As you may have already guessed, my favorite time of year starts at Spring Training . . . and with any luck ends with the Yankees in the World Series in October. I love baseball, so even if the Yankees don’t make it, the playoffs are still a great time of the year. My second favorite time is when the baseball card show comes to town. There are roughly three in my area (White Plains, NY) throughout the year, and with no local hobby shops this is like a three day slice of heaven.
Despite the card show opening on a Thursday night, I held off going until Friday morning, because I knew my rationale of all the good cards being gone on Thursday was a bit nutty. I arrived fairly early, with my checklists, my budget, and my mission (going to these things with a budget is really not worth bothering with because you never stick to it, at least it seems that I never do). Aside from picking up Pujols cards to fill in some gaps in my collection and supplies, I wanted to try and finish my 2009 O-Pee-Chee set, which at the time was missing 51 cards.
I started the show by visiting a dealer with just hobby boxes who remembered me (it was a trend all day it seemed), and we started talking Yankees, and about the new stadium. Since he was not in my budget I left empty handed. Now, I could tell you all about the deals I picked up while I was there, like seven cards for $5 bucks which got me all the Yankees 2009 Legendary Cuts (plus a Jay Bruce from the set).
But we are going to forgo the loot talk because I found a more consistent theme by talking to many dealers. It had less to do with them remembering I collect Pujols and asking where Suzy (my co-blogger/closest friend) is because they had a box of Jeter cards for her, and more to do with a growing dislike of selling on eBay.
When you talk about eBay with these vendors, you’re likely to hear some strong opinions. The gentleman who sold me the base cards at seven for $5 told me business with selling singles on eBay right now was poor, thanks to the fee structure change and less volume of customers. I really thought it was just our store because we haven’t had the money to buy new stock in a while, but this was coming from a guy with over 100,000 positive feedbacks, not counting duplicate user feedbacks. He told me that right now it really isn’t worth selling on eBay but he will continue to do so now just because he owns his own hobby store, and has a website (so for now it still can work for him).
Where hobby boxes are concerned, he now sells them only through his website, because he was putting up hobby boxes as “Buy-It-Now” or “Best Offer” listings and getting offers that were well under 60% of what they were listed for. Sadly, I was not surprised by this. I told him that many of us like the best offer option to maybe save $5 or $10 bucks, and that I usually try an offer around that discount just to feel like I saved something. He understood where I was coming from and wished that was the case with most people.
Another guy I frequently deal with on eBay only sells singles from case breaks, and I figured this was the guy who could help me pick up the last of the cards I needed for my 2009 O-Pee-Chee set. We had a little chit chat about cards while I rummaged through some boxes and I asked him if he had the OPC cards; he did not bring them. Not only did he not bring them, but he proceeded to tell me how hot they were in his eBay store and why. At this point, I was already steaming mad before I heard his reasoning (just in case you were wondering how I felt).
He told me he ordered X number of cases from his distributor, and only ended up with half. Now, he had promised team sets to many pre-orders and needed to fulfill those first, and then the remaining singles were being allocated to the eBay store. He said he sells more of those than anything right now, and didn’t really get it until he searched himself and found out there were not many (if any) other sellers of singles from this set. He also informed me that he would not charge $1 per base card, but that is the lowest you can list on eBay and they are selling. So how could I fault the guy for leaving them home and making money on them? Well, I can for one reason and one reason alone- eBay fees. He would probably end up with the same profit selling them at the card show.
The last vendor I spoke to ended up telling me basically the same things as the first two guys. I walked around to take care of a few last items (Albert Pujols Diamond Collection card, 2009 Legendary Cuts dual game-used jersey card of Robinson Cano & Ron Guidry) while mulling over all this eBay talk. I generally tend to talk more than look at these shows mostly because other than my blog and Suzy, it’s rare to find collectors this dedicated to the hobby.
When eBay first came around it seemed like it was the place to buy anything and everything at a great discount. In some cases that still holds true, but in the case of baseball cards I don’t know how much longer collectors can get a bargain buying here because of the fees eBay is now charging. Between the store fee (basic store starts at $15/month), listing fees, final value fees, and then PayPal fees because you can no longer accept checks or money orders, you are sometimes looking at making mere cents for selling a card. While I would love to continue my eBay business it is no longer practical or profitable, which is sad because I liked being able to flip unwanted cards for a couple of Albert Pujols or an occasional Robbie Cano autograph.
