Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Comment On Ebay's Role In The Hobby

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
2. Selection
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.


  1. Thank you. Simply said, if not for eBay I wouldn't have gotten back into collecting a couple years ago. I guarantee that there are many many more who can say the same thing.

  2. Ebay also allowed me to get back in. There isn't card shop within an hour of me and I wouldn't drive that far just to get some baseball cards.

  3. I was brought back into the hobby by a guy who showed me a hobby shop and just what cards had become. However, I wouldn't be into collecting nearly as much without ebay. Hell, eBay allowed me to continue to collect singles when I was in Iraq. I just bought them and had them shipped to my home address. No way I would have been able to do that otherwise.

  4. Agreed. While it was nice to bop into the shop while running errands, I don't miss the inflated prices of EVERYTHING, the book value dorks, or the limited supply and availability of singles.

  5. Agree with everyone here. Ebay is the only reason I am able to collect...i can buy singles that I want instead of buying boxes upon boxes of junk....

  6. Dead on as usual. This is an online hobby now.

  7. I don't know if ebay killed the hobby, but I do know that alcohol has killed my brain cells killed my brain cells killed my brain cells killed my brain cells killed my brain cells killed my brain cells killed my brain cells killed my brain cells killed my brain cells killed my brain cells killed my brain cells killed my brain cells killed my brain cells killed my brain cells killed my brain cells killed my brain cells

  8. Ebay has allowed me to get what my local card shop does not get (because he get mostly topps junk). Ebay has been very helpful as a hobby asset.

  9. I am a card shop lover. That does not mean anyone should lose their mind to think ebay has killed the hobby. When shops all around me were closing and the ones left charged too much/didnt know how to run a business I bought exclusively through ebay. I look at ebay daily, buy and sell frequently, yet now I live by a great hobby shop (who for free is letting me go to the gala tonight). They beat online prices for most things, so it's not just one way. People just need to enjoy the hobby and embrace options. Plenty of hobby shop haters and online haters are too stupid to appreciate what's available these days. BTW to the post above, UD Draft is about as awesome as Sage. Press Pass looks a lot nicer than both. Still doesn't change the fact, you should never buy press pass singles until the best releases come out. You can get anybody for cheap.

  10. I agree completely I just wish that the prices of wax boxes would be in line with their true value. It is hard to justify paying $150-$225 a box when you are lucky to get $50 selling the cards you get 90% of the time.