As a successful seller of Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon cards on EBay and Amazon, I know that sometimes it's frustrating to watch cards you think should sell simply not sell! So here are a few things on knowing what cards will sell vs what cards won't sell, regardless of their list price on various card seller websites.
Use TCGPlayer.com or Troll and Toad to Check Market Card Prices
For Yu-Gi-Oh cards, I tend to use the values that are listed on the TCGPlayer.com website. When you look up a card on TCGPlayer.com, it gives you a low value, a medium value, and a high value. Generally, the Mid (or Medium) value is the price at which most people are willing to buy a card. This value is assigned by TCGPlayer's tracking software as the median price at which most sellers are pricing that particular card.
The low value is the lowest "near-mint" price that a seller on the TCGPlayer seller network is currently listing that card for (near-mint being a card that has no noticeable defects or playwear). There's also the market price, which is based on recent actual sale prices. The low price is the absolute minimum that I would list a card for sale. But the market price is a safe price to use if you don't mind waiting for cheaper listed copies to sell.
For Pokemon cards, you'd likely want to use Troll and Toad. While Troll and Toad is mostly known for Magic the Gathering cards, they also sell a great many Pokemon cards, as well. TCGPlayer does not track Pokemon card prices particularly well, and the list price on Troll And Toad is generally around the price you'll see cards listed for on EBay. You will find that a large number of holographic cards in Pokemon tend to only sell for about $0.50 to $1 USD. However, if you go onto EBay and find that card is actually selling for around 2-3 dollars, then it's perhaps worth a shot to sell it.
On the other hand, 50 cent holos are usually better off being sold in groups of 5 or 10 as a lot, as bidding wars can ensue and end up netting you more than the lot is actually worth. If the lot sells for less than the individual Troll and Toad prices overall, as long as you make profit after fees and shipping, then you've still made out. This is simply because those holos are considered "bulk" to most people and moving them at all is a plus. All in all, Troll and Toad is the best and easiest way to see if you have a card worth $5 or more.
Checking Completed Listings and Low Buy-It-Now Prices
Once you've identified which cards are worth selling, you'll want to double check the completed listings on EBay to see what previous users have purchased that particular card for. Don't be too discouraged if the price is very much lower than you'd expect. Sometimes buy-it-now is not used, and cards can be won at auction for far lower prices than they typically retail for. This is useful information, though, because it will tell you what the market will currently bear for that particular card. Next, check what the current lowest buy-it-now prices are (price + shipping) and see how they stack up with the completed listings. Card values can fluctuate wildly at times, but generally they stay within a range.
The greatest part of looking at the completed listings is identifying what cards simply don't sell. If you see far more auctions that end without a sale than those with a sale, chances are that card isn't in particularly high demand. You may want to hold onto it and list the ones first that have the highest percentage of successful sales. It's usually pretty easy see at a glance what's selling and what isn't. Just be sure to check the auction end dates, as some cards completed listings' results will have end dates from several months ago. Chances are, if that card hasn't sold in months, it's better to hold onto it, or put it as part of a lot (more on that later!)
Now that you know a card should have a good chance of being sold, the easiest way to actually sell a card on EBay is to simply list it for the lowest price. However, that is not always the best option. By checking the completed listings, you may find that people are willing to pay a bit more for a card than the lowest price currently sits at. All you have to do is wait for the cheaper copies to sell. Also, check the feedback of the seller with the lowest price. If they have little or no feedback, or have a rating below 97%, you can feel safe listing your card for perhaps a bit more than they have it for.
What Cards Actually Sell?
This is now the toughest part of selling cards. It's easy to find a card price and list it for around that number. However, what actually sells versus what doesn't? Believe it or not, Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon are somewhat similar in this regard, due to both collectible value and play-ability in competitive environments.
Collectible Value & "Rotations"
In both Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh, the cards from the first few sets of each Trading Card Game tend to have a fairly high collectible value. Even Yu-Gi-Oh cards that are banned in competitive tournaments, such as Heavy Storm or Change of Heart, or older Pokemon holos from Base Set like Charizard and Blastoise, still see lots of sales occur on EBay and other sites. It's players' particular fondness for certain cards that they used to play with or collect that drives up the value of older cards.
