Did Beckett Just Commit Suicide?

For years, Beckett has been on the decline in terms of their place in the sports card marketplace. Informed collectors have continuously displayed their displeasure for the former giant in the sports card collectibles marketplace. The constant complaints on accurate pricing and inflated card prices have made them an illegitimate source in many collectors’ eyes.

Recently, one of the newer dogs on the block, Check Out My Cards (or COMC) has had a deal with Beckett to utilize their Beckett values on their website for pricing on cards. Since COMC was founded, these prices were embedded into the product at COMC. However, with the new year beginning, Beckett has decided to terminate their agreement with COMC. COMC will no longer be allowed to utilize Beckett’s pricing on their website. With it, comes the response from COMC.

The one thing I have learned since my interview with managers at COMC is that you don’t back them down into a corner. They will find a way to rebound while under Tim’s leadership and his abilities behind a keyboard. His response, if done correctly (and I firmly believe it will be), can revolutionize the industry and shift the collectibles marketplace toward a real-time, data driven industry. If Tim is able to bring in pricing data from not only COMC but other online retailers (such as eBay) this could be the next big thing. Others have had the idea but never had the abilities or resources to put it into place. Tim and his team are the people who can make it a reality.

With that said, does this spell the end of Beckett unless they are able to change and adapt to the very industry that has kept them alive all of these years?

Interview: A Day With CheckOutMyCards (COMC)

As most people who follow the official SportsCardBlog Twitter feed, I recently spent some time up in Seattle at some Red Sox games. Upon deciding that I would base my stay out of the nearby city of Redmond, I decided to shoot a message over to the fine people at CheckOutMyCards (COMC) to determine if I could get some face time over there. Well, the answer was, of course, yes!

COMC

And the time couldn’t have come any more perfect. I wanted to start selling some inserts and lower end cards on there to see how it all works, so I was able to drop off 300 cards (currently processing). It was also during that time in which COMC changed their policy on Beckett prices. I was also able to chat with Jeremy Williams, Strategic Projects Manager for COMC. He invited me out for a hot cuppa’ tea and we chatted…and chatted…and chatted. For about three hours we chatted about the industry, cards, COMC, my blog, and everything in between.

I wanted to spend the time learning more about COMC and how it worked. I wanted to learn some things people may not be aware of or know about COMC. I also wanted a tour, but I wasn’t able to secure that deal due to proprietary issues (I still won’t tell, I promise!) So let’s talk about what I learned:

Beckett Pricing

I want to start, first and foremost, with the ongoing issue with COMC that is on everyone’s mind. Beckett pricing is no longer available for free. Personally, I knew this was a long time coming due to my past involvement with Sports Card Forum. Beckett owns the rights to their pricing and giving it away for free became too big of a price for COMC. With 7 million cards (and almost 2 million different cards), I’d imagine that tag was getting pretty high. In order to financially feasible, it was important to change how that worked. And based on what little I do know about business and what I know about the legal issues behind supplying this information, it was inevitable. However, I do like COMC’s solution of paying for it when you process a card with them and seeing past sales history on the site. Personally, I don’t think Beckett value really matters anyway, but it is a decent gauge. One could argue COMC may have gotten the short end of the deal with the new contract with Beckett, but would you rather have the information or not have it?

As far as their communications went about announcing the changes. They do realize the mistakes they made and are already working on improvements on that front. I think the latest post on their apology was a big step forward for most collectors and they are continuing to try and improve their process.

I also want to mention, technically, purchasing a Beckett subcription is 20% cheaper with COMC credit because you would have to “cash out” to pay for it normally and get that 20% taken off. Just a thought.

New Ideas

One of the big things I was interested in was “What’s next for COMC?” I got a large number of answers. COMC has continued its evolution as quickly as Tim can churn out the programming for what he wants to implement. From what I can see, he has the vision for a lot of things and his staff really supports his work. So what is coming up?

Base cards - While I can’t go into much detail, as I couldn’t get much detail myself, COMC is working on a way to buy/sell base cards as effectively, efficiently, and most importantly cheaply as possible. Set builders can start rejoicing now.

Trading – I’ve made this apparent in the past that I would love to see this implemented. Tim has the same thoughts as well. Trading, at some point, may be implemented into COMC. It all depends on how the service works, how tough it is to code, and all that other fun stuff you have to strategize about. Imagine the possibilities of a 5 person trade or trading your cards online where you can see just about everything about the card you want, including pictures. Yes!

Shipping - One of the things COMC is trying to improve on is how the product gets to them and how they get it back to you with minimum fees. As far as I was told, and I fully believe them, COMC makes $0 on shipping. In fact, they have in the past lost money on shipping. In order to increase survivability of COMC, they have tried to create new ways to ship to them and receive your cards. Basically, it is their new Mailbox program on steroids. COMC is working on teaming up with local card shops, card shows, and other trusted individuals to ship items for you up to Redmond, and back to you. Imagine your own little mailbox at your favorite card shop or card show. It will save you some good money on shipping!

