I have really ignored eBay these past several years. The problems I have with eBay are too numerous to mention here. But, since I can't go to a card show, eBay is just about the only way to purchase cards. I am having problems with my scanner so I have not been able to post cards for sale on eBay. Hopefully, I can figure it out sooner rather than later.
I recently reloaded my 1954 Bowman baseball binder which gave me an opportunity to get reacquainted with this great set. After loading the binder, I realized I was 15 cards or so short of a complete set which got me thinking that I should build a 1954 Bowman baseball set for my personal collection. I think it is an underrated set and features some really cool paintings of some of the greatest players in history like Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Bob Feller and Roy Campanella. Of course there is the difficult Ted Williams card, pulled after he signed an exclusive contract with Topps for the 1954 season.
The Bowman 1954 set was issued during a competition with Topps for sports card dominance. Both companies had exclusive agreements with certain players. As a result, the Bowman set has Mantle, Feller, and Campanella, while Topps does not. However, Topps has the amazing rookie cards of Kaline, Banks, and Aaron, while Bowman does not. In my opinion, sports card fans win because there are two amazing sets of cards from 1954 to collect.
I thought it would be fun to build the entire set completely from cards purchased on eBay. I am not going to pursue the Williams. I might want to include some autographed cards and a wrapper. Below is a diary of my attempt to build the 1954 Bowman baseball set on eBay:
April 7, 2020
First off, I am a passive bidder. There is no card that I must own, so I won't get into a bidding war and overpay for anything. My method is simple, I just throw down my max bid. If I win, great. If I lose, no big deal. While these cards are 66 years old, they are not rare. If anything, eBay has shown us over the past 20 years or so that NOTHING is rare. There are more than 25,000 1954 Bowmans currently on eBay, so I won't ever run out of cards to bid on.
Day 1 of my attempt to build a 1954 Bowman baseball set exclusively on eBay. I punched "1954 Bowman" into the search box on eBay. Decided to look at auction only, cards ending soonest. I saw a lot of nice commons for reasonable prices. However, when I factored in the shipping costs ranging from $3.10 to $6, the price of the cards became a lot less reasonable.
I figured maybe if I purchase multiple cards from the sellers, I could get a break on shipping. To my dismay, none of the sellers on Day 1 offered shipping discounts. Most of them did not accept returns. My scam radar started to go off. I checked what other cards these guys were selling. Most seemed to sell mostly modern cards with a handful of vintage scattered in. I am always a little uncomfortable when I see one vintage card on a seller's eBay page along with 25 or more modern cards.
I have learned over the years that eBay is scam central. I have been burned a few times. So, in order to avoid getting scammed, I make sure I scrutinize a listing before placing a bid.
I saw a Mantle pictured in a thick screwdown for $350. The seller claimed the card was real, not a reprint. He claimed to have owned the card for 20 years. The other items he had for sale included mostly Dallas Cowboys memorabilia. It just seems odd that a guy with 50 modern Dallas Cowboys items has one vintage card, a 1954 Bowman Mickey Mantle.
I have seen a lot of fakes and reprints over the years. The real 1954 Bowman backs have a light gray-white-ish base with red overprint. Seems like a lot of the fakes/reprints have fuzzy backs with yellowish dark shade, almost like a varnish look. The Mantle had the fuzzy back varnish. Fake, in my opinion. Too bad, I would have loved to have purchased an EX Mantle for $350. He had no bids. I am glad others saw that it was fake. Scammers suck!
Another seller had a really nice looking Gil Hodges. The description said miscut. There was no photo of the back. I am always hesitant to purchase a card that does not have a picture of the back. A closer look at the card showed an uneven cut on the top edge, like someone unskilled took a scissors to it. Pass!
Found another Mantle, it had corner and edge wear and what looked like a little tire track across the top. Still at $250, worth a bid. Upon a closer look, the card is perfectly centered. My scam radar always goes off when I see a perfectly centered vintage card. There was no quality control in 1954 and this was the era of liquid lunches. Those guys working the presses could care less whether the cards were centered.
I also observed that Mantle's teeth were bright white while the border was a dimmed white. The differences in the shade of white is another item on my scam radar. The back looks legit, nice and bright gray, no varnish. However, upon a closer look, the edges look handcut, pass!
