How do people even become successful selling pokemon cards?

Razor thin margins on pokemon cards. Everyone has the same cards you have. Barely enough money to cover shipping costs, grading costs, Buying cards, finding deals, costly ebay fees.

How in the WORLD do people become successful in this? It’s like when you first start, it’s impossible, when you get the hang of it, it’s almost impossible. I’m still trying to wrap my head around this, not as a person wanting to go into this, but about how impressive and hard working you have to be just to make it work.

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Passion & Patience.

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You can fasttrack it by spending lots of money.

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Or through the good ol’ finger-finger discount.

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Well I guess it’s how you want to define success. Even with small margins the margin is still there. I think the mindset you currently have (at least by reading your post) is kind of a defeatist mindset. Like everything you said in the post are kind of excuses or like an easy way of saying you don’t want to put in any effort. I find so much opportunity everywhere I look I feel like. I’m not even close to being the best. I’m not full time but I do make a decent amount of money. It is a lot of work but I enjoy it. I feel like the opportunity lies with the “plays” (cringe word) that the masses aren’t making.

I’m not “coming at you” in anyway I promise. I’m sorry if it came off that way. I just want to let it be known that there is so much value available in the market right now you just need the knowledge. Like I stated before I think it just depends on how you want to define success. If you want to make some extra money to buy more cards I feel like you can in the current market. If you wanted to go full time well you probably need a lot of capital to start with. Sorry for the ramble and feel free to disagree with me.

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Like most passion projects and small businesses, it takes a considerable amount of time and cash upfront to make money. Small margins matter less when the price of the item is in the thousands or tens of thousands.

Most sellers that flip cheap cards will make less than a minimum wage job when all of the fees/time are calculated. It’s not impossible, as we have seen on e4. But it does take a lot of time, resources, and willingness to pivot/grow as things change.

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Post vague cropped charts that go up and to the right. Then post a basket full of envelopes to prove your chart is going up and to the right.

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Consistency, patience, and knowledge is key.

Those who see the money and rush into this hobby tend to treat this hobby as a cash machine and do anything to get a nickel out of it. You can sue make a lot of money by throwing your morals out the window and grinding out mystery boxes, botting the pokemon center website, hiring people to scalpe product whenever there is a hot item like van Gogh Pikachu, sell fake items on Mercari/eBay, lie to people about conditions, sell resealed items to naive collectors, exc. Exc.

If someone can make a buck by doing it, someone will do it. Sad to see, but that is the world we live in.

As with becoming successful in this hobby with a growing collection, focus on the knowledge and driving demand first and foremost above making a buck.

With everything in life, time is the true limus test. Ask yourself how the veterans in this hobby, that are still around and continue to do this, got their collections where they are today. Were they focused on money or the knowledge of the hobby?

Something to think about

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i do it for fun, the additional income is an afterthought.

i would not recommend to anyone unless they enjoy scrolling through listings and reading about cards for hours a day (which i do regardless).

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To become successful at almost anything you need to be obsessed. Most people don’t have the drive to get through the hard times, which means that those that do will more often than not reap the benefits. It’s very easy to see a successful person and think they are lucky to be where they are (luck always plays a part) but most people overlook the path it’s taken to get them there.

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It also depends on what you define as success. Do you mean make a living off of it, or would you also call selling to supplement income to build your collection a success (or, even better, building a collection for free by offsetting costs via selling)?

One of the more important things if you want to build a somewhat steady income (whether large or small) is that you need to find things that can be repeatable. I’m sure many users here can recall a story where they found a card for much cheaper than market price and flipped it to make a good chunk of money, but you can’t depend on this being the norm. If you hope to make steady income purely on “unicorn” finds of $300 cards being sold for $50, you’ll find yourself out of luck very fast. So small margins probably work because they are often something that is liquid and pretty repeatable.

There are probably enough resources on Youtube that can at least get you started on trying out a few things to see what works for you if you’d like. But like others have said, persistence and dedication are requisite.

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It would be cool to hear where you specifically see unoptimized value in the market in current year. If that’s dipping into the secret sauce then no worries ofc

For me, before even starting to sell cards, you have to be part of the market for as long as possible.

This is my logic, so far, the TCG market experienced 3 booms in recent years. 2016/17, 2020/21, and Summer 2023. One boom cycle like that can literally 3x to 10x the values of your good cards.

