Aug 20, 2021 - Sports

eBay boots trading card marketplace PWCC over "shill bidding"

Illustration of a foot kicking the "PWCC" logo.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Trading card marketplace PWCC has been suspended by eBay for "shill bidding" — the practice of artificially boosting the price of an item through dishonest bids.

Why it matters: One of the industry's biggest players getting rocked by scandal could have deleterious effects on the card-collecting hobby, which is built largely on trust.

The backdrop: Trading cards are in the midst of a meteoric rise. The 10 most expensive cards in history have all been sold since last August.

Details: eBay "restricted PWCC's selling privileges" this week, removing more than 71,000 listings from its website.

  • Shill bidding, explained: The seller enlists friends and family, or uses aliases, to drive the item price higher than it would have gone if a legitimate buyer bid and purchased it.
  • PWCC denies any wrongdoing, and is weighing all available legal options to fight the accusation. The company did over $200 million in sales on eBay last year alone, per the Action Network.

The big picture: This isn't the first time PWCC has found itself in hot water. It's also the subject of an ongoing FBI investigation stemming from a 2019 "trimming" scandal, which involves doctoring cards to increase their grade, thus inflating their sale price.

  • That relationship between grading and selling is illustrative of card collecting's biggest risk: it relies on various cogs — producers like Topps, marketplaces like PWCC, grading agencies like PSA — working together in harmony.
  • If eBay's allegations are true, PWCC could be shunned by the industry. Multiple competitors have already pounced on the chance to wrestle customers away from them.
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