The other cards that tend to have a lot of collectible value are what are referred to as "staples" which are cards that most competitive players in either game use in the majority of their decks. In Yu-Gi-Oh these include cards like Raigeki and Mystical Space Typhoon, which see play in most decks. Even though these cards are today heavily printed at common rarity, their original printings were not common, and as they are shiny holographic versions, they are highly sought after.
In Pokemon, however, besides cards like "Pokemon Catcher" and some Supporter cards in recent years, there are not nearly as many staples as there are in Yu-Gi-Oh. This also lends itself to the fact that in Yu-Gi-Oh, besides what is on the official tournament ban list, you can use any card ever printed in the game. However, in Pokemon, outside of casual league play, only the sets from the past couple of years are considered legal. For example, cards of the Heart Gold Soul Silver series are no longer recognized as usable cards in competitive decks. While there are many advantages to this "rotation" strategy for both competitive and sales reasons, it can leave you with a LOT of worthless cardboard.
The one major similarity in selling Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon "staples" is that when they are being played in pretty much every deck at that time, even common and uncommon cards (Trainers and Supporters in Pokemon, Spell and Trap cards in Yu-Gi-Oh) can fetch $2-3 a piece, if not more. Some staple uncommons in Pokemon can list for over $10 USD! The important thing is to recognize their value to players and collect them to sell if you're not playing to play with them and move them quickly!
The major difference in selling Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon "staples" however, is the fact that once those trainers and supporters rotate out of the Pokemon competitive scene, they become just like your Caterpie and Nidoran: bulk commons. In Yu-Gi-Oh, however, even though Lightsworn decks don't see nearly the play that they once did, staple monsters, even in common printings like Lyla and Ryko, still sell for $2-$3 a copy because of their utility in other decks. Dark World Dealings is a hot card for the Dark World deck, but because of their usefulness in other decks, such as Chaos Blackwings and Zombies, they also go for about $3 a piece. Yu-Gi-Oh "staples" retain their value far longer than Pokemon's. So if you have Pokemon staples that you're not using, it's a good idea to move them ASAP.
The Liquidity of Cardboard
At this moment, you may be asking yourself, what can I do with all of these older cards that I'm apparently stuck with? There are always bulk lots to consider, but first let's take a look at the most important concept in selling cardboard, liquidity.
There are advantages and disadvantages to dealing in either card game. The liquidity of Yu-Gi-Oh cards tends to be higher than that of Pokemon's, merely because Yu-Gi-Oh is a highly competitive game. Many players are just looking for one or two cards to finish their deck or to take it to the next level. In Pokemon, even the more competitive players are more collectors by nature. Even if you have some of the nicest looking holos from the newest set that aren't necessarily tournament playable, they likely will sell for more than you'd expect at auction.
For older sets, this is where using sites like TCGPlayer and Troll and Toad come in handy. They do the price research mostly for you. While you still need to check completed listings on Ebay to confirm that a card listed at $20 on those sites will actually sell for that when you go to list it, generally they set prices that high due to having the demand for that particular card.
The major difference between Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh from a liquidity aspect is that Yu-Gi-Oh reprints cards like crazy. Pokemon does not. In fact, usually all Pokemon does is create promo versions of certain cards (and these do have some value). With Yu-Gi-Oh, a card previously only available as ultra rare, becomes super rare, then rare, then common, especially if it's a card that sees tons of play.
One thing Konami clearly does a lot of is see what cards actually get played. Many times, if they see certain ultra rare or secret rare cards from older sets no longer seeing much competitive play, they get them reprinted as common in their structure decks or reprint sets! From a collector's standpoint, this is immensely frustrating, because they see their once very rare cards go from valuable to valueless. The good news, though, is that even as common (cards such as Dark Armed Dragon, for example) still sell, but at highly deflated prices.
Pokemon, on the other hand, has its rarer cards keep their value quite well. They don't usually reprint cards, except as promotional cards in collector's tins. They have, however, reprinted very powerful cards as Mewtwo EX as promotional cards, but they announce these reprints very soon after the set that they are released in comes out. Reprints in Yu-Gi-Oh just sort of happen at will based on whatever cards they think will see play in tandem with upcoming releases. While there are actually very good reasons as to why Konami decided to reprint certain cards for accessibility reasons, it makes selling the older cards very, very difficult.
