Recently, there have been so many news stories and scandals in the hobby that it is genuinely difficult to keep track of it all. The latest concerns Drew Cards and its founder Andrew Chapin. Here is your full primer on the Drew Cards scandal
The man behind Drew Cards is Andrew Chapin, the former advertising head of Benja. On December 15, Chapin was sentenced to three years in prison by a federal court. In addition, he was ordered to pay back more than $8 million to the people he had defrauded. Though that sounds like a heavy penalty, Chapin could have gone far worse. The maximum punishment for his admitted crimes is 30 years in federal prison.
He pled guilty before United States District Judge Maxine M. Chesney of bank fraud, wire fraud, and securities fraud. Chapin is currently at home on bail. It is unclear when the entrepreneur is scheduled to report for his sentence in federal prison.
Recently, Chapin has not provided customers with wax products he had sold to them. The combination of these events had led some in the hobby to accuse Chapin of dishonesty in his hobby dealings.
According to his personal website, Andrew Chapin is an “entrepreneur, skier, runner.” He is 33 years old and lives in the San Francisco Bay area.
Chapin is a fairly well-known entrepreneur in San Francisco Bay area. He has been named on lists like 100 People to Watch in the Crypto and Blockchain space. Andrews’s resume includes stints at Microsoft and Digital Marketing firm Feathr.
Chapin got his BA in Business Administration at North Vermont University and earned his MBA from the Harvard Business School Online.
Andrew also has a reasonably active past in the non-profit sector. In the past, Andrew volunteered for the San Francisco SPCA animal shelter. He was also in the process of setting up the Andrew J. Chapin foundation to “encourage the next generation of entrepreneurs.” However, the link to the foundation is new and currently empty.
Chapin formed Benja, which he describes as “a collection of traditional e-commerce stores (including AffordableJerseys, CoverageGear, others) and shoppable media experiences which delivered a premium outlet experience where people live online.” The company was formed in 2015 in Boston under the name EPHE Corp. Andrew and Benja moved to San Francisco in 2016.
Their business model was simple but clever. First, it placed digital advertisements for overstocked companies. It then allowed customers to buy through the advertising link without forwarding them to the original seller.
In October 2020, Benja filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the Northern District of California.
It is pretty easy to trace the downfall of Andrew Chapin. His plea bargain agreement includes, as is customary, a complete and detailed admission of guilt.
The company was not growing at the pace Chapin wished. Therefore, he began to inflate the value of the company in 2019. How did he do so? I will let the Department of Justice fill you in:
“He told creditors and prospective investors that Benja generated $6,200,000 and $13,200,000 in revenue in 2018 and 2019, respectively, and had signed large contracts with numerous well-known national companies to place advertisements for their excess inventory. However, he admitted today in his plea agreement that he had no contracts with these companies, he falsified Benja’s revenue, and he impersonated corporate representatives or caused their impersonation to bolster the appearance of company relationships that did not exist.”
According to the SEC complaint, “Chapin and Benja falsely claimed to prospective investors that Benja was profitable and had generated millions of dollars in revenue from customers that supposedly included Nike, Patagonia, and Fanatics.” However, “The representations contained in the slide deck, and made verbally by Chapin to the venture capital investor, were false. Moreover, neither Fanatics, Backcountry, Patagonia, or Nike had signed agreements with Benja, nor had any of these companies spent any money with Benja as Defendants had claimed.”
The amount of money he made by falsifying information was significant. For example, one bank provided Chapin with $5,000,000 worth of credit. Benja falsified documents to obtain large amounts of venture capital firm funding in other instances. These included accounts of transactions that had never taken place. In yet other examples, Chapin instructed employees to
He used this money for company expenses. However, Chapin also used the money to purchase cryptocurrency through his private account.
Benja’s scheme began to unravel in September 2020. An investor spoke to a member of another investment company that Chapin claimed had put significant funds into the company. Chapin had previously even arranged for a phone call with an individual purporting to head the firm responsible for the alleged investment. However, the claim turned out to be false as the actual head of the firm denied the investment or that the phone call had ever taken place.
When authorities became aware of the nature of Chapin’s transgressions, he was arrested in November 2020.
Chapin is best known for the LCS Drew Cards to most of us in the hobby he had operated for a while. Andrew went by the alter ego, Drew. His calling card was a thick mustache on all hobby-related pictures. I thought that impressive mustache had been photoshopped on. But Andrew assured me it is real.
They operated breaks, with the most recent one on YouTube dating back to January 7, 2022. Drew Cards also has a small imprint on eBay with just over 100 pieces of feedback on the platform. The ratings are 100% positive, in case you were wondering.
I asked Andrew about his card business, and he explained: “I’ve been selling cards through eBay, Twitter, Livestream, and my former website for about two years, during which time I’ve sold thousands of cards to hundreds of happy customers. I started selling sealed products in April last year and had no problems through the launches of ’21 Bowman Baseball, Mega, Sapphire, Chrome, Draft 1st Edition, Best, Topps Stadium Club, Stadium Club Chrome, Gypsy Queen, and others.”
