The folks at eBay have cornered the massive card sale business and enjoy a disproportionate share of the gigantic profits involved.
Recent moves, such as opening the eBay Vault and the eBay authenticity guarantee, have only increased its considerable market advantage. But its competitors have not given up on trying to crack the monopoly.
The latest attempt brings together two of the most prominent players in the hobby: the PSA grading company and Goldin Auctions. They are promoting a new way to buy and sell graded cards, which they hope will change the consumer habits of collectors everywhere.
But does the Goldin Marketplace truly deliver the goods? Our Goldin Marketplace review, which will also cover Rip & Flip and the Grading with Goldin initiatives, looks at these services and gives you the verdict.
Aside from looking at the many advantages of the Grading with Goldin and Rip & Flip services, we have also found some reasons for concern. Uniting the appraising company with the marketplace on which an item is sold is a process fraught with danger for the hobby.
Who is Goldin Auctions?
Goldin Auctions touts itself as the top marketplace in the world for sports cards and memorabilia. Its owner, Ken Goldin, is an excellent self-promoter, sometimes called the “king of cards.”
He opened an auction house in 2012 after years in the business. Goldin was one of the early adopters and beneficiaries of Instagram, using the social media platform to break at least once a week. Goldin now has 85,000 followers on Instagram and is seemingly involved in every big story and event in the hobby.
If there is one thing Ken has turned into an art form, he can bring sports card collecting to some of the biggest influencers of recent years. His Flawless Basketball breaks with Canadian rapper Drake are a classic example.
While increasing the hobby’s reach, Goldin Auctions has maintained a reputation as a high-end avenue for sports card sales. If you look at the list of the most expensive sports cards ever sold, Goldin Auctions has a strong representation.
They sold the fifth most costly card ever, a Mike Trout Bowman Chrome Draft Prospects Superfractor Auto 1/1, for $4,121,235. A Lebron James RPA from 2003-2004 is their second most expensive card, and they have plenty more on the list. Goldin also has a popular vaulting service for cards worth over $1,000.
The PSA and Goldin Auctions partnership
Goldin Auctions has carved out a spot as the preferred destination for cards that are too expensive and exclusive to go on eBay. The e-commerce giant has been fighting back to try to capture some of that high-end action.
The partnership with PSA helps Goldin maintain its grip on the most high-end sales. It will also give it leverage over prestigious competitors such as Heritage Auctions, which has sold the most expensive card of all time: an SGC 9.5 Mickey Mantle 1952 rookie card.
Here is what Ken Goldin has to say about the initiative:
“The hard and soft costs associated with collecting are at all-time highs for consumers today. Collectors have to ship their cards multiple times — to be photographed, graded, and listed — all in hopes that they can find a buyer who ends up paying and is happy when they receive their items. Grading With Goldin and Rip & Flip makes collecting a seamless process and eliminates all of that leg work. Our goal is to allow everyone to capitalize on our expertise, industry-leading reputation, and highly-trafficked auctions to get the best prices for their items. These new services are the easiest way to have items professionally authenticated, graded, and automatically listed for sale with no upfront costs.”
Goldin Marketplace review
Goldin and PSA have already introduced more than one service together, and we will discuss them below.
On January 5, they opened a shared marketplace. Unlike the standard Goldin Auctions format, this one is constantly up and running. The familiar form for auctions at Goldin will now be called Elite Auctions. Meanwhile, a mid-level marketplace has also been created.
With the changes, Goldin Auctions has three levels: Marketplace, Weekly Auction, and Elite Auctions. Let’s look at the specifications for each.
Marketplace (New)Weekly Auction (New)Elite Auction (long established)Starting Bid or Price$5$5$1000 and upStart DateAlways OnTuesday 8 PM ET1st Friday of the MonthEnd DateAlways OnThursday, 9 PM ET3rd Wednesday of the MonthExtended BiddingN/A5 Minutes30 MinutesEstimated Value$100 and up$100 and up$5,000 and up for sport / Non-Sports Elite, and Vintage Elite Value is $2,500 and upConsignment DeadlineN/A1 Week Before Auction*1 Week Before AuctionList from Collectors VaultYesYesStarting January 17DurationAlways On9 daysVariable
The marketplace is connected to the Goldin Vault service. So, if you have a card stashed away there, you can easily offer it on any of the three levels in accordance with its estimated value.
