The eBay 1-of-1 Needs to Die



By Ryan Cracknell | Hobby Editor | Commentary

I don’t know when the term was coined. I don’t care. The eBay 1-of-1 is something that needs to go away. Now. Forever.

If you’ve never heard the term before, consider yourself lucky. It’s used at an alarming rate on the site to describe a card that has something the seller considers unique. That might be a serial number that’s the first in the run, the last one or some sort of patch.

But here’s the thing, anything can be an eBay 1-of-1. No criteria exists. It’s all just smoke and mirrors to make something seem better than it actually is.

As I write this, there are about 2,000 cards listed on the site with “eBay 1/1” in the title. Some of them might use it for legitimate reasons. But without any sets that I can think of that are actually connected to eBay, I’m guessing I could count these on one hand. The rest are likely trying to convince eyeballs that there’s something special about the card that really isn’t. Or they’re trying to spam the title so that they can sneak into the search results of people looking for 1/1 cards.

Special serial numbers can be fun. Getting a player’s jersey number adds to a card’s appeal. The first one stamped can be interesting if there’s a big print run.

But this is a very different hobby than it was ten or 20 years ago. Not every set had an abundance of serial-numbered cards. And those that were numbered usually came with print runs of 1,000 or more. So getting something 0001/xxxx was something special. It’s an expectation that today’s sets dedicate significant portions of the print runs to low-numbered stuff. In a lot of cases, even legitimate 1/1 cards have lost a lot of their luster because there are so many now.

So why are people hyping something that’s 1/5 or 10/10? If the print run is 5, you have a 40 percent chance of having either the first or last card. Is that special? Not really, at least not any more so than any of the other three.

Great cards sell themselves. They don’t need an over-the-top sales approach, especially on a forum like eBay. If it has a cool serial number, just put the serial number in the title. If people collect 01/xx, they likely have a search saved. It’s the same with player collectors.

If there’s no real criteria for an eBay 1-of-1 can there be anyone that collects them?

I suspect that using eBay 1/1 in your title might actually hurt sales. Every character in your title counts. A team name or card number are better uses of your limited letters. “eBay 1/1” is a waste of seven of characters that could be used to describe what the item actually is — things that potential buyers might actually be searching for.

When you go to a store and you have an over-powering salesperson, it’s uncomfortable. You probably don’t end up spending as much as you might have. And it’s less likely that you’ll return to that store if there’s an alternative. Think of the eBay 1-of-1 in the same light (or any keyword spamming). People notice it and not in the good way. If someone is searching for real 1/1 cards and sees your listing for a card with a print run of 10, they’re not going to click, let alone buy. You’re just cluttering up their searches.

Some might notice your false listing and click through only to take note of the seller’s ID to avoid in the future. That’s definitely not helping matters.

If we really want to get into semantics and definitions, a valid argument could be made that every card is a one-of-one. There’s only one 2015 Bowman’s Best Mike Trout Green Refractor that’s numbered 63/99. Somewhere in the world there’s a 1989 Donruss Danny Tartabull that is the only one owned by John Smith of Springfield, North Dakota.

It’s absurd to think that either of these are one-of-a-kind cards, right. It’s the same with a card that’s a 5/5.

The eBay 1-of-1 is a myth. We’ve said and heard it enough over the past few years to the point where I hear and read people use it like it’s legitimate. It’s not. If you pull a cool card that just happens to have an interesting patch, printing error or serial number, that’s great. But to call it an eBay 1-of-1 is the cardboard equivalent of putting lipstick on a Gremlin.


Comments? Questions? Contact Ryan Cracknell on Twitter @tradercracks.


Ryan Cracknell

A collector for much of his life, Ryan focuses primarily on building sets, Montreal Expos and interesting cards. He's also got one of the most comprehensive collections of John Jaha cards in existence (not that there are a lot of them). Got a question, story idea or want to get in touch? You can reach him by email and through Twitter @tradercracks.

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  1. David Hollingsworth 13 May, 2016 at 18:00

    I see a lot of people say a card is 1/ 1 that is numbered– for example 54/100, because it is the only one numbered 54/100

  2. The Card Investor 13 May, 2016 at 19:10

    Thank you for this piece. I believe that one of the only true reasons to market a card as a 1/1 that isn’t stamped as such is the jersey number reason. In that particular case, the serial numbering has a significant uniqueness to it. In my experience, these cards do in fact carry a premium of around 10% extra on top of the current going rate. In some cases even more. Other reasons like interesting patches are best left to preview pictures.