Final Thoughts

Everything about COMC is revolving around the customer, whether you choose to drink the Kool-Aid or not. You can tell by their constant innovations on the site, trying new ideas, taking customers thoughts on ideas to improve the site and the hobby, a lot of things. Me? I’m drinking the Kool-Aid as I firmly believe they are looking out for the customer first. I thought that before my meeting, and my meeting reaffirmed those beliefs.

Is it your best option for selling? It depends on what you are selling and why you are selling it. Quick flip on a hot player on cards that just came out yesterday? Yeah, might not be the best for you right now. But you know what? They know that and are working on ways to help you get the maximum amount for your card. The entire staff has all the faith in the world in Tim and the company, and from talking to Jeremy I can see why. Tim is meticulous and plans everything. Every contingency, every thought, every piece of information that comes to mind is thought through. The hobby needs someone like him to be a visionary of the future.

One of the last questions I was asked is “Where do I see the hobby going in the future?” My answer? I have no clue. And from the clues I see today coming from the depths of the hobby, I’m not entirely optimistic. But I think Tim, Jeremy, and the rest of the COMC staff do have a clue and they want to be the innovators who change the hobby for good.

Some fun facts:

- Up to over 50 employees!

- Want to know why items get shipped so efficiently? They are right next to a USPS warehouse! (Planned when new warehouse was bought.)

- The company with the largest number of SKUs in the world! (Unverified, but likely.)

The Worst Conditioned Card in My Collection

Sports card collector are usually obsessed by condition. Condition not only makes cards that much more visually appealing, but it increases the value of the card exponentially. So why not share the card in the worst condition from my collection? Bloggers Plaschke, Thy Sweater Is Argyle and The Chronicles of Fuji showcased theirs, now it’s my turn.

This card was recently featured on my first BGS mail day post as a card that I actually had graded. Why would I grade a card that is in terrible condition is a question in itself, but it definitely takes the cake as the worst conditioned card in my collection.

1909-12 T206 Sweet Caporal Frank Isbell BGS 1.5

Now having a BGS 1.5 in itself is proof of the terrible condition of this card. You can barely make out the player name on the bottom of the card at this point.

Here’s the story behind the card though. When I first started collecting cards again back in 2005, I bought one of those dutch auctions on eBay. Basically it’s a grab bag with a ton of different cards throw in. I received a couple of pretty cool cards from players I was a fan of, but also this little guy was tucked in there. I knew it was old when I found the card, but wasn’t sure exactly how old it was. I wasn’t that well versed at the time with vintage cards, and I’m still not. But this is just one of those iconic sets that once you learn about, you will never forget.

First Ever BGS Mail Day

If you remember a few weeks back I spoke about the benefits and negatives of grading your cards. Well I went ahead and graded a few of my cards for the first time and thought I would share the results.

My reason behind grading these cards were mainly for selling purposes. As you can see, a couple of hot rookie autographs graded 9+ will add a little bit of value to the card compared to selling it “raw”.

The other is for display purposes. Owning a card from 1909 is interesting. I tell people about it and they ask if it’s worth anything. Well, as you can see, a 1.5 for a grade isn’t going to help it any. However, it will make a great display piece and conversational piece for my collection. The labels that show the date and the name of the player add a nice dimension to the display and the card is forever protected in that condition inside the holder.

Grading cards definitely has it’s benefits in this situation.

Getting Your Sports Card Graded

For the first time in my history of collecting cards, I have sent out a few cards to get graded. What is grading you ask? It’s simple. It’s a professional company set up to “grade” your card based on several attributes to determine what condition your card is in. Centering, edges, surface, and corners are the common places companies look at to determine the condition of your card. High grades mean better condition. The better condition, the more value your card has.

There are two big companies that are the most popular to collectors. Beckett Grading Services (BGS) and Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA). PSA is known for doing the best with vintage cards while BGS is better known for modern cards.

Both companies will grade your cards and then return them, slabbed in plastic, so they can not be damaged anymore. This will keep them in the same condition and in adequate protection so they can no longer be damaged. BGS measures the grade in increments of .5 while PSA uses whole numbers.

Getting your cards graded has a number of benefits:

-Adding value to your collection

-Adding a great layer of protection

-Presentation

-Organization (easily stackable, reference numbers to check your collection and population reports, etc.)

The only issue with grading is the price. You can get grading for a relatively low price is you’re willing to wait. But if you are looking to resell, it may help add value which would off-set the price of the grading. For instance, I’m getting a card graded that will sell easily for $150 ungraded. I plan on selling it for up to 2 times that amount when it returns with a Mint grade from BGS. (At least I’m 95% sure it will.)

Personally, I wouldn’t want to grade my personal collection. I like have the physical cardboard in my hands as I feel closer to the magic of collecting cards that way. Although, I am getting a personal card graded as well. My only 1909-11 T206 card I own. However, that is for presentation purposes only. Plus I’m afraid of touching a 100+ year old piece of cardboard and breaking it.

But if you’re new and looking into grading your cards, currently I would not trust any company other than the ones I listed above. They are the most recommended by collectors and hold the most weight on the secondary market if you are looking to resell the cards at any point.