You can see from perusing that eBay’s new always-open marketplace is a direct competitor. Sellers can field offers for their cards on a rolling basis, just like they are used to on that more prominent platform.
This is ambitious, considering eBay’s hold on the non-high-end cards market. There is also a good deal of competition from actors like COMC.
However, Goldin and their owners at Collectors Universe have a plan. They are integrating this new marketplace with some services they launched in 2021. As we will see, these three services reinforce each other and make the new Goldin Marketplace quite formidable.
Gold-in Auctions seller fees
Goldin Auctions is noted for its ability to get reasonable prices for high-end items. However, they take steep seller fees in return.
Items listed for less than $2,500 will see owners part with 16.7% in seller fees. However, Goldin Auctions promise lower fees for higher-end items. As a promotion in the first month, seller fees will be reduced to 8.3% for items of any value.
Grading with Goldin
The idea behind the PSA and Goldin partnership is simple. Sending cards to be graded, waiting for them to return, posting them on eBay, and trying to get a reasonable price is a clumsy and cumbersome endeavor. The new partnership proposes to make the process far more straightforward and less painful.
You can send any card worth more than $499 to PSA for grading without paying a cent upfront. Cards sent in through this program are guaranteed a maximal two-week turnaround period.
As soon as the card is graded, it will be listed on the Goldin Auctions Marketplace. What about that pesky grading fee? It will only be deducted when the final sale is made.
Goldin Rip & Flip review
The second program, offered by Goldin and PSA, brings breakers into the picture. The idea is relatively similar to the Grading with Goldin program. In this case, when you break with one of the breakers in a partnership with PSA and Goldin, you can ask them to send the card to PSA.
What happens, then? Once again, PSA guarantees a two-week turnover for cards, and you don’t need to pay a cent upfront. When the card is graded, it goes up on the Goldin Marketplace, and the grading fee will be deducted from the final sale.
In this case, the process is even more painless. Before selling, you don’t have to mail, list, or even touch the cards. The convenience factor in this program is remarkable.
Some of the breakers involved in this program include:
The Coffee Breakers
The Hobby Australia
Will the Goldin Marketplace, Grading with Goldin & Rip & Flip take off?
They say no one can predict the future. But obviously, I am the exception. So, no, but seriously, this is such a good idea that it is hard to imagine it failing.
Some collectors are used to grading, selling, and shipping logistics. Perhaps they even enjoy it. But to most casual participants in the hobby, it can be really tedious to do all that.
These programs remove the middleman, the tedium, and the toil involved in flipping cards. And they do it easily using the most respected and value-increasing grader on an excellent platform for selling high-end cards.
So from the perspective of someone grading a high-end card or receiving one on a break, there is no apparent downside to either program.
One user on Blowout Forums commented: “To me, for large cards, it’s the ideal situation, go directly from PSA to the vault – no extra hands involved.” Those were my thoughts exactly, and why many will likely use this service. It will strengthen PSA further (not that it needs any boosting) and will increase Goldin Auctions’ already high profile.
But there is another issue at hand. People may be tempted to send cards to this program for another reason. They may believe PSA will likely give higher grades to cards sold on its own platform. Sadly, this assessment could be accurate.
PSA President Kevin Lenane hinted that any talk of ethical problems was misguided:
“PSA is always looking to support the hobby’s growth by providing innovative tools and services that make collecting a more enjoyable experience. We’re excited to partner with Goldin to create a one-stop-shop where every collector has seamless access to two of the industry’s most trusted brands.”
But how trusted are these brands, and will they remain trusted for long?
From Grading 👉 Vault 👉 Marketplace, the complete, frictionless experience arrives Jan. 17, with the Goldin Marketplace & Weekly Auctions launch.
Send your cards to our Vault, re-route current PSA grading orders & have them readily available to sell.
ℹ️ https://t.co/KFopFY707G pic.twitter.com/OPC6QacrBf
— PSAcard (@PSAcard) January 5, 2023
Ethical questions raised by Goldin Marketplace
Even though this program is likely to be successful, it is not devoid of problems. There are even significant ones. But they are ethical in nature rather than operational.
