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BBCE and Ebay

October 1 2017 at 1:45 AM
Robert T Mruczek  (Login RMruczek)


I have a question as to business ethics in our hobby. Not to stir up an argument, but I just noticed something a bit unorthodox.

Right now on Ebay a BBCE-verified unopened box of "Star Trek" (Topps 1976), a pretty hot commodity these past several years, is up for grabs, and already has garnered 29 bids and passed the $2K mark with 20 hours to go.

My point has to do with the is the BBCE itself, or rather seller ID "BBCEXCHANGE".

Isn't it a bit unethical to not only impartially certify items but to also sell them to the highest bidder ? It kinds of creates a sort of "conflict of interest", though not as bad as if PSA itself were to both grade and auction off those very same cards on Ebay.

Opinions ? Again, not trying to start an argument, just wondering if anyone else feels there is something worth questioning.


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John Rafferty
(Login swarmee)

Re: BBCE and Ebay

October 1 2017, 7:34 AM 

Steve Hart (owner/operator) of BBCE is considered the top unopened guy in the business. He certifies the packs as unopened and untampered for PSA and his company BBCE. Many people are okay with him also selling certified items since otherwise he'd only be selling items, not authenticating them. He has the knowledge to validate most unopened and confirming that the 36 packs that are in a box should have certain cards showing or else it is pieced together (very important for boxes like 1986 Fleer basketball which should yield 3-4 Jordans per box).

Can it be a conflict of interest? Yes.
Do most people trust Steve and his company so that it doesn't really seem like it? Yes as well.

Disclaimer: I have never bought a certified pack/box/case from BBCE. But I would have no problem doing it.

(Login docsdrillers)

Value of BBCE Service ???????

October 1 2017, 10:08 AM 

Conflicts of interest aside,i wonder why the prices realized for these certified boxes are so much higher than non certified.

Maybe Steve can accurately determine that packs were unaltered but how can he know if the box was assembled with packs from 24 or 36 different boxes.

Secondly no grade is assigned to the box nor a description of the packs condition.

At least with an unsealed box i can see pics of all the packs or at live events handle them myself.

Since buyers paid such a premium for the certified pack would they dare open the box to inspect in some respect the certification is self fulfilling as no one will know if it's accurate or not without popping the seal they paid so much for.

As much as i hate buying a fully graded PSA full box the grade assigned gave me some indication of the overall condition of the packs and display box..

By the way doesn't Steven Hart do the same service for why not just buy PSA Graded boxes since Steve will have authenticated those packs too.

Robert it is absolutely worth questioning..the whole certification process needs questioning.


John Rafferty
(Login swarmee)

Re: BBCE and Ebay

October 1 2017, 4:35 PM 

PSA doesn't grade or certify boxes. JustCollect just broke a 1986 Fleer basketball box from BBCE (bought from a guy who originally had two full cases) on their Facebook page and it had the three Jordans and three Jordan stickers in it, as odds would suggest. Steve will only certify full boxes that he confirms have the right guys showing on the front and back, as there are a bunch of pack collectors who know the collation order of cards and can pick out a Sam Perkins on front pack, knowing the 3rd card will be a Jordan (or whatever).
During inspection, if there is an interesting card on front or back, BBCE will normally add that to the information on their sticker.

The biggest premiums are paid for the "From A Sealed Case (FASC)" designated boxes, because those were actually harvested from an unopened case by BBCE itself. People buy from BBCE because they've never been burned by BBCE. And the very few that have, have been made right.

Robert T Mruczek
(Login RMruczek)

Re: BBCE and Ebay

October 1 2017, 5:27 PM 

Good points one and all.

Here's a scenario that I would like to suggest based on personal information that I am aware of after dealing with certain sellers on EBay for years. I will use as the basis a 36-count box of unopened packs that is at market price of $150/box at present.

Step 1 - Acquire at least 3 unopened boxes
Step 2 - Intentionally open no more than four (4) packs per box to get the "feel" for the box. After so many years, some vintage boxes have suffered a number of maladies including gum rot, melted gum and more. Determine which box(es) appear to be "wholly" good/worth fully opening and which are the proverbial lemons.

-> If two (2) boxes are "lemons" then use the first of the "lemon" boxes to balance out the second to 36 packs and re-sell on open market as "unopened"
-> Repeat with future purchases, using the original "lemon" box (good for 8 more attempts) at bringing future "lemon" boxes back to a 36-count for resale purposes

No need for any of this, of course, if all boxes are excellent candidates for opening. But there are some sets where opening an unopened vintage box now have a tendency to be "lemons". I'll cite "Space 1999" by Donruss (1976) of which I have opened over 200 boxes these past 3+ years and more often than not they tend to be "lemons".

