What is the PWCC Vault?
I have been a fan of PWCC Marketplace for several years now and they are, without a doubt, one of the most innovative companies around when it comes to technology and sports cards. Before we get too far, I should probably mention I have no official connection to PWCC and am writing this entirely from my own experience purchasing from them and using their Vault service since December 2019.
If you are already familiar with PWCC, it’s most likely because you have seen their logo on an eBay listing or perhaps even purchased a card from them. As eBay’s largest seller (consigner) of sports cards for many years, their main business has always been selling high-quality, graded sports cards. Since their selling fees are lower than eBay’s, many people prefer selling via PWCC (or similar consignment services), especially when it comes to high value items.
Outside of consignment, PWCC offers a variety of extremely valuable services that allow owners of investment-caliber sports cards to treat their sports cards the same way they can traditional investment assets like stocks and bonds. Two of the most unique and helpful tools are:
- Market Price Research Tool featuring more historic eBay sales data than any other tool on the market (in terms of years it goes back)
- Market Indices that compare the top 100, 500 or 2500 graded sports card investments against the S&P 500 market index
While the data tools are great, the most game-changing thing PWCC has done is launch their Vault service. The Vault offers high security storage of cards in an actual bank-grade vault, all insured for fair market value. Beyond that, Vault members are able to take advantage of more traditional financial flexibility in the form of cash advances and collateral backed lending.
How the PWCC Vault Works
In practice, the PWCC Vault is a pretty straightforward concept because its essentially offering the same service that banks and secure storage facilities have for years––but that is where the similarities end. After signing up for a free account, there are a few different ways you can submit cards:
- Mail cards yourself to your PWCC Vault address
- Purchase a card from somewhere online and have it mailed directly to your PWCC Vault address
- Since the PWCC Vault is based in Oregon, you can enjoy the huge benefit of not having to pay sales tax on your purchase
- Purchase a card from PWCC via eBay or from the PWCC Vault Marketplace, which brokers the sale of cards from one Vault member, saving money for all parties involved
Once your cards are submitted to your Vault, the front and back of each card will be scanned in SUPER high-resolution. It’s like the magical “enhance” feature that every crime scene show loves to pretend exists, zooming in forever without the image getting too blurry. I’ve included a screenshot here of one of cards when zoomed in all the way–you can see the print dots much like you can pixels in a digital image.
Upon intake to the Vault, your cards will be assessed by PWCC for their conservative market value (about 80% of what they would be expected to sell for), which is used to provide the amount of insured value that will be used to calculate the exact amount your cards are insured for. So if you mailed in a 2011 Topps Update Mike Trout Rookie Card PSA 10 (currently valued around $2,500 at time of writing), then PWCC would include the card in your Vault with an insured value of about $2,000. That is not to say your card would not sell for more, but only to say that if PWCC loses your card somehow, they will reimburse you $2,000. Insured value is also a key component to determining pricing, discussed next.
How PWCC Vault Pricing and Fees Work
Once an insured value has been established for each card in your Vault, the total fees are calculated based upon a one-time intake fee of 1%, plus storage fees of 0.5% for the first year and 0.25% for all subsequent years. That means our $2000 Mike Trout example above would incur a fee of $20 upon intake, plus $0.83 per month for 12 months and $0.42 per month after. That’s $30 total in year 1 and $5 per year after. Super reasonable.
PWCC recently launched a comparison tool on their site that attempts to compare the cost savings of storing your cards in the Vault as opposed to traditional secure storage facilities like a bank box or safe. Below are the calculated savings for somebody with a $50,000 collection who lives in Austin, Texas.
Clearly, the largest benefit to using the Vault as a buyer is the tax savings (unless you live in Alaska, Delaware, Montana or New Hampshire), followed by the insurance for the cards itself. The fees for storing the cards are fairly similar, which makes sense considering the similar costs of building and operating an actual vault.
As a Vault member myself since the end of 2019, I like to think about the fees as built into the appreciation of the cards themselves. I expect every single card that I have in my Vault to appreciate far more than the fractional percentage the storage fees amount to, which makes it very easy to justify any costs related to security and storage. Further, if you ever end up selling anything via PWCC, you can use the proceeds from that (Marketplace Funds) to pay you storage fees with cards you’ve sold.
