How Much Is Not Enough?

In my recent push to start collecting certified autographs of St Louis Cardinals players I managed to get hold of what I’d consider to be one of the ‘biggies’ – Bob Gibson!

You can click here to read about that life-changing event!

Now there’s only one player who I’d consider to be ‘bigger’ than Bob Gibson in terms of Cards autos, and that would be Stan Musial! So with this in mind, and a bit of loose change in my pocket (i.e. my PayPal account) I set my sights on obtaining this piece of cardboard greatness off eBay –

I’m sure you’d agree that that it’s a lovely card and one that any respectable lover of Baseball would give their right arm to own!

The seller (I’ve not mentioned their name as it’s not really important) had it listed at $99.95 Buy It Now and the ‘Make Offer’ option enabled! So I put an initial offer in for $70.00!

Now, this wasn’t an arbitrary figure that I just plucked from the air. No, I’d done a bit of research on this one and looked at the sale history of this particular card. And what I found was (based upon the last 10 sales in a standard auction format, with the most recent sale price first) this card had sold for $55.93, $58.00, $61.00, $61.00, $51.00, $69.00, $46.88, $54.88, $66.00 and $53.50. That’s an average sale price of $57.72.

In the corresponding time frame covering the sale of these cards, and in the few weeks prior to the earliest sale that I looked at, there had been no sales using the Buy It Now option, and there were certainly no sales higher than the $70.00 that I initially offered!

Anyway, long story short, my offer was automatically declined!

Fair enough, I thought! Kinda half expected that to happen anyway!

Not to be deterred (as I really wanted the card anyway) I decided to contact the seller. I explained what the card would mean to myself and my collection and attempted to find out what they were looking at as a ‘reasonable’ price to accept as an offer so I could look at whether I could afford to go much higher.

That message was sent on 7th May and I haven’t received a bloody reply yet! I can appreciate that people are busy, but this seller has 100% feedback and I figured I might have heard something – even if it was a simple and straightforward “no” or a “get lost”!!

Just strikes me as a bit rude, that’s all!

But this then started me thinking about how we perceive the value of the cards we both sell and collect! It’s worth pointing out now that for the purpose of this little piece I’m more interested in the fiscal value of cards rather than the personal or sentimental value.

How much a card is ‘worth’ is something that preoccupies the thoughts of most collectors. I won’t say ‘all’ collectors as I’m sure there are those individuals out there who simply don’t care what their collection is worth, as it’s something that they do purely for the joy or fun of it!

In the (almost) 14 years that I’ve been on eBay I’ve bought and sold many different items, not just sports cards, and I’ve come to the conclusion that when trading on sites such as eBay, the ‘value’ of a card can be looked at in two ways (again, remember we’re talking in monetary terms here!) –

  • the Perceived Value – what a seller believes a card to be worth and the value that they’d be happy to sell it for, and
  • the Actual Value – the maximum amount that a buyer will be willing to part with in order to obtain the card

In the majority of cases these two amount will often be poles apart, but through a bit of bartering in most instances the two parties can meet somewhere in the middle!

Whenever someone asks me what I think something is worth, my answer is always the same – “Whatever someone is prepared to pay for it”. This isn’t some grand economical theory that I’m talking about here. If an item is priced too high by a seller it’s highly unlikely anyone will be prepared to buy it from them – unless of course you have money to burn (which, lets face facts, would be rather nice).

The seller might stick to the hard-and-fast ‘rule’ that the card they are selling is ‘worth’ X amount of pounds/dollars/euros, because that’s what they perceive it to be worth, and in some instances they won’t budge from that stance. I can’t say I necessarily blame sellers for adopting this strategy, after all they are trying to make a living selling cards and will want to get as big a return as possible on their item(s).

Going back to the above example of the Musial card. Based on my research of previous sales the maximum amount that the card went for in a standard auction listing was $69.00. I went in with an initial offer of $70.00 to test the water, but was prepared to up that as I really wanted the card. The seller obviously had ‘perceived’ the value to be higher than this amount, hence the declined offer.

But what interests me is at what point point do you say “Ahh, screw it” and just take the money? $70.00 isn’t exactly a small amount for a 3″x2″ piece of card. Sure other cards sell for much more, but given that the card had been selling an average of around $13.00 less over the preceding few months, is $70.00 THAT unreasonable an offer to accept?

I’m keen to hear from other dealers on this issue!

I don’t know how long this card had been listed and re-listed for! Could have been a few weeks, a few months, even a few years! If the card had been on eBay for a length of time would it not be best to accept $70.00 for it rather than holding out for $100.00 that hadn’t been forthcoming up to this point, and may well never come?

Obviously a lot of sellers (and collectors/buyers) still use Beckett as ‘The Bible’ when it comes to assigning a monetary value to a card. Surely this is a somewhat outdated notion these days? Sure Beckett is great as a guide, but the real measure of a card’s value comes from examining the areas where the cards are sold – auction sites, card shows, LCS, and so on!

Even though I’d done my own research into the potential saleable value of this particular Musial autograph, it proved to be pretty futile when coming up against the seller’s perception of it’s worth and value. Sure it would be great to get $100.00 for the card, but wouldn’t $70.00-$80.00 be better than no sale at all?

There’s been many a time where I’ve sold a card on eBay for a lot less that what I felt it was worth. Removing that element of sentimentality and stubbornness from the sale made it much easier to let it go for a lesser amount than what I felt it should have gone for! But I guess I’m not in the Hobby to make a living from it, so I’m not as concerned about maximising profits as much as a full-time seller/dealer would be.

Hopefully I’ll take another stab at the Musial card again sometime soon! But it would be great to get your thoughts on the whole card ‘value’ issue!

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6 thoughts on “How Much Is Not Enough?

  1. Andy,
    As much as you’d like this now, another one will come along shortly….and probably at the price you want to pay. This is where using ebay Saved Searches really comes in to its own. Set up a search, and get a daily email of any new items which meet that criteria. Because of the time difference between the US and UK, we actually get first crack at stuff here! I’ve picked up many a BIN bargain using this method.

  2. The other problem with eBay/PayPal is the fees. Of that $70, 9% goes to eBay, so there’s $6.30 off the top (assuming there were no additional shipping charges), then PayPal gets $0.30 plus 2.9%, so there’s another $2.33 gone, plus the cost of supplies and postage to mail it, so there’s another $2-3. Maybe he bought the card himself, so after fees, perhaps the $58 or so profit wasn’t enough.

    • An excellent point, well made Jeff!

      I made the point earlier on Twitter that I have a massive amount of sympathy for sellers, especially recently after eBay changed their fee structure again so it enabled them to take even MORE at the end of an auction!

      That’s the problem with us collectors… Always after a cheap deal 🙂

  3. Totally agree with the points made. If the card sells for the prices you say, no way I’d pay more than 60. Stick to the patient approach you hint at in your ‘Mucho Machado’ post. (Btw, was just looking at completed sales of Machado’s 2011 BDPP auto and am pleased to see what it’s going for, especially since it cost me 99p. I’m not pleased to see that REDEEMED redemptions are selling in the 10-15 bucks range while mine lies in a landfill!)

    • C’mon then Shay!

      What’s it going to take to prise that Machado away from you? I forgot you had it 🙂

      Maybe I should start stocking up on some rare Molitor and Braun stuff?? See if that can entice you 🙂

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