The World’s Online Marketplace, where there’s a buyer for every item, and an item for every buyer. eBay is responsible for affecting all kinds of industries and economies, but one that it pretty much put out of business is the local baseball card store. Back in the day (I think it was a Tuesday), if you wanted a card of Mo Vaughn, you had to head down to the local hobby store and ask the man behind the counter if he had one. Or you would stop in to buy a box of cards and rip open the packs right there, discussing the cards with the owner. Whenever a great card was discovered, you immediately pulled out that months “Beckett” or “Tuff Stuff” to find out that Jeff Suppan rookie card was worth $1.50! I remember as a child spending countless hours opening cards, looking up prices, and organizing them all “just right” with my father. If you wanted to sell the card you just got, you either went back to the card store owner, or hopefully knew a few fellow collectors who would be interested.
Now, with a few clicks and keystrokes, you can buy a box of cards, ship them to your house, find out what they’re worth, and sell them, all without wiping the Cheeto dust from your shirt (hope that didn’t hit too close to home for anyone). Ebay has almost single-handedly dealt a death-blow to the brick and mortar baseball card shop, as it allows people to shop around for the best prices. On the one hand, I love eBay, because not only does it allow me to expand my collection easily, but it gave me a platform to reach countless potential customers. On the other hand, autographs have become almost impossible to authenticate with all of the scammers, fake’s, re-prints, and other counterfeit items that are listed daily.
When I was younger, if I wanted to find a Curtis Leskanic autographed card, I only had a few options. Go to card/memorabilia shows, send a card through the mail, or try to get him in person somewhere. Local card shops have never really carried signed cards, as there wasn’t a huge market for them. Once a player retired, it became even harder to find them to get an autograph. Now with eBay, I just type in “Curtis Leskanic” and 15 autographs pop up that I can purchase from $1.75 (signed card) to $150 (game used signed hat). Of course this is a great option for autograph collectors who need that “one more card” to complete a set or add their favorite player. This is by far the greatest take-away for collectors: I can now find that ONE item i’ve been searching for forever. The price may not be exactly what you hoped for, but the fact that it’s even available at all is a tribute to the breadth and depth of items listed.
But this leads us to the questions when it comes to buying memorabilia on eBay, “How do I know the autograph I’m buying is authentic?”. Now of course that’s #1 question when it comes to buying any memorabilia, but eBay is a direct person-to-person sales platform. There is no corporate structure to hold up authentication, there is no brand-name trust built up. If a seller gets a reputation of selling fakes he simply changes his account name or makes a brand new account. We all look for the first line of authentication, which is trusted 3rd party companies like PSA-DNA or JSA (though the jury seems to be out on JSA at the moment), or perhaps the seller bought from a trusted company like Steiner (or Sox Signatures!) and they have that COA attached to it. If those COA’s aren’t available though, then we all just become our own amatuer authenticator. You compare the signature you see to known authenticated versions, you look at the feedback on the seller’s page, maybe ask the opinion of an online sports memorabilia community or forum, but the basic fact is you can never be 100% sure that the item is really authentic. You can trust in the established institutions (PSA/DNA, Steiner etc), but if you didn’t see the item signed with your own eyes, certainty is unachievable.
For Sox Signatures, I try to use eBay as little as possible when it comes to buying inventory. Most of our inventory comes from getting the item signed ourselves, or through trusted dealers and companies with good reputations. But sometimes the only way to find affordable autographs of bigger named players is to search for deals on eBay. But when we hit the Bid/Buy It Now button, we know that if we re-sell the item it needs to meet our standards of quality before it hits our shelves.
So the next time you’re searching the World’s Flea Market make sure you click with scrutiny and read every description before placing a bid. You never know what that person is trying to sell. Here’s our list of top 10 tips when it comes to buying autographs on eBay:
Sox Signatures Top 10 Tips for Buying Autographs on eBay
- If the price is too good to be true, it probably is.
- If the person is selling multiples of the same item and using the same photo for each, it might be scam
- Compare the signature to known authentics like Certified autographs on eBay, signatures you’ve gotten yourself, or at big name companies like Steiner
- Look for COA’s from trusted companies like MLB, Steiner and PSA/DNA. If you’ve never heard of the company the COA is from, hit up Google and research whether they can be trusted.
- Become a member of an online sports memorabilia community like SportsGraphing.com, SportsCollectors.net or SportsCardForum.com. They all have sections where you can ask experienced members about whether items on eBay are authentic. They may not be experts, but if most are saying fake, it gives you another reason to be weary.
- Try to stick to sellers in the USA, it makes tracking the shipment easier and you won’t ask the question of why someone in Taiwan has 5 autographed 8×10’s of David Ortiz
- Check the seller’s feedback, focus on the negative responses and see if buyers were just being petty or if they were legitimate issues
- If the item has been listed for days with no bids, make sure you’re not missing something that other people caught
- Read the description multiple times. Sometimes words like “Re-Print” or “Facsimile” are thrown in deceptively and you need to make sure you’re not buying a copy of an authentic signature.
- Set a high bid early, and walk away. If you get into a bidding war you’re going to end up spending more than you wanted to, and if you find out it’s a fake you’ll be compounding the mistake
Got any tips, questions or horror stories about eBay? Be sure to post them in the comments! Thanks for stopping by!