A lot of people don’t get to experience the ‘boom’ phase of the market because they have already left the market during the ‘low times’. They never get to experience that short yet exhilarating 1 to 3-month exponential rush.

You have to be part of the market before the boom, that’s the golden rule. Mainly because booms are sudden and unexpected. Auction prices start to double overnight, and again, and again, and when you realize it, you’re near the end of the boom cycle. Meaning that you’re too late.

When it happens, you just have to be in the market and own some good cards. The best thing you can do is to be involved in something Pokemon TCG related

Whether that be doing content like writing articles about prices or videos about prices, join a Pokemon TCG related startup, or start a side business flipping cards, no need to have a large inventory, just be part of the market.

If you have a side business selling cards, your weekends are going to be making sure your packing supplies are sufficient, planning next week’s auctions/BIN listings and scouting sites for cards to flip. If you do content, its the same, your weekends are just about thinking about that next video or post or podcast. You don’t really get full days off. You can even do both if you want to.

This might seem extreme but the people who stay in the market the longest are the ones who are the most successful. I don’t mean just collecting cards because that’s the easy part.

Once you go through a boom, all values of your cards go up. 2017 boom saw a 5x increase. 2020 10x, and 2023 summer 3x. With that extra value, just remember to sell and keep it rolling. One thing in common is that most successful sellers had experienced at least one boom and held good cards.

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add in some tays for safety and u should be good

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I was doing single ungraded card sales for a short time, literally about 6 months, and I just got fed up with it. Like everyone’s said, if you don’t have a massive amount of passion for every single card you’re selling and the service you’re providing, you’ll get fed up very quickly. Especially during those moments where you have to pack up a single £1.50 card and go to the post office, just for that card, only to yield 25p profit, and even more so when it’s the only thing you’ve sold that entire day.

It’s not a bad thing to not want to commit to this, it’s just not a lifestyle that’s for everyone. And when you’re doing it in the volumes and attentiveness required to become a success, it really is beyond a lifestyle. In trying to maintain the volumes, energy and attention, there’s a real risk of getting that burn-out hobby fatigue too. I switched to a more passive, patient approach with what few purchases and sales I make. I just buy cards and products that I genuinely like first and foremost, and sit on them until it becomes worth grading/selling, i.e. the tried and trusted buy-and-hold method. It just frees up my time to spend it doing other things in life that I enjoy more.

To +1 Chok’s great post, being in the market, even during the lows, really is the most important thing. Awareness, being in the Fourum, staying up-to-date with technical details like pricing and quantities of product releases, upcoming promotions, including internationally - especially Japan - will all pay dividends in the long term. Knowledge, patience and passion really are the most precious resources in all this.

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Personally, I believe in the current market graded cards, are super overrated. For the majority of cards right now they aren’t even really worth grading unless you’d think they will get a 10. I know people will say that is the case for only modern cards, but I’ve even seen this with old back holos as well. Of course there are exceptions but I’m just speaking broadly here. I just feel everyone and their mom wants to grade right now and my raw cards get bought up really quick and it feels like my graded cards sit much longer. At the same time I have sink time and money into grading which is another cost that eats into the “thin margins.” Maybe this is my own personal experience but I feel like a lot of people will have the same experience as I do.

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I actually agree with this post.

One more thing to add is if other people are doing it, you can do it too. Everyone’s “secret sauce” is a little different. There’s a lot of information out there. Just change your mindset from “how are people doing it” to “I’m going to figure out how others are doing it.” Define how you want to be “successful” and then just figure how to get there. There’s a wealth of knowledge on this forum…you just gotta figure out what to ask. I appreciate you for starting this post. :grinning:

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Lots of vague advice, so I’ll try to give you something a little more concrete. The game is always changing and getting harder. As long as there are profits to be made, more people will keep entering and driving margins down. That being said, I still think there is opportunity in card markets. It varies from item to item, but I’m still able to easily keep my pokemon PM above 30%, sometimes higher in other card games.

I found the market to be huge and completely overwhelming. It helps if you can match your personality to an area of the market. Many areas, like ultra-modern, move too fast for me, and like you said “Everyone has the same cards you have.” I don’t make content. I don’t really network or have Pokémon friends/connections. So, I found it helpful to niche down to slower less popular sets. I probably only participate in <5% of the Pokémon market, but that allows me to have a high level of knowledge and dominate those areas. There are probably 10 slower moving sets that I know every card and price in.