Older Pokemon holos, though, like even a Zapdos or Blastoise, can fetch between $5-$10 easily. Holos from the increasingly rare Skyridge and Aquapolis sets can fetch between $10-$20. Simply being out of circulation for awhile increases their value, especially if you're looking for near-mint to mint copies!
This is to say, Pokemon card selling requires more patience, but the card values are far more stable, and the liquidity of selling cards of certain popular pokemon (Charizard, for example) or ultra rare card types (EX, level X, shiny, gold star, etc) remain fairly constant. While certain EX cards currently in Black and White will see a drop in value after "rotating" out of competitive play, they will still be sought after by many collectors.
Many Yu-Gi-Oh cards have been reprinted to death, however. Look at cards like Dark Necrofear that used to be extremely high-dollar cards. While Dark Necrofear has not yet hit bottom as a mere common reprint quite yet, the number of promotional printings it has had is astounding, and because it doesn't see much competitive play anymore (despite still being a pretty useful card!) older copies can sell for as low as $1! If you're lucky to have a 1st edition copy, you may eek out $3-5. However, holographic cards simply aren't worth what they used to be in Yu-Gi-Oh. They also don't sell all too well if they're not in top-tier decks.
Selling in Playsets, Bulk, and Lots
One of the most common ways to get rid of low-dollar cards is to sell them in playsets. In Yu-Gi-Oh, you can have three of any given card in a deck (unless it is restricted, limited or semi-limited on the official tournament ban list from Konami). In Pokemon, you can have a maximum four of any given card outside of basic energy cards. Granted, you can also sell playsets of high-value cards, as well, to get the most out of one sale. Listings with multiple cards in them always sell better than single cards.
I have personally found, though, that listing two or three of a card, even those that you can only legally play one of in a deck, is still a good strategy. Yes, you may not get exactly what those cards are "worth" when you consider list prices, but they are far more likely to sell. Money is always more valuable overall than pieces of cardboard, so as long as you're profiting on less liquid assets, you're ahead of the game. This is the easiest way to put lots together, and has proven profitable for myself and thousands of other sellers again and again.
There is, of course, the chance that play-set lots will sell for far lower than they would sell individually, but this is a risk you'll have to take. The best way to protect yourself from this is to NEVER start an auction at $0.99 with free shipping. I only ever use the buy-it-now option, and choose a price that's 5 to 10 percent lower than the lowest current available price (calculating for both price + shipping) and offer free shipping, If I do my research correctly, 9 times out of 10 that item will sell for either market value or about 10 to 15 percent below, a reasonable loss at which to make a sale.
There are also the bulk lots you can do, by grouping together random lots of holos, commons, and uncommons. I have personally NEVER been a fan of these "random" auctions as most of the time people just get ripped off. Some sellers that provide lots, however, will always give you your money's worth, if not more. They're not all bad, certainly, but there are plenty of shady ones out there. If you're going to do a lot, my advice is to actually list the cards in said lot, even if it's random, so that at least the buyer has an idea which cards they have a chance of receiving. Honesty is the best policy, as it is in everything. Whenever I have put up lots, I simply name the cards the winner will receive. These sell better than any other lots, and provide a way to get rid of bulk holos and rares as a value-added bonus.
There is of course, nothing wrong with selling off bulk commons and uncommons with a random rare thrown in. As long as you don't put in too many duplicates (excluding duplicates of common cards you know see play) you should get generally positive feedback. Bulk lots are the cheapest way for players to build up a collection. Just make sure they're getting a good value. If you know you've given them a good value while still leaving room for a healthy profit margin, you're all set.
Pokemon vs Yu-Gi-Oh: Which Will Sell Better?
Overall, if you know your card prices, and you know what sells, both Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh sell about the same. Pokemon you may find yourself selling in lots more often than in Yu-Gi-Oh, but there's plenty of market out there for both trading card games in singles and playsets. Just keep in mind a couple of major points.
Novelty is Money
Whenever a set is first released, cards that get super-hyped tend to sell for far higher values than they will after the set has been out for a bit and supply of singles has increased. This is one reason that a lot of card players and dealers alike attend pre-release events, to get their hands on cards that the general public can't go out and buy yet. These are your cash cow cards, and if you feel that card won't be highly sought after when the release date hits, sell high. Knowing what cards are really needed in the current competitive scene, though, is very, very important. Those are the ones that sell the most, bar none.
