Buyer beware: I bought a fake card on eBay


By Susan Lulgjuraj | Beckett Sports Card Monthly Editor | Commentary & Opinion

I had one goal for the National Sports Collectors Convention – purchase a 1992 Bowman Mariano Rivera Rookie Card.

I know. My timing is not good, but it’s the only single card I wanted. I found a PSA 9 graded Rivera RC for $100 at the show. After thinking on it and asking collectors’ opinions, I figured I would leave it there and get one for cheaper on eBay.

Just a few days after getting home, I won an ungraded Rivera RC for about $44.

I got the card in the mail. It looked great. Centering looked perfect, corners and edges were sharp. There was a small printing defect on the back of the card, but I didn’t care. I was just happy to have it on my possession.

Luckily, the White Plains card show was coming up and I could have my card inspected.

The weekend of the White Palins show, I took the 1992 Bowman Mariano Rivera Rookie Card to the Beckett Grading booth. I intended to get a Raw Card Review because I wanted to know the condition of my card. It looked so good to me! Could you imagine I picked a 9 off eBay for that price?

I handed it to one of the graders. He took it out of the top loader and within 10 seconds he made his declaration.


Ha. Ha. Funny.

“It’s a fake. Sorry.”


Another grader handled the card and agreed with the assessment. He looked at it through a loupe and took it out of the penny sleeve.

“This is definitely a fake. It’s a good fake, but still a fake.”

Oh, a good fake. That really didn’t make me feel much better.

Part of me still hoped they this was just a bad joke so I asked how they knew. I got an education on cards that day.

First, the card stock was wrong. It was a plastic-type of card stock; it reminded me more of a playing card, the type you use to play poker. I’ve handled plenty of poker cards over the years and immediately was able to see that. Second, the gloss was wrong. It was thick and in the light, you can see how it wasn’t evenly on the card.

For guys who handle tens of thousands of cards a year, they were easily able to spot the fake in hand. They did concede that if they saw only a scan on eBay, they never would have known it was a fake.

Still, I had faith that maybe they wrong.

The third grader had returned to the booth and had no idea what was going on. I asked him to look at my card without giving him any idea on what to expect.

He looked at it under the light and took it out of the top loader. His head dropped and he shook it a little.

“What’s wrong?” I knew.

“I got bad news,” he said.

No need. I already knew. But at least I learned the other guys weren’t playing a bad joke on me. The joke, however, was this guy selling me a fake card.

Does he know he sold me a counterfeit card? I don’t know. He had sold six Rivera RCs in each of the last six weeks though, all with the same picture. That’s a lot of Mo.

I contacted eBay about my case about two Sundays ago. I escalated the claim to the resolution center on the following Friday when I didn’t hear back from him. However, about 10 minutes after I escalated the claim, I got a message from the seller saying if I didn’t want the card I could send it back to him for a full refund.

Now you want me to send you back a counterfeit card? Why? So you can sell it to an unsuspecting collector?

EBay did get back to me and sent me a prepaid shipping label to send the card back. Once its returns, I will get my money within three business days. That’s all well and good, but what happens to that card? What happens to the seller?

I called eBay and asked them these questions. Essentially, I was told that eBay can’t do anything more than refund my money. The people who have already bought a similar card will not be contacted by eBay even though the practices do look rather suspicious.

It’s disappointing because I didn’t know I had a fake card until the card was examined by people who know a lot more than I do about these things. So what about the other dozen in the last year (yep, there was 12) that have bought Rivera Rookie Cards from this seller? Am I the only the person who got a fake?

I know eBay can’t do anything to monitor every auction that goes on its site. It relies on customers to inform them of deceptive practices. However, once it does know, shouldn’t it take it a step further to see if there is something worse when the situation is suspicious. EBay said it would not contact the other buyers of this card from that dealer, but if one of them stepped forward, it would intervene.

That’s nice. However, I didn’t know I had a fake until the card was examined by professionals. And if the White Plains show wasn’t that weekend, I probably wouldn’t have found out for months. Instead of being reactionary, eBay should be proactive in this case.

That PSA-graded card I left at the National is looking pretty good right now.

Susan Lulgjuraj is an editor at Beckett Media. You can email her here with questions, comments or ideas. Follow her on Twitter here. Follow Beckett Media on Facebook and Twitter.


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  1. Richard Hardy 29 August, 2013 at 14:17

    Sorry to hear that Susan. Sucks that Ebay, although good in most cases, is unable to handle some of the major cases. Hope you get your 1992 Mariano soon!

  2. card1982 29 August, 2013 at 14:32

    If I’m buying an older card on eBay (which I usually avoid doing) I always buy a graded one, not for the grade but for the authenticity check.

