A Trip Down the eBay Rabbit Hole

I never seem to buy what I set out to buy on eBay.

It isn’t easy to find a Greg Maddux card with an autograph on eBay at an affordable price that pictures him in his Braves uniform. I should add a disclaimer that it’s hard to find a card with a Greg Maddux signature that was signed specifically for the manufacturer. If I’m willing to trust people, I can find numerous autographs of the great Maddux, sometimes for as little as ten dollars. I am not the trustworthy type though so I can’t go there. None the less, I have a hundred dollars and my goal is to find a Greg Maddux autograph that doesn’t suck that pictures him in an Atlanta Braves uniform. It also can’t be ugly, which means no Panini autographs.

So, I type Greg Maddux into the little search box on eBay and I get over 11,000 results. I narrow them down by clicking “Cards” and then selecting Autographs which gives me around a hundred and twenty listings to go through. Some I can reject out of hand. I don’t care how great a card is, I don’t want a graded card trapped in a hard plastic enclosure. What’s the point of a baseball card you can’t hold in your hand? A great many of the listings are hand signed cards, and I can only assume that the vast majority of them are fakes. I skip those. There are a lot of cards that show Maddux in his Cubs, Padres or Dodgers uniforms and I surely don’t want one of those.

There was a time where I would use other tricks to limit the number of listings I have to comb through. I could specifically select ungraded cards, but I’ve found that sellers almost never include the correct information. I could include Braves in my query, but many sellers list every team a guy ever played for in the listing, and others don’t include a team at all. 120 listings is not an unmanageable number anyway.

The best autograph I see is his 2001 Donruss Notable Nicknames Signature card. Maddux not only signed the card as Greg “Bulldog” Maddux, but the “Bulldog” part of his signature is readable. (His name remains as unreadable as ever. He has what is easily the worst signature of any major athlete.) The seller is asking for a thousand forty-nine dollars. I expect that a “Best Offer” of a hundred bucks would be declined automatically, and I’m proven right. As I keep scrolling down, I notice an interesting listing in the ”Popular on eBay” section shown with every search.

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The card in the listing is an ugly one. It’s a 2012 Upper Deck SP Signature Series autograph card of Chipper Jones. While the card itself is within my hundred dollar price range, and while Chipper’s autograph is as beautiful as ever, this is simply one ugly card. Basically, I don’t buy baseball cards that don’t include a players picture. I wish that Upper Deck still had a license because these are the kinds of cards you get from an unlicensed card manufacturer.

I had set out to spend a hundred dollars on a Greg Maddux autograph, but now I’m after a new Chipper Jones auto card. The one I have is older and isn’t nearly as valuable as some of the newer ones. I repeat my search for Chipper Jones, and I find quite a few autographs in my price range, but there weren’t any that really appeal to me. Every Chipper auto card that I find that I want to add to my collection is out of the price range. So, I type Greg Maddux into the search field again and drill down to his available autograph cards again. Before I can even start scrolling, I notice another listing in the popular section.

I’ve mentioned the amazing 1953 Bowman Warren Spahn card before. It’s one of those iconic Braves cards that every collector should have in their collection, and I’m a little ashamed to admit that I don’t have one in mine. The listing pointed to a nearly perfect example of the card. The card is well centered with good corners and only slight wear on the sides of the card. A classic vintage card like this is worth all two-hundred and seventy dollars for which the seller is asking. That’s out of my price range, but I need this card.

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So, I’m looking to purchase a 1953 Bowman Warren Spahn for under a hundred dollars. I start at the bottom and two cards around thirty-five dollars have my attention. The first is in rough shape. (The card is the one on the left above.) The corners are a little round. There’s surface wear. The card has at least a dozen creases, some small and a few very large. This card is a perfect example of what makes the 1953 Bowman set, and the Spahn card in particular, so amazing. This card, which would almost certainly grade in poor condition, is utterly beautiful. The set is to first to use full color photography and the colors pop off the card. There’s nothing ugly about this baseball card. It would be a privilege to add it to my collection.

The other thirty-five dollar listing is actually a thirty-three dollar listing of the same card. While the card is far from mint condition, it is in excellent shape. The corners are slightly rounded and the edges are somewhat rough. Still, there are no visible creases. There are only a few spots where the surface of the card is blemished. I think I found my card.

So, this is the story of how I acquired my 1953 Bowman Warren Spahn card. With a budget of a hundred dollars, I was able to acquire one of the all-time great Braves collectables for just thirty-three bucks, including shipping. I wonder if I can find a Greg Maddux autograph for sixty-seven dollars.

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