Top-Tier Deck Lists
One easy way to know what cards will quickly sell is by looking at winning deck lists in their respective games. Top Yu-Gi-Oh lists are everywhere, and top Pokemon lists are as well. Just by Googling top decks for Yu-Gi-Oh or Pokemon, you can tell what cards are seeing lots of play. Take special note of any holographic cards that see a lot of play, those are the ones that will sell the best!
Selling off a Collection
For many of you reading this, you may be looking to liquidate your collection or know someone who would like to sell off the bulk of a collection. I personally do not like the idea of selling off a collection all at once. While it's certainly doable, and plenty of people buy collections all of the time, if you do it right, selling off the more valuable singles, then selling off the bulk is probably the better way to go.
There's nothing wrong with having a bidding war over a collection (happens all the time!) but bear in mind that sorting through a collection properly enough as to get the highest sale price can take just as long as selling off singles and bulk lots. If you have binders and binders of cards that you know aren't going to sell singly for more than $2-$3 and you have only a couple of big money cards, then it's probably OK to go this way. Just remember you have to include shipping costs, as well, which can get hefty when selling a collection! Best practice is, though, to sell off the bigger cards first, then sell the rest in one big lot.
While you can always sell to gaming vendors, keep in mind that they need to turn a profit off of what they buy. Buy lists are definitely worth looking at, because if a vendor has a high buy price for something, chances are you could sell it for more on EBay! So while selling to a game store or vendor is OK, if you're selling off a whole collection, you're better off selling it yourself.
Here's one thing, however, that you need to consider in Yu-Gi-Oh VS Pokemon. In Yu-Gi-Oh, there are a lot of "junk" cards that no one wants, whereas in Pokemon, holos of even the less popular Pokemon are wanted just for collection purposes. When you're selling a collection, keep that in mind, because Yu-Gi-Oh players buy collections to boost their trade binders, whereas Pokemon players and collections buy collections to either resell or just to boost their own collections. So if you're trying to sell a whole collection in Pokemon, it may be worth just bulking the whole thing together as long as you list all of the valuable stuff in it. In Yu-Gi-Oh, players are looking to win as cheap as possible, so getting all of the value you can out of singles is the better way to go, and perhaps keep a few bait cards to sell the rest off! Just be honest, and you'll be fine.
Flipping Cards for Profit vs Liquidation
This entire article has been based on the assumption that you are looking to flip cards for profit. If you are simply looking to get rid of the "money cards" or even a whole collection, everything said here still applies, however, if you're willing to take a bit lower of a profit margin, or really just want some fair value, there are a few things to keep in mind.
1. Selling the entire collection in bulk is OK if you really need the money now and you don't want to be in it for the long haul. It's also OK if you're helping a friend out so they can get money for something else. Just bear in mind to research the prices of the bigger stuff so you KNOW you'll get a fair price, rather than just stick some arbitrary number up there (25 cents a card or something). But that's just what I suggest.
2. People can make a nice little profit as a hobby buying singles on the cheap and reselling them for a premium. Bargain hunters are all over EBay, and if you're desperate to move things, put them about 2/3 of what they usually go for, and they'll snap them right up. Keep in mind that the most liquid parts of your collection (the things every one is looking for) are what you should always look to move first. The rest of it is what collection buyers will buy up, simply to restock their binders, or simply out of looking to get a lot of cards quickly and cheap.
3. If you do decide to sell off a collection, bear in mind that people going to buy them rarely will want to pay market value for it. Yes, cards are only worth what people are willing to pay for them, but there are ways to squeeze extra dollars out of them. Bear in mind that most collections won't be full of $50-100 gems or even $20 hot sellers. If you know that your collection is full of binder filler, you can afford to take below market value for it. Just keep that in mind.
The reason that I have made this article so profit-oriented is that I simply see people selling off their cards all of the time by simply not doing their homework and using the excuse "I just want to get rid of them!" Flipping cards for profit is a great way to sustain the trading card collection hobby and there's a nice little economy built around it. Just be sure that you're get a fair deal, and keep in mind you can take a loss if you'd like, but more often than not, your cards are more valuable than you think!
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons