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eBay to acquire leading trading card marketplace TCGplayer for $295m, but its leaders say not to worry

The market for trading card markets dwindles further.

Art for the Magic: The Gathering card Gobbling Ooze.
Image credit: Johann Bodin/Wizards of the Coast

Big Merger Season continues as online resale giant eBay announces plans to purchase TCGplayer for $295 million. The trading card game company is one of the largest secondary markets currently operating, and its leadership is already assuaging users that it will “continue operating independently.”

The acquisition, announced via an August 22nd press release, is expected to officially close during the first part of 2023 and both companies said that operations and listings on either of their websites will not be interrupted by the deal.

“We will have the autonomy and flexibility to continue running TCGplayer just as we always have, and I will continue to lead the Company as CEO, ensuring our commitment to you and the entire collectibles community remains enshrined and protected long into the future,” said Chedy Hampson, TCGplayer co-founder and CEO.

Trading card game buyers and sellers want their products protected, so the video team put one Charizard card through an absolute crucible of pain to see if what it could withstand.Watch on YouTube

The stated intent of the deal seems to be giving eBay access to TCGplayer’s purchasing tools and infrastructure - the latter’s order fulfilment and cart optimization are explicitly mentioned as benefits that eBay was keen to access. Dawn Block, eBay’s VP of collectibles said that the company will now be able to “enhance the customer experience across categories”, intimating a desire to suffuse TCGplayer’s customer-facing experience across eBay’s wider collectibles categories, which includes big names Magic: The Gathering, Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh alongside more niche titles.

That stated goal makes sense. Despite operating as the first and most recognisable name in online reselling for 26 years, eBay looks like a website struggling to escape from under the weight of its user interface. Smaller competitors in the trading card game space, such as TCGplayer, StarCityGames, CardKingdom and (until recently) ChannelFireball, have managed to create better experiences for both sellers and buyers.

Access to TCGplayer’s growing list of subsidiaries is another likely reason eBay was keen to purchase. The Syracuse-based TCGplayer owns huge numbers of card sorting machines through Roca Robotics, which it purchased in November of last year. The branding and events infrastructure awarded by the purchase of CFB Group earlier this year wouldn’t be of as much value to eBay as the simple act of gobbling up yet another former competitor in the card singles secondary marketplace.

Readers may become sick of hearing me sound the consolidation bell, but it is once again worth stating that the trend of companies being folded under the ownership of its competitors will always be bad for consumers in the long run. Before this announcement, players were already saying that the last good options for buying and selling cards were TCGplayer and eBay. Well, that just became a non-choice.

Hampson claims his company will benefit from eBay’s deep stock of cards and deeper pockets without any immediate interruptions to sellers and buyers. But when this now-singular company makes a business decision that the public disagrees with - say, by laying off 15% of employees and then quashing the resulting union efforts - people will have one less competitor as an alternative.

In a personal message, Hampson said “688 TCGplayers — hourly and salaried — will share in the financial rewards of this deal as a result of our employee stock option plan.” It’s unclear whether this means explicit raises or bonuses are being offered, nor whether the 688 employees comprise all of the company’s staff. Dicebreaker reached out to TCGplayer but did not receive a reply before publication.

Regardless, pointing to employee stock option payouts reads as a likely ploy to assuage the common fears and concerns that crop up whenever one company eats another. Hampson asserted that he would remain as CEO but made no promises that neither TCGplayer nor eBay would lay off workers as a result of this deal.

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