Scavenger Life Episode 504: eBay Spring Seller Update

I posted my numbers in last week’s thread for the first time, and though I haven’t listened to this week’s podcast yet, I want to maintain that positive momentum!

I mostly sell modern sports cards, so my sales numbers are nice but my inventory costs are high, often 1/3 of my sales or even slightly more.

2/28/21 – 3/6/21

Total items in store: 2274

Items sold: 54

Gross sales: $1889.91

Net sales: $1276.52

Highest price sold: $144 — an autograph of Civil War general Thomas Henderson

Lowest price sold: $13.24 — A numbered sketch card of late Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay from the hilariously expensive Topps Transcendent set

This week felt relatively ‘slow’ (I use that term lightly) and that feeling is reflected in my sales which are down 30% from last week. In reality, this is something like an average week for me over the last 15 months, and it (mostly) all evens out.

I had listed a few non-sports cards early this week, not a niche that I deal in very often. With how eBay’s search engine works, it’s probably not a coincidence that I saw a number of non-sports card items sell. Two war-related autographs from the same set (both to the same customer, obviously a collector of some kind), a few other non-sports autographs, and even a couple of media items from my library sale days. Boy, do I miss library sales. They weren’t all that profitable but it was a great way to spend a weekend morning.

A little anecdote about modern card collecting/speculating: I sold two autographed cards of Taylor Heinicke this week for about $40 each.

A big part of why these sales happened is because of this week’s news that Washington Football Team had released quarterback Alex Smith, an older player who is close to retirement after a long and moderately successful career. This elevates the mostly unproven Heinicke to become Washington’s starter next season, unless or until Washington acquires a new quarterback. (They probably will, but for now, let’s not worry about that.)

Heinicke had only played in a few games before this season in a mostly itinerant career, but he was forced into action near the end of the season because Alex Smith was hurt and his injury caused him to miss more time than the team hoped. Unfortunately for Washington, they had to keep playing their schedule even though they didn’t have their best quarterback. To nearly everyone’s surprise, Heinicke almost led Washington to a victory over Tampa Bay in their playoff matchup, making a few truly outstanding touchdowns in the process. During the game, and ever since, his few cards have skyrocketed in price, with autographs seeing the biggest bump. Unknown players tend to have less cards than those with high draft pedigrees, for fairly obvious reasons. (Generally speaking, no one wants a card of the third-string running back.)

I had purchased a number of Heinicke cards for a few dollars each before Washington’s playoff game on the chance he might get an opportunity. Most of the time, these little gambles don’t result in making or losing very much, at least for me. I happened to get very lucky this time. This is a whole niche within modern cards called ‘prospecting.’ While I did very well with Heinicke cards, I am a guppy in a sea of sharks who may spend thousands of dollars on one particular rare autograph of the next surefire star. Often these players are teenagers, or just out of college. But their athletic potential is sky-high and so are their card prices.

Maybe someday I will be one of those speculators buying and selling thousand dollar cards. I don’t think so, but I wouldn’t have predicted this level of sales a few years ago, so who knows. Heinicke money will pay for groceries this week, though. Thanks, Washington Football fans.

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