After buying and selling sports cards for 24 years, including nearly 6 years on ebay, I have picked up many tips on what to do and what not to do. I hope you can learn from my successes (and mistakes). As you read through the following tips for selling on ebay, I am sure there will be some that you are already aware of, but hopefully you will pick up enough new tips to make your ebay experience even better and more profitable. Also, check out my other guide for buying sports cards on ebay.
1) Carefully Choose the Day and Time to Start Your Auction – With thousands of sports cards being listed on ebay every day it is impossible for potential buyers to see every listing. One of the most popular ways for people to view auctions is to sort them by “Time: Ending Soonest.” Because of this, your auction will most likely get the greatest number of hits during the last hour or so before closing. If you are using a 7-day listing, which I recommend, then your item will close on the same day of the week and at the same time as it was listed.
Almost every ebay seller has a different opinion on the best days to have an auction end. I’ve had some tell me that you only want to end auctions on Fridays and weekends, because people get paid at the end of the week and have more money to spend. Others say you only want to end auctions on Mondays and Tuesdays, because people are looking for something to take their minds off the start of the work week. I have had the most success with auctions closing mid-week – Tuesday - Thursday. The days I have found to be most tricky have been Saturdays and Sundays. Try different days for yourself and track your success.
In regard to the best time for auctions to end, I have found weekday evenings between 6 and 7 Pacific Time to be the most successful. The reason is because most people in all time zones across the U.S. are home from work and still awake during this time. Any time earlier than this, the majority of people in at least a portion of the country will still be at work. Any time later than this, the majority of people in at least a portion of the country will be asleep.
2) Be Honest – When it comes to selling anything over the internet, where potential buyers cannot physically examine the item, perhaps nothing is more important than honestly describing the product you are selling. When it comes to sports cards, this is even more important, since the card’s condition directly impacts its value. Any non-graded card should never be described as better than NRMT-MT. If the card you are selling has any major flaws, say so in your description. While this might mean it sells for less money, this is much better than having a buyer leave negative feedback after receiving a damaged card. Also, avoid using the term “sold as-is,” as it sounds like you’re hiding something about the card’s condition.
3) Avoid Setting a Reserve Price – One of the most frustrating things for a buyer is to be the highest bidder at the end of an auction, but not win the item because the seller’s reserve price wasn’t met. Many people, including me, simply avoid bidding on items that have a reserve price for this very reason. Rather than setting a reserve price, do your research to figure out what similar cards have sold for on ebay. If you are only willing to sell your card for a price much higher than those that have previously sold on ebay, either list is as a fixed-price auction or don’t put it up for auction at all!
4) Keep Shipping & Handling Low – Some sellers charge ridiculously high amounts for shipping and handling. As a seller, you should figure out how much you spend on average for S&H, including postage, bubble mailer or envelope, plastic sleeve, team bag, and top loader. Generally, this amount will fall between $1.25 and $2, depending upon the weight and size of the card. By keeping your shipping and handling costs low, it will encourage more people to bid on your card. After all, who wants to pay $3 or more for S&H on a single card without insurance?
5) Offer Shipping & Handling Discount for Multiple Auction Winners – Nothing encourages people to bid on several of your auctions more than offering a shipping discount to those who win more than one auction. I’ve seen this first hand with people being willing to bid more on several cards because they know they can save money on S&H. If you have auctions ending on several different days, it is recommended that you restrict the number of days in which people can win multiple auctions and still receive the discount. For example, many sellers will only apply the discount to auctions won within 1 – 3 days of each other.
6) Provide Quick & Quality Shipping – Excellent shipping is almost as important as the actual product when it comes to providing good customer service. First, be sure to ship your items out within 48 hours of receiving payment. If you know before listing the auction that there will be a delay in shipping the item at the auction’s end (i.e. you will be out of town), make sure and state that in your item description. If something unexpected comes up after the auction’s close that will cause you to delay shipping, e-mail the buyer to let him/her know. If the delay is going to be extended, you should offer the buyer a refund if they would rather not wait. Some buyers might prefer this if the item was purchased as a gift. Second, be sure to send your cards securely. Buyers appreciate having their cards shipped in a top loader inside a bubble mailer. Not only does this help to protect the card during shipping, it also makes the buyer feel a little better about paying $1+ for shipping. If you plan on selling a lot of sports cards on ebay, I suggest buying wholesale lots of bubble mailers. You can find them on ebay for as little as 10 cents per mailer. Also, always either tape the top of the top loader shut or put it in a team bag and seal it tight around the top. If you do not do this, there is a good chance the card will slip out of the top loader and receive damage during shipping. Additionally, make sure you put your card in a penny sleeve before putting it into the top loader. Failure to do this can result in damage to the surface and/or corners of the card.
