A few days ago I posted about Joe Mauer and his recent explosion, and how I didnt want to sell any of my prized possessions just because he was hot at the moment. Well, I found two cards that I coundnt give two shits about, that are actually worth quite a bit from recent auction sales, so I thought I would give it a try.
I just wanted to make a quick comment after some emails I have gotten about my recent post regarding card shows. The general sentiment is that eBay has ruined the hobby and has put beloved shops out of business, blah blah blah.
See people, I don’t think you guys get the point here. If anything, eBay has done everything except kill the hobby, in fact, I would think that the hobby is what it is today because of eBay’s prominence. Let me explain a little.
First, eBay has provided us with up to date value on just about every single card produced, and can provide value for any unpriced card at any time. It not only showed how ridiculous price guide prices really are, but it has also given us expectations when purchasing and selling cards. We now know exactly what the true value of just about any card is, because of the free bidding system that ebay provides. Anyone with a computer can bid on your cards for free, which means that when done in auction or BIN format, you can see exactly what someone else will pay for your card. On the flip side, it usually provides the bidder with a cheap way to accumulate the cards they want, as they can now bid and buy with only shipping costs as the fee.
What this leads to is cheaper prices on cards, mainly because they are usually not being sold by someone who needs to support themselves on the money they make from the sale. This means that its going to be tough for stores to compete without adopting new ways to function. Like I said before, stores exist to make money for their owners, not to provide a free marketplace for their customers. With that, if the only goal of the seller is to make profit over original investment, the customer is going to have to pay more than the item is actually worth to provide that.
This is why I don’t get why people are so adamant that eBay is the devil. Not only does it provide you with the cheapest possible way to buy your cards, but you don’t have to go anywhere to do it. That means minimal opportunity cost as well as minimal monetary cost. Why would anyone hate that? Oh, right, because they have a relationship with the people who own the stores, right?
Well, have you ever thought that your relationship with the shop owners is conditionally based on the money you spend at the store? Probably not. If you hadnt gone in there to spend money and support them, you probably wouldn’t have a relationship. If the actual collector interaction is the important part of your relationship, a storefront shouldn’t stand in your way.
What I am trying to say is that there is no reason to hate eBay unless you are talking about the people who spoil the bunch with their bad apple auctions. That’s a little different. But to say that providing the best possible price for the cheapest opportunity cost has killed the hobby is ridiculous. In fact, here is a list of things that eBay does better than anyone else:
1. Cost of product
3. Opportunity cost
4. Sales are based on true value of the product
5. No overhead that a buyer is forced to pay
6. Competition among sellers
7. Set information
8. Pricing info
9. Market info
10. Trend info
Lets face it people, eBay has brought more people to collecting than any single entity in history. More users buy and sell on ebay every day than some states do in a whole year for cards, and that is a great way to expand the world for people who don’t necessarily have access to a metropolitan area. It has also brought collecting to an international audience, something that has always been tough to do. Now, there are trade offs, of course, but many of them are inconsequential if you know how to watch your ass. When it comes down to it, eBay made this hobby a better place, unlike the scuzzy dealers at the show who want to give you 1/3 in trade for something you could get 100% value for online. No longer are we a captive customer with no where else to go, we have a place where all of us are equals. Each person has the same potential to sell and buy in any cost bracket, and there is no person there to bully us into buying, selling, or trading something that we don’t want to. Some card shops and shows may go under, but only the ones who are unable to adapt to the modern ways of the hobby.
Fuck, maybe now shops and dealers will finally be forced to bring their prices down to where they should be instead of basing them on a guide that is DESIGNED to help them make money. See, a lot of us fail to make the connection that Beckett prices may have been set high for no other reason than to help the people who were selling cards in their shops or at shows. Of course, now that ACCURATE information is readily available to anyone for free, more people are starting to see what a sham the guide really is. Other than appeasing the people who pay for the ads, or the people who support them by selling their magazines in their stores, there is no reason to have the vastly inflated prices in the price guide.
Who do high guide prices help, for fuck’s sake? Definitely not us, as we have had to buy based on those inflated prices. Does it help the producers of the products? Without a doubt! If the guide says your cards are worth a ton, people will pay more for your products and in larger quantities. Does it help the store owners? It sure does. If they buy at 1/3 book (closer to actual value), and sell at book, they make more money.
Its pretty simple:
Ebay is and will be our best friend for as long as it is around. It shows us everything that we couldn’t find out on our own pre-internet, and provides a selection that is unrivaled by any shop or show. You cant fucking beat that with a stick if you tried. You think eBay killed the hobby? You are wrong.
Oh my god, Wheeler, thank you for sending this to me.
So, lets get you the run down on this auction:
Graded 1/1 – Check
Graded NFL Shield Card – Check
Non-gem grade – Check
Complete and Utter Idiot – Check
Population report published in the auction – WTF?