I'm very ethical about this...I get a "lemon" box and I just eat the loss and chuck it or pull what cards that I can and donate them to "The Wrapper" for raffle purposes. But I do know that there are some dealers who use the above procedure to minimize their bad investments/losses.

The point being...and someone raised this in their would Steve and his BBCE know that the "unopened" box was really a composite of packs from one or more unopened boxes ? "Technically" all the contents of the box being submitted have never been opened, but in truth they are from different production runs/batches.

They may very well have the means to determine that the packs contained within were never opened, but I cannot imagine that there is any technique or skill that exists to prove that all packs came from the same original unopened box.

Several years back I bought five (5) unopened "Star Trek" (Topps 1976) boxes off Ebay. Don't ask what the costs were. Two entire boxes were "dogs"...dings, O/C issues. Under my above scenario, I could have used one of the two "lemon" boxes to bring the other to a full 36-packs, re-sold THAT box as "unopened", and then could either (A) sell the other as "32/36 packs or (B) but CHEAP unopened packs of this set off EBay (they can be found sometimes for lower than $50/pack), and for less than $200 I could bring the other to "unopened" status.

This is one of the prime reasons that when I see an unopened box described as "missing 1-4 packs" this is what I consider to be a major red flag.

As for people paying more because the box is BBCE-certified, this baffles me. All this means is that the packs were never opened...not that they were all from the same box.

If lottery "scratch off" tickets, sold in rolls of 500, 1000 or more, guaranteed one 3rd prize winner or higher ticket per roll, and suppose the roll was $2.00 per ticket and the top 3 prizes were $50K, $5,000 and $500, some MIGHT take a chance on buying a complete roll for $2.00 x 500 = $1,000 on the slim chance that the special ticket will be $5K or more instead of $500, and even if it is NOT then you still recoup $500 plus whatever prizes are on the other 499 tickets.

But, would you buy 1 ticket each from 500 separate rolls ? Now there is no longer that same guarantee.

Switch logic back to non-sports.

A friend and I used to buy "Star Wars" (Topps 1977) 1st series boxes when they first came out from the local candy store at $5.40 per box. Based on distribution that we were experiencing, my friend and I who collected, we almost always got close to 3 complete sets per box, both stickers and cards, and at the time we were among the first to sell these at the old NYC Phil Seuling Convention at the Statler Hilton Hotel. They sold briskly at $7.50/set for cards/stickers combined, so for us this was a win/win and we spent as much of our allowance money as we could back in the day...spend $5.40 to make $22.50, nice profit !!

Now...screw up the distribution by "mixing" unopened packs from varying boxes and the distribution statistics would have changed.

Next, apply this to a modern-era set...Fleer 1986 (I think) with the 1st Jordan.

Granted, in the here and now unopened packs are cost prohibitive, but suppose for sake of argument a seller has acquired a number of said boxes. Someone within this very forum thread stated as a matter of fact that there are some pack experts who can kind of tell where in the box a specific card might appear, or something to that effect. Now...cherry pick OUT the packs with the Jordans and once 3 per box were obtained...or 2 to play it safe...merge the remaining packs and sell however many "unopened boxes" out of the initial allotment can be recreated. STILL "unopened", and would be verified as much by the BBCE, but odds are, no Jordans.

That's why, regardless of their credibility, I am extremely wary of unopened boxes especially those "certified" costing more in open market. While the issue of re-sealing packs might have been eliminated, the mixing of packs from different boxes is still an unknown.

(Login docsdrillers)

Addressing both of your points

October 1 2017, 9:30 PM 

John since this is a nonsports forum my comments related to nonsports only..i understand that distribution of packs in sports had patterns but to my knowledge i've never come across that issue with nonsport boxes.

Why can't Steve simply put a note on the back either a score or an actual comment.
"this box contains 5 soiled packs,6 with pooped seals and some of the gum is broken...then seal the box with his wrapping.

No one can ever be sure if people built boxes from multiple boxes..Robert in your scenario someone could in theory open your lemon box and never get a full set..

Unless i bought the box way back directly from Topps or OPC how could i possibly now if all the packs came from the same's why i never break open packs and buy my boxes to sell the packs individually.

(Login docsdrillers)

Let me ask both of you guys a Hypothetical Question

October 1 2017, 9:46 PM 

Lets say you bought a full box on Ebay which was BBCE certified and upon receiving the box you break the seal and discover that the box contains packs which have soiling,popped seals and some with significant wear.

