The Ethics in Sports Cards pt. I

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Collecting sports cards is a hobby I have enjoyed for some time now.   I have had countless experiences, ranging from hitting the lottery to downright criminal.  About 95% of my transactions meet my expectations, as in I get what I paid for or was expecting in a timely manner.  That other 5% is divided between really positive experiences collectors could dream of, unusual and bizarre, and nightmares from hell.  While there is no official guide for ethics in sports card collecting, I feel it is a topic worth mentioning.

Call me optimistic or foolish, but I generally believe there is good in everyone and are deserving of the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise.  So I would assume that most people attempt to do business in a ethical moral way that reflects their values and beliefs.  However, money and greed corrupt people and unfortunately there are a small percentage of people looking to screw you over for their own gain, the sports card market is no exception.

Let’s start with one of the biggest markets of individual buyers and sellers of sports cards in the world, eBay.  While I personally appreciate the buyer and seller protections, rules, and regulations both eBay and PayPal have in place, I have a few bones to pick with some sellers regarding how they go about selling their cards.  I will not be discussing counterfeit and fake cards on this article because it is such a large topic, it could be a separate article that I will write later.  However, that is the largest breach of ethics any business, hobby, or industry has to offer.

Serial numbering cards is something that collectors enjoy.  For those who don’t know, a card company like Topps will print a fraction on the card, usually in foil coloring.  The first number represents that specific card number and the bottom is how many were printed.  For example, 21/99 means that only 99 were printed and you have card number 21.  The rarest card you could possibly have is one out of one or a 1/1, meaning it is the only one printed like that in existence.

What I cannot stand as a collector, is that sellers on eBay will add the phrase “eBay 1/1” when they are selling numbered cards.  Their cards are not a 1/1.  Most titles will say something like “2014 Topps (player name) autographed jersey card 35/50 eBay 1/1.”  Other variations I have seen say “35/50= 1/1” or “35/50 #1/1?”  The logic that these sellers will argue to justify their deception is that technically speaking no other card in the world can say 35/50 and look exactly like that card.  Even though there are 50 of these cards made only one has the number 35 on top, so therefore they try and sell it as a 1/1.  Many collectors love adding 1/1 cards to their collection, due to their extreme rarity.  But some sellers will add this phrase “eBay 1/1” so when a collector searches 1/1, their cards will show up in searches and get more traffic views.  Honest sellers have to add the word true 1/1 to show that their cards are really 1/1.  (If you are looking for a 1/1, I recommend searching true 1/1 to weed out these deceptive sellers)

Another reason I cannot stand this, is because it may deceive a novice collector or someone who doesn’t know much about the hobby and is looking to get into it.  Young and new collectors may over pay for these cards believing they are buying a 1/1, only to find out they got ripped.  It could discourage them from the hobby and prevent them from wanting to be more involved.

A personal experience I had on eBay involved me selling grab bags, where every bag came with two hits (autographs and/or jersey cards) 50 baseball cards from various sets including 10 inserts, numbered, short prints, or other and a unopened pack for $12 or best offer per bag.  I had one buyer try offering me $6 for a bag, however I had it set to auto reject any offers below $8.  This buyer finally offered me $8 on his final attempt to make an offer and I accepted as they were taking up space and I was moving soon.  I also had some other auctions going including a true 1/1  and a lot of autographed jersey cards from Topps Museum Collection, which sells for about $40 per pack.

The same buyer who seemed to struggle to offer me $8 for a grab bag, had enough to place large bids on my 1/1 and lot as he not only won them but paid over $25 a peice for them.  My eBay feedback is something that I take very seriously and strive to make sure it is 100%.  It was 100% with over 100 transactions when this happened.   I log on to check it and make sure this buyer received his packages.  Come to my surprise to find out this buyer has opened a case against me through eBay.  When this happens your options are to refund the buyer or comply with their requests in a certain time frame or eBay will make it well known that your account has complaints.  There was no message from this buyer with the case or any attempt to reach out to me about their dissatisfaction with my transaction.

I refund the buyer his money, including the shipping & handling I already had spent to mail him the cards.  I figured that this was it, and I would not hear from this guy again.  However he left me neutral feedback regarding these grab bags that simply said “seller sent me all old cards, but did refund me all my money.”  Why does neutral hurt?  On eBay a neutral feedback counts as .6 of 1 toward negative feedback which will hurt 100% feedback.  Furthermore, I was not happy because these bags contained cards from 2000-2014, so I was confused by their definition of old.  Secondly, I offered a return policy if they were not satisfied with my order, I would gladly refund them if they contacted me about their purchase.  So what is wrong ethically?  This buyer made no attempt to work with me, contact me, or even bother reading about my return policy.  When I messaged them to apologize for their dissatisfaction,  he said that he wanted the cards that were pictured only and was mad he did not get them so it took out on me and my feedback.  At least he had the decency to leave positive feedback for the other cards he purchased from me.


Look for the second part of my article soon to follow as I feel one long article would be too hard to read.  If you have any questions or wish to contact me you can do so by sending me an email  Follow me on twitter at @lwosGabeWeeden if you want to see my some of my favorite cards from my collections, my latest hits, or just want to show me your cards and collection.


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