eBay: Greed before Compliance

Navigating the listing of old collectible passports on eBay, often humorously referred to as “eGreedy,” remains a persistent challenge that tends to frustrate both collectors and sellers. eBay policy auction passport

Greed before compliance

eBay’s listing policies vary by country, yet a conspicuous lack of consistency suggests prioritization of financial interests over compliance. The platform has witnessed a significant decline in share value, with executives facing legal consequences due to cyberstalking and harassment issues, culminating in a $3 million fine for eBay. For a detailed account, watch the accompanying video.

Huge fines but business as usual eBay policy auction passport

Recent reports highlight shipping and compliance challenges making headlines, with eBay resorting to legal battles and, if unsuccessful, opting to pay fines (e.g., a $59 million fine) to continue business as usual.

Global shipping program

One contentious aspect is eBay’s “global shipping program,” perceived by numerous users as potentially deceptive. Users have reported frequent miscalculations and duplications of customs duties, leading to inflated costs. This issue is particularly evident in cases where items with a modest value, ranging from $10 to $15, incur exorbitant additional charges of $50 to $60 for customs duty and shipping. eBay policy auction passport

eBay Customer service

Engaging with eBay’s customer service, represented by various individuals with each follow-up query, reveals a challenge in maintaining communication continuity. Despite consistent communication, reaching a satisfactory resolution can be elusive, often resulting in repetitive information without addressing the core issue. Communication is abruptly cut after the fourth email in a given case.

Own experience eBay policy auction passport

In a span of 24 years using the platform, there has been only one instance where eBay unequivocally acknowledged and accepted responsibility for an issue. The experience with eBay’s customer service varies between the U.S. and German platforms, with the latter relying solely on callbacks, which some users find intrusive.

Back to the initial topic

Returning to the initial issue of listing an 80-year-old German passport on the U.S. platform, the punitive actions taken, including the suspension of any listing for a specified period, are deemed disproportionate and unjustified. The discrepancy between eBay’s policy and email statements adds to the troubling aspects.

Unclear policy and communication eBay policy auction passport

Customer service prohibits listing passports from non-U.S. governments as government property on eBay, but there’s selective enforcement, questioning the allowance of U.S. passports.

eBay’s unclear responses and sudden communication cutoffs contribute to the ongoing ambiguity surrounding this issue.

Passports as government property

While passports are recognized as government property, the usual disinterest in old, obsolete documents challenges eBay’s policy. Despite clear communication from the German interior department on this matter, non-U.S. passports continue to be sold on the platform when the seller is based in the U.S. However, eBay promptly removes similar listings when sellers outside the U.S. attempt them. eBay policy auction passport

eBay's persistent inaction and reluctance to address concerns, prioritizing financial gains over compliance, raises ethical and practice-related questions.

What are your thoughts, and what has been your experience with eBay?

Passport, Passport History, Travel, ICAO, Biometrics, Reisepass, Passeport, Identity, Security, Travel Industry, Airport Industry, History


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1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?

"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?

Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

Question? Contact me...