Not only do you have a guy who has ridiculously graded his NFL shield Felix Jones card from NT, but he has also published a population report in his auction. Why? If the card is a 1/1 is there really a need to show where all the cards have fallen? No, as there is only one. Duh. See, the practice of grading cards like this is fucking stupid to begin with, but to show the bidders where it stands among its non-existant counterparts is borderline mentally disabled.
Again, what will grading this card serve? Nothing. Also, what will adding the pop report to the auction serve? Nothing, but it will show that you are a clueless douche. Congrats my nizzle, you are one with the brain.
Sometimes you just know things are not going to turn out well. When the economy hit the fan, I knew that the card industry was in trouble. Some industries have the clout to power through it, like video games or porn, but card collecting doesn’t seem like enough of a money maker to continue at its pace before the drop. Im also not convinced it was all the fault of the economy, as it seems as though the industry was getting way too far ahead of itself with what it was delivering. Players are now wanting more money than ever for their participation, and I dont think many people thought about what that would do when the going got tough.
That isnt the only large problem in our midst, however, as the mindset of the consumer may have adjusted to prices TOO much to give back enough to get it where it was before. What I mean is this. As of now, singles are at their lowest prices ever, and there is much to be had for the collector that still has disposable income. I mean, I just got a Peterson auto for like 50 bucks, and it wasn’t a bad one. Considering that I had 50 bucks in ad revenue from the site, this was a freebie that I couldn’t pass up. The scary thing is, what happens when the economy comes back around? Do we go back to the before prices or will people think, “Man, I saw this card go for fifty bucks a few months ago, I am not going to pay 150 for it right now.” Even though the pre-drop value may have been at 150 bucks, and would be able to sustain that with a now returned economy, the completed auction page may prevent it from going back to normal.
Of course, super high end cards should be back to normal, and I am not talking about cards that are $250-1000, I am talking higher. Mainly the ones that really never drop in value, but just fluctuate a little here and there. You know, the Jordan RCs, the Mantle cards and other vintage, and a lot of the cards that people will ALWAYS want. But, BUT, does a rise in super high end translate to a snap back for cards below that? Im not really sure, and I am beginning to think that if one of the big three dies out, Upper Deck being the front runner for some reason, they wont snap back. Then, when you have stocked up on cards that you knew to be WAY below their pre-drop values, where does it leave you? Not in a good place, right?
Now, I am not saying to avoid pulling the trigger on those deals out there, because some of them are just too good to pass up. However, before you go nuts, you might want to think about your own mindset once things go back to normal. Would you be willing to shell out twice what you are paying for the card at this moment once things change in your discretionary funds? Hell, for the first time in decades, Americans are saving money for fear of what is to come. Who’s to say that they wont continue to do so? If this type of recession happened once, what’s saying it wont happen again? All of these things will contribute to the value of your collection, so make sure to keep your head on a swivel while you are buying, IF you are buying.
From my experience, prospectors are the only people I have seen make money in this industry. It requires a lot of work and a ton of patience to REALLY make it worthwhile, but when you hit it big, it can be nuts. In order to accomplish the big buys, you have to monitor the MILB stat lines, scour the BA prospect reports, and make sound decisions on what cards to invest in. Its not easy in the slightest. I know that the term “invest” makes no sense in cards, because no one ever makes any money, but this is a little different. These people buy cards for the sole purpose of holding on to them until the MLB debut, and they always have money in mind. I don’t necessarily find that much wrong with the concept, only because its like stock investing in a long term scope.
Lately, things have gotten a little extreme with a few “prospects” that havent even reached pro level ball. They have not been drafted, and one is still a sophomore in high school, 2-4 years away from actual MLB service. Steven Strasburg, a pitcher, has been widely considered as the person who will be the top pick in the draft in the first year he is eligible. He recently played on Team USA and showed amazing potential as a future ace for any number of MLB teams. Bryce Harper is in a similar situation as a catcher for a Las Vegas high school. He also played on Team USA, and again, showed major potential just like Strasburg. His videos have become a sensation on YouTube, especially the HR derby one where he hit a few MLB sized bombs.
As a result of this hype and the buzz from the prospecting community, the auto cards that have been inserted into Sweet Spot and the Team USA box sets have been fetching hundreds of dollars on eBay. It seems as though people think that these guys will be the next superstars to really make a hobby impact a la Pujols, Wright, and Longoria. Although I agree that these are some incredibly talented players, I wont be investing THIS early. I think its pretty crazy that Harper’s cards have eclipsed both Pujols and Jeter, two of the hobby’s biggest names, and he has yet to even be drafted.
A lot of collectors think prospectors are idiots, and I am NOT one of those collectors. They cant understand why someone would pay for cards of players who havent even played a single pro game in the top levels of the league. Personally, I think that mentality is quite closed minded. See, I have seen quite a few people get rich off of a collection that cost them only a few hundred dollars, and they have used that money to build some of the most incredible collections of players you do know. Of course, there are flip sides to everything, but the smart ones don’t usually fail. However, I think paying $250 for either of these players takes that paradigm of collecting to an absolutely crazy level.