Try thinking about the buying/selling pace that would match your personality (modern, mid, vintage, slow, fast, English, Japanese…) and then finding a single set, or even a single Pokémon or single card that matches. Spend a couple weeks learning that set. Like every card along with their pops, prices, grading rates, and historical sales. Watching sales on every platform so you can analyze if there is opportunity. Then buy/sell a little to see what is there. Do this enough times and you’ll eventually find a niche, if not several that you enjoy and that have high margins.

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The secret is to start 15+ years ago.

One benefit every collector had if they started in 2009 is experiencing a rapid and sustained increase in what their Pokémon cards were worth. Things you bought for fun because it was a personal interest of yours became accidental investments with massive profit potential. Here is an example from my own life.

I began as a set collector. I wanted to collect Base, Jungle, Fossil, and Rocket in Unlimited condition as my earliest goal. If you wanted sets back then, you could buy complete mint sets easily. These sets were still assembled from people’s personal closet collections. Ungraded mint cards were still an abundant norm. The phrase “pack fresh” was everywhere because people still opened and built these sets for fun.

I bought these sets easily. I built a complete collection in one effortless transaction. I held them for a couple of years and then thought these cards were too easy. I wanted to sell these cards and buy 1st Editions instead just because they were a more “premium card” to base my collection around. I sold my three sets in 2011. I was pleased that I actually made more money than they originally cost me. Would you like to see what those sets sold for?

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The stone cold truth is that Pokémon cards used to cost pennies per card. More than that, they were free. Pokémon cards were free. If you were 18 years old and asked another 18 year old if they still had their Pokémon cards, they gave them to you. When I got back into Pokémon my senior year of high school, kids tripped over themselves to give their old Pokémon cards to me. I had stacks of binders in my bedroom from other kids I went to school with just happy to give them away.

Those same unlimited WotC sets I bought and sold for $40 now change hands regularly for $250-$300 in significantly worse condition. If I had held on to them, that would be a 7.5x increase in value - not even accounting for the condition difference. And I had thousands of cards. Hundreds of duplicates.

But imagine a different route. Imagine if in 2010 I had compiled inventory of these cards. Imagine in 2016 I saw the writing on the wall and send all these raw mint cards I’d amassed at almost no cost to PSA and received back a significant inventory of PSA 9s and 10s. Imagine I started selling my Pokémon cards on eBay consistently and build up a routine for myself in an era where there’s far few people doing such a thing. Imagine that every time I sell a card, I am making 7.5x on my investment. Maybe I’m making 10x. Maybe 15x! You are suddenly flush with cash. You can buy every Pokémon card you ever dreamed of owning.

That 1st Edition Base Set Charizard is $700 in 2012, so you buy it. You never thought I’d spend $700 on a Pokémon card, but why not? The card is the crown jewel of your collection for another few years. In 2016, the card is worth $3,000. By 2020, the card is worth $14,000. You finally sell the card. Now you have $14,000 from Pokémon, money you wouldn’t have otherwise, money that blows your mind. What do you do with it? You put it back into the collection. You buy more Pokémon.

The most successful collectors who made their wealth on Pokémon definitely did everything right when the iron was hot. There is a gap between the collectors who got lucky and the collectors who made their livelihoods off of the hobby. People who continue to run businesses and have learned the industry of the hobby inside and out are experts in what it took and still takes to turn a hobby into a business.

But the fact is also that we all made money off of Pokémon. Everyone who collected back then saw their collections 3x, 7x, 10x, 20x over time and that money opened doors to more cards, rarer cards, or significant real life gains. People have sold single Pokémon cards to make downpayments on houses. People have sold Pokémon cards to pay off their student loans. If you were there, you got lucky too and Pokémon probably changed your life.

Maybe you didn’t make it into a business, maybe it was a one-and-done turn around where you cashed out on your investment. But there was no secret recipe to be successful with Pokémon if you were there back then. You just had to be there.

The conditions to become a rags to riches Pokémon collector who turns their hobby into a livelihood no longer exist. The conditions for these successful businessfolks to maintain their livelihoods is more challenging than ever. My best advice is to go back in time and start in 2010.

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