Monday, April 7, 2014
Collecting cards via Yahoo Auctions Japan: a Rough Guide
I should preface this with one unfortunate fact about Yahoo Auctions: if you don`t live in Japan it is almost impossible to use it. Easily 99.9% of sellers don`t ship overseas or accept paypal, so it is more or less an in-Japan only thing unless you use a proxy. A proxy is somebody in Japan who will bid on stuff for people overseas. The downside of using them is that you have to pay them a fee and you also have to pay for shipping twice (once to get the goods to them, then again when they send it to you). I don`t have any experience using them so I can`t offer any recommendations, but there are a lot of them out there if you do a Google search (people who collect video games and anime stuff use them all the time, so some of them have established track records). A lot of people do use them though so if you find a bargain you might want to contact one of them. The rest of this post is mostly directed to people who will use Yahoo Auctions in Japan, but there are a lot of tips for people outside who might use a proxy as well.
That out of the way, I can say that I have found Yahoo Auctions to be a great source for Japanese baseball cards and in fact probably 80% of the cards in my collection come from there. The selection is much much larger than what you can find on Ebay or elsewhere and prices generally tend to be pretty reasonable. So I thought I would explain some of the basics of using the site to find cards.
The first thing you will need is at least an intermediate level grasp of the Japanese written language. Unfortunately the website is Japanese only and when you are buying stuff there is a lot of key information you will need to check before entering a bid. Also, once you have won something you will be sent messages by the seller. These aren`t standard form messages like on Ebay, but are personal messages composed by the seller which often contain specific instructions that they want you to follow. You will need to be able to read these and, a bit more difficult, respond to them in Japanese. You don`t need to be fluent in the language (I`m not), but you do need to be able to at least get by. On the plus side while the language can be a barrier at first for those out there like me whose Japanese is a bit shaky, once you have gotten used to it and know what to look for it becomes a lot less intimidating.
Once you have accomplished that simple task (smile), membership is the next step. You have two options. One of these is free and the other (premium) costs 399 yen per month. The free one allows you to bid on stuff up to a maximum of 5,000 yen and is pretty easy to set up. The premium (which I have) allows you to bid on anything and also to sell stuff and will require a Japanese credit card. Since the vast majority of baseball card stuff sells for under 5,000 yen you can probably get by with the free membership at least to start. In fact I`ve never bought any baseball card stuff that cost more than that on Yahoo Auctions, but I do use the site for other stuff that sometimes does which is why I went for the premium membership.
Once you`ve gotten that taken care of, going to their baseball card category HERE is probably the best place to start.
Starting from that page you have a few options if you want to search for something. At the moment there are 73,000 items in the baseball card category, so you have a lot to choose from. If you are looking for cards from a specific set you can narrow down the search by maker using the sub-categories on the left of the screen, which allow you to search for cards from Calbee, BBM or Upper Deck sets. One of the inconvenient things of that route is that it won`t give you a list of actual items for sale until you have gone all the way to the lowest level of sub-category. So if you click on カルビー for example it will then take you to a list of Calbee sets for each year. When you click on a year - say for example 2004 - only then will you finally be given a list of items for sale.
The best deals on Yahoo Auctions are usually for bulk lots of cards rather than singles. With singles the cost of shipping (usually 80 yen) can eat up a lot unless you are combining several at once, but for larger lots the shipping often works out to almost nothing per card. The best way to find those lots are to go to the overall baseball card category I linked to above and enter the kanji 枚 which is a counter for flat objects in Japanese and is the equivalent of entering `lot` into an Ebay search. This will give you several hundred lots to browse through, but it will include a lot of 2-3 card lots. If you want to look for really large lots another useful search term is 大量 which means `large volume` and will usually turn up 50 or 60 results, most of which will be lots of 100s or 1000s of cards. A third useful search term is セット which means `set`, but sometimes sellers will use it to mean a lot of cards rather than an actual complete set.
Once you have found an item you have to be careful to read all the information to make sure you are able to actually bid on it. Like Ebay some listings are auctions that you bid on (入札はこちら）, while others have Buy it Now options (今すぐ落札) so be careful to distinguish these.
