Tip Sheet: Five tips for success on eBay

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By Ben Aguirre Jr.

To say the Internet has changed the game in terms of sports collectibles would be an understatement. The World Wide Web has opened the door for collector-to-collector trading across the world that really was previously only available to the most-connected dealers.

But perhaps no aspect of the Internet has had a bigger impact on the hobby than eBay. Hands down, the San Jose, Calif.-based company has been the dominant place to buy and sell cards online. When the auction site burst onto the scene in the late 1990s, collectors caught auction fever and were seemingly buying anything they had not ever seen before. Whether or not it was actually rare was not important — it was new to them.

But even though eBay has been a part of the hobby and business for more than 15 years now, there are still some older collectors and newer ones who do not fully understand some of the nuances of buying and selling on the site.
Here are some tips to make the site work for you:

Looking for a bargain? Try a blind category search. Instead of searching for something specific like a 1986-1987 Fleer Michael Jordan Rookie Card, search the entire category of basketball cards and then sort the search by “ending soonest.” There are lots of good bargains to be had using this method.

Do your research as a buyer: eBay provides a “completed auction” search function that will assist you in determining what prices have been paid recently for certain cards. So instead of blindingly bidding on a not-so-rare card, use the advanced search methods to gauge what price the cards should cost you.

Don’t cut corners on shipping as a seller. One area where some sellers get sloppy is shipping. If a buyer pays you quickly, ship the card within two days. And don’t just throw the card in a white envelope. Most consider a padded envelope with a card in a penny sleeve inside a top loader or similar case and then to place that in a team bag as ideal. Don’t want to buy team bags? Then use painters tape (the blue one, not masking or scotch tape.) Painters tape is easy to remove and poses little threat to the card, whereas the other two can absolutely destroy a collectible if the card and tape should touch. Need to cut down on shipping costs? Re-use bubble mailers that are shipped to you when buying cards.

Looking for better sales? Try ending your auctions on a Sunday. There is nothing worse for a seller to have an item not sell because the auction ends at 3 a.m. on a Wednesday when the audience consists of just a handful of people seeking deals when they should be sleeping.

Post a card for sale when the player is hot and don’t think twice. No matter the sport, if a player explodes for a big game or is having a career year and you’re thinking about selling a card of the player, do it as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more likely you are to see a decrease in the sale price. There will be certain occasions where this practice may hurt you, but more times than not you’ll be the winner in the situation – especially if you’re selling football cards.

Look for even more tips like these in the upcoming Auction Issue of Beckett Sports Card Monthly.

Ben Aguirre is the author of the blog Cardboardicons.com. Follow him on Twitter @cardboardicons.


  1. Posted September 23, 2013 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    A few more:

    As a seller pay attention to the tittle. Look around at other similar items that have sold. Make sure you include all the key terms a buyer may use when searching.

    Don’t use stock photos and do a scan of just the card(s) being listed, don’t scan a bunch and post them on multiple auctions and then explain what card is for sale in what auction.

    If there is any defect/issue with a card make sure to include a scan of the issue. It will eliminate any issues once the card has sold.

    The advice to end on a Sunday is good, but if you day end auctions during the week make sure you are mindful of the time. Ebay uses west coast time so make sure it ends when both coasts are home from work.

    In addition to selling when a player is hot if you pull a big card from a product soon after it’s release and you think you want to sell it, sell it right away. Most cards peak close to release.

    my 2 cents

  2. Posted September 23, 2013 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    In addition to checking completed listings to see what cards have sold for, check current “buy it now” offerings. I’m constantly surprised by how many people will, for instance, make a bid of $15 or more for a card when an identical card is being offered with a “buy it now” of just $10. When bidding, I never bid more than the current lowest “buy it now” price for the same item (with the possible exception of if that seller has a bad feedback rating).

    As a seller, I always save the bubble envelopes and toploaders sent to me when I buy stuff and re-use them when I send stuff out (putting the old bubble mailers inside a clean plain brown large envelope). That lets me save on shipping costs charged to buyers.

    Also, in addition to aiming for Sundays to end items, NEVER EVER start a listing on a Monday or Tuesday with only a 3-day listing! As a buyer, I tend to run all my searches once a week on Saturday mornings, so I can find all the stuff ending on the weekends or later in the week. But I’m again surprised by the number of people who start a listing on a Monday and have it end on a Thursday, so that us “weekend” searchers never even see it. Many more people search on eBay on the weekends than weekdays, so listing an item so that it starts and ends during the week just makes no sense.

  3. David Hollingsworth
    Posted September 23, 2013 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Here is another one for buyers. If someone has a card listed as both an auction with a buy it now and you are willing to pay the buy it now price, bid 1 penny below that as someone would then have to bid higher then the original buy it now price was to beat you and you will most likely get the card fairly cheaper.

  4. joe
    Posted September 23, 2013 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    EBAY is garbage go to collectorrevolution.com. It is 10X’s better for sellers and buyers. The feebay has some competition now

  5. Posted October 2, 2013 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    I agree with all of your points. Searching the completed listings is a way to get a rough estimate of what your item will sell for but it’s always good to look at the current listings as well. The market can shift at any moment and you don’t want your item to sit forever. Price it with the market and the sale will come soon enough

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