In Part 1 of this series, we looked at budgeting and the type of baseball card collection you want to build. In Part 2, we are going to be looking at where you buy your cards and how to store and protect them.
So the question is “Where do I buy baseball cards?”. For this part of the series, I will assume you are a collector in the UK. American collectors have many more buying options, which will be explained as we go.
UK collectors have only one medium for buying baseball cards, online. Shopping online is the only way we can buy cards, there you have the whole world to buy from. There are several auction sites and a myriad of online shops. Also available are card breaks, which will be discussed.
We will also explain the many ways that your card collection can be protected.
Online Auction/Sales Sites
These sites give two or three different ways to buy cards. You can have auction sales where you’re bidding against others to buy the card. There are buy-now sales, where you pay the price indicated. Both of these types of sales can have the opportunity for you to make an offer to the seller. You can send an offer that you think is fair, the seller can decline or send a counter-offer.
Most probably the largest of the auction sites, but baseball cards are a small part of the auctions or sales. If you type “baseball cards” into the search bar, you will get around half a million entries. eBay sells single cards, boxes of new cards, old collections and more.
Prices on eBay vary, from 50p to tens of thousands of pounds. Although for a beginner, I would spend no more than £1 or £2 for a card, a cheaper way of building your collection. You can look at more expensive cards once your collection is a bit more established.
Remember to refine your search by location as postage from the USA can be very expensive. There are lots more cards for sale in the UK than you might think.
A site like eBay, but quite a bit smaller. EBid tends to sell only single cards, a lot of which are from the US. Prices here vary as they do on eBay, they don’t go as high but are still pricey for a beginner, the lower prices are similar. There are also fewer cards available on EBid than on eBay, around 30 to 40 thousand.
Baseball Card Online Shops
Online card shops are available across the globe. There are a few local online shops to buy cards, such as sportstradingcardsuk.com and taass.com. American online shops include Dave and Adams Card World, Dick and Jane’s, Blowout Cards, Steel City Collectibles and Cardbarrel, to name a few. There are two things to remember about these sites. The first is they are selling boxes or cases (except CardBarrel who sell singles) of cards which can be very expensive. The second is shipping costs, which can range from $6 to $50 (or higher), depending on what you buy.
There are online marketplaces, where a community of card shops sell their cards. These include COMC (Check Out My Cards) and Beckett Marketplace. These marketplaces are usually US-based. Again buying cards from the United States can be expensive, not the cards mind you, but the shipping.
A lot of UK collectors use shipping companies. There are a few around such as ShipMyCards, GISI or Stackry. Using companies like this can reduce the amount of shipping you pay significantly, although you will usually have to pay a service fee. It is always advisable to research these companies first and find out which ones are transparent about their fee structure.
Baseball Card Breaks
Card breaks are run by individuals or companies who open boxes of cards and pre-sell some or all of the cards to collectors. Generally, how this works is that people either pick or are allocated a team, or several teams, or just one player, and then receive all the cards belonging to that team.
The plus point of this is that if you collect a particular team, you will often get all the cards from that set for that player. You may also get lucky and get an autographed card or a ‘relic’ card – which is much more likely if the ‘breaker’ is opening lots of boxes.
It can be a cheap way of acquiring just the cards you want from a set – you may get all the cards you want for just a few pounds, rather than buying lots of packs and ending up with lots of cards you don’t want.
It can be exciting watching the break progress, not knowing if you will get a really good card. However, depending on the size of the break you may end up with no cards at all. A break slot with a chance of getting a high-value card may only produce a few base cards for you that are worth hardly anything. It is a gamble.
It is also important to look at the set checklist before buying into a break. Sets are usually stacked towards the very popular teams with more cards featuring players from those teams, so if there are only a handful of cards from the team you collect in the break then it’s probably not worth paying to take part.
Baseball Card Protection
Protecting your cards from damage is very important. As your collection grows you are very likely to have collected cards that are more valuable than others and some that are significantly more valuable. Ensuring that these cards are protected is part of being a collector.
There are various ways of protecting cards, but let’s start at the cheapest.
Card Sleeves or Penny Sleeves
Card sleeves, or penny sleeves as they are more commonly called, is the cheapest way to protect your cards. They only protect your cards from dust or being handled, what they won’t protect your cards from is actual damage such as dents, creasing, corner damage. There are several manufacturers, although Ultra-Pro and BWC are the most usual purchases by collectors
To protect your cards from this you will need to purchase a sturdier form of sleeve.
A Toploader is a plastic holder, which is used to protect your baseball cards from physical damage. As the name implies, this product lets you slide your cards into the holder from the top. As a rule of thumb, it is always best to use a loader with a penny sleeve to provide more protection for your cards.
The type, thickness and/or size of cards you intend to keep or display will depend on which Toploader you need. There are several types of Toploaders on the market today, again the leading brands are Ultra-Pro and BCW.
The One-Touch holder is the best protection for your most valuable cards. This protector is made from a rigid plastic, it is UV resistant, non-PCV and acid-free. They come in two types, screw-down and magnetic. The magnetic type is the most commonly used and because they are magnetic it makes it very easy to change the card inside.
The Best Way to Store Your Baseball Card Collection
The best and affordable way to store your card collection would be to use card storage boxes. Binders are an option, but binders can be expensive and they don’t hold thousands of trading cards like storage boxes can. There are box options for what you are going to store, boxes are available for cards in penny-sleeves, cards in Toploaders and cards in one-touch holders, there are also boxes for graded cards.
Storage boxes are available that hold various card counts. Single tray storage boxes have sizes from 100 cards to 1000 cards. You can also get multiple tray boxes (2, 4 or 5 trays). Also, as they are made of sturdy cardboard, these boxes can be stacked to save space.
This may all sound very expensive, but if you start small and slowly grow your collection, only buying what you need now and not spending your card budget on loads of penny –sleeves or Toploaders. Start with a pack of 100 sleeves and a 1000 count card tray double pack. This should cost not much more than £15. A relatively small initial outlay and your card collection is protected from day one.
We hope that you have found this 2 part beginners guide informative and hope that you enjoy the card collection hobby for many years to come.
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Dave Maggs & Jon Matthias