Buying Sports Cards on eBay
Understanding how to buy on eBay is perhaps the most important thing to building your dream sports card collection. EBay is the only legitimate and affordable forum for buying and selling cards, so if you don't have an account, or if you have only one eBay account (find out how to create multiple eBay accounts without violating eBay's rules ), the first order of business is to go and register for a free eBay account here. The goal of this article is to ensure that you don't have to learn the hard way, like so many of us have had to do. eBay is primarily composed of "good guys" and "fellow collectors", but there are plenty of "bad guys" out there. There goal is simple; to take advantage of the "novice" collector who is relatively new to eBay.
Although there is no definition for a "Big Card", I would define it as any card you would be willing to spend over $50 on. The type of card that would be one of the cornerstones of your collection. A Card that if bought incorrectly could bankrupt your collection.
STEP 1: Get to Know The Card You Want
Once you decide what card you want, learn everything you can about the card. This will help you avoid walking into a trap. A common trap is the "TO GOOD TO BE TRUE" deal, where a seller will put a fake, re-print, or card similar to the one you are searching for at a price well below the going rate. Before buying your card, you need to be able to answer the following questions:
What The Card Looks Like:
- What does the front look like?
- If it has an Auto, what does that look like?
- What does the back look like? Does it have a sticker or hologram?
- Is the card numbered?
- Is the card "condition" sensitive or hard to find in perfect condition (1993 Derek Jeter SP)
- Does the card have any unusual features that stand out (Name Misspelled, Die Cut, Peel, etc.)
Information About the Card:
- What is the history of the card (google it)? Does it have an unusual past? (1991 Stadium Club Super Bowl Favre RC)
- What Product did it come out of?
- What was the print run?
- What does it book at?
- What has it sold for recently (Look at Completed Auctions)?
eBay Seller Tricks to Watch Out For:
- Hand Signed Cards: An Autographed base card that looks almost identical to the Certified Autographed Card. An example of this would be a 1998 Playoff Contenders Randy Moss Auto. Some people will take the Rookie Ticket Parallel and either get it signed in person or forge a signature. The real version will "Autograph" on the front of it.
- Re-Prints: If you see a Joe Montana Rookie that looks like it could be a BGS 9.5 and it's only at $50 with 2 hours to go, this is a Re-Print (A Pristine 10 Montana RC sold for $65,000 a couple years ago!). It is especially important to watch out for these if you plan on buying rookie cards from 80's. As they have made a ton of re-prints over the years. These are simple to identify if you know the card you are looking for well enough, Topps and Upper Deck usually tried to make it obvious in some way that is was a re-print (Foil stamp, different picture on front of card, Subtraction or addition of gloss or foil, etc.).
- Similar Cards Within a Set: Anotherwards, cards that could "technically" be listed the same way. A perfect example of this is the 2006-07 Upper Deck Evgeni Malkin Young Guns Rookie, as the only difference between the $120 Young Guns Rookie and the $10 Young Guns Checklist is that he is wearing a White Jersey on the real one (#486) and a Black Jersey on the Checklist (#495). I like coming up with sayings that help me distinguish cards, such as "The Lighter the Sweater The Better".
- Fakes: Counterfeit Cards and Fake Signatures happen on eBay more than you would think. If there are too many of a rare card, this is a sign. If you know your card well enough, you'll know how to tell. You'll also know the questions to ask.
- Un-circulated Cards: Simply put, don't buy these until you hear otherwise. An un-circulated card is one that was never put into a pack and comes in a plastic case sealed with a hologram sticker. What "shady" sellers will do is crack open a "junk" un-circulated card and put a great circulated card in it's place. For instance, right now there are more Un-circulated 2002 Bowman's Best Joe Mauer Auto's than Circulated ones for sale. This is disturbing considering there are only supposed to be 20 of the Un-circulated Version and more than 500 of the circulated version.
STEP 2: Get to Know the Seller
This is simple, do a "poor man's" background check of the seller by "Googling" the sellers name to see if anything comes up in forums or blogs. Here are some "red flags" to watch for:
- Feedback Ratio less than 99%
- If negative feedback was left, what was it regarding? I tend to be less worried if the negative feedback has to do with shipping time (you still got the card).
- Look at the "other items" they have for sale, is there anything unusual? For instance, does someone have way too many Rookie Premiere Autos or far too many of an extremely "finite/limited" product?
- Does the listing provide you with the requisite information needed? Does it tell you everything you need to know?
- Is the scan/picture of the card clear enough to represent the condition of the card accurately?
- If you asked the seller a question, did they respond?
3. Step 3: Cover Your Back End
I try to always buy cards with a "7 Day Return Policy". Even if a card says "no returns" I will ask the seller to add a 7-day return policy. This will protect you from receiving a card in which the condition was mis-represented. Even without a 7 day return policy, you are protected extremely well by both eBay and Pay-Pal when it comes to forgeries and fakes (Cards that are counterfeit and/or have fake autographs). If you suspect the card you received is fake, send a scan to Topps, Upper Deck, or Panini asking them to verify the authenticity of the card. They are pretty good about getting back to you. Also, you are fully covered for 30 days in instances like this.
Also, don't be afraid to stand up for yourself if you feel you've gotten ripped off. Sometimes a Seller will try and intimidate a person into not taking action. Bottom line, if you didn't receive what you thought you were buying, you have every right to pursue justice. In order to get a refund/return, I find that it works best to go through Pay Pal. Simply open a case against seller and explain the situation.
4. Step 4: Be Patient
This is extremely important. It can take days or years to find the exact card you are looking for at the exact price you want to pay for it. Collecting cards is similar to hitting in baseball, a good collector has a great eye and patiently waits for the right pitch. Remember, it might take a couple walks to earn the perfect pitch! Until you own the card, think of the card itself as the competition, that's why I put such a heavy emphasis on getting to know everything possible about the "Big Card" you are courting.
Related Topics: How To: Buying | How To: General