Do you have the right to complain to the seller and request a refund?
Is the seller obligated to provide a refund?
How would ebay's or paypal's buyer protection protect you or the seller in this case.

My feeling is that if the seller was the one who sent in the box for Certification then not disclosing all he knew about the box should reflect poorly on the seller and justify a refund.

However,what if the seller bought this box as a certified box either on ebay or from a major auction house is he now held to a different standard by the buyer of the box...he couldn't disclose info he didn't have and in effect sold a full box which he only declares as BBCE certified and no more..

Just want peoples opinion and generate a discussion because with the proliferation of BBCE certified boxes rthese scenarios will definitely occur.

(Login wdmullins)

Re: BBCE and Ebay

October 1 2017, 10:49 PM 

@amit: "i understand that distribution of packs in sports had patterns but to my knowledge i've never come across that issue with nonsport boxes. "

In 1990, Impel started making Marvel Universe Cards. They had hologram cards as inserts, which were one of the first non-sports chase cards. Since the wrappers were plastic, and the holograms were foil, you could reliably find them with a metal detector.

In one of the later, similar sets, you could pretty reliably find a hologram card in the same location in every box. I think it was DC Cosmic Cards, and I think the hologram was on top of the back right stack of packs in the box.

Upper Deck's Comic Ball Cards had holograms, but were in foil wrappers so you couldn't use the metal detector trick. However, the base cards had square corners, and the holograms had rounded corners and were always on top of the cards in the pack. So by squeezing the corner of the pack you could feel which packs had holograms.


Tom Boblitt
(Premier Login autograf)


October 2 2017, 8:52 AM 

I always look at BBCE/Steve Hart's booth at the national in awe......some incredibly interesting stuff. I emailed him a while back about a 1964 Topps Giant pack he has on his website. It was like $400 and I had just sold a wrapper for that amount and thought I'd average up to an unopened pack. I asked if he'd wrap it as BBCE authenticated but he said he couldn't due to his contract with PSA but that they didn't have a holder for an oversized product. I guess I understand that somewhat but thought it kind of weird. I assume, since PSA doesn't authenticate unopened boxes, he's free to do whatever he likes in that space.

I would be concerned with any sports wax boxes that ANYONE authenticated. I'm sure he does the best he can but with products like 1986-7 Fleer Basketball, there are more than just him that know the sequences of how those packs were collated. I opened at least 7-8 boxes of that basketball back in the day. I paid $12.00 a box, made 3 sets of cards and stickers out of EVERY box and sold them for $8.00 a set and doubled my money. The occasional box would have a 4th Jordan in it because you got 432 cards, 36 stickers and (3) sets was 396 cards. So you had 36 cards left over. Their collation was perfect in every box I opened. They had pretty good quality control right out of the gate. An unscrupulous person could, however, know that sequence and take two boxes, get 4-5 of the Jordans out of them and make a full box that only had maybe 1 Jordan or even ZERO of them. And, now, at $50K per box, you can better believe that's happened out there somewhere.

With a Star Trek or Star Wars box, I guess I could see that happening somewhat but not to the level of the Fleer example. I'm sure there are low pop cards in both of those sets that people could target from the front/back of packages or if they knew a sequence on them. I remember, back in the day, people said they could figure the sequence on topps baseball rack packs from the windows and what cards did or did not show. I never got that involved in that but I guess if you open enough boxes of rack packs and wrote things down and tracked it, you could probably profit from those acts.

I do agree, however, that it's a little sketchy for someone that authenticates to also be in the business of buying and selling. I'm not saying anything is completely wrong with it, but it does (or should) give you pause in the process of purchasing something from that person. By the same measure, there are a lot of auction houses that own some of the material that they auction. That also causes some interesting concerns about who is bidding on what and how that relationship is monitored. As we all know, there are tons of situations like that out there in our little hobby.......

Robert T Mruczek
(Login RMruczek)

Re: BBCE and Ebay

October 2 2017, 2:40 PM 

I actually bought a BBCE-certified "Trek 1976" box on Ebay from a seller who, according to what they told me, was re-selling the very same box that he purchased from another dealer...trying to "flip it" to make more cash, I would imagine.

In any event, 2 of the 36 packs were clearly not part of the original unopened box. They were in the center and yet, while the other 34 packs were all fine, these two had cards that were ruined due to melted gum which made absolutely no sense when the packs surrounding them were fine.

