As a buyer of solely pre-war cards these days, eBay is generally my prime source of finding cards. I’m often asked where I buy the majority of my collection and, hands down, it’s eBay.
While I’ve bought from several other sources, including individual sellers, online dealers, and sites such as COMC, I’d guess that the bulk of my collection these days is bought from eBay. Probably upwards of 90% or so. I know there are collectors that bemoan the site, but there, quite literally, is nothing like it.
The reasons are many. First, and most importantly, it offers the greatest selection for pre-war cards. A close second is mere convenience. It mostly makes buying cards in person at shows and such obsolete. There are benefits, of course, to attending shows or stopping by your local card shop. But for purely buying pre-war cards, there’s really nothing that can even remotely compare to eBay.
All of that said, eBay has its share of annoyances. Common ones typically focus on poor descriptions, unclear images, or deceptive listings. Those are the big ones that are often cited. But here are five others that drive me insane.
Reprints not Mentioned in Titles
This isn’t such a big deal for me as, the more you buy, the easier it is to spot things that aren’t legit. Chances are that if a seller is offering a rare card, such as a Joe Jackson E90-1 rookie card or a Ty Cobb green background T206 that is ungraded and starting at $.99, that’s a pretty big red flag.
However, this is annoying because if you utilize eBay Saved Searches and routinely check them, you come up with quite a bit of junk. I typically remove the word ‘reprint’ in my search settings so I don’t get junk. But you also get sellers doing annoying things, such as using ‘RP’ instead or simply not mentioning anything about a reprint in the title at all.
eBay could fix this, of course. Any reprint card should be forced to include that in the title. Or, at the very least, if not there, it should be required to be marked as a reprint in the description and should not show up in searches where prospective buyers search for cards minus the word reprint.
‘Not’ PSA or SGC
This is one of my favorites, actually. These are sellers that often are either selling ungraded cards or selling cards from an unreputable third-party grader.
Here, sellers will put a phrase such as ‘Not PSA’ or ‘Not SGC’ in their titles. This, of course, is so that buyers searching for PSA or SGC graded cards will get their cards into their searches.
It’s always the one that’s made the least amount of sense to me. I mean, if a person is specifically looking for a PSA card of Player X from Set Y, even when he/she stumbles upon a listing like this, they’re just going to gloss over it, anyway. Why waste anyone’s time?
This might be the one that irks buyers the most. Often, sellers of these cards will display a picture of a seemingly valuable card in a screwdown holder with the thickness of your ordinary bank vault, or they will have some incredulous story about finding the card in a treasure check in their backyard … or both.
eBay has strict rules about sellers listing items as originals if they are reprints or fakes. So these sellers will instead not claim a card is authentic, only saying they are unsure about its authenticity. About 95% of the time when you see that, you should run the other way. There are legitimate cases where truly authentic cards are found this way but your odds are slim to none of that being the case and it’s usually not worth the headache to find out.
I’ve long since suggested that the easy answer to this is for eBay to create a separate section for all cards exhibiting this type of description. Some buyers legitimately enjoy the virtual game of Frogger and taking chances on cards like this. I say, have at it. Just list these cards in a completely separate section from legitimate cards.
Don’t expect eBay to do anything like that, of course. They are perfectly happy to make money from sellers that are dealing obviously fake Babe Ruth 1933 Goudeys selling for $50, $100, or more, to unwitting buyers. If eBay moved all of those cards to a separate section, they’d lose money since there would be less action.
Questionable Combined Shipping Discounts
This is another interesting one. Almost all sellers will offer shipping discounts for purchasing multiple cards. Some will specify an exact discount in their listing while others may not.
While most sellers will generally offer reasonable discounts, some may not. For example, a seller may charge $3 for shipping on a single card and state they will combine shipping. However, some discounts are hardly bargains. For example, some sellers charging $3 for shipping one card may then charge you $1 or more for each additional card. While that sounds nice, it’s not really in the favor of the buyer. If a card is shipped in a bubble envelope, it usually shouldn’t cost any more to ship two, three, or even ten cards in the same envelope, if we’re talking about raw cards that can be sent inside of a semi-rigid toploader.
If a seller is offering combined discounts but doesn’t specify what their policy is, you’re better off asking first.
Listing Cards in the Wrong Era
One great function of eBay searches is that you can specify from what era you want the search to focus on. This is particularly great for pre-war collectors who want to see only pre-war cards.
However, one annoying thing about the feature is that you typically get newer cards marked as being cards from earlier time periods. These are usually either done haphazardly by sellers who are simply being careless or they are done on purpose when sellers think buyers of older cards might be interested in a newer card. No Mr. Seller, I’m not interested in your 2011 Babe Ruth insert #ed to ten, thank you very much.
There are plenty of others to be sure. But these are five of my top annoyances on eBay.