I then came across an item featuring 170 different 1954 Bowman cards, including some stars. I recognize the seller as someone I have dealt with before so I am confident the cards are legit. The picture is bad, see below, so I can't get a good idea on the condition. I am not creating a Mint set, so I do not mind some wear but I do not want cards creased up.
The description states that 85 percent of the cards are in VG. I don't believe it. I have learned over the years that cards are always at least a grade or two lower than the seller claims. I threw down a bid of $280 and was immediately outbid. Cards went up to $290.
Decisions, decisions. Do I want to bid on a near set of 1954 Bowman cards in Good condition? There is a Rizzuto, Mathews, and a handful of other stars. I decided to bid $300. Immediately outbid. Lot sent up to $305.
Being that we are in the middle of a pandemic, my income is down, so I have to be conservative. Also, I need to figure in sales tax, since eBay is now charging everyone sales tax. I am thankful there is no buyer's premium. Sales tax plus buyer's premium has priced me out of the big auction houses.
I still think the best deals are at card shows. I hate that I have to purchase cards on eBay, but there is no other choice in these trying times.
Okay, I'll throw down $400 but that is my final bid. Nice! I'm high bidder at $355. There is still six more hours to go on the auction. I doubt I will win the lot. I am going to hold off bidding on any other cards until I learn whether I won the lot.
That was an interesting start to my attempt to build a 1954 Bowman baseball set on eBay.
April 8, 2020
The eBay auction for the 170-card lot of 1954 Bowmans ended at about 9 p.m. I kept checking all evening and my bid at $355 held out and I won the cards. Initially, I was excited. Then when I went to pay for the cards I saw that I was being charged $11 shipping and $22.88 in sales tax, for a total of $388.88. My enthusiasm was dampened when I thought about dropping all that money on cards I did not inspect in person. What am I going to receive? What if the cards are all creased up? I much prefer purchasing cards at shows where I can actually hold, feel, and touch my purchase.
The seller's description does not mention creases which does not mean the cards do not have creases. I would feel much better if he specifically stated no creases. Well, 1954 Bowman commons book at $12 each. If the cards are not creased up, I got a really nice deal at $2.29 a card. If they are creased, I overpaid.
I spent a lot of time last night analyzing my purchase. I went over the seller's description umpteen times and found some anomalies. First off, the listing states 170 cards while the description states 180 cards. Then the seller listed all the cards in the lot. When I counted the cards listed, I came up with 194 cards. Well, what did I just purchase? 170? 180? 194 cards? I better receive at least 170 cards and all the stars stated in the description!
Based on the guy's description, these are the numbers of the cards I now need to complete the set: 10, 15, 23, 38, 45, 58, 62, 65, 74, 84, 89, 90, 92, 94, 97, 105, 113, 122, 132, 135, 138, 161 170, 177, 183, 195, 210, 211, 218 and 221.
There are 224 cards in the 1954 Bowman set, so whether I am receiving 170, 180 or 194 cards, I am receiving the bulk of the set minus the majority of the stars and semi-stars. So I will continue today trying to purchase more cards based on the list above.
Again, I typed in 1954 Bowman, auction only. I feel that I get the best deal with an auction. Buy It Nows seem to always be overpriced.
Same issues as yesterday. I see some cards I need but the shipping cost prices me out. I found a seller with a Carl Erskine, card number 10, which I think I need, though I am not 100 percent sure because the seller of the lot I won really screwed up the description. The Erskine looks nice, just a little off-center. Initial bid is $5, no one else has placed a bid and the card ends in 21 hours.
A couple of problems. First, the seller only has 68 feedback. I am always a little suspicious of low feedback. Those with low feedback are usually the scammers, in my experience. Second, shipping cost is $4.05. So, if I win, the total would be 9.05 plus sales tax. Does eBay tax the shipping cost? I am going to assume they do, because I do not have a very high opinion of eBay and think they will pull that kind of crap. So tack on another 75 cents for sales tax and I would be paying $9.80, which is about the actual value of the card. As a dealer, I could not pay $9.80 because I would not be able to realize a profit. But, here, I'm building a set as a collector with no immediate plans to sell the set. As I result, I can do the $9.80.
