With the sports card market booming, card auctioneer PWCC Marketplace debuts a new format today—a monthly auction platform for sports cards and other memorabilia with values as little as $10, according to the company.
The new feature comes as PWCC continues to rebuild itself as an independent auction platform after an acrimonious split with Ebay two months ago.
“This is the big shift,” said Jesse Craig, the director of business development at PWCC, on a video call. “We have historically closed, as the industry has grown, from 15,000 cards to 25,000 to 35,000 cards a month via our monthly auction that was on Ebay. This is the first one on our platform, and we will be having over 40,000 cards.”
Each month the auction will feature 17 days of bidding on various card categories with staggered starts. For example, baseball card bidding opens Thursday, followed by basketball Friday, football starting Saturday and so on, with each group closing in similar fashion. The end of each month will feature a second round of auctions to sell duplicate cards. Bidding begins at $10 and rises in fixed increments starting at $1 and going as high as $1,000 increments on cards that get bid to $50,000.
PWCC says the monthly auction will also feature new wrinkles such as extended bidding. Items with two or more bids will go into an immediate 60-second extended bidding window, where only people who have bid on the item before the scheduled close can submit fresh bids. If new high bids are submitted, the bidding windows get longer and can potentially stretch the bidding up to two hours after the normal close. The extended bidding is meant to reduce “sniping,” automated bids sent in moments before an auction closes so other bidders don’t have time to respond. “It’s going to create a digital version of the live auction experience,” said Chris Callahan, PWCC director of marketing, on the video call. “We can make sure the buyer who wants to pay the most is going to win the card.”
The monthly auction follows last month’s introduction of premier auctions, for cards worth $25,000 and higher, and an affixed-price listing feature. PWCC sold $3 million of fixed priced cards in the first three weeks of sales. Craig and Callahan said they expect the October premier auction to generate more than $5 million in card sales.
PWCC and Ebay split in August, after Ebay accused the card seller of submitting false bids during auctions to drive up prices. “Just absolutely not true,” said Craig. “We asked them for evidence, we asked for everything, and we got nothing from them. They haven’t given us any color about what they were talking about.”
Ebay doesn’t disclose data on its retailers, but the website Web Retailer pegged PWCC as the 96th largest seller on Ebay, based on feedback votes received on the platform. In the 12 months through March this year, PWCC received more than 600,000 Ebay buyer feedback ratings, with a 99.8% positivity rate, according to the publication. Craig and Callahan declined to disclose how much money Ebay made from their auctions, but noted that their sales volume in September was about half what they would have done on Ebay.
Whatever the circumstances surrounding the split, it’s clear Ebay has its focus on boosting its trading cards business. Ebay said in an August call with analysts that the gross merchandise value of trading cards sold on its site for North America was $2 billion in the first 6 months of the year, equal to all of 2020’s volume. Ebay and the stock analysts who follow it have focused on expanded trading card capabilities as a growth avenue for the business, and Ebay management has said more card products will come later this year. PWCC’s Craig noted Ebay doesn’t have a vault feature—where cards are physically secured by the auction house—and PWCC had previously declined Ebay offers to partner on a vault.
In addition to its own card vault, PWCC’s auction platform now uses its own technology, and the company says it has hired third party firms Tech Heads and Triaxiom Security to oversee all bids and ensure PWCC or other parties don’t have access to bidders’ maximum bid information.
PWCC is also using phone number verification to vet buyers, isn’t allowing bidders to retract bids during auctions, and is banning winners who don’t pay for items. “These are all things on Ebay we wanted them to do for years, and now we get to control the process,” added Craig. “Unpaid items, shill bidding—they do us no good, they just create more work for our team and company. Having a clean, efficient auction is not just better for our company, but the entire industry.”