You may be rolling your eyes at all this. But keep something in mind: Andrew Chapin is known as a nice guy in the hobby. And many have made deals with him over the years with no complaints. In addition, I have followed his hobby Twitter account for months now and have always had a very good impression of the individual.
However, once the news came out that he had been convicted and was slated to do time, his reputation in the hobby suffered accordingly. I asked Andrew how he felt about the blow to his standing amongst collectors. He told me, “I completely understand and accept that a person could feel uncomfortable doing business given this new information, which I’ve even heard from people with whom I’ve done dozens of transactions. That’s all I would say: I understand.”
In January 2022, Chapin stopped filling orders for which payment had already been made. That made a bad situation significantly worse.
The purchases in question were boxes of Bowman Draft Jumbo Hobby. Many users took to Twitter to express their dissatisfaction and suspicions regarding Chapin and his practices.
I asked Chapin about the problems with the Bowman Draft purchase. He told Cardlines, “I was excited to continue building that business with the Bowman Draft release, but unfortunately, my two primary suppliers had their allocation cut and were unable to fill my order. After I was unsuccessful in finding enough product from other sources, I was left with no choice but to cancel the orders and issue refunds.”
Drew Cards have issued refunds on most, if not all, of the purchases that were not fulfilled. Chapin appears to have sold customers cards he did not have in his possession. Unfortunately, the funds to cover the refunds were not made available in many cases.
One customer posted: “A refund was pending on my credit card, and it did not post, meaning the funds were not available to complete a refund. Chase (and I would assume other CC companies) have a 60-day policy for claims. I was originally told there was nothing Chase could do about filing a dispute. However, after I told them that the expected delivery date was late December, they could file a claim. Treating expected delivery date as the transaction date.”
Unfortunately, when a pending refund has yet to be fulfilled, it is often challenging to file a claim with the credit card companies.
Other customers were having similar problems. For example, another account posted on January 17, “Currently have multiple pending orders (drip breaks/ auctions), with the tracking saying ‘delayed.’ I hope it’s not an issue and something happened at USPS.
It has been a pleasant surprise to see Chapin respond to the complaints. He has been quite responsive on Twitter and in private correspondence.
He responded to many of the threads of individuals accusing him of wrongdoing. In addition, Chapin invited customers experiencing problems to email him and attempt to resolve the issue.
However, many of the customers were not impressed. They were skeptical that Chapin was trying to run down the clock until the start of his federal sentence. Others complained that their orders were not being fulfilled despite Andrew’s assurances.
Nonetheless, Andrew told me that “there were some issues with refunds, as you might expect when doing so many at once, nearly every order has now been addressed. So I’m working hard to wrap up the few stragglers in the next few days.”
I asked Chapin if he had any regrets about the situation. He replied, “I’ll forever be a part of this hobby that I love so much, but I expect my online card shop will remain closed. It has been heart-wrenching to watch this once-promising and fun journey come to an end. With the benefit of hindsight, I should not have entered the sealed product business when I did not hold the distributor relationship directly.”
Numerous other accounts have posted about experiencing problems with receiving refunds. Some also agreed to talk to us about their experiences, both on and off the record.
I spoke with Sherman Holland, an unhappy customer of Drew Cards. Sherman said that he had purchased two boxes of Bowman Draft Jumbo Hobby Boxes from Drew Cards. It was not the first time that he had bought cards from Chapin, including participation in several breaks and purchasing multiple Bowman Chrome Hobby Boxes.
Holland purchased the two boxes at $360 a pop. Unfortunately, like many other customers, Sherman did not receive the boxes. To make matters worse, the price of the boxes has risen since. It is currently challenging to find a Junbo for less than $470 each.
“I felt cheated when I didn’t get my boxes *without explanation* and whenever I get my money back, I still feel cheated because those boxes are now selling for 450+ and I’m only getting back what I paid for it.”
Though quite unhappy with the situation, Sherman doesn’t resent Chapin. He told me, “My opinion is he was always a good guy with great energy and bad customer service. But frequently made up for things that went wrong in the past before this. (Throwing in free cards, teams in breaks, etc.) I don’t think he had any intentions of scamming. It just turned out to be a terrible situation I have hated being in the middle of.”
I asked Andrew why he was closing Drew Cards. He explained, I’m closing the shop because I learned I won’t be available to run the shop in the immediate term, and I don’t know if the business is viable in the long-term.” Andrew is, of course, referring to his upcoming incarceration, which will not allow him to operate the shop.
There are plenty of reasons to be suspicious of Andrew Chapin and his motives. After all, his record in on-card related business is far from exemplary. However, it is not clear that this streak of dishonesty has entered into his card dealings.
As far as I can see, Chapin is trying to refund his customers and make good on the orders he received. Perhaps the sums of money involved are small, and maybe his genuine love for the hobby differentiates between his dealings with one sphere versus the other. But anyone who has had dealings with Andrew in the hobby acknowledges that he is a nice guy who tries to put things right.
I, for one, hope that Chapin returns to the hobby after release, as he said he would. However, maybe he should stick to buying and collecting rather than selling.