The eBay Trading Card Authenticity Guarantee: A Full Guide

January 25, 2022

E-commerce giant eBay announced that it would begin authenticating trading cards on its platform. Starting immediately, eBay will send cards (with some exceptions) valued at over $750 to third-party graders. They later expanded this service to graded cards worth over $2,000. They are calling this process the eBay Trading Card Authenticity Guarantee.

Let’s jump right in and see how it works and the implications of this move for the wider hobby.

What is happening?

As reported here on Cardlines, eBay banned PWCC from their platform in August 2021. However, many speculated at the time that the wrongdoing of the Oregon-based company only partially inspired the banning.

It was also part of a broader plan to integrate the e-commerce giant further into the hobby. After all, eBay has a stranglehold over an industry worth billions. For example, according to figures released by eBay, card sales on eBay amounted to $2 billion in the first half of 2021 alone. As a result, speculation was rife that eBay would be amiss not to leverage its lucrative position appropriately.

The predictions were spot on. eBay is taking advantage of its strong position as the primary platform for hobby commerce to enter the highly lucrative authentication space.

How will the eBay Trading Card Authenticity Guarantee work?

The new authentication service is built on three promises to buyers and sellers:

  • Professional authenticators: Your card is authenticated by third-party professional authenticators. Authentication is now available for ungraded cards $750+ except for patch and autographed cards. It is also available for graded cards worth $2,000 and over.
  • No cost to you: eBay covers all the costs associated with the authentication process for a limited time. Take note that this appears to be temporary.
  • Authenticity guarantee: eBay says it takes fraud and counterfeits seriously. The authentication process is designed to provide sellers, particularly buyers, with the knowledge that the cards purchased are genuine.

According to the eBay press release: “When a service-eligible trading card purchase is made, the seller ships it directly to a team of third-party authenticators at Certified Collectibles Group – including its affiliates, CGC Trading Cards and Certified Sports Guaranty (CSG) – for a comprehensive, multi-point physical inspection. Following this rigorous assessment, the card is sent via expedited shipping to the buyer or seller.”

Which items qualify for the eBay Trading Card Authenticity Guarantee

According to the eBay announcement “beginning now, single ungraded trading cards (including collectible card games, sports, and non-sports) sold for $750+ in the U.S. will be authenticated.” However, that is just the start. Once the capacity for authentication has been expanded, more cards will be authenticated through eBay. “By mid-2022, the service will expand to include graded, autograph, and patch cards sold for $250+.”

eBay delivered on that promise in May 2022 when it announced that graded cards sold for over $2,000 would also be covered.

The categories that are covered are limited to the following:

  • Category: Collectible Card Games, Sports Trading Cards, and Non-Sports Trading Cards
  • Card Type: Single cards only
  • Grading Type: Ungraded cards
  • Price: Cards listed or sold at auction for $750 or more, exclusive of tax and shipping

The following items are not eligible for Authenticity Guarantee:

  • Items whose listings do not bear the Authenticity Guarantee blue checkmark badge
  • Items listed in categories not named above
  • Graded cards
  • Sets, lots, kits, decks, boxes, and packs of two or more cards
  • Miscategorized items, e.g., other types of cards listed in eligible categories
  • Patch, jersey, costume, or wardrobe cards
  • Autographed cards
  • Items purchased using an offline payment method
  • Listings that offer local pickup
  • 1980’s Star Company Basketball Cards
  • Items shipped to P.O. Boxes
  • Items shipped to or from unincorporated territories (incl. Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands)

eBay will not authenticate ineligible items.

The price points are expected to go down to $250 and over eventually. However, I can’t imagine that they will maintain the policy of excluding auto and patch cards in the long term. After all, those two genres are among the most common and sought-after high-end cards.

Sadly, your favorite RPAs are not eligible for authentication. Look for more Nikola Jokic RPAs on eBay.

Further Limitations On The eBay Trading Card Authenticity Guarantee

Both buyer and seller must be in the U.S. unincorporated territories (incl. Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands). The guarantee does not cover Armed forces’ postal locations either. Listings that offer only local pickup or items shipped to P.O. boxes will not be eligible for Authenticity Guarantee. Note that eBay reserves the right to expand or limit the countries eligible for Authenticity Guarantee or the Services at any time, in its sole discretion, with or without notice.

Steps in the eBay Trading Card Authenticity Guarantee

The new process has four steps to facilitate a more reliable card-purchasing experience. Here they are:

  • Look for cards with the blue Authenticity Guarantee checkmark and make your purchase.
  • The seller ships your card to the authentication facility.
  • Your card is verified and authenticated through a multi-point inspection process and receives a tamper-proof sticker and a QR code confirming the authentication.
  • The authenticators place the cards in a holder: eBay explains, “Not only is the new card packaging secure and stylish, but it was also designed to be folded into a stand—perfect for showing your cards off.”
  • The professional authenticator ships the card directly to you via secure and discreet tracked shipping. All cards at this time will have signature-required delivery.
  • Scan the code on your mobile device to learn more about your card and its authentication journey.