I discussed with the (re)seller who agreed to give me a discount of 1/18th the pre-shipping cost since only 2 packs were problematic. It worked out well, but that's how this one instance that I had experienced was handled.

Robert T Mruczek
(Login RMruczek)

Re: BBCE and Ebay

October 2 2017, 2:50 PM 

With respect to "Trek 1976", a BBCE-certified unopened box just passed $7,500 on Ebay.

Now that "Pop 1" specimens are reaching $4K and up, with some specimens even more, and with "Pop 2" at $3K with "Pop 3" at around $2K+, the box is still a target.

PSA 10's account for about 1% of all specimens graded by PSA, so in a box of 180 cards it is close to being cost-justified to risk these dollars. Just 2-3 years ago they were selling at $1,600-2,500 depending and that was easily cost-justified. Now, not so much.

But to the point of this happening to "Trek" to the same extent as with Fleer 1986 basketball, it is still not yet in that danger range.

That hypothetical "lemon" scenario that I mentioned, where an unopened box is a mix of packs from several boxes after the packs gauged to have the best cards were cherry-picked...I like the idea of that certification that the BBCE-certified box was pulled from an unopened case...that gives me great comfort level to avoid buying a "lemon". But to have to pay a premium for this in open market, that's a sad development for the hobby, whether non-sports or just sports.

(Login docsdrillers)

Glad you had a satisafactory resolution with your ebay purchase

October 2 2017, 2:55 PM 

I heard of a situation where the seller refused a refund claiming they were selling a certified full box and made no claims as to the contents.

He added that returning the box wasn't an acceptable option as the certification is no longer on the box making it useless for him to resell it and that it had lost a big part of it's value...i never heard if that was resolved to the satisfaction of both parties...I for one would never sell a full box where i didn't know the condition of the contents.

I didn't realize PSA didn't grade full boxes..i guess my recollection were of only GAI graded and enclosed boxes.

As to the responder about 1991 issues and later i certainly can't comment on those boxes as i don't collect anything older than late 70's.


Steve Sabow
(Login Steve_NY)

Re: BBCE and Ebay

October 2 2017, 5:43 PM 

Amit, As you know, I sell unopened packs and boxes, but like you, I personally would not buy a sealed BBCE box unless it was understood that I would be opening it to check all of the packs. I also heard the exact story that you are referring to and it was my understanding that the seller was quite upset that the buyer opened the box to check the packs.

Last year, I bought a fairly expensive 11th series Wacky Packages box on eBay. The owner of the only other series 11 box that is known to exist and I are close friends, and he told me what to expect from the ads on the backs of the packs to determine whether this box was put together or came from the factory. It wasn't sealed but it turned out to be exactly in the right proportions to his box. He had his box sealed by BBCE, and wanted over double what I paid for it.

But on the subject of whether there exists a conflict of interest at BBCE, I assume that they were in the business of selling packs and boxes for a lot longer than when their association with PSA started; I would have a bigger issue with this if they only started selling packs and boxes after they had been working for PSA previously, and were now capitalizing on that association.

I had also noticed that "Star Trek" box earlier on eBay and was also surprised by who was selling it. But if it helps you sell a $1,300 ungraded box for double that or more, such is life. I wish I had a case of them.


Robert T Mruczek
(Login RMruczek)

Re: BBCE and Ebay

October 2 2017, 11:31 PM 

I bought a BBCE-certified unopened box of "Trek 1976" almost 2 years back (EBay) for the sole purpose of opening it and, by chance, finding one or more specimens that could improve my PSA registry set. At the time PSA 10's were selling for "only" $2-3K at most and boxes typically reached $1600-2500 range so it was close to being cost-justified if you found a single PSA 10...assuming it was not a Pop 6 or greater, of course.

Point being, I did open it. I can understand why a set collector would want to. But there are those who collect boxes and packs and they likely view this with a different perspective than I do and I can understand their decision to keep the BBCE-sealed box sealed.

But for those who do open the box, imagine the horrible surprise to discover that the box is a "lemon".

I remember years back when in comics the "Death of Superman" issue came out and a special black-bag/sealed copy was sold to dealers. You could not see anything as far as what was inside, yet collectors were shelling out $150-200 for this item that had NO numeric coding, so it was a blind-faith purchase that what was contained inside of the bag is genuine.

Sealed/graded comics allow you to see the front and back cover only plus the grading and comments including whether any restoration work was done. You have to accept on blind faith based on the reputation of the company that what you purchased is legit inside the slab.

