In previous posts, I offered advice about selling sports cards on eBay. I also shared ways I have found as a seller to save money selling. In this post, I want to offer some of my experiences buying sports cards cheaply, and I focus on buying cards at sport cards shops.

Obviously, you can buy packs, boxes, or even cases of newer cards – looking for special cards you want – for example, if you are a Boston Bruins collector or like Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars. Then, you can sell what’s left over when you take out the cards you want. But, I am not a collector – I only buy and sell. Generally, I find that buying newer cards doesn’t work well for me.

Remember, as I noted in previous posts, as a sports cards seller, the goal is not to bring in lots of money selling cards. Some people spend hundreds of dollars buying cards, then sell these cards to others for much less than they paid. They bring in money, but because they have already spent so much money on the cards they have sold, they are losing money in the long run. Instead, a successful seller makes money from the cards that sell. For me, like any good business, you must sell cards for more than you paid.

I sell mostly hockey cards, but the following is true about cards from any sport.

First, one thing a reader should know about me, and I know everyone is NOT like me, is that I love the physical nature of hockey cards. I love touching them, organizing them, putting them together into piles – just like when I was a kid. So, I don’t measure my time – I enjoy playing with my cards.

In coming posts, I will talk about other places to buy sports cards cheaply, but here I want to talk about card stores. If you are a serious collector, and I appreciate serious collectors, card stores are great. The owner of a card store can become a best friend, who will help you find the cards you like and broker deals with other card store owners to help you get these cards. Card store owners usually love sports cards, so there is lots to talk about – a modern-day barbershop for good conversation.

Related: Selling Sports Cards on eBay: Three Tips for Saving Money

Buying Cheap at Card Stores

I have made some great deals buying sports cards at card stores. This is especially true these days when many case crackers are at work. A case cracker buys multiple cases of sports cards directly from the company who produces them (Upper Deck and Panini) and opens these cases looking for “special” cards – RCs, short prints, or inserts. These case crackers then dump the leftover cards into 5000 count boxes and wholesale them – often to sports card shops. That’s where I come in.

I once bought 30 5000-count boxes (150,000 hockey cards, my specialty as a Canadian seller) at $11 per box (that is more than four cards for a penny). And, I “work” these boxes. I even find a rare “treasure” a case cracker misses, but mostly I organize the “base” cards I find into larger lots; and, for me, between 2 and 5 cards (of perhaps Alex Ovechkin or Johnny Gaudreau) regularly sell for $1. In this way, I make money on other people’s “garbage.”

Sometimes, card shop owners buy large lots from local collectors who need room or who have stopped collecting. Because they are too busy to look through all these cards, they put large boxes out for their customers – 5 or 10 cents per card. These boxes are worth cherry picking. In one baseball box, for example, I found two cards that sold for $20.00 each. Why they were there, I don’t know. But, I was happy to buy them – and 18 others – for $1.

Card shop owners often also have weekly auctions, where local collectors put up lots for bidding. These lots can be good buys. One thing I do, because I often go to card stores both in Canada and the USA (specifically Phoenix), iis buy cards that won’t sell locally. For example, Arizona is a great place to buy hockey cards cheaply and Canada is a great place to buy NFL football cards cheaply.

I buy locally and sell globally. Although I do better with hockey, because I sell many cards in Canada, I also buy football cards locally in Canada that I know are likely to sell in the USA. Buying locally and selling globally helps me utilize eBay’s global presence.

Card stores with auctions are also great because they are places where you can also put together lots you know won’t sell easily on eBay. Almost every time I visit a card store that holds an auction, I bring lots for an upcoming auction. I don’t make a lot of money on these, but I do make some – especially if these cards won’t sell for me on eBay. And, my friendly card shop owner makes a little money selling my cards to other buyers.

In later posts, I will offer some advice about other places to buy sports cards. But, I encourage sellers to come to know and work with their local card shop owner. That way, everyone benefits and the sports card business can keep going. I know that it is hard to keep a sports card shop open, and most owners are there because they care about the hobby and need support. Using sports card stores helps keep the hobby going.