eBay Sports Cards Listing Guide #3: Selling Price of Auctions vs. Buy It Now

At CardLines, we get hundreds of monthly inquiries from collectors. Nearly half of them are about selling cards on eBay. The need is apparent, and to help, we’re putting together an eBay guide to dive deep into selling cards on eBay.

Get started selling on eBay today!

This is the third article in the guide. Be sure to look back at the previous article about filling out the extra info before listing your card, check out how to title your auctions, and next we’ll look at how to determine the best way to price your cards.

Enjoy this article, and be sure to read the rest of our eBay selling guides to ensure you’re getting max profit for all your listings. 

Best way to sell sports cards on eBay – Buy it Now or Auction?

It’s an age-old debate: should cards be sold on eBay using Buy it Now (BIN) or auctions?

Several factors are at play here, and there’s not a one size fits all answer. Some cards will be better suited as a Buy It Now while others will thrive as an auction. 

In this article, we’ll examine the pros and cons of auctions and BIN listing as a  seller before answering the big question: to get the most out of your cards, is it better to sell auction or BIN?

Pros of auctions as a seller

Can be strategically planned

Being able to plan when your auctions end is one of the best ways to ensure you get maximum market value. For example, I listed a Tom Brady rookie card at 9 PM on January 31, 2021 as a seven-day auction. When did that card end? Right after Brady won his 7 Seventh Super Bowl. Mine was the highest-selling Brady Fleer of the month.  With auctions, you can pick an exact end time, and if you’re far-sighted enough, you can use that to your advantage. 

Respond to the market

If you have a BIN card listed of a backup quarterback, that card will get snatched immediately if the starter goes down with an injury. An auction responds to the market, so you’ll always get what your card is worth. 

Less effort for a sale

Auctions are easier on sellers. With a BIN listing, you’ll often find yourself haggling back and forth with potential buyers. With auction cards, you’re surrendering this control over pricing to let the card ride in a way that’s determined by the market. You just set the price, and assuming you don’t overprice, you’ll get a very low-effort sale a week later. 

Pros of BIN as a seller

Take offers

Is ebay offer the same as Buy it Now? NO! But being able to list “Buy It Now or Best Offer” is a great way to embrace a negotiation tactic that allows both parties to win. Instead of having a concrete price, accepting offers will engage more potential buyers.

Pro-tip: ask about 20% more than you want on a BIN listing and accept offers. This allows you to accept offers that still let you get the profit you want while ensuring your buyers feel like they got a great deal.

Low maintenance

As a seller, the biggest advantage of BIN listings is that they are low-maintenance (but in a different way than auctions). Especially now that eBay allows you to list “good until sold,” you can create a listing, set your price, and you’ll never have to worry about it again until it sells. It’s the easiest way to have constant inventory.

You’re happy with the sales price, guaranteed.

When you list BIN, you’re under no commitment to sell for anything less than you’re happy with. Occasionally, a bad auction might feel like a punch to the face. With a Buy It Now listing, however, if you’re ever upset with the sales price, it’s entirely your fault. You set the price and control the sale, so you don’t need to worry about anything underselling. 

Factors that should help determine whether you should sell as an Auction or Buy it Now.

Age of the card: 

Rule of thumb: old cards should always sell as a Buy It Now. Why? If you’re listing cards of a retired player, there are probably significantly fewer people searching for that player over the course of a week as there would be searching for cards of an active star. Buy listing as a Buy it Now, you’re extending the window for shoppers who might be looking to buy and prevents the card from majorly underselling.

Headlines:

The same logic from above also applies to current players who aren’t making as many headlines as perhaps they should be. The value of sports cards is largely determined by how popular the athlete is, so players who are flying a bit under the radar are much better suited to sell as a Buy It Now than an auction. For example, Patrick Mahomes, LeBron James, Tom Brady, and Stephen Curry are perfect for auction. Players like Courtland Sutton, Kendrick Nunn, Kadarious Toney, and Michale Porter Jr. are high upside players (at the time of writing) that aren’t making many headlines and have auctions that are underselling compared to BIN. 

How quickly do you want a return?

When you list a BIN, there’s no end in sight. It might sell in three days or three months. If you need to generate a quick return on a timetable you can control, an auction is the best way. You know it’s going to end in exactly X-many days, and even if it might not sell for as much as a BIN, you’re giving up a bit of profit for the timely result. 

Do eBay auctions or BIN sports cards sell for more?

It’s time for the math. After laying out the arguments for both types of transactions, let’s pull up some recent sells of modern stars and HOFers to see the difference in selling price.

All cards, unless otherwise noted, are PSA 10s. 

On average, auctions sold for 14% less than BIN. 

Conclusion

The numbers speak for themselves: if you’re selling, it’s better to list BIN. If you’re buying, it’s cheaper to use auctions. 

Of course, there will always be some exceptions across the board, but if you stuck to this format for every purchase throughout the year, you’d ultimately be more profitable. 

The numbers also indicate a slightly larger gap in the retired play sample size (particularly the oldest player on the list—Dick Butkus), which is a testament to the lower volume of search traffic these players are getting compared to the hot rookie cards of today.

Be sure to come back next time as we look at how to price your cards appropriately. Now go grab your cards, hop on eBay, and start getting the MOST out of each listing. And don’t forget to check out the rest of our eBay Guide articles!

Guides for selling sports cards on eBay

Follow Cardlines.com for all our guides on the best way to sell sports cards on ebay. Here are some of favorites that we think you will enjoy and profit in selling your cards.

Jesse Haynes

Jesse Haynes

Jesse Haynes is a novelist and content writer (contentninjamarketing.com) who has played sports and collecting trading cards almost his entire life. He just graduated from the University of Tulsa with an MBA and should probably get a “real job,” but instead hopes to continue telling stories in his pajamas for a long time.


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