eBay’s Authenticity Guarantee Predictably a Mixed Bag

Two recent eBay Authenticity Guarantee purchases had significantly different results

By my estimation, eBay’s Authenticity Guarantee program has been in service for about a year now. Two of my recent purchases went through the program and I thought it was a good time to recap how things went.

You might recall, back in January, I wrote about eBay’s then-new Authenticity Guarantee program. Even if you haven’t purchased a card large enough to run through the program yourself, most collectors buying on the platform have at least heard of it.

But essentially, in an effort to crack down on the sales of fake/unauthentic cards, eBay introduced the program to help buyers ensure that, at least when they were spending large amounts of money, that the cards they were buying were legitimate. They’ve been doing this with the help of an independent grading company.

When the program first launched, I had questions. And now, having two purchases go through the program, I can at least talk about my own experience.

In a perfect case, the program mostly works, from my vantage point. The first card I purchased that went through the program was a 1941 Play Ball card of Joe DiMaggio to complete my set. It was a card I’d been looking to buy for a while and I was pleased to find a low-grade example.

The card was shipped by the seller and arrived to eBay for authentication 2-3 days later. To their credit, eBay promptly authenticated the card and shipped it out from California by the following day. It arrived to me exactly one week after being shipped by the seller.

While I didn’t care much about the packaging, I’ll say that some collectors will be pleased with how the cards arrive.

Here’s the picture of my DiMaggio in the original eBay packaging — a somewhat slick looking folding holder, which, in this case, is designed to hold already-graded cards perfectly in place. While I’m not personally keeping my card in the eBay holder, I think it is a pretty attractive design.

My second purchase through the program wasn’t a train wreck by any means. But, safe to say, it didn’t go quite as smoothly.

I purchased a pretty obscure card on November 3 (I’ll be writing more about this one soon) and immediately had concerns about it going through the Authenticity Guarantee program. One of the concerns I had with the program in general was how the really obscure stuff would be treated. In this case, we’re talking about a card where I’ve found only two known examples.

Now, frankly, I didn’t need eBay to guarantee the authenticity of the card. It is one that has already been graded by PSA and they had graded the only other known example that I could find. I was quite confident, of course, that it was authentic. But I’ve heard horror stories of collectors buying authentic cards that were supposedly declined by the program and returned to the seller for minor things, such as scratches on the cases of graded cards or cards that were simply miscategorized in the listings.

My card is not part of a known set. It’s a ticket card that was given away as part of a memorial tribute game. PSA only identifies the cards as a Souvenir Ticket Memorial Card.

eBay’s program declined to guarantee its authenticity. Not because it was not authentic, mind you — but because the card was one that was mislabeled by the seller, in their opinion. In reviewing the seller’s listing, two things stand out. One issue may have been that the seller listed the card as a Major League Baseball card and, while Smith did play in the majors earlier, the card references him as a player in Toronto when he was not on a major league team.

Another (perhaps, more likely) issue could have been because the card is part ticket and part baseball card. While it was a genuine ticket for admittance to a game, it is a souvenir that was designed to be unmarked and kept by the holder as a collectible card. The listing advertises the item as a card and not a ticket.

Either way, instead of the nice packaging that cards navigating the program receive, this time I got only a note card saying that it could not be authenticated due to the miscategorization in the listing. Here’s a look at that card.

The card also took an extra day to arrive, coming eight days after being initially shipped by the seller.

As was the case with the DiMaggio, I did not need eBay to tell me the card was authentic. But for collectors that do care about the stamp of approval, I am sure it is a little frustrating that eBay refuses to authenticate these sorts of cards for simple issues with the listing.

That said, in this case, I’m very glad eBay decided to simply send the card as they surely did not have real concerns about its authenticity. If there was a question, it would have gone back to the seller, which would have been very frustrating for both of us.

As I’ve said before, I think there’s value to the program. It helps buyers feel a bit more secure when spending a lot of money and is really a great thing for inexperienced buyers of certain types of cards. And it has, without a doubt, caused the cancellation of some sales that never should have gone through in the first place.

The flipside is that, collectors that don’t care about the authentication for most things (/raises hand) are left to wait a bit more for their stuff and, in some cases, may not receive the cards at all, if eBay’s authenticator determines they aren’t legitimate or don’t match the description well enough.

The easy fix, to me, is to allow buyers to decide whether or not the want the service — but I wouldn’t expect that to happen anytime soon.

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