7) Stick to Sports You Know – In both buying and selling cards, it is recommended that you stick to the sports you know best. It can be tempting to buy a card for a sport that you’re not very familiar with when it seems like such a good deal, especially if it involves an athlete that you are familiar with. In reality, though, you may just have purchased a card with very little demand, and thus is not worth what you paid for it. A prime example of this would be Tiger Woods 2001 Upper Deck rookie card. People unfamiliar with golf cards might see one available with “Buy It Now” for as little as $4.99 and think it is a great investment. In reality, however, cards from this set were produced in such mass, that even the Woods RC (the most valuable in the set) routinely sells on ebay for as little as $1.
8) Use Beckett’s Online Price Guides – Considered by almost all sports card collectors and dealers as the most respected price guide in the hobby, the prices listed in Beckett’s magazine or on their website are usually what are being referred to when someone quotes a card’s “book value.” While cards on ebay usually sell for only 15 – 40% of the price listed by Beckett, knowing a card’s book value can be very useful when selling cards. For one thing, when selling a card that may be lesser known to collectors, it will often raise interest to list the card’s book value (BV) in the auction title. Also, in addition to researching the sale of similar cards on ebay, Beckett can help you set a realistic goal for the final selling price of a card. Beckett provides pricing information in both its magazines and online. I would strongly recommend subscribing to the online price guides for the purpose of selling on ebay, as they list nearly every card ever produced. Additionally, the online price guides list extra information about several parallel and insert cards, such as the number produced and various versions that were made.
9) Be Realistic About Potential Selling Price of a Card – As mentioned previously, it is important to do your homework before you begin selling cards on ebay. By doing a simple search for similar cards with the “completed listings” box checked, you can find out how much other people have been able to sell similar cards for. Also, as mentioned above, I recommend using Beckett price guides to see what the book value of your card is. By doing this research ahead of time, you shouldn’t be shocked by the final selling price of your card.
10) Offer a Return Policy – As a seller, it adds to your credibility to offer a return policy. If you are being honest in your listings about the details of your cards, especially condition, there is very little chance that anyone will ever ask to return an item. However, by stating in your listings your willingness to accept returns, you show potential bidders that you are confident they will be satisfied with their purchase. Be sure to be very clear about your return policy, such as how long buyers have to return items, whether you will give money back or credit, and any items that may be excluded from your return policy.
11) Don’t Create Lots of Unrelated Cards – Selling a group of cards in a lot is an easy way to get rid of several cards in one auction. While this can be an effective approach to selling a group of cards when used properly, many new sellers get a lot less money by misusing this approach. If you are going to put a lot together, make sure that all of the cards will be appealing to one buyer. For example, a lot of cards from one player or several players from the same team would be attractive to anyone who collects cards of that player or team. On the other hand, a lot of various rookie cards or game-used cards from a particular set will probably only attract buyers who are interested in buying the cards for a cheap price and then reselling them in individual auctions. As a seller, this type of auction is often a great place for you to purchase cards to resell, but when you are creating lots to sell yourself, make sure you maximize its potential by choosing the right cards.
12) Take Advantage of Cross Promotion – Ebay includes free cross promotion of up to four of your other items when someone bids on or wins an auction. If you have an ebay store, you can also cross promote up to 12 items when anyone even views your auction, not just when someone bids on or wins it. By default, ebay will automatically choose other items you have for sale to cross promote. To make the most of this feature, however, you should manually select which items are cross promoted. You will find the most success when you cross promote higher-end items and those that have some tie (same team or player) to the auction in which the cross promotion is being shown.
13) Only Pay for Extra Features on High Dollar Cards – With the exception of the gallery feature, do not waste money on extra features such as bold, highlight, featured gallery, etc. on lower value (under $15) cards. On the lower-end cards, the money you spend on these features will usually not result in enough of an increase in bids to make it worth the cost. The one exception is the gallery feature. For only 35 cents, this is a great way to draw people’s attention to cards that they may not be able to understand merely from your auction title. For example, you may have a rare insert card of Michael Jordan that potential buyers must see to appreciate. Even though this card may only be worth $5 - $10, if even a few Jordan collectors find it interesting enough that 35 cent investment could result in an extra dollar or more on the final sale price. However, if you are selling a card that most collectors are familiar with, such as a 1989 Score Barry Sanders rookie, there is no need to include a gallery, since anyone interested in the card already knows what it looks like and will view your auction based solely on the auction title.
