According to the NBA, the top 4 selling jerseys over the last year (using their data from NBA.com and the NBA store) were in order Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade, Lebron James, and Allen Iverson. In order for a fan to purchase an authentic version of one of these player's jersey, the NBA store feels you should pay $189.99. For a piece of cloth with a few logos and names attached that seems a little excessive. This is where eBay steps in to fill the void of reasonably priced sport's apparel. When one pursues sold Kobe Bryant jerseys on eBay, the last 3 exactly the same jerseys as the one selling above for almost two hundred dollars have gone for $13.50 on average. When a jersey leaves the NBA store does it all the sudden lose 1400% of its value?
Of course not. If any product lost that much of its value simply because it left a certain location of earth I can't imagine anyone would buy it from that location. They would simply find some other outlet to purchase it from that had already absorbed the entire value drop. This is simply a case, quite obviously, of the NBA putting a ridiculous mark-up on the items they sell hoping to cash in on a few people who for whatever reason are choosing the NBA store as their purchasing headquarters. On the unfettered market these jerseys could be set on auction for a month and never reach nearly the level of price the NBA sets for their own product. Where the truly interesting facet of the discussion comes into play though, is that why does it seem so many jersey sellers on eBay are continent to have their jerseys sell so low. It would seem in the NBA is forcing the initial purchaser to pay $189.99 then the re-seller would be none to happy to receive only twenty bucks in return.
For instance, in the realm of football jersey sales their is a similar price gouging to basketball jerseys. An authentic Ravens jersey is sold on NFL shop for $340, while on eBay their is a seller who I can personally testify to the dependable and truthfulness of who seems continent to have his jerseys sell from anywhere in the $10-$20 range for the same exact product. I do not think that he would be still selling jerseys if he was taking a loss of $320 every single sell he made, that doesn't sound like a good business to me. So then how is it that eBay has such drastically smaller prices than the original source if only one company is allowed to produce and sell the jerseys, the case in the NBA and NFL.
The first possibility is that every single jersey on eBay sold is simply for a personal collection someone is trying to get rid of for any old price, part of a stock dumping by a business going out of business and liquidating all their assets for pennies on the dollar, or stolen and sold for 100% profit. It seems highly unlikely which all the jersey only sellers on eBay that any of those options are very viable. It would be hard to sustain a long term business by stealing jerseys or by simply waiting for local sports stores, which usually do not carry a heavy stock of jerseys, to run out of business and give you jerseys so cheaply and take such a huge loss that selling it for $20 is good profit. So how is it that these businesses on eBay survive and apparently thrive?
The only real possibility left is that NFL and NBA know the true value of their products and are selling them either directly or indirectly to these eBay jersey men for a much lower price than they want Average Joe to pay on their own site. With the large disparity in pricing between the two different selling points, it is almost as if they want the NFL Shop fan to pay $340 for the same product they are practically giving away to other businesses. It is simply an exploitation of the unconscious consumer which of course is not illegal, and if it benefits you in a capitalist market, hey why not? The real rub comes from the fact that it is wrong to believe that such a price gouging on the most obvious of jersey purchasing places is a good thing for their business. The average NFL fan is not willing to invest $340 to purchase the jersey of their favorite player for themselves, much less outfit the family in them. It would actually probably long term, big picture benefit the NFL more to sell them for the much more reasonable rate their letting the other market purchase them for.
Imagine a world will the NBA and NFL only marked up the jersey they sold to the public for $40 and sold them to other business at a rate where it would be unwise for them to re-sell them for anything less. Now you have a market place for the sports league where undoubtablely they will make less per jersey sale, but you have just gained a number of advantages which cancel they loss out. First, there is now no reason not to purchase directly from the source who is the most easily trustable to give you what you want. Secondly, with the jerseys now much more affordable and even in the "buy on a whim" pricing range, jersey sells would sky rocket as curious fans looked up the prices and realized what a good deal a jersey is. Heck, they may even buy a couple for their kids. Thirdly, now you have a situation where the NFL and NBA have just plastered any entire family with ads for their league and got paid to do it. The increased sales numbers, direct sales, and advertising would more than cancel out the money lost by no longer gouging the occasional customer who happens to buy for their store.
With this new sells system in place the old hated enemy of any jersey lover, the screen printed replica, could also be retired permanently. A Steve McNair replica jersey on NFL shop goes for $75, still higher than the new proposed non-hyper inflated jersey price for the authentics, but it is a much lower class product that even if adopted as the cheap standard would not serve the same purpose. First, unless the NFL simultaneously extremely raised the prices on their authentics sold to other outlets, it would not solve the main problem discussed above. Secondly, replicas after a little wear or use really being to show how they have been used. A jersey from the NFL that reads "V Y ung" is not great advertising for the league or future jersey sales. The viewer of the jersey sees a poorly produced product coming from the league which hurts their opinion of it, and since they see that it quickly falls apart, it makes them less likely to purchase on themselves. So the authentic jersey route still remains the correct move for the NFL to make.
In conclusion, eBay reveals the watchful eye that all is not how it seems in the world of jersey sales. Their is a much seedier reality taking place than the simple obvious price gouging that takes place in the NBA and NFL shop. For the time being until the leagues realize their is a better route for them and the fans, it is clear what any wise consumer should be doing to find quality, well priced jerseys. Simply head to eBay and get about twenty for the price of one.