Inside the Pack: My Experience with eBay’s Authenticity Guarantee
Since earlier this year, eBay has instituted an “authenticity guarantee” on sports card singles that sell for more than $250. I don’t often buy high-dollar cards on eBay, so until now I haven’t had an experience with this service. But when a Lou Gehrig card I coveted came available for sale, I bought it, and got to partake in the authenticity guarantee process for the first time.
eBay’s authenticity guarantee is available only for single raw or graded cards, not lots or autographed items. For raw cards, the card is sent to CSG, who inspects the item, deems that it is real and matches the eBay description and photos, and then sends it to the buyer. For graded cards, the process is the same, except that PSA is the company used for authentication.
I paid for my package on August 31, and the seller shipped the card the next day. Under normal circumstances, I’d have had it by September 3rd, but instead of traveling from Illinois to Florida, it had to make a pit stop in California.
That process was not as smooth as I imagined. Tracking showed that it arrived in California on September 3rd, and that arrival was accompanied with a note that said “NO ACCESS TO DLVRY LOCATION.”
Unfortunately for me, the next day was a Sunday, and Monday was Labor Day, so redelivery wasn’t attempted until Tuesday, September 6th. It was authenticated the next day on the 7th, sent out the day after on the 8th, and arrived to me on the 10th.
When the package did arrive, I was excited to see what it was like. eBay ships the card in an attractive blue box with a magnetic cover that doubles as a display stand. The card itself is inside a team bag with a tamper-proof eBay seal as well as a QR code. Since nothing tells you what the QR code does, I scanned it, and discovered it takes you to a simple eBay page with images of the card — another layer of verification.
The process was generally fine, unobtrusive, and easy, since it didn’t require anything on my part. But it wasn’t without its flaws.
For starters, I didn’t love that my shipment was essentially delayed a week in getting to me because of an authenticity guarantee I didn’t even want or request. I felt confident the card, which isn’t commonly faked and was in a new SGC slab, was authentic. More frustrating than that, though, is that my card was at the PSA headquarters. I prefer PSA for my personal collection and would have paid to have the card cracked out of the SGC case and placed in a PSA one. That’s not an option, though.
I also don’t like that there’s no option to decline the service. In addition to the added timeframe for delivery, I was a little uncomfortable with how many times my package had to change hands. Every transition in a package’s life is an added chance that it gets lost, stolen, or damaged. I was also a bit nervous because I’ve heard stories from others about the card being sent back to the seller due to a simple misstatement of an “item specific” bit in the description. I was worried that might happen to me; it didn’t.
Finally, a nitpicky thing: the team bag the card was placed in was very oversized. Now I’m faced with two options: displaying it in a baggy piece of plastic, or removing it and therefore damaging the tamper-proof seal and losing the QR code.
All in all, I don’t see the utility in forcing this service for all graded cards. I think it’s a terrific opt-in service, and I could also see it being required for high dollar raw cards. I imagine that eBay will eventually charge for this service, and perhaps that’s when they’ll stop requiring it. This is a service I would definitely use in the future if I was unsure about a raw card or had doubts about a graded card. Other than that, it seems superfluous. A few tweaks, like opting to have your card graded or regraded, would make this process a huge win to me.