If you’re interested in building up a personal collection, or you’re just getting started within the hobby, it can be difficult to know where to buy sports cards.
After all, there are many sellers who are happy to prey on unsuspecting fans, especially when there’s large amounts of money at stake.
Here’s everything you need to know about where to buy any and all sports cards, with links and information updated for the final months of 2021.
Buying Graded Cards: What to know
Before we get started, we’ll take you through the basics about buying a graded card.
We’d stick with graded options as they tend to be the most valuable over time, and you’ll have a better idea about exactly what you’re paying for.
- Based in the U.S., PSA and BGS are the two largest grading companies. SGC has taken the third spot, closely followed by the likes of HGA
- You should be able to check PSA/BGS graded cards against the registry. (The case will have a number and often a scannable barcode which ensures you’re looking at the correct card. Here are links for PSA and BGS)
- Some resellers have been known to crack graded cases, placing an inferior card inside. Be careful when buying a card from a seller with a low rep, especially if you’re online
- This is the reason why some sellers will obscure the barcode, as they don’t want forged copies of their cards on the market
- Be especially careful if you’re buying vintage options. These are some of the best sports cards to be graded
- If you live in a region like the UK or Germany, there are also local grading companies you can use for a fraction of the PSA/BGS fees. However, you’re likely to see a significant difference in card values
Where to Buy Cards
Here’s a rundown with the best places to buy (and sell) cards, online, offline, and everything in between.
Online Auction: eBay, COMC, Probstein, etc
eBay tends to be the best place to look for the majority of cards/sets, unless it’s a vintage option which has been snapped up by one of the major online auction houses. (One example would be Sotherby’s).
Large auction houses are prestigious and tend to fetch higher prices, but they also charge a buyer’s fee which is added to the final price.
I buy the majority of my cards either graded from eBay, or via job lots as they tend to be a lot cheaper than buying individual options.
For example, if you’re hoping to pick up ungraded Messi/Ronaldo cards before they retire, it makes sense to look for job lots or collections that contain a couple of their cards, rather than buying each one, and paying for packaging, postage, and sometimes import fees on top.
Direct From Manufacturer: Panini/Topps, etc
For example, Topps has been the premier baseball-card manufacturer since the early 1950s, originally packaging the cards with bubble gum.
Recently, unions representing players in Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Football League have struck exclusive agreements with a new company controlled by online sports-merchandise retailer Fanatics Inc, breaking up the duopoly.
In any case, it’s worth keeping an eye on release schedules, as the majority of popular sets sell out almost instantly. This leads us on to the next port of call.
Third-Party Resellers: Dave & Adam’s Card World, COMC, etc
There are many third-party resellers that can be found online.
They tend to have decent stock at any given time, although prices are far higher compared to getting cards or sets directly from the manufacturer. This is because many cards/sets are time limited, or will have a specific print run.
Eventually, time begins to ensure that supply exceeds demand, especially for the most popular sports.
The rise of third-party resellers is one of the reasons why it’s so difficult to buy hobby boxes directly, as it’s in their best interests to grab as many as possible. (After all, if they can sell a $300 box for $900, it’s worth having an army of bot accounts at the ready.)
Social Media: Instagram, FaceBook, Reddit, etc
One of the best places to look for new cards is via various social media platforms. People love to show off the rare parallels they’ve packed, and many are open to offers as long as the price is right.
There are various groups you can join to keep an eye on new cards, or even to ask if anyone happens to have a copy that you’re looking for. It’s also a great way to sell cards without having to worry about fees.
Nothing beats seeing a card in-person. You’ll be able to see any flaws easily, and it’s a great way to avoid being mixed up with any forgeries that have made their way onto the market.
Most fakes are easy to spot in person as long as you look at it properly in the light with a jewelers loupe. (A loupe isn’t expensive, but it could save you money and hassle in the long run.)
Once again, be careful when meeting up with people online, especially if you’re planning to pay for the card with cash.
Trade Shows: National Trade Shows, Expos, etc
Trade shows are a great place to meet other hobbyists and collectors, and they tend to have numerous cards for sale. There are thousands of options from a range of different sports, and there should be something for almost everyone.
However, the average collector is likely to have a better idea of what their cards are worth, so prices are likely to be comparable to online auctions.
You’ll also be able to get on-site grading at larger events such as Comic-Con.
Where to Buy Sports Cards: Summary
Sports cards are being bought and sold every minute of every day, with huge differences in prices seen depending on the platform, as well as the seller itself.
The best advice I can give is not to feel pressured to buy cards, even if there’s a chance that you could miss out. There will nearly always be another opportunity in the long run, unless it’s a one-of-one.
Make sure to check out the prices for cards that have recently sold, and be wary if a deal seems too good to be true.