What do the authenticators do when they receive the card?

When a buyer purchases a qualifying card, eBay will send it to the authenticators. They take the following steps:

  • Ensure it is the correct item: authenticators will examine the item to ensure it is the same as described in the original listing. At this stage, they will confirm the item and collateral materials are consistent with the listing title, description, and image.
  • Multi-point inspection: The professional authenticators check numerous inspection points, including corners, edges, condition, and surface. This process doesn’t involve card grading.
  • Seal authenticity: Once verified as authentic, each card receives a tamper-proof sticker and a Q.R. code sealing the protective packaging over the card, adding an extra layer of security.
  • In some cases, the authenticator cannot verify the item’s authenticity or the item is not consistent with the original listing. In that case, eBay will issue a full refund to your original payment method.

How long does the eBay trading card Authenticity Guarantee process take?

After purchasing an eligible item, the seller must quickly send the item to the authentication facility. Once there, the inspection should be executed within one to two business days of receipt. Once the review is complete, the item will be sent to you with tracked four-day shipping.

When the card is shipped, you can track it. The tracking information is available on the Purchase History page, where you’ll be able to track the shipment of your order and see exactly where it is in the authentication process. As part of the Authenticity Guarantee service, you will also receive an order update email once your item goes through inspection.

Who is performing the authentication?

eBay has entrusted the process to the Certified Collectibles Group’s affiliates, CGC Trading Cards, and Certified Sports Guaranty (CSG). Formed in 1987, they are one of the primary authenticators in the larger world of collectibles and memorabilia. The group comprises several sub-companies specializing in authenticating various collectible items.

In a short announcement, the company announced that “CSG is excited to be part of this program, which brings an added layer of trust to eBay marketplace transactions.”

Their portfolio is quite impressive and includes the following companies:

  • Numismatic Guaranty Company (NGC)
  • Paper Money Guaranty (PMG)
  • Certified Guaranty Company (CGC)
  • Classic Collectible Services (CCS)
  • Certified Sports Guaranty (CSG)
  • Authenticated Stamp Guaranty (ASG)
  • Collectibles Authentication Guaranty (CAG)

CCG sees this as an opportunity to compete with PSA in the sports cards arena and challenge the ambitious plans of the latter for hobby domination. While PSA has a massive advantage in the American sports cards arena, CCG holds the upper hand globally. The company maintains offices in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and China.

Can you return cards that went through the eBay Trading Card Authenticity Guarantee process? 

As always on eBay, the seller determines the return policy on a sold item. Here is a general guide to returns on the platform. Therefore, If the seller doesn’t accept returns, eBay considers the sale final. On the other hand, if the seller has a return window, you must open the return within that window.

You have an opportunity to return cards that sustained damage in transit. That chance exists regardless of the policy of the seller. For example, if the seller has an exchange window, return the damaged item during that time frame. Meanwhile, if the sale is final, you can open a return request within three days of arrival. Here is the full eBay ‘money-back guarantee’ policy for your perusal.

The verification process works both ways. Therefore, if you send back a return, it will arrive at the authenticators’ doorstep rather than the seller’s. However, the authenticator may determine the returned item is not the same item or is not in the same condition. In addition, the authenticators will determine if someone tampered with or removed the Authenticity Guarantee sticker. In that case, the authenticators will return the item back to the sender and deny the return.

Note also that eBay cannot accommodate address changes at this time.

What does the eBay Trading Card Authenticity Guarantee mean for the hobby?

The big retail stores often seem to treat collectors as a nuisance. However, eBay has taken the opposite approach and embraced the hobby with an overpowering bear hug.

In their official announcement, the e-commerce platform situated the move into a broader hobby strategy: “eBay is continuously listening to its growing community of collectors to ensure the marketplace is delivering what enthusiasts want and need. Giving collectors even more options and flexibility, Authenticity Guarantee comes on the heels of the introduction of industry-leading tools Price Guide and Collection and Image Scan, which the company debuted in 2021.”

Trading cards with the authenticity guarantee will have a blue mark under the price.

Bottomline on the eBay Trading Card Authenticity Guarantee

It is easy to see why eBay adopted these new steps. They have a massive share of the sports card market already. However, the Achilles heel of their operation is that savvy collectors have long been wary of buying and selling highly valuable cards on eBay due to the relative unreliability of the platform. Therefore, you often see truly high-end items in auction houses. These new steps will encourage many to sell on eBay instead.

Nonetheless, if eBay wants to enjoy the fruits of this initiative in its entirety, it will also have to authenticate autos and patch cards. My guess is they realize this and need to get the infrastructure in place to handle these more complicated items.

We do not know how good the execution of the verification will be. However, it is hard to see this as anything other than a win for buyers on eBay. The company is taking steps that will protect buyers from cheating. However, we know that these steps are never foolproof, and forgeries and altered cards will always seep through the cracks.

Whatever problems eBay runs into in the short term, there is no doubt this is a positive move from their perspective. Moreover, it will cement its role as the central conduit of the sports card industry in the United States and beyond.