In a recently posted Q & A on the etopps website, a question was raised that has been asked many times in the past along with the same answer by etopps:
Q: Fellow Etoppers in the community feel very strongly about
the reporting of in-hand as it is a key in determining how much
of that particular card is out there in the market. So my question
is When will in-hand # be disclosed and why hasn't this be done
already as this issue has driven many true etoppers away
A: We have discussed this often and we have been clear: we have
no intentions of releasing this information, it was never intended
to be released and we don’t plan to change direction. We have
done a lot of work to stabilize the platform by adding value,
improving service, building membership and we expect to
continue to expand. BUT we don’t think the answer to making
this platform viable is to release this data.
So it's clear that etopps will not release how many in-hand cards have been taken out of online circulation.
Years ago, though, Cardtarget developed a voluntary tracking program for in-hands in which you can submit which cards have been "taken out of port."
As stated on Card Target:
The In-Hand Project is a tool for the eTopps community to accurately compile confirmed in-hand numbers. It is completely voluntary. If you have taken any cards in-hand you are encouraged to enter your eTopps ID and password below. We will ONLY use your information to record the cards you have taken in-hand. When we store the information we will only keep the tracking number to identify each shipment. We will not keep any of your personal information. The tracking numbers will never be seen by the public. We will ONLY publish the total number of confirmed in-hand cards for each card. The numbers will be published on the card details page for each card.
Note: Only deliveries with tracking numbers will be added. So if your order is pending please come back after it has been sent to enter your cards.It's a great tool and gives an inkling of how many have been taken out of port. Inkling because only a minority of etopps users (most likely the hard-core bunch) who use CT and only a small percentage of these CT etopps users have volunteered data about how many cards have been taken in-hand for any particular card. There can be many people who have taken their cards out of their portfolios who never report this in the voluntary program either by choice or because they've never heard of either this program or Card Target.
When listing an etopps in-hand card, some sellers include the total print run in the title of their listing. I would recommend this if the print run is less than 1,000.
My reason to post all of this is to note that there are etopps in-hand sellers who are taking the number of in-hands reported on the CT website and claiming this is how many cards are available. "Only 12 available according to Card Target!" writes this etopps seller in the listing description, claiming they aren't making this up. What they fail to do is explain how inaccurate this is because the in-hand project is strictly voluntary. Usually these sellers, ask for inflated asking prices for their fictitionally-deflated print run total.
The sad part is there are buyers on ebay who fall for this. They bid up these inaccurate listings or purchase the exorbitant Buy-It-Now prices. A few of these buyers have posted on the etopps community message board to complain they were ripped off after checking the card online or seeing on the back of the card that the total print run is in the hundreds or thousands.
When the complaining picks up on the message board, some etoppers point the finger at CT and want the project abolished while others want ebay to do something.
Etopps has not turned a blind eye to this. They have been supportive of the fight against this and have reported these sellers to ebay. From what I recall, one seller who wouldn't stop listing their etopps in-hands inaccurately eventually became NARU'd either from the complaints, negative feedback from buyers or a combination of the two.
Here's what you can do:
- Don't buy from the etopps in-hand sellers who use "fuzzy math" when listing the print run
- List the total print run in your listings and include something like "the total number of in-hands available for this card is most likely a small fraction or percentage since so few are taken out of online circulation:
- Include in your listing a buyer beware note, encouraging the buyer to compare other listings of the same etopps in-hand card, specifically comparing the total print run listed and suggesting anything less than [total print run of the card] is inaccurate and deliberate deception by that seller.
While I can understand how some sellers want to have an edge in making more money from their etopps cards, this is not the way to do it. Why not take a better photograph of the etopps card for sale, improve customer service, guarantee satisfaction, offer refunds within 7 days or lower shipping fees.