E-commerce giant e-Bay announced that it would begin authenticating trading cards on its platform. Starting immediately, eBay will send cards (with some exceptions) valued at over $750 to third-party graders. They later expanded this service to graded cards worth over $2,000. They are calling this process the eBay Trading Card Authenticity Guarantee.
Let’s jump right in and see how it works and the implications of this move for the wider hobby.
As reported here on Cardlines, eBay banned PWCC from their platform in August 2021. However, many speculated at the time that the wrongdoing of the Oregon-based company only partially inspired the banning.
It was also part of a broader plan to integrate the e-commerce giant further into the hobby. After all, eBay has a stranglehold over an industry worth billions. For example, according to figures released by eBay, card sales on eBay amounted to $2 billion in the first half of 2021 alone. As a result, speculation was rife that eBay would be amiss not to leverage its lucrative position appropriately.
The predictions were spot on. eBay is taking advantage of its strong position as the primary platform for hobby commerce to enter the highly lucrative authentication space.
The new authentication service is built on three promises to buyers and sellers:
According to the eBay press release: “When a service-eligible trading card purchase is made, the seller ships it directly to a team of third-party authenticators at Certified Collectibles Group – including its affiliates, CGC Trading Cards and Certified Sports Guaranty (CSG) – for a comprehensive, multi-point physical inspection. Following this rigorous assessment, the card is sent via expedited shipping to the buyer or seller.”
According to the eBay announcement “beginning now, single ungraded trading cards (including collectible card games, sports, and non-sports) sold for $750+ in the U.S. will be authenticated.” However, that is just the start. Once the capacity for authentication has been expanded, more cards will be authenticated through eBay. “By mid-2022, the service will expand to include graded, autograph, and patch cards sold for $250+.”
eBay delivered on that promise in May 2022 when it announced that graded cards sold for over $2,000 would also be covered.
eBay will not authenticate ineligible items.
The price points are expected to go down to $250 and over eventually. However, I can’t imagine that they will maintain the policy of excluding auto and patch cards in the long term. After all, those two genres are among the most common and sought-after high-end cards.
Both buyer and seller must be in the U.S. unincorporated territories (incl. Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands). The guarantee does not cover Armed forces’ postal locations either. Listings that offer only local pickup or items shipped to P.O. boxes will not be eligible for Authenticity Guarantee. Note that eBay reserves the right to expand or limit the countries eligible for Authenticity Guarantee or the Services at any time, in its sole discretion, with or without notice.
The new process has four steps to facilitate a more reliable card purchasing experience. Here they are:
When a buyer purchases a qualifying card, eBay will send it to the authenticators. They take the following steps:
After purchasing an eligible item, the seller must quickly send the item to the authentication facility. Once there, the inspection should be executed within one to two business days of receipt. Once the review is complete, the item will be sent to you with tracked four-day shipping.
When the card is shipped, you can track it. The tracking information is available on the Purchase History page, where you’ll be able to track the shipment of your order and see exactly where it is in the authentication process. As part of the Authenticity Guarantee service, you will also receive an order update email once your item goes through inspection.
eBay has entrusted the process to the Certified Collectibles Group’s affiliates, CGC Trading Cards, and Certified Sports Guaranty (CSG). Formed in 1987, they are one of the primary authenticators in the larger world of collectibles and memorabilia. The group comprises several sub-companies specializing in authenticating various collectible items.
In a short announcement, the company announced that “CSG is excited to be part of this program, which brings an added layer of trust to eBay marketplace transactions.”
Their portfolio is quite impressive and includes the following companies:
CCG sees this as an opportunity to compete with PSA in the sports cards arena and challenge the ambitious plans of the latter for hobby domination. While PSA has a massive advantage in the American sports cards arena, CCG holds the upper hand globally. The company maintains offices in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and China.
As always on eBay, the seller determines the return policy on a sold item. Here is a general guide to returns on the platform. Therefore, If the seller doesn’t accept returns, eBay considers the sale final. On the other hand, if the seller has a return window, you must open the return within that window.
You have an opportunity to return cards that sustained damage in transit. That chance exists regardless of the policy of the seller. For example, if the seller has an exchange window, return the damaged item during that time frame. Meanwhile, if the sale is final, you can open a return request within three days of arrival. Here is the full eBay ‘money-back guarantee’ policy for your perusal.
The verification process works both ways. Therefore, if you send back a return, it will arrive at the authenticators’ doorstep rather than the sellers. However, the authenticator may determine the returned item is not the same item or is not in the same condition. In addition, the authenticators will determine if someone tampered with or removed the Authenticity Guarantee sticker. In that case, the authenticators will return the item back to the sender and deny the return.
Note also that eBay cannot accommodate address changes at this time.
The big retail stores often seem to treat collectors as a nuisance. However, eBay has taken the opposite approach and embraced the hobby with an overpowering bear hug.
In their official announcement, the e-commerce platform situated the move into a broader hobby strategy: “eBay is continuously listening to its growing community of collectors to ensure the marketplace is delivering what enthusiasts want and need. Giving collectors even more options and flexibility, Authenticity Guarantee comes on the heels of the introduction of industry-leading tools Price Guide and Collection and Image Scan, which the company debuted in 2021.”
It is easy to see why eBay adopted these new steps. They have a massive share of the sports card market already. However, the Achilles heel of their operation is that savvy collectors have long been wary of buying and selling highly-valuable cards on eBay due to the relative unreliability of the platform. Therefore, you often see truly high-end items in auction houses. These new steps will encourage many to sell on eBay instead.
Nonetheless, if eBay wants to enjoy the fruits of this initiative in its entirety, they will also have to authenticate autos and patch cards. My guess is they realize this and need to get the infrastructure in place to handle these more complicated items.
We do not know how good the execution of the verification will be. However, it is hard to see this as anything other than a win for buyers on eBay. The company is taking steps that will protect buyers from cheating. However, we know that these steps are never foolproof, and forgeries and altered cards will always seep through the cracks.
Whatever problems eBay runs into in the short term, there is no doubt this is a positive move from their perspective. Moreover, it will cement their role as the central conduit of the sports card industry in the United States and beyond.