14) Use Key Words/Phrases and All Available Characters in Auction Titles – When creating a title for your auction, be sure to include key words and phrases, such as the player’s team (city and team name if space permits), full name, and card year and manufacturer. This is extremely important, as many people will do searches for particular words, such as Steelers, LeBron James, or 84 Topps, in the auction titles only. Ebay does offer the option to search for words in auction titles and descriptions, however, most buyers only search auction titles in order to cut down on the number of results returned. Also, ebay allows you to use 55 characters (including spaces) in your auction title – use them all! Try several different titles, if necessary, until you have used as many of the 55 characters as possible and included all key search terms.
15) Don’t Overuse Catch Phrases, Special Characters or Caps in Auction Titles – While terms like “Rare, Hard-to-Find, Vintage, Limited, 1/1, and Hot,” can be beneficial in encouraging people to view your auction, do not overuse or misuse these terms and others like them. Using terms like this in the titles of all your auctions will appear very amateurish to many buyers and turn them away from bidding. On the other hand, if your item can truly be described using one of these words, they can be great attention grabbers. Another overused attention grabber is capital letters. By using all caps in your auction title it can merely annoy potential buyers and discourage them from viewing your item. Additionally, as many new sellers try this tactic, the all caps can actually blend in more with the other listings, rather than making yours stand out. Finally, DO NOT waste space with special characters and punctuation. While you’ll want to use “#” and “$” when appropriate, such as with numbered cards or when stating book value, do not waste space with “!” or “$$$$” or “***” or any other attempts at getting people’s attention. Once again, this looks very amateurish and will discourage people from looking at your auction. It also takes up space that could be better used by inserting key words.
16) Always Check Your Spelling – This is important for two reasons. First, if you misspell key words, such as the player’s name or team, in the auction title your listing will not show up when someone searches for that word. Second, if you want potential bidders to view you as a serious seller, it is important that you take the time to make sure that your listing looks professional.
17) Double Check Your Description Before Posting – Besides making sure that your description makes sense and looks professional, it is also important to double check everything to avoid confusing potential buyers and to make sure your listing is easy to find. Many sellers, including myself, will often edit listings of previously sold items to save time, which makes it easy to forget to change something, and thus confuse buyers. Another common mistake made by sellers is accidentally listing their item under the wrong category. For example, if you are trying to sell a Kobe Bryant insert card, you want to make sure it is listed under the NBA section of the sports card category. If you mistakenly list it in the NFL section, your listing will only be seen by a minimal number of Kobe Bryant collectors. Once again, this mistake is often made when trying to revise an old item listing for a different card.
18) Use Ebay Resolution Services – Ebay offers services to help both buyers and sellers have a positive experience. As a seller, if the high bidder for an item of yours does not send payment by the deadline listed in your auction, ebay offers you the opportunity to get back the amount they charged you as a “final value fee.” You must file an “Unpaid Item Dispute” within 45 days of the auction’s close in order to be eligible for a final value fee credit. Both ebay’s seller and bidder resolution programs can be accessed through the site’s “dispute console,” which can be found under “My Ebay.”
19) Quickly Respond to All Questions – In order to provide the best customer service and earn a reputation as a responsible seller, be sure to quickly respond to all questions from potential buyers. This means that if you have items listed for sale on ebay, in either a store or auction, make sure you check your e-mail a couple of times per day. If you take too long to respond to a potential buyer’s question, there is a good chance he/she will buy it elsewhere.
20) Send Business Cards with All Items Sold – For less than $15 you can buy sheets of blank business cards (enough for 250 cards) at your local office supplies store that allow you to create your own business cards and print them out at home. Make sure your card lists at least your ebay username, e-mail address, and ebay store name and web address (if applicable). I also include a short sentence thanking them for buying from me and encouraging them to check out my other auctions and ebay store items. I also write the item number on the back of the business card so the buyer can look up the listing to leave feedback.
21) Send an E-mail When Payment is Received – As soon as you receive payment from a buyer, be sure to e-mail them and thank them for their purchase. Let them know when you will be sending out their card. I also let them know that I will be leaving them positive feedback and invite them to e-mail me with any questions. If they pay with Paypal, I simply reply to the “notification of instant payment” e-mail from Paypal.
22) Always Include a Picture in Your Listings – Ebay allows you to insert one picture in your auction for no charge. Take advantage of this. While high-demand cards will sell without a picture, they will likely go for much more if the buyer can see the actual card he/she is bidding on. Also, if you are selling a rare or hard-to-find card, potential bidders will probably be more drawn to the uniqueness of the card through a picture, rather than just a description. If you do not already own one, you can purchase a scanner for less than $30, which will be good enough to produce quality pictures for your listings. If you own a digital camera, you can also use it for your pictures, but depending on the camera, it may result in lower quality pictures than a scanner.