It seems to be a growing trend that dealers, sellers, and collectors are moving away from selling on eBay right now. If anyone else has a story to share about eBay, I would love to hear your comments or stories.
Wow, sometimes its eerie how you stumble across articles as you are finding out for yourself the plot of the article for yourself. For instance, I have an Ebay account with 229 positive feedback. I have 100% rating and I just did my calculations on what it cost me to list 43 cards. 30 of the 43 sold. I had high end cards on there like an 08 Topps Triple Threads 3x Jersey / Auto of Desean Jackson / Eddie Royal / James Hardy #/36 (sold for $36), an 08 Peyton Manning Triple Threads 3x Patch #/9 (didnt meet my reserve and final bid was $22 and change), 08 Sp Authentic By The Letter Phil Hughes auto #/25 (sold for $17) and a few others. I ended up with a final dollar amount of $287.41. Here comes brutal reality. It cost me $43 to list those cards not to mention what Pay Pal has taken off there share I ended up after cost of bubble mailers, soft sleeves, plastic sleeves, and team bags to seal them in I lost a total of $87.41. I do agree with this article. I think that if you list a card for $.99 without a reserve that you should be charged your $.15. Not $.15* and when it ends we will accrue more payment. I listed all 43 cards and with a credit of -$4.88 it said my balance was just under $15. I look today and it jumps up to $42.97. Why even list? I think seriously Ebay is killing the market. I have been a witness to the prices of cards steadily dropping over the course of 2 years. Its horrible and being a seller and collector I am disgusted.
Nice write-up of the situation.
Setting fees aside for the moment, what do you think of the conversion from mostly auctions to many more BIN lots? Does it suck away a lot of the eBay “fun” and customer draw?
Selling singles was my bread and butter, before the pricing structure change. I would get people in my store by offering a large variety of cards from many different years. The star or rookie cards would get them in the door and they would discover the commons. They would fill up on cheap commons to either fill out their sets or to rack up more discounts on shipping. Either way, I was getting my excess cards out the door.
Now, I’m lucky if I get one sale a week sometimes. I make enough to cover my eBay expenses and have a little left over to maybe make a small purchase. My original intention of making money to cover my card expenses vanished with the new pricing structure. Numerous complaints to eBay (in writing and over the phone) have been ignored.
Hobby sellers are just getting squeezed all the way around. The market tumble (soft demand) for trading cards exerts downward pressure on prices, and the economic slump slows buying activity.
Checklist of Pain:
– shrinking card market
– lower prices / values
– higher sales / store / processing fees
– increased shipping costs
So card value and prices are sinking, and eBay continues to double-triple-and-quadruple dip into your shrinking profit margins, where does that leave the seller?
Now that more and more items are closing at lower and lower dollar amounts, you really start to feel the pain after the bidding whales have gone into hibernation.
The one good thing about the situation is that some previously hard to find or pricey items can at least be found on eBay, and maybe even affordable, given that there’s more supply as people are quasi-dumping some primo stuff in order to generate any kind of activity or revenue.
I’m a set builder and I look to ebay to find cards that my local shop or fellow traders don’t have. I’ve always wished that sellers would group their singles into lots rather than putting up each one individually, at least the commons. Maybe the fee structure will encourage this now. I would much rather buy a lot where I need at least half of the cards for a good price than spend 3x as much on a bunch of singles. Group ’em in team lots or number runs and you might move ’em better.
GCA I see your point in grouping them, but it just makes more sense to list them as singles on other sites now. It is easier to keep track of inventory when each item has been marked out as it sells.
Last month our eBay store fees as a total for about 1400 cards was roughly $65, and we sold maybe $15. The fee structure is terrible and the only things I plan on listing there from now on are high end pulls that I don’t want or other merchandise. It doesn’t pay anymore to even try to unload unwanted cards to pay for ones that I do want.
Checkoutmycards.com and sportlots.com are both great alternatives to eBay. Checkoutmycards is especially gaining a lot of momentum and has recently partnered with Blowoutcards. I’ve both bought and sold on there and like it a heck of a lot more than eBay,
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The low value cards are a mess to sell on eBay. I suppose lots might be the best value for buyer and seller especially when it comes to set collecting. BIN upick lots maybe.
As far as boxes go. Maybe too much competition or actual box value is well below cost for most products.