    There were some rookie cards I wanted and got some good deals with grades of 6 & 7. They look fine and i’m just glad to have them.

  3. J.R. 29 August, 2013 at 14:52

    Susan, welcome to the wonderful world of customer service at eBay. If you’re a seller and you get stiffed, almost nothing you can do. If you are a buyer, the great part is the purchase protection. After that, however, you’re on your own. I have reported fake cards, fake patches, items listed in a deceiving manner, and all sorts of other things. Almost every single time, nothing happens.

    My philosophy is that I never sell anything too valuable on eBay, always send out with tracking and (sometimes) insurance, and purchase freely because of their buyer protection.

    Also, the seller is a complete dirtbag for wanting the card back! You are exactly right in your guess as to why they want it back. If I were you, I would post their name here so we all can avoid this scammer.

  4. Ryan 29 August, 2013 at 15:34

    Eh, if someone is going to go out of their way to make high quality fake baseball cards they either are or know a printer that has access to some pretty good machinery and stock that wouldn’t look like crap at a glance. If you said this guy had sold 100 in the past 12 months that would be far more suspect. A printer wouldn’t run just one sheet, so this guy would have hundreds if not thousands of these.

    Also a dozen isn’t really a lot in any sense, as a prospector there are countless guys I’ve sold that many rookie cards of in a week if they reach a milestone, play in a superbowl, etc. Now if it was a dozen Nolan Ryan rookie cards that all looked great yeah, having that many would be very abnormal. But 92 bowman, that doesn’t strike me as odd at all.

    Lastly if I were in your shoes I would be more alarmed if he didn’t want it back and refunded you, that would tell me he knows its bogus and already has a ton of them sitting around. I also know if I sold something on ebay and someone told me it was fake I’d want it back as well, because I have is no way of knowing that you aren’t trying to rip me off.

    It’s possible the guy is a creep who is purposely ripping people off, but it’s also possible he’s a guy that was smart enough to buy Mo cheap and is also getting screwed now.

    • Susan Lulgjuraj 29 August, 2013 at 15:37

      Ryan, I understand what you’re saying. But there were few other things that I didn’t get into.

      1. The card looked great (you can see how clean it looks in the scan above).

      2. This guy is no stranger to grading. He has multiple graded cards in his inventory.

      So, if the card looks that great, why not get it graded? It likely comes back a PSA 9, which would have easily doubled his money on the raw card grade.

      It just seems suspect to me.

  5. Dana 29 August, 2013 at 15:41

    I hope you did the considerate thing and tried to warn some of the other buyers (and leave negative feedback for the seller). I know I’d certainly appreciate it.

  6. PITCARDS 29 August, 2013 at 16:05

    Sorry to hear that you got a fake Rivera. Next time check out where I can promise you that you will not get a fake Rivera or anyone else for that matter.

  7. Corky 29 August, 2013 at 19:55

    It is a good thing that the seller was willing to refund you, sadly he may have known it was fake and did not want a problem or has a good rapport with his customers, so you will at least get your money back. About 10 years ago I picked up an ’89 Score Aikman that turned out fake so I know the pain, though it was significantly less than what you paid so I just kept it to make sure nobody else would end up buying it.

  8. David Brewer 29 August, 2013 at 22:07

    Yeah i know the 92 Bowman pretty good, I cracked a box or two when I was 12 so I would know if the gloss wasnt right.
    Its pretty sad people making fake 1992 cards. I mean does your collection suck so bad that you need to sit around and make FAKE 92 Mariano Riveras to sell? Lol i feel sorry for this person.

    I was looking through the web the other day for another website to sell cards/buy cards from. I came across this a site with 100’s and 100’s of fake rookie cards to buy in bulk ( like 50 at a time for 50 dollars. ) Its pretty sad.

  9. James 30 August, 2013 at 03:33

    Thanks for posting this Susan. It further solidifies my decision to avoid buying and selling on Ebay. I know a lot if folks love it but I just avoid it so I don’t get stiffed on money or ripped off. Sorry to hear this happened to you. Sad :(

  10. Mike 30 August, 2013 at 08:09

    As a frequent ebay purchaser myself, the fear of buying a fake is always in the back of my mind; especially when I get a great deal. For what it’s worth, though – and please don’t take this as a shameless plug for this website – another great place to shop is the Beckett Marketplace. There is a NM-MT 1992 Bowman Rivera that can be had for $58.50 from Ziggy’s Eastpointe Sportscards.

  11. Joe 30 August, 2013 at 10:39

    This is one of the difficulties with buying ungraded cards online. I was looking to buy one of the Alex Gordon cut-out cards back when they first came out. But, I shied away once I noticed the same seller posting about one a week for a little while. I never bought one from or questioned the seller directly but it really made me watch my online purchases. It just seemed too good to be true. Too bad that someone could take advantage of a buyer like this but it’s good that you wrote it up to remind us all to buy with caution. Thanks

  12. Brian 30 August, 2013 at 14:57

    Just curious. If Ebay can’t do anything about it, did you try filing internet fraud charges?

