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Unpacking The Incredible eBay-PSA-Goldin Deal

There had been rumors about this coming for a very long time. But now, it is here.

eBay has expanded its tremendous hold on the hobby by purchasing Goldin and entering a partnership with PSA to grade cards in its vault. There are great opportunities and dangers in this deal. Opportunities to make your grading and card transactions more convenient.

However, some dangers lead to monopolization, worse service, and higher processes. Let’s dig into the eBay-PSA-Goldin Deal

The details of the eBay deal

eBay and Collectors have signed agreements to collaborate on enhancing the trading card hobby by combining the strengths of both companies. The deal in question involves a contract between Collectors (the parent company of PSA) and eBay.

There are two elements to the agreement. First, Goldin Auctions will be transferred from Collectors to eBay. This comes a mere three years after Ken Goldin sold ownership of his high-profile auction house to Collectors Holding.

Second, a partnership between eBay and PSA will be created to cooperate through the eBay vault system. The deal is scheduled to be completed in the second quarter of 2024. That means we will see ownership transferred by the end of June 2024. None of the financial details have been revealed, so we cannot tell you how much money is exchanged here.

There has been talk of a deal involving PSA and eBay vaults for years. Of course, they were identified in the run-up to this deal. Meanwhile, rumors of a Goldin component in the agreement have also spread recently. Therefore, this deal was anything but secret.

A concerning lack of info

The companies involved have not released too much information. Therefore, we have to parse the statements carefully and connect the dots.

As you would expect, the deal integrates the sale of cards on the eBay e-commerce platform with grading. Most likely by sending cards to be graded and selling them on the platform while they are stored in the eBay vault. The press release certainly hints at that:

“eBay and PSA both have long track records of innovation in service of The Hobby, from helping people make their first trading card purchase confidently to supporting established small businesses and collectors with new tools and technology. These deals represent a compelling opportunity to accelerate innovation in the industry and enable game-changing benefits for collectors. Together, eBay and PSA will offer a full, seamless, customer-centric product experience for the collecting community that will be unveiled over the coming months.”

What will this mean for vault services?

PSA will introduce a new service allowing customers to list and sell trading cards on eBay at the time of grading, speeding up the selling process.

Eventually, the plan calls for the PSA to acquire the eBay vault, maintaining seamless access to vault services for eBay’s US customers. At first, the services offered by both vaults will remain unchanged.

PSA already has vault services. After it bought Goldin Auctions in 2021, you could easily place cards in the PSA vault for sale on that auction platform.

Now, PSA will fold its existing vaulting services into the eBay vault to integrate all three services. So, you could presumably have your cards graded through PSA while held by the eBay vault.

Then, you can also place the cards for sale on Goldin Auctions without physically touching or shipping them more than once. This is undoubtedly a convenient option. Now, you can sell and grade without all the shipping and hassles.

Here is how PSA describes the integration of the three:

  • PSA Vault is connecting with eBay, meaning PSA submitters will soon be able to list vaulted and newly-graded cards directly to eBay.
  • PSA Vault is acquiring the eBay vault, meaning items currently vaulted with eBay will soon migrate to PSA while still maintaining direct access to eBay buyers. Both experiences will remain unchanged for a period leading up to the launch of the new integration.
  • eBay is acquiring Goldin, which means that high-value Goldin collectibles will soon be available to an even more extensive network of buyers.

We can see how the three-pronged PSA approach to selling will connect it directly with the hobby’s most significant marketplaces. That means there is even less incentive than ever to grade with other companies.

Why was Goldin Auctions sold?

It is not hard to understand why PSA and eBay would want to cooperate through the vault. However, the sale of Goldin to eBay raises more questions. First, Goldin has a very high stature in the hobby.

So, why would Collectors Holding want to sell that asset? Second, why would eBay want to buy it if some issue led to the sale?

We are not sure that answers to these questions are immediately available. Ken Goldin seemed suitably excited in his official statement on the matter, saying, “I have the opportunity to bring the Goldin name to millions of collectors around the world who may never have heard of us!”

He also promised that more information would be coming in the upcoming weeks.

A change in ebay

eBay has been one of the leading players in the hobby for many years now. However, it has only begun to take a very active role during the COVID-19 explosion of the hobby.

It has engaged with more assertiveness since. The creation of the eBay vault was one example of that. In addition, it offers authentication and other services directly designed for sports cards.

In November 2023, it even announced an investment in COMC, which is, in some ways, a rival for sales and card consignments. That was an indication of some monopolistic tendencies in the sports card space.

However, this move is a whole different ball game. It places eBay Square in the center of the grading world. It also brings in one of the most notable components of the auctioning world, a direct rival to the eBay model.

While eBay has almost cornered the world of more minor card sales, it lags behind the big auction houses in selling big-ticket items. And, after all, that is where the big money is. You make more commission off a card worth hundreds of thousands than large amounts of minuscule sales.

