Where to Buy Cards
There are two primary ways to buy cards, one is in unopened packs or boxes, and the other is in the secondary market as an individual card. Obviously the first method can be the cheapest if you get lucky, while the second method is the only guarantee of getting the card you want but you will pay close to market value.
At one time baseball card packs could be purchased in any corner grocery store, this has largely changed. While larger chain stores, such as K-Mart, do carry a limited selection of new cards, it is specialty hobby stores, focused only on sports cards (or sometimes another collectible like comic books as well) that do the majority of the serious card business. There is even a difference between the unopened packs and boxes bought in a retail store and a hobby store. The hobby store packs sometimes have inserts that are not included in the retail packs. Hobby stores also, unlike retail stores, are places to buy older cards and sets.
Outside of stores, there are a number of venues for purchasing new and older cards. There are thousands of sports card shows around the country each year, primarily in convention centers and shopping malls. Some of these are large, prestigious events, including past and present stars, while others are simple affairs with the same groups of dealers and collectors meeting on a regular basis. Sports card auctions are another good venue, whether they are held in person, over the phone, through the mail, or online.
Buying and Selling Online
There is a large, thriving online auction market for sports cards on almost all major auction sites, and there are many dedicated to just sports cards, giving collectors a wide variety of options to choose from in terms of price.
Large auction sites such as eBay and Yahoo sell almost everything, but have a large audience devoted to sports cards and memorabilia. Price guide companies like Beckett also have their own auctions, as do a number of sports card only auction houses. They provide auctions not only online, but over the phone and in person as well.
Beckett (www.beckett.com) is the industry leader in sports card pricing, publishing an annual price guide, monthly publications for each major sport, and an online price guide service. Krause Publications (www.collect.com) publishes Tuff Stuff magazine, a price guide, and Sports Collector's Digest, a weekly for hardcore collectors containing ads and show and auction information.
Sports card collecting is a hobby that has undergone a tremendous amount of change over the past 20 years. Although the number of sets produced each year is staggering, the flip side is that there has never been more variety for collectors. Whether you are looking to spend a little spare cash or your life savings, sports card collecting can fit your needs.
About John Cook
Guest author John Cook has been a collector and dealer of sports cards for the past 25 years. He founded and was the President of Fanatic Collector, a web site that was devoted to online sports card auction pricing gathered from the major auction houses.