Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Sherry Magie Error T206 Card Sold on Ebay

Photo: The one you see here is valued at $90,000.  Yes.  90 grand.  Or, half the value of a good house.  The super-famous Magie (Magee) error card, from PSA.com.  The card in this picture is not the same exact one in the story below. 

I just watched a Sherry Magie (correct spelling: Magee) error card from the T206 set--one of the most sought-after, rare and expensive cards in the hobby--sell on Ebay.  Just watching, mind you.  Why?  Because it was in PSA 3 VG condition, which means the grading company PSA said it was in Very Good condition, which is an actual grade, and not somebody saying, "Hey, that's in very good condition."  The 3 means that this is the 3rd-lowest grade for a card, which is good if you're a serious, but financially limited, collector like me.  (Most serious T206 collectors are not financially limited.)  So I'm thrilled to get a card in VG condition, but most serious collectors prefer cards at least a good three stages higher, at least Excellent or Excellent-Mint condition.  If I had the money, I'd be the same.  But I don't, so I'm not, and I'm okay with that.

Anyway, Beckett's Graded Card Price Guide says that this exact error card, in this exact graded condition, has sold recently, on average, for $20,000 (Yes, twenty grand for a baseball card of someone you've never heard of.) and that this dollar "value" has gone up since Beckett's last report.  This is not the same as saying that the card is "worth" $20K, but for our purposes here we can think about it that way.

Suffice it to say, I don't (and most of you probably don't) have twenty grand to spend on a baseball card, so I'm just watching this take place.  At about five minutes before the end of the auction, the highest visible bid (if you've bought off Ebay before, you know the highest visible bid is often nowhere near the highest actual bid) is at about $12,000.  Now, this kind of famous card, an error card, a card that every serious T206 collector (including me) wants to have, will often go crazy in the last 10 seconds of bidding, so I'm fully expecting this thing to jump violently and quickly from $12K to $14K (seeing a baseball card jump in seconds by a few grand is a very rare thing to see), and so on, to come close to $20K or, as I expected, to exceed it.

To my utter shock--and, I'm sure, to the seller's worst nightmare--it doesn't.  It sells for $14, 544.  Someone out there just got one of the hobby's most sought-after cards at a savings of over $5,000.  Well, $5,456, to be exact.  Which means the seller, who should have expected the card to sell for something close, if not more than, $20,000, just took a hit of over five grand.

Meanwhile, I just saw a Burleigh Grimes 1933 Goudey, in PSA Good condition, with a book "value" of $50, just sell for $81.26, plus $3.50 shipping.

So some guy got a card at a savings of over $5,000--and he can very easily just re-list it himself sometime and sell it on some Friday or Saturday night, far away from Christmas time when people are buying presents and going broke, for the $20K, and make a nice $5,000 profit for himself by doing absolutely nothing.  Well, besides using a little common sense.  I would never auction off a super-valuable card around Christmastime.  I'd wait until February, or March, when people are depressed and miserable and will overspend.

Anyway, so some guy underspent by five grand and got a world-class card, while someone else vastly overspent on the Grimes card by $33.76, which in its own way is just as shocking.  Overspending by almost $34 on a card that's only worth $50 is an astoundingly financially unfeasible thing to do.

Ebay giveth and Ebay taketh away.  That's the risk you run putting something up for bid.  If you just get a sparse crowd, you're going to lose out, big-time.  The company selling the Magie card was not one of the mega-name card companies I'm familiar with on Ebay.  If it had been, with the established and serious client base those companies have, the card would've sold for closer to the $20K.

Craziness.  But the company's fault for putting it up for bid when it did.  Even if that's what the client asked the company to do (these guys often auction things for someone else, and get a cut of the sale price for doing so; that's called consignment), I can't believe the company wouldn't convince the card owner that he'll lose a few grand selling it now.

If I'd only had the money myself...

I also watched a 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth #181 PSA 6 EX-MT Condition, sell for $6,100.  Shipping: $20.  (This is the classic card where he's grimacing and looking over his shoulder, his arm on the red Big League Chewing Gum ad.)  The book value: $5,000.  I can't decide if someone overspent by over a grand, or if this is a worthwhile and legitimate value.  A $1,100 profit on a $5K card is a pretty good haul.  This Ruth Goudey card is also one of the hobby's most recognizable cards.  Though not as much as the Napolean Lajoie (who's from RI) 1933 Goudey card.  A Near-Mint one of those recently sold for $60,000.  Yes, $60K for one baseball card.  This company was one of the mega-names, which I think accounted for the profit made by the card.  Sad, but true.  Why the owner of the Magie error card didn't consign it through one of the mega-name companies is a mystery.

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