Thursday, April 20, 2017

Community Surprises - Pinny Arcade and Baseball Card Traders

Fake items. Sharks taking advantage of people who don’t know the value of what they’re trading. Aggressive traders trying to wring every cent of value from a trade. I should have been prepared. After all, I’ve been in in the baseball card hobby a long time, and learned my lessons the hard way there. But this wasn’t sports or collectable cards of any kind, this was pin trading, and it was supposed to be fun.

Official PAX South 2017 set. Or "con fodder" to some.
A little background: In 2013, The Penny Arcade guys started a pin trading brand called Pinny Arcade. Official pins have a stamp on the back, and can be acquired in a variety of ways. Some are sold online, sometimes for a limited time only. Others are show exclusives, available only at a particular booth or dealer. Still others are giveaways, promotions for a game or brand, and might be purchased, or given away for completing a demo or something.

The only official rules are that that limited-edition pins and sets are limited to two purchases at a time, Penny Arcade Staff and Line Entertainment Enforcers can’t deny trades, and that pins should be undamaged for trading. Simple, right?

Not so fast. As always, where there’s collectables and a market, there’s value. This one is just a bit more… fluid. Pins that you can buy as sets (the cheapest way to acquire single pins) are categorized as “fodder” and there’s a whole exchange rate of fodder for more desirable pins. Want that Fallout 4 pin that Bethesda gave away at their PAX Prime booth in 2016? You’d better be willing to part with a C-Note’s worth of fodder for it if you don’t have anything better to trade. Such is capitalism, and turning four hours of waiting into $100 of merchandise is a pretty good hourly wage.

Fake pins, where someone has gone to the trouble of making their own look-alikes and passing them off as the real deal, are also apparently another problem. Imagine someone making their own off-brand of Magic or baseball cards, then trying to pass them off as just as valuable and worth trading as the real thing. Reactions would not be good.

One of these is a fake. Guess which one?

The peculiar contrast is that I’ve also come back to baseball card trading, at least through, and found the community there to be helpful, generous, and easy to work with. Perhaps it’s the ease of making trades from the comfort of your own computer. Almost certainly the fact that there’s a recognized authority on value, which both parties are visibly aware of, helps to ensure that trades are fair. Oh, there’s counterfeit cards at the high end being passed around on eBay sometimes, but no one is wasting their time creating batches of cheap rookie cards from the ‘90s to trade around.

Perhaps it’s a bit ironic then, that the community I thought was “just for fun” is the one filled with piranhas, and the one I expected to be filled with sharks turns out to be populated mostly by harmless, friendly guppies. I’m not going to quit pin collecting, but I will probably keep most of my trading restricted to places where there’s an agreed upon, authoritative value for things.

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