The trading card world got huge news this week with eBay announcing they had restricted the listing abilities of their largest trading card seller, PWCC, due to alleged shill bidding. In response, PWCC denied all allegations and stated they would be taking legal action against eBay. This has significant implications for the Pokemon and trading card hobbies as a whole, as PWCC’s monthly auctions frequently featured a large number and variety of cards and were a barometer for the overall direction of the market. While it is difficult to say with certainty who is right between eBay and PWCC, the effect is the same: PWCC will be moving all listings from eBay and will be starting their own proprietary platform, similar to their premier auction.
The situation between eBay and PWCC is currently nothing more than a he-said she-said situation. Neither side provided any proof for either the truth or falsity of the allegations made, and eBay’s vague statement makes it unclear as to exactly who they thought was shill bidding. If PWCC employees were coordinating to bid on auctions, then eBay is certainly in the right to stop PWCC from listing cards. eBay is similarly in the right with implementing the ban if consignors were bidding on their own cards and PWCC knew about, but did not stop, the shill bidding. However, consignors bidding on their own auctions without the knowledge of the consignment house is a problem regardless of consignment house. If PWCC was unaware of consignors shilling their own auctions yet still implemented policies and practices to identify and stop this, they should not be punished for missing a couple here and there.
The vague statement and lack of proof from eBay is concerning, as are the serious accusations of shill bidding. Hopefully, PWCC will commission an independent investigation which can examine whether any PWCC employees bid on auctions, or whether PWCC had a policy of leniency towards consignors bidding on their own auctions. Some will take eBay’s accusation or PWCC’s denial at face value, but without a serious and transparent investigation, nobody can know for sure.
PWCC’s platform for future auctions, however, will be entirely in-house–with benefits and drawbacks. By moving off eBay, PWCC could lessen their consignment fees or institute automatic auction extensions to avoid last-second sniping. However, there will likely be fewer eyes on listings, as eBay is still the largest online individual sales platform. PWCC is still an integral part of the trading card hobby, so it is unlikely that cards will significantly drop in value upon listing in a PWCC-specific marketplace. However, there could be fewer cards consigned, especially in the next several months as people look to see what the new marketplace will look like. One also cannot ignore the damage that accusations of shill bidding (be they well-founded or not) can have on an auction house’s reputation. A PWCC-specific platform would have less oversight, and bidders may be uncomfortable bidding given eBay’s accusations and subsequent ban. Regardless of what comes to pass, the next few months will be incredibly interesting for the Pokemon market and the future of PWCC.
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Ethan Pohl – Ludkins Media
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