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eBay has taken a step forward in trying to protect buyers and sellers who are making trading card transactions on its website.

The world’s largest online marketplace for the sale of goods and services introduced its Authenticity Guarantee service for sports and non-sports trading cards.

Any raw — meaning ungraded — cards that are sold on eBay for $750 or more will now go through inspection to see if they are deemed authentic and to make sure the seller’s description of the card on eBay is accurate. If a card passes review, the sale will be complete and the card will be shipped to the buyer.

In a press release, eBay stated by mid-2022, the program will expand to include graded, autograph and patch cards.

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The cards are being authenticated by the third-party authentication company Certified Collectibles Group (CCG), which owns Certified Sports Guaranty (CSG) and Certified Guaranty Company (CGC).

The program, which launched Jan. 25, is advantageous to both buyers and sellers, CCG President Max Spiegel told Sports Collectors Digest.

“I think it’s a great program,” Spiegel said. “I’ve been very familiar with it from what eBay has done in sneakers, watches, handbags, and I saw how that provided their buyers with significantly more confidence. They’ve shared some of the numbers, a lot of those numbers have been shared publicly by them, and it’s clear that the eBay Authenticity Guarantee has driven a lot more people into eBay because they feel a lot more confident buying from eBay’s site now.

“When we heard that they were considering doing this for trading and sports cards, we thought that would be a huge benefit to the market because people wouldn’t have to wonder, ‘Is this raw sports card that I’m buying on eBay, is it genuine?’ All of that uncertainty is taken out of the equation, and so I think it’s going to be a great thing for collectors.”

eBay has been reluctant, however, to provide detailed information or answer questions about the new program. Multiple attempts over a 12-day period to get comments for this story from eBay Director of Trading Cards Bob Means were unsuccessful. eBay’s public relations staff told Sports Collectors Digest that Means was “very busy.” Even attempts to get answers to written questions submitted through the PR staff — as requested — were unsuccessful.

“Our trading cards business has been growing for the past six years, and the recent surge speaks to the immense cultural significance of the category,” Dawn Block, VP Collectibles, Electronics and Home at eBay said in a press release. “As hobbies turn into investments, authentication services in categories of high value have become a priority for collectors. With the introduction of Authenticity Guarantee for trading cards, we’re giving enthusiasts exactly what they want, while continuing to improve confidence in the marketplace.”

THE PROCESS

Buyers looking for sports or non-sports trading cards on eBay will see a blue Authenticity Guarantee checkmark on items that qualify for this service.

Once a card is sold, the seller ships it to CCG’s headquarters in Sarasota, Fla.

CCG uses its card graders to authenticate the eBay items. The company’s grading department has ballooned since expanding to card grading in July 2020. It currently has 25 sports card and 25 non-sports card graders. So, any sports card that comes in is looked at by one of CSG’s expert graders, while any non-sports card is examined by a CGC grader.

A CCG sports card grader examines a card as part of eBay's new authenticity program.

A CCG sports card grader examines a card as part of eBay's new authenticity program.

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Items that come in from eBay sellers are kept separate from trading card submissions the general public sends in for grading, noted Spiegel.

Each card is verified and authenticated through a multi-point inspection process, receives a tamper-proof sticker and QR code confirming the authentication.

“If we determine that the item is significantly not as described or inauthentic, we will mark it as such in eBay’s system and then eBay will actually reroute that card back to the seller,” Spiegel said. “We’re doing everything in person — we’re physically examining the card — but if it doesn’t pass our inspection, then we just print out a shipping label, we put it back in a holder and we send it back to the seller.”

How does the Authenticity Guarantee service differ from the grading service?

“I would call this more of a check or a validation,” Spiegel said. “What we’re looking at is how the seller described the item and if they described it correctly and it’s genuine, then it passes and it’s forwarded along to the buyer. If it doesn’t pass because they, let’s say, posted an image of a totally different card or the item’s not authentic or they just significantly misdescribed it, that would be a fail.”

Hypothetically, if a card comes in and it’s determined there are chipping or surface issues that were not disclosed to the buyer in the seller’s description, that will affect the review. Since key information was omitted, the card might not pass inspection.

“eBay has a condition scale, which is much more simplified than the condition scale we would use for our core grading services,” Spiegel said. “What we would do is look at how the seller described the condition against what eBay’s sort of standard chart is. I know that they’ve got that published on their website for anybody to take a look. If the actual description should have been lower than what the seller said the condition was, then we would reject that and send it back to the seller.”

CCG and CSG examine cards in eBay's Authenticity Guarantee program to make sure they match the card description from the seller.

