The year is 2100. Society as we know it has collapsed, taking fiat currency with it. The blockchain imploded long ago, fraught with theft and scams and limited by energy shortages and the creative ineptitude of most NFT designers. There’s no more precious metals. We put them all into our phone microchips and then sent them to landfills where plastic eating microbes consumed them by mistake. The only things remaining with exchangeable value (aside from food, seeds, and drinkable a water) are…Pokémon and Magic: The Gathering trading cards.
eBay is officially prepared for this future and, if you hold any super rare, individual cards, you could be too. The original e-commerce company has opened a 31,000 square foot, 24/7 monitored, climate controlled facility in Delaware with the sole purpose of storing high value trading and collectable cards. Think: baseball cards, but also MMA fighter cards, Harry Potter cards, Weiss Schwarz anime cards, etc. Anything printed on paperboard that can be kept in a binder and is verified to have a value $US750 ($1,041) or higher is now eligible for storage in the eBay vault.
Aside from the value minimum, there are a few other requirements: Currently, each card has to have been purchased directly on eBay (though that may change in the future) and to have been graded by someone from one of a select few groups. Items stored in the vault will be insured, granted a “vault badge” on the eBay listing, and will be instantly exchangeable and transferrable.
Eventually, other types of collectibles will be allowed into the bank too.
“By 2023, the eBay vault will expand to include additional collectibles categories and luxury goods. Within a few years, the eBay vault is expected to hold up to $US3 ($4) Billion in assets, making it one of the largest stores of non-governmental assets in the world,” wrote an eBay representative in an email to Gizmodo.
Though $US3 ($4) billion might sound bonkers, it isn’t outside the realm of possibility given the recent, rapid rise in sale prices of trading cards. Unlike the Beanie Baby hype, it seems trading cards may have actually panned out as a 90’s kid investment strategy. You can track Magic card values like stocks. Earlier this year, a rare Pikachu sold for nearly $US1 ($1) million. Mint-condition and signed sports cards can go for over six times that. Even Wall Street bros and hedge fund managers are getting in on it.
“As we continue to see exponential growth in the category as enthusiasts merge their passions with investment opportunities, the eBay vault is a critical offering that will let collectors streamline and securely store their portfolio of assets. It’s truly the future of collecting,” said eBay VP of collectibles, Dawn Block, in a press statement.
So, given the skyrocketing value attached to some of these cards, it’s no wonder eBay is looking to cash in on a safe(er) place to keep them besides the shoebox in your mum’s attic. To withdraw an item stored in the vault, owners will have to pay a fee based on the last purchase price. There are also submission fees, transfer fees (to “move” an item from one owner to another within the vault), and other costs. eBay isn’t imposing storage fees this year, but easily could in the future.
Though eBay only announced the vault on Tuesday, some traders already have cards stored there. The company previously opened the facility up to specific sellers, according to reporting from Fast Company:
Rick Probstein, an early invitee to the vault whose business trades on eBay as probstein123, says he has more than 200 items in the vault, including cards collectively valued into the millions of dollars, such as rookie cards of Babe Ruth and Michael Jordan. He says eBay helped him transfer items to the vault by armoured car.
“When you see an armoured truck show up with guys with guns, you can’t get more secure than that,” he says.
“With no shipping delay, collectors are able to buy and sell in the midst of critical plays, in the final minutes of a tight game, and immediately on the heels of a trade or retirement announcement,” wrote the company in its press statement. Vault users will even be able to keep tabs on “real-time market valuation changes of their portfolios.” In other words: the vault will make the bits of cardboard commonly coveted by both adult nerds and school children even more like stocks.
Storage in the vault means peoples’ precious cards will be locked away, but users will at least be able to see a high-resolution image of their cards whenever they like, according to Fast Co. In addition, eBay’s press release hints at future fractional purchases, where multiple investors can each “own” “part” of a card.
The whole thing smacks of an upcoming digital asset, NFT-esque gambit, but who knows, maybe this is for the best. After all, the more trading cards stored in a secure warehouse somewhere in Delaware, the less cluttered parents’ basements and closets will be everywhere else.