I finally took the plunge and used a buying service to pick up some Japanese wrestling cards from Amazon.co.jp and Yahoo! Auctions. The service I used is called Buyee. They have a browser add-on that allows you to use Amazon.co.jp to add items to your Buyee cart, and their site has a direct link to Yahoo! Auctions that allows you to search, make purchases, place bids, and place snipe bids directly form the auction listings. They have partnerships with other sites, too, like Rakuten and ZOZO. The one seller I use on Rakuten ships directly to the US, though, so I can't see myself using them for that.
I purchased five cards through Yahoo! Auctions and one card set from an Amazon seller. I'll show off the single cards first, and then I'll go into a breakdown of how using Buyee went for me.
I was able to add three autographed BBM True Heart wrestling cards to my Command Bolshoi autograph timeline. First up is the card from 2005. I showed off the 2005 base set just a couple of days ago. This autograph is numbered # 60 / 89.
Here is Command Bolshoi's 2006 BBM True Heart autograph. Her 2012 card also pictures her with a guitar, and many of her Facebook posts show her and some friends on a stage with instruments. I assume they have some kind of band. This one is numbered # 62 / 99.
The last Command Bolshoi autograph I got was the 2007 version. This photo is a little more standard than her usual fare; it's just a posed outdoor shot. This autograph is numbered # 064 / 100. These three cards filled a nice gap in my Command Bolshoi collection. I think the only True Heart autograph I am missing from her now is 2004. I am not certain that a 2004 autograph exists, though. It is likely, but 2004 cards in general just don't show up ever.
I also picked up a couple of Rabbit Miu autographs that I didn't have yet. I haven't made a concerted effort to build her autograph timeline like I have for Command Bolshoi, but I'd be willing to bet that I've got most of her autographs. This is her 2012 autograph. It's numbered # 013 / 100.
I also jumped ahead a few years and got the 2015 version of her autograph. This one is numbered # 61 / 90. I think the sets with wrestlers pictured in regular clothes predate her wrestling debut in 2011, so she only has cards with posed shots in ring gear.
|Hopefully you can click the image to enlarge it.|
Now that I've showed all of the single cards I bought, I wanted to go into some detail about my experience using Buyee to get these cards. Buyee acts as a middleman for transactions with Japanese merchants. They take care of payment and domestic shipping, and they then forward your packages to you. All of these actions have one or more fees associated with them. So many fees, and I didn't even use all of the services.
For the 2003 BBM True Heart set, I made the purchase from an Amazon Japan seller. Buyee has a browser extension that you can download. When you find an item you want, you click the button to add it to your Buyee cart, which takes you to the Buyee page where you can add special instructions and adjust the quantity you want to purchase. Once the details are all good you click the button to make the purchase. In addition to the price of the item, you also pay a 150 JPY service fee. The yen tracks pretty close to the dollar, so you can roughly read 150 JPY as $1.50. The other fees come later. So making the purchase costs the item price plus the Service Fee. There are additional services you can pay for, like having Buyee inspect your items for damage and correctness upon arrival in the warehouse. I declined these services.
For the Yahoo! Auctions, Buyee is integrated into the auction listings. You can do a number of things, such as Buy It Now, bidding, and snipe bidding. For Buy It Now listings you pay right away, and I think for bids the money gets moved when the auction completes. In addition to the 150 JPY service fee, there is a 200 JPY payment fee that I guess covers the cost of making the payment to the seller and arranging shipment. So just for that you tack on an additional 350 JPY to each auction you win.
Once you make all of your purchases, you wait for the packages to arrive at the warehouse. This is where the domestic shipping fee comes in. You are paying for the shipping from the seller to the Buyee warehouse. You don't pay this cost until you pay the international shipping fee at the very end. But it's there, and just like with your standard eBay or Amazon sellers, the shipping cost can vary. I paid between 194 JPY and 390 JPY each for shipping on these six items. My totals so far are 4,430 JPY for the base purchase price, 900 JPY for service fees, 1000 JPY for Yahoo! Auction payment fees, and 1,546 JPY for domestic shipping.
Once the items hit the warehouse, you have thirty days to request shipment or you start incurring storage fees. This gives you a decent window to gather items together because consolidation of packages is a big cost saver. You want to wait until all of your packages are in the warehouse before you consolidate, because each time you consolidate it costs more. You can choose not to consolidate, but then you will pay international shipping on each package, and you don't want to do that. For only two items, you can consolidate them for 500 JPY. For three or more, it is a flat 1000 JPY fee. But if you combine two items at 500 JPY and then want to add another item to the package, it will cost an additional 1000 JPY. And then an additional 1000 JPY each additional time you consolidate. I waited until all six packages were in the warehouse and consolidated them all at once for 1000 JPY. I divided it evenly between them in the chart. There are additional services that you can purchase, like protective packaging. I declined them.
Once your package is consolidated, you choose among the international shipping options that are made available based on the weight and size of your package. For my package there were around 8 different shipping services with different delivery speeds. I again went with the cheapest option at 1,190 JPY. There were options all the way up to around 4,000 JPY, if I recall correctly. Once you click that final button, the domestic shipping, consolidation, and international shipping fees all get charged to you and the package gets prepped and shipped out. In my case, all of the packages (PWEs for the single cards and a padded mailer for the set) were placed in bubble wrap and then placed together in a shipping bag. My wife had an appointment on the day the package was scheduled to arrive, so I took some leave from work to stay home and sign for it. Most of my packages from Japan require a signature, so I was expecting this.
In the end, fees and shipping charges wound up increasing the price I paid on my items by more than double. I still feel like I got a pretty reasonable deal overall, but it's tough to see a $45 purchase balloon up over $100 after fees are added. This isn't a service I would use often or casually, but I could see myself doing something like this once a year when I see a few really desirable items pop up. I might have skipped the Rabbit Miu autographs if I had anticipated how much the fees would really cost me, but in the end I am happy to have them in my collection. The price could have been even higher if I had used some of the other services that Buyee offers, like inspection and protective packaging. Overall I did get pretty fair prices for items I couldn't find in the United States, and didn't really vastly overpay on the transaction as a whole. The Buyee site was a little hard to follow, but in aggregate the FAQ pages gave me a pretty good awareness of the fees beforehand, although I don't know if they really sunk in until I made my little chart.