Despite occasional hiccups, eBay remains this collector’s ‘go to’

For buyers, eBay isn’t perfect … but it’s close

E90-1 061B KeelerThere are a handful of questions I’m frequently asked about pre-war cards. One of the most common ones is, where do I buy my cards?

Now, I’ve bought cards from a variety of sources — message boards, individual collectors I know, and from those in collector groups. Lately, I’ve been buying a good amount of stuff on COMC because it’s been a decent source for pre-war cards in other sports outside of baseball. I’ve also bought from established dealers through their websites and on the rare occasions when I got to shows. I’ve even found some on obscure sites from sellers that don’t really deal in cards.

But the ‘go to’ for me, by far and away, is eBay.

If I had to give a breakdown of where my cards come from in terms of quantity, not value, I’d say it’s something like:

  • eBay (75%)
  • COMC (15%)
  • Individual collectors (5%)
  • Dealer websites, shows, auction houses, other (5%)

eBay doesn’t need a free commercial from me but the reason I wanted to talk a little about the site is because I’m so frequently asked where my cards come from. Overwhelmingly, it’s from there.

The pros are easy to identify. It’s a 24/7 marketplace and I’ve legitimately found great deals on cards ending at all sorts of hours of the day. Its ‘Saved Searches’ feature is a gold mine and helps you easily find cards in particular sets or genres. And while some items are not priced to sell, ones in straight auctions often offer tremendous value. That’s particularly true for entire lots of cards as opposed to buying singles. You are also getting sellers from all over the globe and those you would not have otherwise come into contact with.

Gallaher Island Sporting Celebrities - Henry Mott (1938)And just as important, it’s mostly very safe to buy with protections built in through eBay and with Paypal.

There are some negatives, obviously. Sometimes you can have long shipping delays. Unscrupulous sellers can sometimes deliberately hide or downplay damage. And sometimes, people just won’t send your stuff at all. But the amount of real problems as a buyer for about two decades that I’ve had on eBay can probably be counted on two hands. And even in those instances eBay has cleared most, if not all, of them up.

I should be clear here — as a seller, it’s not so hot. I have sold on eBay before but the hassle often can outweigh the benefits. Buyers complaining about damage to a card that could easily be spotted in images. Non-paying bidders. The hassle of shipping a card. The commissions. Don’t get me wrong — eBay offers a lot to sellers, including the ability to reach a massive audience. And I will occasionally sell a card there if it makes sense. But often, it’s kind of a pain.

As a buyer, though, (particularly one of low-grade cards where I am less concerned about condition than others) it is very hard to find a better alternative for the day to day buying of cards. Traditional auction houses, of course, are often where you’ve got to go for the exceedingly rare stuff.

But for just about everything else, there’s eBay.

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