Frequently Asked Questions

What are/is Small Traditions?

Small traditions are the little wonders in our American lives that persist from one generation to the next. They are the material illuminations of our parents’ and grandparents’ dreams, imagined and realized and then passed on to us as reminders of who and where we come from, what we are, why we exist. Paintings and pictures, handwritten letters, a cherished toy, a coin, a comic, a carte de visite, a Topps baseball card, an advertisement for soda pop. Garage sale inventory to some, treasured art to others, Small traditions are the threads that give the fabric of our popular American culture its endless color. Small Traditions LLC is an online sports and Americana collectibles auction company founded in 2010 after previously operating on eBay since 1999.  

Who runs Small Traditions, and what are his qualifications?

Dave Thorn founded Small Traditions in 2010 after working for several years in the auction industry as the head writer for one of the hobby's first and most enduring auction catalog companies. After receiving his Masters degree from Lehigh University and completing a year of AmeriCorps volunteer service in New York City, Dave spent a decade as a college professor of English literature and instructor of composition and creative writing. As the son of two teachers, education is embedded in Dave's DNA, and he works diligently and passionately to provide his customers with as much knowledge and information as his time and ability allow. Got questions? Ask Dave. He is an open book.

Do you travel to consult with customers looking to sell or auction their collections?

Yes, due to the size and value of most collections, traveling to visit with customers is an essential part of business at Small Traditions. Not only do we enjoy visiting both new and familiar places, but the opportunity to meet potential clients in person, often over several days, allows us to thoroughly explain the many facets of grading and auctioning, to answer as many questions as possible, and to work through a much larger amount of material than would be possible via emails or regular mail. Most importantly, meeting in person allows us to establish the most important ingredients in successful business agreements: confidence and trust. 

When/how will I receive my auction/store winnings?

At Small Traditions LLC, we pride ourselves in the speed and security with which we process and ship purchases. Both auction and store orders typically ship within 1-2 days of cleared payments, but they may take up to one week or longer depending on our travel schedule. All orders ship via insured USPS Priority Flat Rate and First Class options according to the shipping and handling schedule listed in our Rules section, and all orders valued over $200 require a direct signature. Next day deliveries as well as alternate carriers such as FedEx may be arranged. All orders, whether valued at $100 or $100,000, are handled and packaged with the utmost care.

When/how will I receive my consignment payout?

We are committed to providing the fastest consignment payouts in the auction industry. For sold store and auction items, expedited payouts may be arranged within just 10 business days of completed sales but must be requested via email. All other payouts are processed within 15-30 business days of completed sales. Additionally, consignments that are sold over several auctions will not be settled until all items have been auctioned and paid unless otherwise arranged. We make all payouts with hologram-secured business checks provided by J.P. Morgan Chase. Wire transfers and PayPal payments are additional options, as is ChasePay for Chase customers with payouts under $5,000.

Is selling my cards and collectibles through Small Traditions really free?

Yes, selling in Small Traditions auctions is completely free. The seller's fee at Small Traditions is 0% unless otherwise arranged, which means that sellers receive 100% of the final bids placed on their items. The only exceptions are when we have prepaid any associated grading fees, which we pay in advance and later deduct from our consignors' proceeds, or when we manage large collections and charge a collection management fee, typically between 10-20% and only after contractual agreement. 

Is grading my cards with PSA & BGS through Small Traditions really free?

In a manner of speaking, yes. There is no out-of-pocket expense to grading your cards through Small Traditions. We are happy to pay our consignors' grading and authentication fees up front, which can be substantialcard grading can be extremely expensivebut we later deduct those fees from our consignors' auction proceeds. However, not only do we manage all the delicate work of handling and preparing our consignors' card grading and autograph submissions, as well as pay all the expensive associated shipping and insurance charges, but we are also able to charge reduced grading and authentication fees as well as provide accelerated turnaround times thanks to bulk discounts made possible by the high volume of submissions we manage.

What is card grading and how can it help me?