Vault Website and User Experience
The web interface for the Vault is unique to its services and accomplishes its main functions well enough, but it has many areas for improvement (discussed more later). Once you have cards scanned into the Vault, it will take a few days for them to be fully curated (assessed) and assigned an insured value. You can see a few examples of cards that are currently “Awaiting Appraisal” in my Vault (yes, I’m a huge Angels fan).
There are a few unique things to notice in this screenshot, including:
- You can search items in your Vault by keyword or serial number, then sort the results by title or value
- For items with very low populations (I’m guessing about 25 or less?), PWCC will include a subhead with population information as of the date it was scanned into the Vault
- The population of the Trout card on the top is 84 as of writing, so that would seem to be too high of a number to get the baller status low pop subhead
- PWCC customer support has informed me in the past that they are working to automate the population data for all graded items
When you visit the Vault page for an individual card, you are reminded how awesome their high-resolution scans are because your card images dominate the page in a great way. From this page, you can enter the purchase price of the card to get an accurate total of how much you’ve invested in your Vault items. You can also sent the card to auction via PWCC, transfer it to another owner in the Vault, or ship it out to yourself or a private buyer.
If you look closely at the information under “Market Value Info” you will see the price I paid for the card on (DATE) is the same as the estimated market value on (DATE) and the insured value. As of writing, the card is selling around $2300 (check eBay here), but the related information has not been updated because it is a manual process at this time. Generally, this benefits me because I not paying greater storage fees as the market value increases, but it’s also not an accurate reflection of the card’s standing. It’s also insane that the card has jumped so much so quickly, but yeah, I’ll take it.
Perhaps the most undeniably awesome thing about PWCC is the fact that when you call them on the phone, a human being answers and provides customer support. Typically, I’m your average Millennial who would prefer to chat using my fingers rather than my voice, but I really like knowing I can talk to a human right away when I need to. After all, we are entrusting this company with some of our most expensive AND valuable assets. They are also effective at providing support via email for less urgent or important matters.
Things to Love Most
Not Paying Sales Tax
As a former Portland, Oregon resident for several years, I understand first-hand the pure joy you get when using a $20 bill to pay for something that costs $19.99 and getting a penny change returned. But for the 45 states that do charge sales tax, the amount of money you can save by shipping high value cards to your vault in Oregon adds up VERY quickly and more than justifies any expenses related to intake and storage.
Making Your Cards a Tangible Asset
One of the most unique things about keeping your cards in the Vault is the ability to use them as a tangible asset, just like gold or fine art. If you need cash for something and want to take out a loan, you can use the value of items in your Vault as collateral. This is something that would be very difficult or impossible to do with a traditional lending institution.
The Peace of Knowing Your Cards Are Safe and Insured
I really try not to use the phrase “peace of mind” because I think it’s so overused it has lost meaning, but I will say that since putting all of my most valuable sports cards in the Vault, I have slept better at night knowing that keeping them safe is no longer my responsibility or liability. The video below showing the construction process makes you recognize how hardcore the whole thing is. When its safe to travel again, I plan to visit the Vault and see some of my cards in-person for the very first time. Weird to think I’ve never even touched half of the cards in my Vault collection, isn’t it?
Selling Is Super Easy
If you are somebody who is purely interested in using cards as investments, the Vault is a perfect place to store your long-term holds. To be honest, when I sent my first batch of cards in, I intended on keeping pretty much all of them for years, but soon found myself sending many of them to auction because it was so easy to do. In about two clicks and 10-45 days (depending on auction timing), you can turn cards into cash. Over the course of nine months, I ‘ve been able to “flip” several cards through this slow but effective process. In effect, I turned three 2011 Topps Update Trout PSA 10 rookies and a batch of 1st Bowman PSA 10 prospects into one 2011 Topps Update Wal-Mart Blue Trout Rookie PSA 10. All without paying sales tax and with much lower fees than eBay. And all without me ever actually seeing or touching any of the Trout cards involved. Whoa, right?
Areas For Improvement
PWCC Reputation Outside of Vault Services
This review would be incomplete without acknowleding the fact that the public image of PWCC has taken some hits in the past year or two from their involvement in a class action lawsuit related to the sale of altered cards. Personally, this type of news does not affect my happiness as a Vault member or willingness to entrust PWCC with the cream of my collection, but I completely understand and respect anybody who might feel the opposite, especially when it comes to buying and selling (rather than storing and protecting).