  13. Jeffrey Holt 3 September, 2013 at 09:50

    You would think that someone who sells a fraudulent card would be arrested on felony charges. Try doing that with money itself and you would be going to a federal prison for 20 years. Whats the difference? Counterfiting is illegal, so why doesn’t law enforcement stop this BULLSH*T and put this to an end. Ebay would be a more profitable resource for everyone, including EBay.

  14. Mike Smith 11 January, 2014 at 14:56

    Anyone who has bought and sold on ebay can attest to good buyers and sellers and bad buyers and sellers. It’s really a shame we have to deal with issues such as this, but when you think about it, we always have in every part of our daily environment, whether it was the magazine hawkers who used to ring your doorbell, or the car dealership, or the window and gutter salesman, or the insurance salesman, or even Dillard’s who tells us of a great sale of a product that really isn’t a sale at all. I am 59 years old and I don’t remember a time in my life where at some point each and every day, someone is trying to convince me to buy this or that through what could be described as questionable marketing practices. It is part of the culture we live in and we all participate, both knowingly and sometimes unknowingly. Even ebay loves to frequently market “free listings, free listings” for potential sellers, but you have to look in the very fine print on another page to find out…..well, it really wasn’t free after all, now is it. Is there something wrong with this? Yes, it is. But when being somewhat shady becomes ok…….it then doesn’t become that much of a stretch to an out and out lie.

    I personally will continue to buy and sell on ebay….but with caution and with as much knowledge I can possibly expose myself to before making the transaction. After reading everyone’s comments concerning the seller in this particular case, and the fact he wanted the card back, I see both sides. I too would think whoa, why do you want the card back? To sell again? But the seller didn’t know the buyer (I am assuming this) in this case, so the seller could be thinking the buyer was trying to rip him off. This story is just a great example of buying anything that has not been professionally proven it is genuine, means it is a risk we are taking.

    As I read this article, I immediately thought of the transactions I have made in the past year of ungraded items and it was a bit unsettling. Thanks (really) for reminding us of what’s out there. I do think you need to publish the seller’s name….that is part of the problem.

  15. andrew 13 February, 2014 at 17:08

    unfortunate, but not unexpected…

    the moral of the story is to buy cards in PSA (or BGS, i guess) holders…

  16. WIlliam P 30 July, 2014 at 17:55

    Susan, I like BCCG graded cards they are a great deal. I have matched them against PSA, and a BCCG 1992 Bowman Mariano Rivera Rookie card sell for a 40% discount and look better. I have seen some messed up PSA off centered cards not stated that way. Susan you should look for a 10 mint or better BCCG Can be bought for $70 to $100 on eBay.

  17. Erik W 19 July, 2015 at 08:52

    A few thoughts came to mind after reading this post and the comments:

    1. Many of the comments here point out the solution is to buy PSA or graded cards. Beware that graded cards can be counterfeited as well. Do a quick Google search on the subject and read about it.

    2. From my own experience, eBay offers very little protection for the buyer. I was unable to convince eBay to take action in banning a seller account when I was clearly wronged by a buyer. This is why I avoide eBay when I can.

  18. plaisance 6 February, 2016 at 11:46

    I’m not an investing card collector, i am just purchasing for my son and grandson to assist in getting them interested in baseball. however i do purchase complete sealed sets on ebay trying to save 10 or more dollars over the retail or hobby price. does counterfeiting foray into the “sealed complete set market”? i wouldn’t think it’s that common, but i’m currenty following 3 different sellers on ebay selling complete sets that have already sold well over 50 sets. one seller is showing sales that equate to over 7500 dollars, that’s alot of money, but is it profitable to counterfeit a complete sealed set of baseball cards? anyone ever look into that???

  19. Anthony Muia 4 March, 2016 at 19:47

    I’m just curious. Has anyone ever received a counterfeit PSA Graded holder Sports Card? I’ve heard of some people who have and have started an investigation, so I wonder if there are others?

  20. Anthony Muia 4 March, 2016 at 19:50

    If I was the seller, I would want the card returned to me also, so I can figure out if I’m being scammed or not. I wouldn’t just take the buyers word on it and refund him/her the money. Jus saying.

  21. Toronto 25 October, 2016 at 12:03

    Just a quick question – there is someone on eBay that is selling “reprints” of old Topps cards – ted williams etc. They are obviously fake and she runs them off on her home computer and definitely violates copyright laws as well a Ebay policy.

    Is there anyone we can report them to at Topps??

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