Gaining more prestiige

The problem is that if you have a genuinely huge card, the e-commerce giant is not the first place that comes to mind for offloading it. You want better protections, guarantees, and more cache to attract serious buyers.

eBay has already shown determination to enter this space. When it was set up, that was a way of quieting some of the fears of big item sellers.

By adding Goldin and working with PSA to directly grade cards, eBay will further cement its dominance in the more miniature sales world and work to take a more significant chunk out of the most extensive collectibles out there. This is something that Ken Goldin has excelled at doing through his connections and high media profile.

There is another reason eBay is mainly focused on expanding its footprint and leveraging the power of eBay to do so. Fanatics is well known for its monopolistic practices and ability to muscle rivals out of the market about PWCC in May 2023.

That came not long after the card giant announced the purchase of PointsBet U.S., which seemed like a declaration that they wanted a piece of the sports world. eBay now has the advantage over Fanatics but cannot afford to be left behind.

What does this mean for Goldin?

There is nothing Ken is better at than making headlines, and this will get him some. But there must be more at play here.

In 2021, a group of well-known athletes invested in Goldin. They included Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade, Deshaun Watson, and Bill Simmons. Mark Cuban was also part of this investment. A few months later, Goldin was purchased by Collectors, the parent company of PSA, which had bought the grading giant just a few months before. 

Perhaps one of the main reasons Goldin was purchased is because he was trying to threaten eBay’s position.

In 2023, Goldin announced that he was expanding his marketplace from focusing only on high-ticket items to medium and small ones. It had daily sales and, more significantly, weekly and monthly events. But of course, one of its most significant advantages in format was the connection to PSA, which allowed easy grading.

By buying Goldin, eBay can integrate them as a tier in their sales strategy rather than try and compete.

Is this a good thing for the hobby>?

Of course, PSA and the parties involved tell us this will benefit everyone.

According to the statement: “These deals will enhance the overall trading card hobby, bringing customer-focused innovations and opportunities to trading card enthusiasts and collectors.” Meanwhile, Collectors CEO Nat Turner said, “This will benefit The Hobby above all else, which is the primary goal of this innovative partnership between eBay and PSA. We will drastically improve the collector experience by creating a seamless, end-to-end journey. No matter an individual collector’s goals, this partnership will make collecting safer, easier, and more fun. We’re excited to combine the scale and trust across eBay’s global marketplace with PSA’s authentication and grading expertise.”

However, PSA has become an absolute monopoly in the grading space. It has long been dominant in this market, brooking no notable opposition.

In March 2024, it had quickly its most successful month yet, with over 1,330,000 items graded. Its growth has been phenomenal. PSA graded 13.5 million cards in 2023, an increase of 21% over 2022. It owns 78% of the grading market through PSA alone. However, it has not settled for that and recently acquired SGC in a merger, providing it with another 7% of the market.

The ease of transactions and the use of the top formats for auctioning, selling, and grading will likely increase the volume for the big companies and decrease it for the small players.

Much like Amazon, the ease and convenience could lead to higher prices and worse service in the future. After all, if PSA has no competition, it can do whatever it wants with grading and suffer no consequences. But at this point, it feels like resistance is futile.

PSA, eBay, and Fanatics are becoming the only game in town.

A Clear Conflict Of Interest

Talks about monopolies in the abstract can be pretty boring. However, the harm that could be created through this deal is fairly apparent.

When the same company that grades the card also participates in its sale and makes a commission on it, it is interested in providing a higher grade. If the difference between a PSA 9 and a PSA 10 can net a far bigger commission, giving that big card a gem mint is tempting even if it doesn’t deserve it.

This is the simple but important reason why grading and sales should be kept separate.

As one Blowout Forum user noted: “They will authenticate and grade the card (for a fee that gets larger the better the grade), auction the card (for a fee that gets larger the higher the price), authenticate the card again (with little real competition in this space), and if the card is high value enough they will offer to auction it on a separate site (with a different fee structure). If you buy the card, you can store it at one of their off-site facilities (for a fee) or have it specially shipped to you (for a fee). A good racket, if you can get it.” A good racket, indeed.

Final word on the eBay-PSA-Goldin deal

As our grandparents always liked to say, the devil is in the details. Unfortunately, the press release offers very few details, though it is more detailed than most similar deals. However, there will be far more convenience for collectors, which we will all enjoy.

The deal is honestly one of the least surprising hobby developments ever. It continues the trend of the big getting bigger and the small getting smaller. It also deepens the conflicts of interest that already dog the hobby and has removed a lot of collectors’ faith in institutions like PSA, Fanatics, and eBay.

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim is the emeritus editor of Cardlines. He continues to write for several hobby outlets, including this one and Cardbase. He collects primarily vintage baseball and soccer and has a weird obsession with 1971 Topps.

In his spare time, Shaiel is sobbing into his bourbon when the Mets lose and playing Dungeons and Dragons. In a past life, Dr. Ben-Ephraim was a political science professor, journalist, and diplomat. But cards are more fun.
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