Processing Times Are Getting Slower
When I sent in my first package of cards back in December 2019, they were scanned, assigned an insured value and added to my online Vault account within a few business days. Recently, the same process seems to be taking about three times as long, which is not a huge deal, but it is part of the Vault experience that’s been headed in the wrong direction lately.
We are receiving about 300 packages, not just cards, to the Vault each day and hired several new employees to work exclusively on Vault services. – PWCC Customer Support
As you might have guessed, the primary reason for this is that the service is rapidly growing in popularity and PWCC has developed a bit of a backlog with getting items processed into the Vault. A support person recently informed me that they are receiving more than 300 packages, not just cards, per day. Of course, it’s nowhere near as bad as waiting for my PSA Bulk orders mailed in December 2019 to exit the neverending “Research & ID” phase. Screw you 2020.
Vault Item Data Quickly Becomes Outdated and Misleading
Without a doubt, my least favorite thing about the Vault is that the data associated with the cards themselves becomes outdated and misleading very quickly. Due to this, the potential to use the Vault as any sort of portfolio tool is massively reduced. Personally, I keep a spreadsheet of my Vault items that includes current market values and population data to make sure I have an accurate view. In a previous conversation with PWCC, they did confirm a few exciting things that are on their technology roadmap for the Vault but did not mention a timeline:
- Integrating population report data
- Synchronizing card scans between the PWCC Vault and PSA Set Registry
- Automating market value data on a regular basis (not real-time)
Who Is This Designed For?
The Casual Collector (No)
While it is not technically a requirement, the Vault is designed for graded cards that have an established market value of at least $50 (I am just picking a number) and are expected not to lose value over time. That being said, if you are somebody who does not own any graded cards or even a raw card with a market value of $100 or more, then the PWCC Vault is probably not for you.
The Hardcore Collector (Depends)
If you have a smaller collection of higher value cards that you intend to hold or build over a long period of time, the Vault is probably a good thing to look at, especially if you are planning to pass your collection to future generations or include it in your will (not to be morbid). If you are a collector with a large collection of lower value cards, it will likely be difficult to justify the Vault fees, though possibly worthwhile if you are most interested in somebody else to digitizing and organizing for you.
The Sports Card Investor (Aboslutely)
If you consider yourself a sports card investor and own several high value, graded cards, then the PWCC Vault is absolutely something you should consider. Personally, I have saved several thousand dollars in sales tax alone by shipping and storing high dollar items there. It’s also been a great option to be able to purchase a card from PWCC and then use cards in my existing Vault to fund that purchase. It’s not as direct as a one-to-one trade, but it creates the same kind of flexiblity needed to make that kind of transaction with high dollar items in a secure and conveninent way.
PWCC Vault Category Ratings
Features and Functions
This is definitely the area with the most room for improvement, but that is somewhat to be expected for a service that is not even a year old yet. Overall, there is a ton that the team at PWCC should be proud of for the first release of such an innovative example of sports card technology.
Pricing and Value
If you own or plan to own investment-caliber graded sports cards you expect to increase in value over time, this service more than pays for itself. I often forget their are fees until I get my invoice, which is always smaller than any of my utility bills.
Reputation and Support
The Vault customer support is top notch, especially if you are somebody who values being able to connect with a person on the phone. While I am not personally deterred from the issues that have been associated with PWCC in the past, it would be foolish to discount the fact that they have had some image problems lately. Many people who trusted them never will again and only time will tell how that plays out, but when it comes to considering being a Vault member, I think concerns in that category shouldn’t hold much weight.
PWCC Vault Final Rating
Considering this is the first official product or service review we have published, it feels slightly bad to not award five stars, but the reality is that the PWCC Vault is less than a year old and has many areas that could be improved from a features and functionality standpoint. Further, the overall reputation of PWCC still needs some time to heal and I am confident that the Vault is going to be a huge factor in making more people a fan of their brand and services. They are huge innovators and should be celebrated for how much they have achieved with the Vault so quickly.
Have you used the PWCC Vault yourself? Do you have questions about using it or want to know more? Let us know in the comments!