Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Fake Ichiros and Weird Bidders

There is a seller on Yahoo Auctions who I've been watching for a few years now.  A few years ago I bought one of the rare 1994 Calbee Ichiro cards off of him.  This was relatively early in my Japanese baseball card collecting days and I wasn't aware of how prevalent fakes of those cards (there are three of them) were.  Of course mine turned out to be a fake as I discovered later.  Fortunately I only paid about 25$ so it wasn't a huge write-off.

If you click on the guy's Yahoo Auctions page you'll see a huge list of naked lady cards (very NSFW, proceed with caution).  Those are his specialty.  But about once every month or so he'll put out a few baseball cards for sale.  And almost every time he does so, he has one copy of each of the three 1994 Calbee Ichiros.

Over the years I've been watching his auctions (er...just his baseball card auctions) he's probably put up dozens of those Ichiro cards.  Bear in mind that those cards are so rare that there are probably only a few dozen legit copies of them in existence in the first place.  So this should be a huge red flag screaming "FAKE" to anyone out there paying attention.

Yet every time he puts them out, people bid on them and buy them.  This post was inspired by me watching three more end last night, all getting multiple bids (the one in the picture at the top got 14 bids and sold for 4501 Yen, about $40).  

It really doesn't make much sense.  They always sell, but they also usually sell in that 30-50$ price range, which is about 1/10th of what a legit copy would probably be worth.  

Its kind of hard to figure out what is going on with the bidders.  If they think the things are real, they should be bidding them up to much higher prices than that.  If on the other hand they think the things are fake, they shouldn't be bidding at all.  Yet everytime they manage to bid it up to a price that is way too high for a fake and way too cheap for a real one.  What do these bidders think these cards are?

In my case when I bid I thought it was real and I put in a higher bid than what I ended up winning it for with that expectation in mind.  Other bidders pushed it up to about the 25$ level, then jumped ship.  Perhaps there are shill bidders, but looking at the one I linked to above it got bids from 4 separate bidders, two of whom have a ton of feedback and are likely legit bidders, and two of whom have less than 100 feedback and might be shill bidders.  It was won by one of the two with high feedback, and one of the two with low feedback placed the second highest bid, consistent with what you would expect if shill bidding was going on.  But at the same time the other "real" bidder came close to winning it and the "shill" bid only bumped it up a couple hundred Yen.  So even if the two suspect accounts hadn't bid, the card would have sold for almost the same price and therefore shill bidding alone can't account for this irrational pricing.

So I kind of wonder if these real bidders are just suckers like me being taken in?  You'd think they would have caught on by now though, this guy has been at it for years now (though he does have near perfect feedback).  On the other hand, maybe they know and don't care - perhaps they are planning to flip these fakes themselves? 

I don't know exactly what is going on but it sure does stink anyway you look at it.  


  1. Does Yahoo Auctions have a policy on shipping fake cards? Could the buyer get a refund if they discovered it within a certain amount of time? Are people able to report that this guy is selling reprints? If so, I'd call him out on it.

    As for your question... I'm guessing if a person is spending over $20... they think it's a legit card. As for why it doesn't sell for more, maybe other people are tracking this guy's auctions and that's where they get their current market value from. Or maybe they're all building this set and just need a place holder card and $20 to $40 is a price they're prepared to pay.

    Regardless... very interesting stuff.

    1. Unlike Ebay there is no real buyer protection system on Yahoo Auctions. Literally there is nobody you can complain to, other than to ask the seller really nicely for a refund.

      The only recourse you have is to leave negative feedback. BUT Yahoo Auctions does not prevent a seller from leaving retaliatory negative feedback in response. In ten years of using it I've left negative feedback once, very early. The seller then unleashed a really nasty negative feedback on me (and they can also reverse any previous positive feedbacks they had left you, which he did).

      Since a lot of buyers won't accept bids from anyone with more than 3 negative feedbacks, this gives the sellers a very powerful weapon to stifle any criticism of them. I wouldn't be surprised if customers of this guy want to leave negative feedback to warn others, but don't because of fear of that happening (I chose to simply not leave any feedback rather than risking retaliation).

      About the question, yes it does seem logical that anyone willing to shell out 20$ for a card thinks its legit. But I can't make heads or tails of it since he always gets multiple bidders, which would usually results in bidding wars that bump a card up to its "true" value, but that never happens with these.

    2. Wow. The ability to reverse previous feedback is crazy.

    3. Yeah, Ebay was smart to stop allowing it. On Yahoo Auction, buyers have to tread extremely cautiously when leaving negative feedback.

  2. I've seen some eBay sellers who specialize in porn and counterfeit Mike Trout rookie cards (I swear I wasn't looking for either!), which I guess would be the American equivalent? Those fake Trout's sell all the time, so much so that I suspect that there might even be a few graded ones floating around out there (graded as authentic).

    As for this Ichiro, I didn't know about the fakes, but I'm fairly certain that I just one of these cards up for sale somewhere in the last couple of weeks, and obviously now I would have to think that it too was a fake. It's kind of nice to know that I don't have to worry about it though, because if the real ones are going for as much as you say they are, I'd never have that much to spend on a card anyway, so...

    1. Yeah the "Porn/ rare baseball rookie cards" product lineup is an odd combination for sure and should be viewed as a red flag.

      Basically the vast majority of the 1994 Calbee Ichiros out there are fakes. For a few years PSA was slabbing the fakes as legit ones. They realized their mistake and no longer do, but the result of that misstep is that even most of the ones in PSA holders are fake.

  3. Crazy, it almost seems like he has a team shill bidding all the real bidders. Sad to see it prevalent and YJA doesn’t do anything about it. Surprised there are so few real Ichiro cards out there.

    1. It is the one bad thing about YJA: they really don't care about bad people abusing their system. They've been the center of some scandals as a result - a few years ago they got in hot water for allowing the illegal sale of elephant ivory (which they only cracked down on after getting caught).

      Fortunately 99.9% of the sellers on there are good and trustworthy, so it still works despite that. You just have to be careful though!