However, the seller does not offer a shipping discount for multiple purchases and does not offer returns. These are problems in my book and I will pass.
I found an Ashburn, card number 15, a little off-center and soft corners. This card books at $80. The card has six bids and is only at $7.50. Shipping is $3.00 and seller offers shipping discount and accepts returns. He also has more than 4,000 positive feedback. Item description states no creases. I think I'll throw down $20. I'm high bidder at $9.50 with a day to go. Woot!
Same seller has a Minoso and it looks like a beaut. It has bids and is currently $8.88. The card books at $30. I think I'll throw down $15. I am now high bidder at $9.50 with a day to go.
Same seller has a Pee Wee Reese, card number 58, with corners that are slightly rounded. Nice centering. Does not appear to be creased. I am a little concerned that the description does not state anything about creasing. The seller specifically stated in the Ashburn description that there are no creases, here no mention.
The card high books at $100 and it is currently at $13.50 with seven bids. I think I'll throw down $25. I'm high bidder at $14 with a day to go.
Next, I find a Junior Gilliam, card number 74. It looks nice. Different seller with just 168 feedback. This seller offers shipping discount for multiple purchases and accepts returns. Seller claims the card is VG and does not mention anything about creases. The card has two bids and is only at 1.04. I think I'll throw down $8. I'm high bidder at $1.51 with a day to go.
Same seller has a Larry Doby, card number 84, with soft corners. He says it is VG. Card is at $2.80 with two bids. I think I'll throw down $8 again. I'm high bidder at $4.25 with a day to go.
Next, I see another Gilliam but since I just threw down a bid on one, I don't want to bid another just yet. Pass.
I then see a Whitey Ford, card 177. It looks battered and the seller says it is VG. No way. Pass.
April 9, 2020
Day 3. Today is an important day because an entire set is ending today, listed card by card. I have to work at my real job then try and find time to bid.
I received tracking on the lot I purchased. Says I should receive it tomorrow. I appreciate that the seller shipped it so quickly.
A quick review of my current bids. I am high bidder on the Ashburn at $9.50. I've been outbid on the Minoso, it is now at $15.50. Too high for this card. I am not going to increase my bid. I'm high bidder on the Reese at $20.50. I'm high bidder on the Gilliam at $2.25. I am also high bidder on the Doby at $5.50.
The guy breaking up the set has 25K in feedback. He charges $3.50 for shipping and does not offer a shipping discount. He also does not accept returns. So any card I bid on, I have to factor in $3.50 plus tax. I am not too high on the lack of shipping discount and the refusal to accept returns. However, I just can't pass up the opportunity to place bids on all the cards I need from one seller in one day!
First up is an Erskine, nice shape but terribly off center. It is currently at $6 with 6 bidders. After factoring in the shipping and tax, I cannot place a bid. The price would be too high.
Next up is a Harvey Kuenn, card number 23. Nice looking card with one soft corner. Seller says EX. I'm thinking VG. Currently one bid at $1.99. I'm going to throw down 7. I'm high bidder at $3.25 with seven hours to go.
There is a Minoso with soft corners and bad centering. One bid at $1.99. I'm going to throw down $8. I'm high bidder at $2.75.
Next up is a nice looking Kiner, card number 45, at $9.50 with three bids. Some slight corner and edge wear. I am going to throw down $15. Looks like I matched another bid and am losing at $15. I'll up it to $20. I'm high bidder at $15.50.
I see an Enos Slaughter, card 62. Seller says EX but the card has corner wear and some wax stains on the back. Card is at $12.50 with seven bids. I am going to throw down $20. I'm high bidder at $13.50.
The Mantle, card 65, is listed in Good but clearly has creases and stains. I appreciate the fact that the seller does mention in the description that the card is creased. It is up to $125 with 13 bids. I am going to throw down $150. I'm high bidder at $132.
The Mays, card 89, is listed as EX or better. I say GOOD would be more appropriate. I don't see any creases and the seller does not describe any. The corners are soft. Surface wear is evident as well as edge wear. There is also what appears to be a pen mark on the lower left edge. Card is currently at $67 with 11 bids. I am going to bid $75. I'm outbid at $76. With that pen mark, I'm not going to up my bid. Pass.
