Texas Hold‘em Strategy for Buying Cards on eBay

Most of my Colt .45s baseball card collection has been populated from eBay.  Before that ubiquitous on-line auction emerged, I was able to find precious few, low-grade, random cards at card shops.  Then the northern states were thrown wide open to me.  Those kids up north who had bought wax packs in 1962 and been disappointed to find Bob Aspromonte and those Great Lakes area collectors who acquired boxes of cards but only wanted the Braves, Brewers, and Twins can now go to eBay and discharge the .45s. 

There’s a science to getting the deal on eBay. I’ve developed my own strategy.  Some traders have software apps that place their bids and manage their last-second raises.  Others personally sit at their keyboards and submit a final-second bid hoping to top everyone else, leaving no time for anyone to counter. 

I’m not going to reveal my strategy.  I will say that after well over 200 competitions, I recognize the dealers and the collectors; the amateurs and the pros; the potential winners and the doomed losers; and I’m wary of the stealth bidders who will not reveal themselves until the final seconds. 

The point of this narrative is much more fun, however, thanks to my son, Shelby.  One evening I was awaiting the ending of a particularly significant auction of a Gem Mint PSA 9 1962 Bob Aspromonte Population 8, no card graded higher, which I needed to upgrade my Near Mint/Mint PSA 8.  This single card would move my 1962 Topps Houston Colt .45s registered set from its all-time ranking with PSA from 5 to 4.*  Clearly, I was a bit edgy.  Shelby was a bit amused and working on mixing some of his music.

As I explained the intricacies of the bidding and the precarious status of my maximum bid, he gave me that all-knowing smile of his and began one of those insightful questioning sessions.  He gratefully skipped over the part about why I spend so much time collecting 50-year-old baseball cards.  After all, he spends even more time nuancing his tunes to achieve qualities that my ears no longer can distinguish, but as a dad, I can totally appreciate--vicariously. 

What we discovered was my diversion/hobby we call purchasing baseball cards at auction on eBay is the equivalent of other people going to Las Vegas and playing Texas Hold’em.  This is my form of competitive gambling.  I’m pitting my gaming skills against those of others who want the same things and are willing to put up their money to get them. 

Of course the dynamics are almost a complete mirror image.  That’s what makes this metaphor something upon we can all reflect. 

In Texas Hold’em, when you win, you give them the cards, and they give you their money.  In eBay card auctions, when you win, you give them your money, and they give you the cards.

I like my card game better.


*I won the auction at $119, about half the catalog value.  There were three other bidders, all dealers.  Two submitted bids only during the final seconds.