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Free Stuff on the Internet

This will not be the first time that I’ve bemoaned the slow death of eBay, which has essentially devolved into a different, more poorly organized version of Amazon.com. As the proliferation of “online stores” with one-price sales has continued, the online auction site no longer gives us a conception of the free market at work. For example, a search for “Chone Figgins Mariners Jersey” reveals no item costing less than forty dollars, which may be forty times the actual price point according to supply and demand.

Even so, a good economic market has occasional irregularities and inefficiencies that speak the interest of the purchaser, and give him or her the hope that offsets the effort of shopping. Essentially, we want to capitalize on someone else’s inability to detect the value of their own merchandise. We want free stuff. Thus today I present a collection of baseball paraphernalia that has, in recent times, been free on the internet, selling for six cents or less, including free shipping (and handling). Even the envelope used to mail these items are more expensive than the purchases themselves. All of these could have been yours – and perhaps, with luck, they still might be someday.


Photocopy of Joe DiMaggio’s Death Certificate ($0.01): I have to admit, this is both strangely compelling and morose. There’s an undeniable urge to treat anything baseball or baseball player-related as collectible, not so much out of callousness or greed but in our interest in compiling the history of the game we love. But what do you do with a death certificate? You can’t frame it. You can’t really celebrate it. And yet, for a penny, I could see myself buying it. Should I feel bad about this?

For those with moral qualms, there’s also an equally useless but less squicky copy of Roberto Clemente’s original contract with the Pirates.

MLB 2K8 for XBox 360 ($0.01): Nothing holds its value quite as well as an outdated sports video game, doesn’t it? There are probably more copies of old Madden and Triple Play games in closets and in thrift stores than there are Atari cartridges in Alamogordo, New Mexico.

1987 Topps Wally Backman ($0.01): Not a card of the troubled and somehow nickname-less middle infielder at all, but instead perhaps the ugliest ticket stub in existence, from a September 14, 2003 game between the Yankees and Devil Rays. Do people collect ticket stubs? Apparently, some do. Perhaps they were a huge Rocco Baldelli fan; he went 3 for 5 that night with a home run and two stolen bases.


Bowman Eric Wedge ($0.06): Here’s a good example of a seller not knowing how to sell. Not only is the card not made by Bowman, but rather a minor league card company, it also appears to be autographed by the Mustache himself. That has to be more valuable than a tenth of a candy bar, right?

2010 Topps Joe Blanton ($0.03): I love that, as opposed to most of the penny-auction cards for sale, Blanton stands out. Was his starting price the result of a missed keystroke? Or did the seller make it clear that he’s three times as valuable as Javy Guerra?

2008 Topps Felipe Paulino ($0.06): Mark my words. When Paulino puts up a sub-4.00 ERA over thirty starts next season for the Royals, this card will easily double in value. Invest now.

1992 Fleer Rookie Sensations Phil Plantier ($0.06): This card was selling for $33.00 in mid-1992 according to Beckett Baseball Card Magazine. But more than that, this card encapsulates what I love most about photography: Phil Plantier is, on this glossy foil-plated superpremium baseball card, trapped in that awkward batting stance of his forever.

No card ($0.01): I wasn’t an economics major or anything, but it seems like all you have to do is post ten thousand of these auctions every day and you’re set for life.

These deals are gone, dear readers, but there are plenty left for the discerning shopper. You can still buy your very own Jay Buhner rookie card, Titanium Tornado Necklace or green cosplay Luigi baseball cap. The deals are out there: good luck, and happy bidding.