  3. DanM13 13 May, 2016 at 20:15

    It’s especially bad when they don’t use the term “eBay 1/1” but just “1/1” and leave you to find out for yourself that it is not actually a true 1/1, but, like David said, number 54/100.

  4. Shawn Davis 14 May, 2016 at 07:15

    Yes. It is the most annoying thing when looking at real 1/1s… I got a left shoe, its a 1/1. So is the right one.

  5. Jonathan 14 May, 2016 at 07:20

    You make solid points, Ryan, and they needed to be said. Thank you. I think this action especially hurts the newbies, in the beginning. If we’re posting on this site, we likely recognize sellers’ intents. However, if someone just getting into the hobby pays a premium price for a Patrick Kane card numbered 88/1000, that hurts everybody: the poor buyer who just overpaid and the next person that wants to buy #89 and sees that essentially the same card just sold for ten times what this individual expected to pay. Personally, I often get cards bought off eBay for Fathers’ Day. My kids have no idea what cards typically sell for, but I know how much they spent because I gave them the money to begin with. I am certainly not bitter about or upset over what my kids pick out for me. I love my kids. They could give me a rock from the backyard or make me macaroni pictures, and I’d be blissfully happy. They always go from my list of favorite teams, but I can tell when they’ve been ripped-off by a seller since I know how much they spent, and people taking advantage of the less knowledgable always upsets me. The sellers don’t know who’s buying, of course, and they aren’t targeting children, but a lot of kids will be on the ‘Bay shopping for significant people in their lives between now and the middle of June. You’re right, Mr. Cracknell: this practice is very misleading, and I wish we had a way to control it.

  6. Larry 14 May, 2016 at 07:32

    Since we are sharing opinions now, here’s mine. What does it matter how someone chooses to market THIER cards, its not yours. If you don’t like it move on. I personally don’t use the eBay 1/1 tag, but that’s me. People on here complain about just about everything, I know I do it myself. But 9 times out of 10 you guys won’t post my comments or you alter them. So a little less hypocrisy would be nice to see

    • Ryan Cracknell 14 May, 2016 at 20:41

      @ Larry — 1) It’s hard to move on when you can’t find what you’re looking for.

      2) If you find a comment has not been posted or it has been edited, it is likely for one of two reasons — 1. Language. Swearing and questionable language is removed or toned down. If there’s a whole string of profanity, it’ll probably just be removed. 2. Insults are not tolerated. Whether that’s a person, group of people or company, it’s not acceptable to put them down. That doesn’t mean you can’t have an opinion. Take a look around and you’ll see there are plenty approved that are favorable and not-so-favorable about things. But if it enters the territory of insults, those insults are going to be removed or the comment rejected. If you have concerns about this, you know where to find me.

  7. Mike Pereira 14 May, 2016 at 08:01

    Yes, yes, yes, and more yes. Love the reporting more know. Finally calling out some things in the hobby that need to change. Please do a story on the patches authenticity problems or player chicken scratch autos or the problem of figuring out what is a RC or not. Hint the Byron Buxton syndrome.

    Feel like there should be only a draft card and then a RC card when they’re a RC. Other than that, I don’t need 4-5 years of a player’s prospect card filling tons of products till he finally makes it to the show.

  8. t 14 May, 2016 at 08:07

    I’ve said this before in other groups, stop using Ebay 1/1 Tags. If 1/100 and 100/100 is a 1/1 wouldn’t that make 21/100 and 49/100 a 1/1 also because those are the only 21/100 and 49/100 etc. in the set? SO in all reality EVERY serial numbered card on Ebay IS a 1/1 because there isn’t another 21/100 in that serial numbered set nor is there another 49/100 or 1/100 or 100/100. So stop usings Ebay 1/1 tags, every serial numbered card is a 1/1. But please stop using Ebay 1/1 Tags, like i was saying, if you look at it that way, every cerila numbered card on Ebay is a 1/1 and no one really likes it, and it doesn’t draw any more attention these days, I myself go past something that says “Ebay 1/1” no matter what it is or even if its a player I PC…..Ebay 1/1’s i go right by now….

  9. Patrick R 14 May, 2016 at 08:56

    Searching ebay is a hassle because of reasons like this. The non-auto tag is another frustrating title listing.

  10. Bryan 14 May, 2016 at 09:13

    eBay’s sports cards section needs a complete overhaul and decent moderation. After they deal with the ‘eBay 1/1’ issue, can we then work on the breakers that flood the “Box” listings that make it so you have to swim through 3 or 4 pages of their listings to find what you’re looking for?