The Campanella, card 90, is listed as EX or better. I can see some corner wear. The back has some scuff marks. It almost looks like a corner crease but tough to tell for sure. The description does not mention a crease. I am a little skeptical. Current bid is $26.40 with 11 bids. I will throw down $35. I would probably bid higher but there does seem to be either a crease or bend on the back. Outbid at $36. I will not up my bid because I think this card may have issues that the seller is keeping quiet about.
The goofy description from the lot I won, shows I need common Ken Raffensberger, card number 92. The one from this set break, looks pretty good. A ding on one corner and a little bit of a centering issue. Card has no bids and starts at $1.99. I am going to bid $4.
I also need another common, Solly Hemus, card number 94. The one from this set break looks pretty good. I see some corner wear. It is at $1.99 for an opening bid. Again, I'll place $4.
Next up is a Gil McDougald, card 97. Description says EX. No way, the seller is on crack! There is clearly creasing visible near the upper left corner. Currently no bidders with an opening of $1.99. I'll throw down $7. Without the crease I would have been willing to go $15 to $20.
I need a Sal the Barber, card number 105. This one looks pretty good with some corner wear. Definitely not EX, as the seller claims. It is at $1.99 for an opening bid. I decide to throw down $5.
Next on my list is Allie Reynolds, card number 113. The one from the set break has some minor corner dings and centering issues. It is also at $1.99 for an opening bid. I am going to throw down $7.
I need Carl Furillo, card 122, an underrated player from those great Brooklyn Dodgers teams from the 1950's. Description states EX or better. Again the seller was hitting the crack pipe too hard. The corners are soft. A lot of scuffing on the back. Looks like there may be a small crease. The card is currently at $2.25 with two bids. I will throw down $7. I can't do much more with a potential crease. I am high bidder at $4.23.
I need a Bob Feller, card number 132. I think the seller is asleep at the wheel. The description states EX or better. From the back scan, I can clearly see a crease. The corners are also soft and the card has centering issues. It is currently at $13.50 with four bids. Without that crease, I would be willing to bid $40 to $50. The crease drops me to $20. I'm high bidder at $16.05.
Up next is a Johnny Pesky, card 135. Maybe the seller started to feel the effects of Corona Virus because this card is clearly in POOR Condition and he is stating that it is EX or better. Heavy corner wear. Scuff marks on the front. The back shows multiple creases. The card is at $4.45 with three bids. Pass.
I need a Gil Hodges, card number 138. The one here looks okay. Though, I am starting to grow a little concerned with this seller. The Pesky listing at EX is troubling. The Hodges is at $14.50 with seven bids. I am going to throw down $25. I am high bidder at $22.53.
The Berra, card 161, is scuffed and the corners are soft -- not EX as the seller states. I cannot be certain whether there are any creases. Seller does not mention creases in the description but I have seen enough of this guy's listings to lose trust. The card is at $41. I will bid $45. I would bid higher but I no longer trust the seller's description. I'm high bidder at $42.
I need Duke Snider, card 170. The seller lists this card as VG, the first card lower than EX, I have seen in a while. He also lists that the card is creased. From the scan, I cannot tell where the creases are located. I don't see any creases -- which is why it is so imperative for sellers to be honest and state whether a card is creased. This seller does not always state whether a card is creased. Looks like a little scuffing on the back. Some corner wear. In my opinion, a card cannot achieve the rate of VG if it is creased. I know a lot of sellers disagree but I NEVER grade a card VG if it is creased.
The Snider is at $13.50 with six bids. I will throw down $18, but that's as far as I will go. I am high bidder at $15.50.
The Whitey Ford is listed as EX or better -- NOT! The corners are rounded and there are scuff marks. While I cannot detect any creases from the scans, it does not mean the card is crease free. Actually, I would not be surprised if the card is creased because of the rounded corners. The card is at $24.50 with five bids. I will go as high as $35. I am high bidder at $29.
I need another common, Matt Batts, card number 183. Description states VG with creases. Pass.
Next up is a common Bob Cain, card number 195. Description states EX. Corner wear and scuff marks evident. Back shows some odd lines that may be creases. I'll take a chance at $1.99.
