Flashing Back to EBay's Infancy

I’ve been collecting baseball cards since the late 1980’s, when my first packs of cards were 1988 Donruss as a six-year old. Ten years later I was buying and selling on a new thing called the Internet on an online auction site called eBay.

This was before I even had a personal computer. Anyone remember having a Gateway? Before my first Gateway computer arrived in 1999 I was using webTV.


There is still a closet in my old bedroom at my parents house filled with mostly crap I can’t get rid of. Old magazines, a hundred or so bent up junk era trading cards, and random worthless memorabilia. I think I keep it around because it gives me something to look through once or twice a year when I’m home, bored, and feel nostalgiac.

During a recent trip home I recalled seeing a folder with old eBay transactions. Not long ago I recalled that find and thought it would make for a good blog.


After rifling through a number of boxes I came across the folder I was looking for, aptly titled, “B-Ball Card Stuff.”

Many of my transactions were tossed when I moved to Madison, Wisconsin four years ago. I had printed each transaction and then filed it away by month. But…I kept a few of the early transactions, and glad I did.


First, I discovered my first eBay name (Cubman11). This has been extinct for more than 15 years. On April 17, 2000 I purchased a 1977 Topps Rick Reuschel autographed card for $0.55 plus $1.00 shipping. Note: the seller charged $1.00 for a padded envelope. If my memory is accurate, a bubble mailer was around $0.80. Today… $3.50 at the post office.

I sold a 20-card lot of Mark McGwire cards for $10.50. Today, a 175-card McGwire lot sold for $8.99 shipped ($0.99 plus $8 shipping).

How about the set that brought me back to collecting? It was 1998 Bowman. Also, the first hobby box I opened since 1991 Upper Deck football.


Fortunately, I dumped some rookie cards while they were hot. A five-card lot of Ruben Mateo, Eddie Yarnall, Jeremy Giambi, and Odalis Perez sold for $5.50 plus $1.00 shipping.

Some of the rookies that weren’t as hot sold for less. I dumped a 25-card lot for $5.80.

And finally, how about this deal for some Sammy Sosa cards. Strike while the iron is hot and I sure did as a seller. How about $16.05 for nine (yes…NINE) Sosa cards.


If only I could get that much for Sosa today…I could flip for a pretty sweet Cubs collection!

It’s certainly interesting going back in time. Aside from the card prices and shipping charges the most surprising aspect of early eBay that I forgot was the communication and payment.


As you can see from the above correspondence, a seller would email (outside of eBay) to request payment. That payment was then sent via check or money order (no PayPal back then). My how things have changed.

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