23) Start Your Auction at a Low, but Reasonable Price – There are a couple of benefits to this strategy. First, ebay charges you an insertion fee, which is based upon your item’s starting price, every time you list an auction. For example, if you list an item for 99 cents it will cost you 20 cents, as opposed to 35 cents for any auction with a starting price between $1 and $9.99. The insertion fee continues to go up as your starting price increases. Second, by starting your auction at a reasonably low price, you are more likely to get more than one person bidding on your item. Since bidders will often challenge each other to win an item, having multiple bidders will ultimately drive up your item’s selling price. Be careful, however, as to not start your item at too low of a price, as mentioned in tip 10. My general rule is to start cards that I expect to sell for less than $5 at $.99, and then go up $1 on the starting price for every $5 increase in the expected selling price.
24) Always Leave Positive Feedback for Good Transactions – My policy as a seller is to leave positive feedback for all buyers who pay in a timely manner, and to leave that feedback within 48 hours of receiving payment. I have not been burned by this yet, as I have a feedback rating over 1150 with 100 percent positives. Some sellers, though, have been burned by buyers leaving neutral or negative feedback after they have already left the buyer positive feedback. For this reason, these sellers do not leave positive feedback until after it has been posted for them. If you provide good customer service and follow-up concerns in a timely and effective manner, I believe you can avoid negative and neutral feedback without holding out on positive feedback for the buyer. Also, by leaving positive feedback for your buyers as soon as payment is received, they are more likely to remember to leave you positive feedback.
25) Use Caution When Re-listing Unsold Items – If an item does not sell and you re-list it, ebay will not charge you a second insertion fee if it sells the second time around. With this policy in mind, you will see some sellers re-list an item three or four times before it finally sells for a minimal price. The problem with this practice is that you only get refunded for the final insertion fee, but not for the fee paid for the two or three previous listings. In essence, once you finally sell the item, you could actually end up losing money and be out the item. If an item showed very little interest the first time around, you should only re-list the item if you believe it will sell by lowering the price or making an easy change to the auction. Do not re-list an item more than once. If an item still doesn’t sell the second time around, consider listing it with similar cards in a lot rather than just re-listing it individually.
26) Keep an Eye Out for Good Resale Opportunities – By looking for auctions that close at bad times (i.e. the middle of the night), are listed under the wrong category, have misspellings in the title, or lots of cards selling for cheap, you can find some good deals on cards that you can easily resell. For example, I recently purchased a lot of 5 uncirculated 2005 Topps Pristine football cards for $5, including shipping. I then listed each of the 5 individually in my ebay store and in less than a week made my money back on the sale of just 2 of the cards. When looking for items to resell, be sure to figure the shipping amount into the total cost you are paying for the card(s). Also, remember that as new card sets get released, the demand for cards from the older sets drop. Therefore, if you find a great deal on a lot of Bowman Chrome cards at a time when they are particularly hot, be sure to turn around and list them for resale quickly. With a few exceptions, cards from a particular set will only stay hot for a month or so. Finally, if you purchase a card with plans to resell it, do not list it until you have the card in hand. Remember that just because you’ve paid for the card, doesn’t mean the transaction is complete until you have it in hand and are sure it is in good condition.
27) Stick with 7-Day Auctions – As long as you’ve selected an opportune time and day to list your auction, you are generally best off sticking with a 7-day listing, which guarantees your auction will also close on a good time and day. While a 10-day listing gives you a few more days of visibility, it also means that your auction will either start or end on an inopportune day, and it costs extra. There are occasions where a 1-day or 3-day listing is appropriate. One-day listings can be good for high-dollar items that are listed in the featured listings. While fewer people will view it than would in a 7-day listing, the 1-day listing causes a sense of urgency for people when bidding and can lead to serious bidding wars. The 3-day listing is beneficial when you need to sell an item ASAP, and the 3-day listing will ensure your item closes on the most opportune day.
28) Use Turbo Lister – Ebay offers a free program for sellers to download called Turbo Lister. With this program, you can save all of your selling preferences, rather than having to retype them, while also uploading multiple listings at once. Additionally, the program will calculate the insertion fee for all of your listing prior to uploading them. It will also save copies of all of your past listings. To get this program, follow this link: http://pages.ebay.com/turbo_lister/index.html
I hope you found these tips helpful and good luck with your future endeavors on ebay!
ebay username: sportscardkids
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