Friday, September 19, 2008

Hate Beckett? I Understand. Love eBay? Not So Much

I'll be honest with you, I'm having a hard time staying in the hobby at this point. Posts like this from Bad Wax further the notion. Tonight's post will be sporadic, probably won't be proofread prior to submission, might not contain pictures, and will definitely be the first of many as I try to find relevance in collecting at this point in my life.

When I first returned to collecting in early 2007, I was ecstatic to learn that my collection of 1989 Upper Deck commons alone (at roughly a nickel a pop) would be helping me towards a down payment on a new vehicle. I didn't know where to turn to sell them until my wife suggested eBay.

It was at that point that I became frustrated to find that Beckett had contracted Mad Cow Disease. When I left in the mid 1990's, "Book Value" mattered and everyone used it. I "watched" multiple auctions for Paul Molitor, Kirby Puckett, Ryne Sandberg etc lots end without a single bid while complete sets of 1992 Donruss went for less than $10. I was furious at eBay.

I've come around to what the hobby has become. I understand fully that Beckett has lost a grip on reality when it comes to actual values of cards and that it is nigh to impossible to provide a guide that gives any indication of real time worth considering the volatility of the market.

What I don't understand is why everyone takes off headlong like Lemmings down the side of the mountain behind eBay pricing. eBay has done more to hurt the value of collectibles than Beckett could ever imagine. I'm sorry...let me correct myself. eBay is an open market, a viable means of getting anything you want anytime you want it. EBay cannot be blamed for the hobby problems.

Powersellers can.

It's basic math, common economics. I'm so sick of the "Joe Collector" phrase that I officially announce that this is the LAST time I will ever use those words in a post at TNB. That being said, "Joe C. Take this months Beckett and stick it under your pillow for a moment."

Now imagine this scenario.

There is nothing called a "price guide" anywhere on the planet. Card companies manufacture their products, you buy them, open then, ogle them, blog about them, then store them. There is nothing anywhere that gives you a value.

Let's say for instance you buy a pack of 12 cards and you only want to keep 11 of them. The 12th card is a highly sought after Autographed Relic of A-Rod numbered to 100. You don't care to keep it so you go to sell it on eBay.

Alas, there are 20 of them listed by ONE Powerseller. One guy that buys cases like Paris Hilton buys purses. He just busted 10 cases of the product and pulled those 20 cards along with 9980 random others. It cost him $10,000 for the 10 cases.

This seller can then sell each card for $2 a piece and double his profit. He can sell them for $1 a piece and recoup his costs. Your great card just became worth less than you paid for the pack. Imagine how much more worthless the rest of the base cards, inserts, and parallels just became.

No, it's not feasible to sell every card from the cases for $2. But for every card that goes for 10 cents, he'll sell a 1/5 Mantle Relic for $20. His loaded inventory will allow him to push the Becke....wait, that's still under the pillow isn't it...the ACTUAL VALUE of cards below the "per card price" you paid when you bought your pack for $3.

The problem is that there is no way...

You know what? Nevermind. I'm talking in circles and I'm losing my patience trying to explain myself. It doesn't matter. We can't change it. We can only sit back and argue as to whether or not Beckett, the actual card companies, or eBay is the Hadron Collider of collecting.

Joe, go back and get that Beckett out from under your pillow. Sit down and try to remember what it was like to collect when Beckett wasn't considered a plague. Revel in the glory of days gone by.

And enjoy it. Because it's not coming back.


Anonymous said...

Good post man - I have a thought on this.... Near the end you say "We can only sit back and argue as to whether or not Beckett, the actual card companies, or eBay is the Hadron Collider of collecting." I say its none of the above. Its the "collectors" causing the problem imo.
The guy that will only sell a card based on a "bv" or a % of a bv and the guy you mentioned in your post - that buys 10 cases of cards strictly for profit...


FanOfReds said...

Nice entry. Of course, if you are buyer looking for a certain card, those Power Sellers that are the bane to other sellers are a great thing. I suppose it comes down to those who buy mostly from hobby shops with hopes of making money on ebay vs. those who buy mostly from ebay and may not even visit hobby shops.