This set contains two Jimmy Piersall cards. I think card number 210 is the original Piersall. The lower number Piersall was used to replaced the Williams. I need card 210. Corner wear, scuff marks. Card is at $3.55 with 3 bids. I'll throw down $7. Outbid at $7.50. I'll pass because I also noticed what may be a pen mark on the back.
I need Jim Robertson, card 211. Corner wear, some wax stains on the back. One bid at $1.99. I'll bid $4. I'm high bidder at $2.25.
I need Preacher Roe, card 218. The one pictured here is what I believe a "Loop" variation. Some of the cards in this set have a small black loop at the top. Some sellers charge more for a card with the loop. While this one is listed at VG+, it is clearly beat up. Heavy corner wear. The description states that it is creased. It is currently at $1.99 with two bids. I'll go $4. I'm high bidder at $2.82.
Lastly, I need Frank Baumholtz, card 221. I see corner wear. There does not appear to be any creases and the description is silent as to creasing. Opening bid of $1.99. I'll go $4.
Well, that was kind of time consuming. I scrutinized the scans. I think I am done for today. I am going to let the chips fall as they may. Hopefully, I win some of the cards and the seller does not jam me with an extra $3.50 in shipping per card.
April 10, 2020
Day 4. Much to report today. I lost more auctions than I won. I really had a problem with the set break seller's descriptions that were clearly off. I might have upped my bids had the seller provided honest detailed descriptions -- which is one of the many reasons I normally avoid eBay.
Anyway, here's the stuff I lost:
Before I started bidding on the set break, I found a Minoso from another seller and bid $15. I lost at $15.50. I also placed a bid on a Doby from another seller. My max bid was $8. I lost at $14.50.
Now comes my bids with the set break. I started with a Kuenn and placed a $7 bid. Lost at $7.50; I bid $20 on a Kiner and lost at $20.50. I also put down $20 on a Slaughter and lost at $20.50. I put down $150 on a Mantle in absolutely crap shape. I lost at $227.50.
I placed a bid of $75 on a Mays that had a lot of condition problems and lost at $104.62. I placed a bid of $35 and a Campanella that was also problematic and lost at $49.60. I put $7 on an Allie Reynolds and lost at $7.50. I bid $20 on a creased up Feller and lost at $29.99.
I put $25 on a Hodge and lost at $29. I put $45 on a Berra and lost at $52. I put $18 on a creased up Snider and lost at $26.65. I put $35 on a problematic Ford and lost at $36. I put $4 on common Jim Robertson and lost at $4.25. I put $4 on a creased up Preacher Roe and lost at $4.25.
Obviously, I was sniped at the end on most of these cards which is fine because the condition did not warrant higher bids on my part. I just won't overpay.
I put $7 on a Furillo and won at $6.01. I put $4 on a Raffensberger and won at $1.99. I put $4 on Solly Hemus and won at $2.49. I put $7 on Gil McDougald and won at $3. I put $5 on Sal Maglie and won at $3.25. I put $4 on Bob Cain and won at $1.99. Lastly, I put $4 on Frank Baumholts and won at $2.50.
Successful day in my book. I was able to knock off 11 cards from my list. I need just 19 more cards to complete the set or so I think... I haven't received that lot yet and I don't know exactly what is in there.
Let's get back to bidding on cards. Ugly stuff up today on eBay. Most everything is creased. There is a Mantle with paste and scrapbook residue on the back. Starting bid $250. No takers. There is another Mantle missing a huge chunk of the upper right side. Starting bid $75. No takers.
I finally find something bidworthy -- a Kiner. Corner are soft. I don't really see any other flaws. Starting bid $19.99 with $4.49 in shipping. I'll bid the minimum. Card ends tomorrow.
Saw another Mantle. A whole bunch of creasing visible on the back. It's at $243. I'll pass. I see a Slaughter. A little scuffing on the back otherwise nice. Currently at $2.59 with two days to go. $3.95 shipping. Reputable seller. I'll throw down $25. I'm high bidder at $6.89.
I think that is all for today. I don't like bidding on auctions that end in more than 24 hours. I'll report back soon.