12 Quick Sports Card Collecting Tips from an Expert

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  • May 15, 2020

The following tips come from Leighton Sheldon, Just Collect’s President. After buying his first pack of cards at eight years old, Leighton paid his way through college partially by buying and selling baseball cards. Today his company has bought and sold over $25 million worth of merchandise.

Leighton's personal collecting focus is on vintage basketball cards and memorabilia. Years ago he sold his most prized basketball memorabilia possession, a 1962 photo of Wilt Chamberlain scoring his 100th point against the New York Knickerbockers, to help pay for a house. Other items in his basketball collection include a "blank back" autographed Dr. J rookie, as well as a piece of parquet flooring from the old Boston Garden signed by Larry Bird.

Whether you're just getting into the hobby, or you've been at it for years, here are twelve tips (straight from an expert) for the vintage and modern sports card collector.

1. Collect what YOU are interested in.

Don’t go after cards just because they’re popular or valuable. Go after what you like. It’s not easy to make money on sports cards. So make sure that you’re having fun.

2. Develop a niche in your collection.

It’ll make it easier to focus, and easier to save.

3. Buy cards in the best condition you can afford.

This should pay off when it’s time to sell (if that's what you choose to do).

4. Buy from reputable sellers.

Check feedback on eBay, and generally do your homework on the people you deal with in your sports card transactions.

5. Be patient with your acquisitions.

It can be tempting, but don’t go buying everything right away. You’ll probably end up overpaying. Not to mention, the chase is the whole fun of collecting. If you’re not enjoying it, then what’s the point?


6. Store your cards safely.

Keep your cards protected using holders, sleeves, top loaders, etc. and keep them in a controlled climate. PSA holders are not waterproof. Also, if your cards are worth thousands of dollars, you might want to insure them.

7. Learn to evaluate a card’s condition.

Get familiar with identifying and evaluating the condition of cards. And you don’t need to go buy expensive magnification and lighting, you can do it with the naked eye. If anything, get a $10 jeweler’s loupe.

8. Meet up with other collectors.

Whether at shows or online, make connections in the hobby. You’ll learn invaluable lessons.

9. Get a decent scanner (and use it).

Keep detailed lists and well-organized scans of your cards (front and back).

10. If submitting to PSA, undervalue your submissions.

If you keep your declared value low when you submit, you can avoid overpaying for card grading. If you end up having to pay a little more because you received a great grade, PSA will contact you.

11. If you find cards glued or taped into a scrapbook, don’t try to take them out.

Contact a professional. You could end up destroying their value.

12. Don't compare your collection to those of others.

It can be hard, but if you're always trying to keep up with the Joneses, you won't have as much fun.

Leighton Sheldon is the President of Just Collect.

"I consider myself to be a Sports Treasure Detective."


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