The Authenticity Guarantee service was designed to be advantageous for both buyers and sellers.

“It prevents buyers from making false claims that the item that they received was different from what the seller was describing,” Spiegel said. “We looked at it and made sure that it was the same item that the seller was describing. So, it really is good for both buyers and sellers, and I think it encourages sellers to be very transparent, provide the best possible description, provide the best possible images and as long as they’re doing that, from our perspective, the items will pass and be forwarded along to the buyers very quickly.”

Spiegel is hoping this service also weeds out raw cards that are fake or reprints but being described as real by a seller.

“I think that eBay wanted it to be known that they are a trusted marketplace, and I think that this program is a really positive step in that direction,” Spiegel said. “I think as this program hopefully expands, I think people can be more and more confident that when they’re buying something off eBay it’s been looked at by an expert before it’s come to them. I think this is a critical step towards reducing the prevalence of fakes or just fraudulent sales in general.”

After a card passes inspection, it is sent to the buyer in what eBay describes as “secure and discreet tracked shipping.” All cards will require a signature upon delivery.

CCG’s turnaround time to get cards back out the door to the buyer is two business days.

CCG says eBay should be able to return cards in its Authenticity Guarantee program quickly.

CCG says eBay should be able to return cards in its Authenticity Guarantee program quickly.

The Authenticity Guarantee service had only been in place for a week when Spiegel spoke with Sports Collectors Digest, but he was impressed with the overall operation and execution.

“With eBay’s help — and they brought in operational experts who have done this with sneakers, which is obviously a tremendously high volume business too or handbags or watches — they’ve brought in people who have helped to identify efficiencies within our own operation and it’s a very, very quick process,” Spiegel said. “But it’s always a very thorough process where there’s a whole lot of people involved that are making sure it’s done quickly because we do have to get it shipped back; we don’t want to delay the transaction. We’re getting them shipped very quickly, but we’re providing a really, really high level of service. I think it’s a really well designed program.”

MIXED REACTION FROM USERS

eBay user Gregg, who prefers to have his last name withheld, started selling on eBay in 1998.

Back then when someone purchased an item, Gregg would wait for them to send cash, money order or a personal check before he would ship the item. Boy, times have changed.

Gregg, whose eBay handle is DFW_Sports_Cards, had roughly 250 active listings on eBay in early February. A fair number of those items were in excess of $750, so when eBay’s Authenticity Guarantee went into effect, Gregg was vested in the new service.

As a seller, he doesn’t see any advantages.

“My only problem with it is it’s mandated,” he said. “I should be able to offer that with my listing or not. If that affects the value that my card is going to sell for, then so be it. If it got to a point where there was enough adoption, it would almost be like, if you don’t offer this, then you’ve got something to hide with your card. Kind of the way that people now view Jordan rookie cards. I just don’t like it as mandated.”

Gregg isn’t sure the service is a great thing for buyers, either, especially ones trying to take advantage when a player or card is hot.

“I had a buddy who just sold a $1,600 Joe Burrow rookie patch auto right after the AFC championship game,” Gregg said seven days before the Super Bowl. “The guy may have bought that with the thought of, these cards are going to spike even more on the run up to the Super Bowl. So if I can make a quick $200-300, I’m good. [Authenticity Guarantee] would bring this process into question as well, because it makes it harder for a quick flip and it adds uncertainty in delay. Not a big fan of it overall.”

Another longtime eBay user, Ryan Taylor, has mixed feelings as well about the Authenticity Guarantee.

“The idea’s awesome, they should have it. I don’t know if they maybe went at it a little bit too narrowly with having another grading company who is doing it,” he said.

Taylor, whose eBay handle is @rtvintage, has a selling-to-buying ratio of about 9-to-1. He deals a lot with sales of sneakers and utilizes eBay’s authentication program with that segment.

“There’s always been some sort of missing link for the authentication and their company’s finally starting to get with it,” Taylor said. “With StockX, you sell shoes on StockX and they’re kind of like a middle man for authentication — same idea.

“In the long term, it’s great. I do think that they may need to internalize it, though.”

Taylor certainly understands the Authenticity Guarantee can be advantageous for buyers.

“It’s a great peace of mind having somebody give you a second opinion but also for actual fakes and counterfeits, the vintage stuff is way more prevalent,” Taylor said. “It takes a few years to get these guys caught up. It is a little odd to me, I just saw on Twitter that a 2020 Luka [Doncic] already went through the process and such, which is good, but may not be necessary. I feel like it’s a little unfocused at the moment, just the process. But in general, for buyers, I would much rather buy an $800 card with this process.”