  11. James Weeks 14 May, 2016 at 10:11

    I agree that seller’s should need to be held more accountable for their descriptions, but disagree with the statement about being able to count the legitimate 1/1’s on one hand. I have more than a handful of actual 1/1’s. However, it is very frustrating when searching for items and only a small percentage of descriptions that say 1/1 are in fact 1/1’s.

  12. David Rodrigues 14 May, 2016 at 11:09

    I hear what you’re saying. One thing that annoys me even more than that is when people add word’s like “Rare” or “massive BV” even the letters “HOF”

    Worst of all the added words to titles is the words Refractor type or looking card.
    Just because the card reflects pretty colours when it’s in light doesn’t mean it’s a refractor. At the end of the day people buying these higher end card’s know exactly what they are otherwise they wouldn’t be buying it and that’s what really frustrates me the most. Guess these sellers are trying to con a newbie into paying more than what it’s worth. I do see a lot of big US seller’s getting more than they should be getting for their auctioned listings just because they falsely advertise a card.

    I am a seller on eBay and the only word’s I use in the title of a listing, every single listing is the word’s Beckett use to tell you which card it is.
    Copy and paste…
    Opps maybe I shouldn’t have said that, sorry Beckett if it’s infringing your copy right….

    Well I do make changes but the only changes I will make is if it’s a sub-set card I use the whole words instead of the abbreviated letters Beckett gives and I add the word insert card if it’s an insert or just the word card to the end if it’s a common. I add the word set if it’s a complete set and lot if they’re a lot of cards. Anything else in the title shouldn’t be there as it’s falsely advertising that card and technically shouldn’t be allowed under eBay’s seller rules.

    It took a while for buyer’s to 1st start buying from me in the very beginning and that may have been the reason why I didn’t get a lot of sales ot bidders but now there are a lot of buyers that know that I am no thrills, no hype no lies of any type if its not in actual description of what it actually is then it’s not in the title. Now I find it hard to keep up with all the eBay sales and messages I get from buyers asking for particular card’s because they have a lot of trust built up from time. It was a hobby in the beginning, now it’s almist become a 2nd job.

    There are also a lot of people that have terrible description pages too. Not saying terrible aesthetically, just totally incorrect description to what they do. I’d list the issue’s now but I really think that is another issue that needs to be dealt with on in its own page

    Staying true and honest is what eBay was built on. Do it long enough and buyer’s will see that you’re one of the better eBay sellers and return for more purchases 100% certain on that as I am an example.

  13. Craig 14 May, 2016 at 11:30

    I’m glad somebody said it.

    When ever I see those listings I just roll my eyes and avoid the listing.

  14. Jordan L 14 May, 2016 at 13:40

    Thank you!!! Even seeing “ebay 1/1” get mentioned ironically is starting to get stale. For the record I always thought printing plates should be thought of as #/4.

  15. Mortimer Gustufson 14 May, 2016 at 14:09

    Who cares if someone puts ebay 1/1 in the title? The seller runs the risk…not you. If I am buying a card, I know what I am looking for and can make my own determination. I think its hilarious how people try to twist the ebay 1/1. Anything other than 01, players exact jersey number, and last print run number is comical but not illegal. What’s next? An article about how immoral using an eBay sniper tool is?

    • Ryan Cracknell 14 May, 2016 at 20:34

      @Mortimer Gustofson — It’s not about risk. It’s about annoyance and the user experience. If you’re looking for something and it becomes like a needle and a haystack to see that in search results, that’s annoying. When people get annoyed, they move on.

  16. Jason 14 May, 2016 at 23:16

    The only Ebay 1/1 I truly do believe in the the card matching the players jersey number. A lot of people are looking for those specifically, however outside of that I agree that the 1 of 1 moniker is overused in salesmanship.

  17. Aaron Johnson 15 May, 2016 at 03:39

    Yes, it needs to die and it needed to die a long time ago. I suggest the community works to constantly report it to eBay as search and browse manipulation.

  18. andrew 15 May, 2016 at 07:44

    speaking purely from 10 years of selling a variety of serial numbered cards on ebay —

    if the card is 001/100, or say, a mickey mantle numbered 007/100, i will advertise these cards as a 1/1 (i don’t even bother to use the word ebay)

    i have regularly seen these kinds of examples sell for more, even far more, than random numbers from the print run.

    the ‘last card of the print run’ i don’t really understand, unless there’s a market for coming in last that i’m not aware of.

  19. Trey 15 May, 2016 at 12:49

    eBay is the Internet equivalent of a garage sale or a swap meet. Expecting any level of service that’s the equivalent of Retail is unrealistic. If I find a seller who provides quality service, I appreciate it but realistically you have to do your due diligence before you make a purchase (including deciphering through product tiles and descriptions that aren’t always true).

