Scams can be both easy and hard to see. Sometimes it’s an obvious hustle; a
photoshopped coin, a picture swiped directly from someone else’s ebay listing, or a
refusal to use goods and services. Sometimes they are harder to detect; a legit card
shop’s instagram being stolen and used to sell to people, well done fakes and reprints,
or grading labels and card patches being swapped out. The story I am going to tell is
both an easy to spot and hard to spot scam.
Last year I set up at my favorite local show. The promoter and the community involved
with this show are some of my closest friends in this space. There are very rarely any
borderline problematic incidents at this show let alone scams. This time, however, I fell
for a doozy of one.
It was the end of the show. I run a huge kids’ event and our table goes nonstop from the
second the show starts until well after the official end time. A young man, even
potentially a teenager, walked up to my table with a “too good to be true deal”. I know
better. We all do, but sometimes you just WANT something and when the opportunity to
have it presents itself, you take it.
He had two 2016 Panini Studio SSP Sketch cards. Those are case hits and he had Kevin
Durant and Steph Curry. He said he knew they were worth more than what he was
asking but he really needed the cash and would take a low offer in order to move them
before the end of the show. He didn’t want to have to use eBay and wait for the funds. I
collect sketch cards. I have tons of them and the opportunity to grab both of these
cards for little more than the price of one of them was hard to pass up. It wasn’t a lot of
money to us at the time, but ultimately it would be to other people, including this kid
who seemed to need it.
We didn’t even need to negotiate, we paid him his asking price and he thanked us and
seemed pleased and relieved to have the money he needed. I felt good, he seemed to be
happy, it was a win/win as far as I could tell. We were so stoked to have scooped these
up that I immediately shared them on our social media. We felt like grabbing these two
cards really was one of the highlights of the show. On the way home I sent pics of them
to my friends who PC’d KD and Steph. We joked and talked about the show. All in all we
were in great spirits.
Then, we stopped for dinner and I checked my messages. When you’ve been scammed,
the moment you find out is unforgettable. It sucks, it feels awful. In my DMs on
Instagram I had a message from the show promoter asking me who we had purchased
the Studio cards from. He informed me that those two exact cards and a third Kobe
Bryant had been stolen off of another dealers table at the show. The probability that
someone else at the show had the same two case hit SSP cards was slim and none. I
described the young man to the best of my ability and informed him that I never saw the
Kobe as he must have sold it before he got to us; I definitely would have bought that one
too. Obviously, I was devastated. There was only one thing to be done, I shipped my two
show prizes back to their rightful owner. I knew I would be out the money but it was the
right thing to do. The show promoter offered us free tables at the next show but that felt
wrong too. What happened was no more his fault than it was mine. I was happy that we
were able to help the dealer get two of his three stolen cards back, so that was a silver
We dramatically changed the way we operate at shows after this happened. There was
no justice, we never caught that kid, but we wouldn’t have something like that happen
again. All large cash deals require a photograph of the person. This is really just for
show as we have cameras set up at our booth now too. We also require a photo ID for
deals at four figures or above unless we have done deals in the past and we know the
person. It feels like overkill, but is it? When you operate in cash and small pieces of
cardboard how easy is it for someone to slide a card off a table and walk it to a few
tables away to quietly sell? Pretty easy. Protecting yourself and your fellow dealers is a
great step in preventing things like this from happening to you and them.
You’d probably think the story is over at this point. All wrapped up. The guy got away, we
got a couple free tables, the dealer got 66% of his stolen cards back, the end. You’d be
wrong though. A few weeks later I was at a show in another state with my husband
when he called me over to a dealer’s showcase. Inside was a 2016 Panini Studio SSP
Sketch Kobe Bryant. I spoke to the dealer and asked him where he had gotten the card.
It was at the same show we had purchased ours. He told us he bought it from a kid who
had a KD and a Steph too, but had passed on those. We told him that the card was likely
stolen and he immediately reached out to the promoter. The original dealer got all three
of his cards back! That kid is still out there. It bums me out to know he completely got
away with this, but the fact that the community I spend the majority of my time in the
hobby with all did the right thing and got the original dealer his cards back fills me with
a huge sense of pride. We learned a lesson from that show and at the end of the day
that’s really all you can hope for, to be bigger, better, and stronger next time.