Safety is perhaps the most important aspect of buying or trading cards online. You don’t want to lose your cards, or your money. The safest transactions are of course in person–and while shows are great, there is no denying the ease and convenience–not to mention the breadth of inventory–that can be located online. With the rise of online marketplaces, buying and selling vintage sports cards has become more accessible than ever. However, along with this convenience comes the risk of scams, counterfeits, and other pitfalls. This is a huge topic, but here is a quick list of tips for safe transactions–especially when buying or selling in informal groups on social media: 

  1. Research, Research, Research: Knowledge is power. Before making any purchase, take the time to research the specific card or cards you’re interested in. Familiarize yourself with common counterfeit signs. Utilize reputable resources such as collector forums to educate yourself on the market
  2. Choose Reputable Platforms: When buying or selling vintage sports cards online, opt for well-established platforms with robust security measures and a track record of reliability. Platforms like eBay, COMC (Check Out My Cards), and specialized trading forums sometimes offer buyer and seller protection policies, member vetting, or user reviews that can help safeguard your transactions. If you are doing direct deals in a Forum or Facebook group, it is important to use secure payment methods outlined below.
  3. Verify Sellers and Buyers: Before entering into a transaction, verify the credibility of the seller or buyer. If possible, check their feedback, ratings, and transaction history on the platform. Look for sellers with a proven track record of successful sales and positive reviews from other collectors. Similarly, if you’re selling cards, ensure that potential buyers have a reliable history of transactions and positive feedback. Don’t be afraid to request vouches or references.
  4. Request Additional Information and Photos: Don’t hesitate to ask sellers for additional information or detailed photos of the cards you’re interested in. Inspect the images closely for any signs of wear, damage, or inconsistencies that could indicate a counterfeit or altered card. Authentic sellers will typically be more than happy to provide any necessary information to verify the condition and authenticity of their cards.
  5. Utilize Secure Payment Methods: When completing transactions, opt for secure payment methods that offer buyer and seller protection, such as PayPal goods and services, credit cards, or escrow services. Avoid using cash, money orders, friends and family payments, Cashapp or Zelle, or wire transfers, as they offer little recourse in case of fraud or disputes. Be cautious of sellers who insist on unconventional payment methods or request payment outside of a platform’s recommended payment system.
  6. Seek Professional Authentication: For high-value vintage sports cards or if you have any doubts about the authenticity of a card, consider investing in professionally graded cards. Companies like PSA and SGC offer expert examination and certification, providing peace of mind for both buyers and sellers. Check the grader’s certification verification and make sure the number matches the card and that the plastic case (slab) shows no signs of tampering. Avoid no-name grading companies that might give only the appearance of legitimacy.
  7. Trust Your Instincts: If something seems too good to be true or raises red flags during the transaction process, trust your instincts and walk away. Take the time to investigate further, ask questions, and seek advice from experienced collectors or industry experts if needed. If the price is too good to be true, keep hunting.

There is no 100% guarantee against fraud, chargebacks, or disputes, but following these tips will keep you safe online 99.9% of the time.