Purchasing NBA Basketball Cards

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Overview

Purchasing basketball cards on eBay may appear to be a straight forward process to the naked eye, however there are many factors that need to be considered in order to make the correct purchase.

This guide has been split into sections highlighting the key points that need to be considered before making your purchase. I have listed the key points below, each linked to a more detailed description later in the guide. Note that these key points do not need to be addressed for every situation, pick and choose when appropriate.

  •     Compare against Beckett price
  •     Quality of the card(s)
  •     Compare similar items
  •     Check sellers other items
  •     Is this the item I want?
  •     How much will I spend?
  •     Check seller rating
  •     Confirm the item can be sent to your country

Compare against Beckett price

The Beckett Guide provides the price of every NBA card in existence (in $USD). If you happen to have access to a Beckett, compare the prices of eBay items against the value in Beckett and it will become obvious that eBay items generally go far cheaper than their Beckett value. Like everything else however, if cards are rare they will sell closer to their Beckett value.
  • Common cards: Expect to pay around 30% of the Beckett value. These cards are a dime and dozen, for them to sell on eBay they have to go cheap.
  • Expensive cards: Expect to pay somewhere closer to the Beckett value. If there are lots of the same expensive cards being sold at the same time, they will sell cheaper.
  • Rare cards: Expect to pay Beckett value or more. Rare cards are the exception to the rule, some bidders see rare cards as priceless and are willing to drive the price over the Beckett value. Rare cards include expensive cards with a high grade, signed cards, and older cards which were not produced in large numbers.

Quality of the card(s)

As with all items on eBay, damaged cards should be cheaper than cards in mint condition. The quality of the card(s) you bidding on may not always be obvious. Generally the seller will describe the cards quality for you, however you may want to go the extra mile to confirm the quality of the purchase. You can look at the picture of the card(s) and verify yourself, or if that is not enough even ask the seller for more pictures. Newer cards tend to be of high quality, though older cards need to examined more closely to confirm.

As for grading, I never purchase rare or old NBA cards that are not graded. As an example, take the Michael Jordan rookie card. There are way too many fakes going around. Dont purchase cards of this magnitude unless it is graded. There are many companies that grade them, just be aware that the scale of the grades is not the same across all companies. Beckett are regarded highly in this area, if they give a card a rating of 10 then you can be your bottom dollar it is pristine. I cannot say the same for some of the other companies out there, though their ratings are still valid should not be discarded.

Compare similar items

Check other auctions which are selling similar items and compare the prices of those items. Sometimes the seller hasn't described the card properly in the headings, which makes the item harder to find. Look for them. 15 minutes of searching and you could save yourself a few dollars.

Check sellers other items

Look at other items the same seller may be selling. There may be other cards you are interested in, and in most cases the seller will combine the shipping of the items to take  bit off the bottom line.

If you are trying to complete a set and need a few extra cards, ALWAYS ask sellers if they have the cards, even if they are not advertised. I've had countless situations where i was completing a set and decided to ask the seller if they have similar items that may not be advertised. If successful, the seller will put the item on eBay and sell it to you on the spot. You never know if you don't ask.

Is this the item I want?

This may seem simple enough, though there have been lots of eBayers caught out purchasing items that were not what they expected, including myself. The key is to read the fine print in the auction description. There are many NBA cards advertised on eBay that are physically larger in size, compared to a standard NBA card. Look for the word 'blow-up', 'oversized' or '3.5inch x 5inch'. Sometimes these details can be buried in fine print.

With sets and boxes, be sure that the set is complete, and that the box is exactly the box you are wanting. Its easy to be confused with boxes, as there are High/Low series, international boxes etc. If possible, find out from other sources if the box being auctioned is the one you want. Only ever buy sealed boxes, you dont know what could be in there!

How much will I spend?

This can be tricky. The idea here is to determine how much you are willing to spend vs. how badly you want the item. There are some bidders who are willing to pay anything to get their hands on a particular item, and others who will only pay the minimum. My rule of thumb is as follows:

  •     If the card is rare, and you do not think you will see it on eBay again for a while, then be willing to pay more than usual for it. Everyone who wants the card is in the same boat. If you believe the item will be available again at some point, set an upper limit, and do not exceed it. The moment you exceed it, you have basically conceded that you are willing to pay more for the card than it is probably worth. Dont get caught up in the moment! Of course if you flat out want the item, pay whatever you feel.
  •     For more common cards, be stingy. Quiet simply, the cards are probably being auctioned cheaper somewhere else. If you miss out on the auction, chances are you will have another shot at it very soon.
  •     Consider shipping and insurance when bidding. Both must also be added to the actual auction price so you know exactly how much you are paying. If you see an item going for $1 with a shipping of $20, or the same item going for $10 with a shipping of $5, it's obvious which way a bidder will lean. Its a technique used by sellers to put the shipping up more than usual to 'fool' buyers. Dont fall into that trap.

Check seller rating

This should be a standard practice for all eBayers. I never purchase cards off an unreliable seller. Its just not worth the risk. There have been countless situations where the dream card appears on eBay, yet no one bids simply because the seller was unreliable i.e. had a lower than usual rating. However, if the rating is lower than usual, investigate and find out why. There are unreliable buyers out there as well.
Confirm the item can be sent to your country

I live in Australia, so I have this problem all the time. If you live outside of the USA, probably half the NBA cards out there cannot be sent to your home. I for one always ask the seller if they are willing to send overseas to my home. When a seller adds an it for auction on eBay, it is a decision there and then whether they want to ship overseas or not. If you express interest in the card and you live overseas, you will find more often than not that the seller will be willing to send the item overseas. Make sure you also ask for the cost of shipping, so you know exactly how much it will set you back in total.

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