Online marketplace eBay is once again expanding its authentication service, this time to include support for authenticating valuable trading cards. The service will now be able to authenticate cards worth at least $750 from collectible card games, as well as sports and other non-sports cards, the company said. By the middle of this year, this service will grow to include graded, autograph, and patch cards sold for $250 and higher, as well. These additions broaden eBay's ability to assure its customers of the authenticity of high-value items, including the sneakers, watches, and handbags the company is already able to authenticate.
Like other verticals where authentication is available, eBay saw the value in adding support for trading cards due to the volume of activity in the category on its site. The company said the trading cards category is growing “significantly faster” than its total marketplace, and the category saw $2 billion in transactions in the first half of 2021. That's equal to all of the trading card transactions that took place in 2020, for comparison.
To date, nearly 4 million cards purchased on and off eBay have been added to customers' Collections — a tool added last year that allows trading card collectors to keep track of their portfolios on the site. Here, people can view and manage their card collection, and monitor the real-time market valuation changes that impact their portfolio. On the flip side, nearly a quarter-million buyers on eBay have used the Price Guide tool in search to visualize trends for their favorite trading cards, eBay said.
The card categories which saw the most growth during the first half of last year included tennis (growing by 1797%), soccer (852%), Pokémon (536%), Marvel (437%), and golf (436%).
“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,” said Dawn Block, VP Collectibles, Electronics and Home at eBay, in a statement about the launch. “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,” she added.
The eBay website notes the trading card authentications are being handled by experts at the Certified Collectibles Group's affiliates, CGC Trading Cards and Certified Sports Guaranty (CSG).
In the face of increased competition for the buying and selling of everyday items from services like Facebook Marketplace and other local buying apps, eBay has been working to better establish itself as a place where people can seek out harder-to-find collectibles and secondhand luxury items online.
After launching its Authenticate program in 2017 for handbags, it later expanded to include things like luxury jewelry and watches. In November, it invested further in this strategy with the acquisition of the sneaker authentication business from its existing partner, Sneaker Con Digital. Adding authentication is also good for business. After adding the Authenticity Guarantee to the buying and selling of high-value sneakers, the company saw quarter-over-quarter category growth, topping 1.55 million sneaker authentications by the time it decided to bring the sneaker authentication service in-house.
As of Q3 2021, the company noted its U.S. sneaker business was growing at double-digit rates, and luxury handbag sales were outperforming the total U.S. site at double-digits.
As with the other categories, items eligible for the eBay Authenticity Guarantee are automatically added to the program, with no opt-in or out available. When a buyer then makes a purchase, the seller ships to the authenticator's address provided by eBay. The authenticator has 2 days to authenticate watches or trading cards and 3 business days for sneakers or handbags. If the item passes, it's shipped to the buyer with 2-day secure delivery. If not, it's sent back to the seller and the buyer is refunded. eBay is currently covering the costs associated with authentication, but that could change in the future.
The company believes attracting an enthusiast consumer to its marketplace will ultimately lead to cross-category purchases of a higher value. As CEO Jamie Iannone explained during eBay's Q3 earnings, “…part of our strategy is to drive enthusiasts to new trusted experiences and then leverage those buyers across our vast supply in other categories. The average buyer who purchases sneakers and luxury watches spends approximately $2,000 and $8,000, respectively, in other categories… One of the reasons our growth has improved in luxury categories is the improvement in buyer and seller trust,” he said.
But with trading cards, eBay faces new competition from a variety of dedicated trading card apps and services, like Alt, Whatnot, Loupe, Topps, and others, including those that serve to help collectors determine what their cards are worth, like WorthPoint or CollX.
The company has now authenticated over 1.4 million items across categories since relaunching its authentication program as the “authenticity guarantee” over a year ago, and customer satisfaction with the program tops 90%, Iannone had said.