When you buy a new car, you check under the hood. When you buy PSA-graded cards, or for those in other hobbies graded coins/currency, graded stamps, even casino chips that are slabbed, you see the entirety of the item even if you cannot physically touch it. But with "bagged" comics and sealed unopened boxes, it is very much a trust issue. And should, by happenstance, the grading entity years down the line is discovered to have betrayed the trust of the collectors if even once, it opens up a whole new level of distrust for anyone who might be in possession of one of their previously graded/sealed items, or making purchases of same in the present when such a revelation comes into play,

With BBCE, based on what I know both previously and from the people who have contributed thus far, I trust them as far as not engaging in unsavory business practices and in terms of determining that the packs contained within the "unopened" box have never been opened. But I doubt I will ever be able to have full confidence in them, or anyone for that matter, to assess that all packs belonged to the original unopened box...I don't think anyone truly can unless it comes from an unopened case

As for that "Trek 1976" box which just sold for $7, !! For this to be cost-effective based on prevailing prices ($3-4K for a Pop 1, $2-3K for a Pop 2, $1500-2500 for a Pop 3, etc) they would statistically need to find two (2) Pop 1 PSA 10's or at least one Pop 1 and 2 Pop 2's, etc...and then whatever they can get in terms of desirable PSA 9's and lately PSA 8's for this set, save for a few select numbers, are not selling as briskly as in the past year or more.

Ironically as more of the set is uncovered and there are less cards that could be discovered as a "Pop 1", it will become statistically even more difficult to cost-justify a purchase of that dollar value for the set, but time will tell.


Tom Boblitt
(Premier Login autograf)


October 3 2017, 8:56 AM 

Hence the reason I would be wary to chase a PSA Pop set of any product issued in the 1970's/1980's as there's still a lot of wax out there unopened. I know the numbers typically hold up but with the census of unopened boxes mostly unknown, it's tough to say that those POP1 PSA10 commons don't become POP6 PSA10 commons and there's a marked difference in value once they're deflated like that. Star Trek might not be the best example but on Star Wars, it seems like there's unopened boxes from most series in so many auctions now. I won a series 5 Star Wars in a Hakes auction at a reasonable price and flipped it for a couple hundred dollars profit. It wasn't BBCE certified and I think there are a lot of Star Wars wax box/pack collectors out there to go with the ones opening the product for PSA purposes. Its an interesting niche for the hobby and one that I don't know enough about to really say but those are just my thoughts........I certainly could be wrong!

and p.s. Network54 is putting the little oddball characters on all my posts......

Robert T Mruczek
(Login RMruczek)

Re: BBCE and Ebay

October 3 2017, 1:55 PM 

Good point on the statistical abundance of 1970's/1980's boxes.

Even so, market value for an unopened box is tough to predict.

-> Highly volatile sets (Star Wars, Star Trek, likely Garbage Pail Kids and those collectible gaming cards like MTG and Pokemon) continue to fetch unusually high prices because one or more specific key items within the set are extremely costly, thus it becomes somewhat of a "lottery/gamble" when purchasing these boxes

-> On the opposite end, not so much for sets that most collectors tend to avoid like "Here's Bo" (PSA 10's can't even sell for $3.99 on Ebay !!)

-> And then of course there is the biggest group...all the sets "in the middle", neither extremely volatile nor predominantly avoided by the collector base.

Historically, unopened "Star Wars" boxes had reached a high market price much earlier than the "Star Trek" 1976 set did. Back in 2009-2010 an unopened "Trek" box could still be had for $600 for so, and in 2014 for $1600-2500 and now 3 years after that boxes have sold for in excess of $9K. But unopened "Star Wars" boxes have long been hot with collectors and have been selling at auction for prices in excess of $3-4K for quite some time though I do not believe any unopened box has ever sold for as much as the "Trek" boxes" have realized in recent years.

The purchaser of the recent "Trek" box that sold for $7500+ had somewhere between 40-50 thousand feedback, so odds are that was not a private collector.

While "Trek" PSA 10's are fetching record highs, "Star Wars" PSA 10's with some exceptions are stabilizing. Pop 3's and above tends to sell well in addition to some key cards, but the vast majority are stable as there are so many numbers that have reached Pop 10 and beyond.

For whatever the reason, far fewer "Trek" 1976 unopened boxes have been sold these past several years that "SW" 1977 unopened boxes, including series 1. No way to know for sure whether collectors are waiting for better moments to sell, or (possibly) that the available supply of unopened "Trek" boxes from 1976 are far lower that that of "SW" 1977. If the latter is the case then the Law of Supply and Demand kicks in big time.

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