eBay Pulls Biggest Trading Card Seller, Citing ‘Shill Bidding’; PWCC Responds

eBay Pulls Biggest Trading Card Seller, Citing ‘Shill Bidding’; PWCC Responds article feature image

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images. Pictured: eBay headquarters

Those in the trading card industry were shocked Tuesday afternoon when a mass blast email from eBay said it restricted the selling privileges of its largest trading card seller, PWCC, as a result of what it said was shill bidding. 

The news created a ripple throughout the community since PWCC is such an integral part of eBay sales. A source said it is believed that PWCC did at least $200 million worth of gross sales on eBay in the last year alone. 

“Recently, it was determined that individuals associated with a trading card seller, PWCC, have engaged in “shill bidding,” which is prohibited on eBay,” the statement read. “As a result, eBay has restricted PWCC’s selling privileges and listings, effective today. eBay’s policies and standards were designed to ensure a trusted marketplace where our community can transact with confidence. If we determine that a buyer or seller is not acting in good faith, eBay takes this seriously and takes action.” 

PWCC, in a statement, said its executives were “shocked” to hear of the accusations presented by eBay. That eBay allegedly never presented them with such evidence and that “to PWCC’s knowledge, its employees have never engaged in any behavior that violates eBay’s agreements and policies.”

The statement noted that while PWCC is a partner, its employees “do not have access to eBay’s bidding records or information.”

While eBay said their selling privileges would be restricted, customer service representatives for both companies suggested it was the end of the partnership for now, that all listings would come down in the next day or two. 

As of 3 p.m. ET, PWCC had 17,879 live auctions available for bid.

eBay representatives had no additional public comments as to presenting any evidence of shill bidding. PWCC said it is considering “all available legal options in response to eBay’s defamatory press release and its bad faith action to restrict PWCC’s privileges on eBay.”

PWCC said it will conduct an internal investigation to explore whether there had been any shill bidding within the company.

eBay's note and the action leads many in the business to wonder how much of the recent card boom, which peaked in February, was real and how much was due to shill bidding, the act of bidding on their own auctions for the sole purpose of boosting up the price.

PWCC also started to auction cards on their own platform that they built. Because of their contract with eBay, the platform, at least up until Tuesday, said “powered by eBay.”

While PWCC and eBay were partners over the years, PWCC started to do more. It built a successful vaulting business, allowing those to avoid sales tax by sending winning cards to them in Oregon. Having cards in their vault also allowed them to build a private sales business, thanks to cataloguing the high-end cards and having them on hand. PWCC also started its own auction site.

“Today’s unilateral action by eBay simply hastens PWCC’s move to the new platform,” the statement said.

Although the announcement is a public relations nightmare for the industry, it won’t affect eBay’s bottom line that much. As a power seller, PWCC has a deal with eBay that allows them to give a smaller piece of the pie to eBay. That portion is said to be between one and three percent versus the 10 percent that other sellers pay. 

PWCC is the subject of an ongoing FBI investigation that has lasted more than two years. The investigation is seeking to find out how involved, if at all, PWCC was in working with card trimmers to trim cards to get better grades with PSA. At the time, PWCC denied any connections to a noted card trimmer. 

It did not go unnoticed that PWCC founder Brent Huigens didn’t show up at the recent National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago.

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