Professional third-party card grading and authentication is the process of verifying that a card is genuine and unaltered and then ascribing to it a numerical grade between 1 and 10, with 10 being the best. Cards are then sealed in tamper-evident cases, each with a serial number, which enters a database called a "population report" that tracks the total number of cards graded and the total number of cards in each grade between 1 and 10. After nearly a quarter century of card grading by industry leaders such as PSA and BGS, this process has established a relatively concise picture of which cards are rare in any grade and also which cards are rare in higher grades. For newcomers to card grading, it is extremely important to understand that the value of a card can differ dramatically depending on its condition and its numerical grade. For example, a 1951 Bowman #253 Mickey Mantle rookie card graded PSA 5 may be worth about $10,000, but a PSA 7 sells for closer to $30,000, and a PSA 8 sells for about $150,000. As illustrated here, it is equally important to understand that values increase exponentially as numerical grades increase. The most recent PSA 9 sale of a 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle rookie card fetched $750,000 in 2018. In short, card grading can help you by realizing significantly more value for your cards than selling them "raw" or ungraded.

How much does card grading cost?

Card grading is expensive, but it can also add multiple factors of value to your collectionin other words, ungraded cards valued $1,000 will often sell for as much as $2,000 to even $4,000 ore more once gradedso we strongly recommend it. We work primarily with industry leader PSA to grade most of our customers' cards, and PSA charges by value and turnaround time. Cards valued up to $100 can be submitted as inexpensively as $7 each, but turnaround times will take anywhere from 4-8 weeks. Cards valued up to $500 must be submitted at the $20 level and will take between 2-4 weeks. Cards valued up to $2,000 cost $50 each and take 8 business days. Cards valued up to $5,000 cost $125 each and finish in just 2 business days. Cards valued up to $10,000 cost $300 each and finish in 1 business day. Cards valued up to $25,000 cost $900 each and also finish in 1 business day. And cards valued over $25,000 cost $1,500 each and finish in 1 business day. Please remember that Small Traditions will help you determine the correct submission levels for your cards, and we are also happy to pay up front for your submissions, subtracting your grading fees from your eventual sales so that you do not incur any out-of-pocket expenses. 

Is now a good time to sell my cards?

As of summer 2018, both vintage and modern trading cards are among the hottest commodities in the vast collectibles universe, which extends to coins, comics, pop and folk art, toys, and much more. Prices for the best trading cards in the hobby reached unprecedented numbers between late 2015 and 2017, tripling and quadrupling prices paid for the same cards in the same grades just a year earlier. While those record-shattering numbers have subsided to some degree, the recent trading card boom is still very much a reality, with prices for quality cards now averaging 200-300% of the prices paid for the same cards in the same grades at the start of the decade. One of the reasons for this is that traditional investors have enthusiastically embraced cards and collectibles as legitimate long-term commodities. Another reason is the continued growth and relentless innovation of industry leaders like PSA, SGC, BGS, JSA, Topps, Panini, and others. Yet a third reason is that countless baby boomers across the country have been cashing out their collections, bringing more and more quality collectibles into the market, a process that has counter-intuitively grown demand rather than reduced it. In short, there may never have been a better time to sell your cards than now. Just be careful and take your time, seek second and third opinions, and don't get ripped off.

Do you buy collections, and how much can I expect to be paid?

Yes, we are happy to negotiate fair prices for direct purchases of cards and collectibles. However, collections take a great deal of time and labor to liquidate, so please do not expect to realize prices consistent with current book value. Instead, whether you sell to Small Traditions or to another company, expect to realize prices between 60-80% of book value. Small Traditions will also match or beat your best offer from other companies and dealers, so please contact us today for a free consultation.

How is Small Traditions like eBay?

Small Traditions is like eBay in that it is an online auction website with an associated online store filled with aggressively priced items on which prospective customers may submit offers. 

How is Small Traditions not like eBay?

Small Traditions is the polar opposite of eBay in several ways. First, we charge our buyers instead of our sellers to participate in our auctions. Second, we allow our buyers two weeks to pay instead of just two days. Third, Small Traditions is exactly what our name suggests, a small business, not a massive corporation. This allows us to develop strong relationships with individual customers built on direct communication, accurate information, and trust. 

Why does the countdown timer keep resetting on the final night of the auction?

Similar to scores of other auction sites outside of eBay, Small Traditions employs an auction-wide 15-minute rule to close our auctions. In short, starting at 9pm CMT, each time a bid is placed on any item within the auction, the timer will reset to 15 minutes, and the auction will not close until a full 15 minutes pass with no bids placed on any item within the entire auction. 

What does the term 'Pop 1 Highest Graded' mean?

The term 'Pop' is short for "Population," which refers to the number of a particular card graded at a particular grading level. For example, a 'Pop 15 PSA 8' means that there are 15 total examples of that particular card graded PSA 8. A 'Pop 1 Highest Graded' card means there is just one card graded at that respective grading level, and there are none graded higher. In other words, it's the single finest example known to PSA.