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How To Dodge Fake Sports Cards (And What To Do If You Buy One)

fake sports cards on ebay

Sports card collecting has experienced a resurgence in recent years, with enthusiasts flocking to eBay in search of that elusive gem for their prized collections. But there’s a lurking danger amongst the excitement—fake sports cards. These counterfeit cards can leave collectors with lighter wallets, and while eBay usually steps in to resolve the issue, your money can be tied up for weeks, or even longer.

This happened to me once in my sports card infancy. A Walter Payton rookie priced marginally less than it should have been caught my eye and wound up in my cart. By the time I realized it was a fake, it was too late. Luckily, I was only out a couple of hundred dollars. Many of the most frequently faked sports cards will leave you out thousands. 

But fear not! With a little know-how and a sprinkle of common sense, you can avoid falling prey to these clever imitations. So, let’s dive into some tips on how to ensure you don’t end up buying a fake card on eBay.

First, a note on the eBay Authenticity Guaranteed program.

First, note that the new(ish) eBay Authenticity Guarantee is eBay’s commitment to making sure buyers don’t get hung with a fake card.  Any card that sells for more than $250 gets free authentication by industry experts from eBay. The card is shipped from the seller, to eBay, and then to you. This drastically cuts down your likelihood of being scammed or hung with a fake card. 

That said, accidents still happen and you might get a fake card for less than $250. If that’s the case, here’s what you should keep in mind. 

Expert tips for not getting a fake sports card on eBay 

Check the seller’s feedback

One of the first things you should do when considering a purchase on eBay is to examine the seller’s feedback. A high feedback score generally indicates a trustworthy seller, but don’t let it blind you completely. Crafty scammers can accumulate positive feedback by engaging in low-value transactions, especially as buyers.

Take the time to sift through the feedback comments for any suspicious patterns or inconsistencies.

Beware of sellers with non-sports card listings

A reliable indicator of a genuine seller is their history of selling sports cards or related collectibles. If you come across a seller whose active listings predominantly feature unrelated items, such as kitchen gadgets or clothing, it’s best to proceed with caution. Sellers specializing in sports cards are more likely to have the necessary knowledge and experience to offer authentic products.

Insist on clear images

A picture speaks a thousand words, especially when it comes to sports cards. Sellers who genuinely possess the item in question will readily provide clear, high-resolution images. Beware of listings that feature vague or blurry images, as they may be attempts to conceal flaws or imperfections indicative of a counterfeit card.

Last week I saw a listing for a Mickey Mantle rookie, and I’ve seen clear pictures of Sasquatch than the card he was trying to sell. Yikes. Don’t hesitate to request additional images or clarification from the seller before making a purchase. 

Watch out for scammy phrases

Okay, there might be occasional truth to these stories, but I tend to put up my guard against sayings like, “My grandpa died and left me with these,” “These came from an estate sale,” and other questionable stories.

My rule of thumb: if you need a story to explain where you got a high-end card, it’s probably pretty sketchy. And rule of thumb number two: if you have a thousand-plus dollar card that you’re selling on eBay with bad pictures and haven’t bothered to get it graded, it’s fake. Don’t give these listings a second thought.

Trust your gut

Intuition is a powerful tool, and it shouldn’t be ignored. If something feels off or too good to be true, it probably is. Use your common sense when evaluating listings and interacting with sellers.

Examine the item description for any red flags, such as extravagant claims or suspiciously low prices. Remember, trust is earned, not bestowed, so if your gut raises the alarm, it’s wise to explore alternative options.

What happens if you still get a counterfeit card?

Despite taking precautions, there’s still a slight chance you might find yourself in possession of a counterfeit sports card after purchasing on eBay, especially if you buy it cheap enough that it doesn’t go through the Autenticity Guaranteed inspection. 

While disheartening, it’s essential to remember that eBay has implemented protective measures. Here are some steps to take if you discover that the sports card you bought is indeed a fake.

Image courtesy of eBay.

Recognize the issue

Upon receiving your purchased sports card, carefully examine it to look for signs of forgery. Compare the card against reputable sources, including official manufacturer websites and reference materials, to identify discrepancies in design, quality, or content.

If you suspect the card is fake, it’s crucial to act promptly. Need more tips? This article has some ways to make sure your card is real. 

Initiate contact with the seller

Start by contacting the seller through eBay’s messaging system to discuss your concerns. Always maintain a respectful tone and provide specific reasons why you believe the card to be counterfeit.

Attach clear images or highlight specific details that raise suspicion. It’s possible that the seller may not be aware of the card’s authenticity issue, and an amicable resolution could be reached. I try to give the seller the benefit of the doubt unless proven otherwise. 

Open a return or refund request

If the seller is unresponsive, uncooperative, or refuses to acknowledge the problem, it’s time to escalate the situation. Open a return or refund request through eBay’s Resolution Center.

Clearly state the reasons for your request, citing the suspected counterfeit nature of the card. Ensure you adhere to eBay’s guidelines and timeframes for filing such requests.

Initiate an authenticity claim

You can initiate an authenticity claim. Contact eBay’s customer support and provide detailed evidence supporting your claim, including reasons for your suspicion and any expert opinions you may have obtained.

eBay will guide you through the process and may request additional information or documentation.

eBay’s resolution process

Once an authenticity claim is filed, eBay will review the case and may request that you return the item. It’s crucial to follow their instructions carefully and ensure you comply with the provided timelines.

eBay’s team of certified professionals will authenticate the card and verify its genuineness. If the card is determined to be counterfeit, eBay will work towards resolving the issue, typically through a refund or a replacement card.

Conclusion: Be Smart with your eBay transactions

While eBay offers certain safeguards like the Authenticity Guarantee, it’s always better to avoid falling into the trap of purchasing a fake sports card in the first place. Despite the precautions in place, valuable and sought-after cards worth faking are often high-priced items, and having your money tied up for weeks during the resolution process can be an inconvenience.

By following these simple guidelines, you can minimize the risk of ending up with a counterfeit card. And, thankfully, there are a few steps to take if you do end up with one. Stay vigilant, stay informed, and stay true to your love of the game. Happy collecting! Want more collection advice? Be sure to subscribe to our free newsletter and follow us on our YouTube channel.

Jesse Haynes

Jesse Haynes

Jesse Haynes is the co-founder of Solaro Shades, an Amazon #1 Bestselling novelist, and a lifelong sports card collector. His nonfiction work has been featured in Forbes, Inc., MarketWatch and more. At CardLines, Jesse’s specialties are basketball and football cards, not to mention making informative video and Instagram content.
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