also see good real-time data from places like StockX, which has put a ton of money and energy behind building out their card library.
So, let’s say you’ve pulled a handful of cards from your esteemed collection. Congratulations! Now, start a spreadsheet. Listen, it’s better than it sounds: if you take the reins now, organization-wise, the intake process for your cards is going to be seamless. You’re just copying and pasting, at that point. So just pop open a Google Sheets and knock this shit out.
The most valuable advice I have is the same advice any seasoned flipper will give you: when you’re looking up values on eBay, be sure to search Sold items only. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like eBay sneakily moves the Sold search box; it’s on the left side, a couple scrolls down from the top. This way, you’re seeing actual market values for your cards, and not speculation; eBay resellers make a living off of having more information than you do, when it comes to selling their wares. They’re banking on the fact that some people won’t do the research. Check the box, scope the last few sales, and go forth with that number.
Get them graded
Compared to the days where every mall had a card consignment store, the nature of “grading” cards is something that’s become industry standard since the 90s. The top grading service, PSA, had such a backlog of cards in 2020 that they halted some of their grading operations. This was a small setback; PSA is the most respected grading service (Beckett is second best), and their grades hold more value in the marketplace. All things being equal, you want a PSA grade, and it’s worth waiting a moment to get it.