  20. Justin Vick 15 May, 2016 at 21:32

    Great article, Ryan. So I’m guessing a profile on the world’s most prolific “ebay 1/1” collectors won’t be published in the near future? I collect autographed basketball cards, so it doesn’t matter to me if the sticker Bill Walton signed is on a mass-produced piece of cardboard or one with a serial number on it.

  21. Bill Eckle 15 May, 2016 at 21:50

    Well said and glad someone shared my feelings; albeit, I do feel there is a premium on jersey number cards, and in a sense they ARE 1/1s, as no other card shares that uniqueness.

    Now how about writing an article about the misleading BCCG 10 compared to a BGS 10!

  22. Dean 16 May, 2016 at 08:35

    The only true 1/1 are the ones that actually say 1/1 on them. All the rest of them, whether they are first, last or jersey number are NOT 1/1s.

  23. IAmNotaRobot 16 May, 2016 at 08:36

    Well said. Sellers use it as a marketing play (and it’s free!! even better) so buyers have to do their homework and make sure they know what they are bidding on. Technically, people will use any means to get attention to their listings, and this is just one of many (good and bad.)

  24. Joe 16 May, 2016 at 22:27

    Everyone has an opinion here that seems to vary… What a waste-of-time topic with no resolution. If you want resolutions and opinions, please let people speak their minds, minus the language of course. I’m sure there is not one person who agrees with the next, even if they are saying “Yes, Yes, Yes!’ and ‘Agreed!’ That is bogus.
    The world is too ‘soft and sensitive these days, someone needs to be a ‘real’ voice. Everyone wants to be ‘helped up’, sometimes things just need to be said rather than sugar-coating everything.

  25. Mortimer Gustufson 17 May, 2016 at 15:31

    So now what? About 1000 new listings were added with “ebay 1/1”. There is nothing you can do about it. People think that will help sales and they will continue to do it.

    • Ryan Cracknell 17 May, 2016 at 15:53

      Maybe someone read the article who didn’t know that the term annoyed potential buyers and they’ll look for better ways to list their cards. Perhaps it will prevent a person from picking up the habit. Maybe it’s good to talk about things sometimes. I don’t see how any of that is bad. If we all had defeatist attitudes, nothing will ever change.

  26. Mortimer Gustufson 17 May, 2016 at 16:22

    Exactly…none of this is bad. The ebay 1/1 may be an annoyance to some but definitely not all. Some people care and some don’t. It’s not illegal and if you see it just pass it by. Why do we have to ban everything?

    • Ryan Cracknell 17 May, 2016 at 16:26

      I’m personally not calling for a ban. I believe in self policing myself. If some realize things cut into bottomline, they’ll stop. A lot easier that way.

  27. Mortimer Gustufson 17 May, 2016 at 16:39

    I agree with you Ryan. If it begins to hurt your bottom line…you will stop. I guess it’s not affecting most people though because of the sheer amount of them on ebay. I even see people with high feedback doing it. It does catch your eye.

  28. Pat S. 18 May, 2016 at 10:47

    Ryan, Thanks for the piece. I have been selling some cards on E Bay, and I was one of the people you spoke of in your above comment. I was unaware of this Ebay 1 of 1 craze. I have never posted a listing personally with that phrase in it and now I know from everyone’s comments to steer clear of doing it in the future. Thanks for putting the time in. Never to old to learn. Thanks, Pat

  29. RavenNSU 19 May, 2016 at 13:16

    When it comes to numbered cards, I believe the only true 1 of 1 is a card that is stamped or hand written 1/1. You can’t honestly say that a stamped 23/25 card is a 1 of 1 because it is the only #23. When I see a seller using language like that where it does not apply and is deceptive, I know to avoid that seller.

    However, when it comes to sketches, the majority of sketch cards might rightly be called a 1/1 and it would be hard to argue it, unless you knew that the image was being mass produced by the same artist. Some sketches have reappeared, but since they are hand done, even a reproduction of the same picture may not look exactly the same.

    For most sketch cards that are issued with a formal set, once you pass it up you won’t see that sketch again unless the same card comes back for resale. Commissions and ACEOs might be duplicated by certain artists if asked. I doubt an artist would promise to never draw it again, but I don’t know, I never asked. LOL.