The hobby is in such bad shape right now regarding trust and transparency that talking about ethical questions almost seems like a waste of time. But we can’t afford to fall prey to nihilism and hopelessness. So it’s worth thinking about this program’s problems from that standpoint.
The owners of PSA, Collectors Holdings LP, bought Goldin Marketplace in July 2021. It was one of several remarkable power moves PSA made around that time, helping it create a seemingly insurmountable hold at the top of the grading food chain.
When a grading company also owns the platform on which the cards are sold, it creates a significant problem. There is a conflict of interests there. The higher the grade given on the cards, the more value they will command in the marketplace. And the temptation to give out 10s to cards coming in through this program will be significant.
Ask yourself, will they prefer to give PSA 10s to cards going on their auction platform or to a card going to Ken’s Cards in Akron, Ohio? (Just an example. There isn’t one, I Googled). It is easy to see how this move discriminates against small sellers and private collectors.
How The Goldin Marketplace Makes It Easy To Manipulate Value
As we all know, the gap in value between PSA 9 and PSA 10 cards can be tremendous. Here are some of the more valuable cards and the differences in value.
CardPSA 9 ValuePSA 10 ValueDifferential1951 Topps Mickey Mantle$2,880,000$5,200,000$2,320,0002003 LeBron James Topps Chrome$2,600$9,800$7,2001969 Topps Reggie Jackson $70,500$1,005,000$934,5001986 Fleer Michael Jordan$191,563$15,850$175,713
Raising the grade from a PSA 9 to PSA 10 can make the value of a card jump more than tenfold in some cases. And what does the differential depend on? The population count, which is another metric that PSA controls.
So, you have a situation where one company controls the levers of supply and demand and sells the product in a marketplace it owns. Calling this a monopoly is almost too weak a word.
Of course, there is one factor in the way of PSA’s utter domination. The equally massive eBay. But either way, the potential for price manipulation and anti-trust violations in this business model is clear.
⏳𝙏𝙃𝙀 𝙒𝘼𝙄𝙏 𝙄𝙎 𝘼𝙇𝙈𝙊𝙎𝙏 𝙊𝙑𝙀𝙍 ⌛️
We’re just over a week away from the Jan. 17 launch of the Goldin Marketplace and Weekly Auctions. With items starting at $5, @GoldinCo will have something for every collector.
VAULT + LIST TODAY ➡️ https://t.co/KFopFY707G pic.twitter.com/zr00acQwfs
— PSAcard (@PSAcard) January 9, 2023
Previous allegations of PSA collaboration with PWCC
For years, Oregon company PWCC knowingly sold trimmed cards graded by PSA to receive high grades for the altered cards.
The cards were purchased from more than one shady character in the hobby. Many in the hobby believe that it is unlikely PSA participated so heavily in the PWCC dealings without some knowledge. Especially since many of the cards involved were very obviously trimmed.
No wrongdoing by PSA has ever been proven, and their involvement in the PWCC trimming scandal may have been unknowing.
But it is the sort of event that has shaken people’s trust in the objectivity of PSA and their confidence in the institutions of the hobby overall.
The final word of the Goldin Marketplace review
There is no doubt that these two programs make life much easier for those who want to grade high-end cards. They can skip several steps and cut costs, seamlessly getting their cards onto a prestigious marketplace.
It seems like a genuine win-win for everyone involved. Breakers will get more volume. Customers will have easier access to grading, and PSA will cut eBay out of the process and get to keep all the proceeds for themselves.
But in this case, convenience may come at a serious cost for the entire hobby. The direct cooperation between a firm that appraises cards and the seller is highly problematic. The motivation for grading on a curve for the cards headed for Goldin Auctions is obvious.
After all, the money goes to the same owners in the end. Does anyone trust that the system will not be abused? Especially with everything going on in the hobby recently, the answer is no.
But sadly, people are too willing to give big companies the edge in competition if it means life will be more convenient.
Adam Smith, the great thinker of free-market economics, once famously said: “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”
He had a way with words. And what we have here is a union between the company with the most significant ability to determine card value and one of the most aggressive auction houses in America.
Even if we completely trust Ken Goldin and Kevin Lenane, there is far too much temptation and structural incentive to collude and raise grades and auction prices.