The first thing you will want to check is the blue box on the upper right of the screen which has most of the pertinent information about the seller. You can see his/her feedback （評価） and, more importantly, what methods of payment they accept (支払について）. There is no standard method of payment so you`ll want to make sure that you have the ability to actually send them money via whatever method they accept. In my case I have a postal account (ゆうちょ） which probably 75% of sellers accept payment from. Postal accounts are quite useful since they don`t charge any fees if you are sending money to another postal account (incidentally that is one of the reasons why Ebay never took off in Japan, nobody wants to use Paypal with its fees when they can just use the postal system for free). Unfortunately not all sellers accept that though so I always have to double check before I enter a bid. Another useful piece of information in this blue box is the seller`s prefecture, which may affect what shipping will cost.
If you scroll further down the screen there will be a large picture of the item and under that a message from the seller regarding the sale. This part is also critical to read since there might be important information in it, but they vary widely depending on the seller. Some will write almost nothing in there other than `baseball card, thank you for looking` while others will write detailed messages describing the item in detail, setting out conditions of the sale (no claim, no return is a common one) and providing a breakdown of the shipping options and costs. Unfortunately some sellers refuse to deal with first time users and will usually state if they do here as well.
Once you have actually bought something you will usually receive a message from the seller within about 24 hours of the end of the auction via the site`s messaging system (取引ナビ）. Typically they will ask for a basic set of information (name, address, phone number, how you will pay, when you will pay, what shipping method you want). When you send this to them they will usually reply with a total including shipping and their bank account information. Once you have paid it is customary to send them a further message telling them you have done so. And with that, your transaction is basically complete. You can leave feedback for the seller once the item arrives.
That is about it, but I thought I should mention a few important other points when buying cards on Yahoo auctions:
1) Do NOT bid solely based on the picture. You have to read the listing carefully. For example, this listing HERE has a picture of what looks like a large lot of 1988 Calbees for a low starting bid, but what you are actually bidding on is the right to buy one card from that photo and not all the cards in it.The key phrase to look out for there is バラ売り (sold seperately).
2) Beware of prices that are too good to be true. There are some shady dealers out there just like Ebay. For example THIS GUY has a bunch of nice Calbee singles for the incredible Buy it Now price of only 1 yen! But if you read the fine print this scumbag (and I don`t use that term lightly) has a bunch of hidden fees (a 200 yen packaging fee, plus an inflated 160 yen for shipping and he DOES NOT combine shipping), so that 1 yen card would actually cost you 361 yen. This is why checking the feedback is important, this guy has a ton of negatives but his auctions always appear at the top of the list if you look for stuff in the cheapest-most expensive order.
3) It is important to heed the above 2 pieces of advice because unlike Ebay, Yahoo Auctions offers absolutely no dispute resolution mechanism or buyer protection. If you get screwed over by a seller you are basically out of luck (the Yahoo Auctions rules specifically says `its not our problem`). You are left to either plea with the seller or leave negative feedback and with a dishonest seller neither of these are useful.
That said, I have completed about 250 purchases on Yahoo Auctions and only had 2 of them go bad. They were both, however, extremely aggravating experiences. In one of them the seller sent my card to the wrong address (his fault) and then made me pay his shipping expenses the second time to correct his mistake. Since it was either that or lose the item completely I had little choice but to comply. The second time was more aggravating as the seller sold me a product that arrived broken (it was a piece of electronics rather than baseball cards that time) and refused to give me a refund. When I left him negative feedback he retaliated and left me a scathing bad feedback which included a racist anti-foreigner comment. Whereas Ebay prevents sellers from retaliating like that Yahoo Auctions doesn`t.
4) A couple of honest sellers that I have had good transactions with are these guys:
There are a lot more out there but those are a couple I have dealt with recently, I might add to that list.
5) On the positive side one thing I really like about Yahoo Auctions is that probably more than 90% of sellers charge you the exact amount that shipping actually costs and not a yen more. Ebay is well known for the inflated shipping costs many sellers charge, a practice more or less forced on them by the fees they get charged by ebay and paypal. The fees for sellers to use Yahoo Auctions are much lower and the transfer fees for postal accounts are zero, so the costs of stuff is relatively much lower than similar items on Ebay are.
That is about all I can think of. I hope this information might be useful to some of you, I can probably answer questions in the comments.