  30. Rick W. 19 May, 2016 at 19:07

    Only rarely have I seen anyone try to brand a 54/100 or whatever as 1/1, and that is just laughable. More often I see a 100/100 claimed as a 1/1, which I don’t buy at all. However, I do believe that everyone should agree that cards numbered 1/XX or Jersey numbers are worth a premium. Argue all you want, but I have a Gretzky card numbered 99/99, and although I’ve never sold it it gets tons of viewers and people trying to talk me out of it if I list it. If it were 98/99, I’d get less than half guide if that.
    Not mentioned here and what really has to stop are the 1/1 cards listed eBay that someone has stamped NTSC 1/1 or Diamond something 1/1 in their garage. Take a ten cent card, put a stamp on it, and charge $10 and take $5 if you get it. These are really annoying and are destroying th hobby.

  31. Hobby Insider 23 May, 2016 at 10:08


    We won’t tell you how to write your columns or search for cards. In exchange please don’t tell us how to sell them. Gimmicks are a huge part of marketing in the retail world. If you really want to make eBay a better site, make ALL listing AUCTION STYLE !!

    • Ryan Cracknell 23 May, 2016 at 10:44

      You’re free to sell how you please. But I think the vast majority of commenters here, potential customers, agree that the practice of labeling something in such a manner is an annoyance. Some have even said they avoid such sellers when they see these practices. That could be costing you sales and money. I’ve yet to hear from anyone who actually searched “eBay 1/1” which one would think is the only reason to include it in the title.

  32. Marcus 8 June, 2016 at 16:37

    I personally will not bid or buy on anyone that uses that term….i would love to start a group that goes one step further and stars blocking ebay sellers that use that term ….i guarantee if that catches on that term will quickly RIP

  33. I appreciate eBay 1/1 18 July, 2016 at 09:59

    eBay 1/1 is great marketing for jersey #/x and is important when I am searching. 1/x also carries a premium. Do you not want the card industry to thrive? Increasing and improving sales is a negative?

    Why not address the actual illegal activity of fake printing plates from the 90’s, which are stickers on top of metal or custom handmade cards that use the players photo, name and sometimes even team logo without authorization.

  34. I appreciate eBay 1/1 22 July, 2016 at 14:35

    “Jersey Number” or “First Printed” takes up a lot of limited space in your title and the likely hood of someone searching that is very slim. Tip for those that don’t want these listing to pop up in your search. At the end of your “player x 1/1” search, if you put “-ebay” it will remove all listing with ebay in it.

  35. Aaron B 1 August, 2016 at 00:51

    I am new to selling on eBay. I have sold a few hundred cards in the last couple months, and have purchased several hundred as well. The term eBay 1/1 doesn’t bother me. In fact sometimes when I’m looking at cards, I want to find out why they are saying the card is an eBay 1/1.

    Like some of the other people commenting on here I think the term “eBay 1/1” does have some merrrit. eBay is one of the biggest venues to buy and sell sports cards around. Because it so popular, there are a TON of people selling cards on eBay.

    If you have a card that the serial # is the players jersey # or in my case I was selling a particular card, and it was the only one currently for sale on eBay. The term eBay 1/1 lets the buyer know this is only one on available on eBay right now. With over 17 Million cards listed for sale on eBay at this moment, having the only one on eBay is a big least to me.

    As a seller you try and make your cards “stand out” the best you can. You emphasize anything that may differentiate it from the masses. I am not condoning, or saying that a seller should lie or be misleading to sell one of their cards but marketing it in the “best possible light” while remaining honest is just a good businesses practice.

  36. RWS 13 January, 2017 at 13:05

    I feel your pain with this one. I do a lot of research on eBay for pool cues, and I see a ton of similar spam things like 1/1 etc. in the titles. Drives me nuts.

    In my industry, the most common one is for sellers to put “Vintage [item name]” or “rare, vintage…” blah blah. They are almost never rare or vintage and it drives me crazy.

  37. M Johns 24 April, 2017 at 20:53

    I have searched e-bay for 1/1 and one of one cards and that is what search is for. To narrow down the number of cards you have to look at to find what you want.
    If everybody put Tom Brady in the title of there listing and you searched for Tom Brady. You may have to look at 10,000 cards and never find a Tom Brady card.
    If you have to spend five days on E-Bay to find what you are looking for, you may find a different hobby, or something better to do with your life.
    That is what search is for. to save you time, Not a box to help you find the seller with the best idea to get you to look at his stuff that you are not wanting to see.

  38. Brksamurai 10 October, 2018 at 22:47

    Late to this.

    I think the better way to refer them as “definitives” in that the 1/xx is the low range definitive and the xx/xx is the high range definitive. The jersey number is not a definitive by a coincidental. So the high and low range definitives and the Jersey number coincidental.

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