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.)

Sometimes I Hate eBay

You can’t deny the usefulness of eBay when it comes to selling sports cards. It’s a great site and reaches the most possible buyers of whatever you are auctioning away.

However, sometimes I just hate eBay. And it’s not even the fees either. I recently sold my 2011 Topps Finest Finest Moments Cam Newton Auto RC /25 BGS 9.5 on eBay for what I thought was a completely fair price of $199.99. In fact, he may have gotten a deal with a couple recent sales of $220+.

I send the invoice and I’m waiting, and waiting, and waiting for a payment. I send him messages, no answer. Finally, I had to file a report on him for non-payment and had to wait 4 more days for something…anything to happen. In the meantime, I have a card I’m trying to sell to help pay for my wedding and honeymoon.

Needless to say, today was the last day to receive payment and nothing was received, so I was able to cancel the transaction and get my fees back.

I hate the times I’ve sold things on eBay only to get someone buying it who doesn’t pay. It doesn’t even have to be immediately, just within a couple of days. I rarely sell on eBay and it’s not even the first time this has happened.

Now I have to put the card back up on eBay again and try and get some action on it. So if there is anyone out there interested in a 2011 Topps Finest Finest Moments Cam Newton RC Auto /25 BGS 9.5, I have it up on eBay right now. And please, if you win it, at least have the money and the decency to actually pay for it.

Purchasing from Online Retailers

If you don’t have a decent hobby shop near you or you have a shop that has outrageous prices, the best thing for you to do to get your card fix is to purchase cards online. That is something I have to do on a constant basis when I want to open some packs that aren’t retail. Sure I could go to Fred Meyer, Target, or Wal-Mart and find some retail, but we all know the best bang for your buck comes in the form of hobby boxes. In the future I’ll discuss the difference between hobby and retail but right now I want to go over the best places to get hobby boxes/packs.

The first thing you need to do is figure out what product you are interested in. What sport are you interested in? Are you into rookies or do you want to try and hit that legendary player’s autograph? Each product that comes out is usually a little different then the next so figuring out what you like/want and your price range is the best place to start.

After that, you need to find out the best retailers online for sports cards. That is the hardest part of the equation. You see, there are many trusted retailers out there in the worldwide marketplace, but there are also several dealers that you don’t want to trust. For me, I won’t be buying boxes from anyone off of eBay who doesn’t have a reputable dealer site. I feel that if I don’t buy from a reputable dealer, I may be getting ripped off. There have been instances of people resealing boxes and packs to try and get all the good cards for themselves. As a matter of fact, someone was arrested recently for doing such things. I don’t want to run the risk. You also don’t know if it came from a sealed case or not. The reasoning you want a box from a sealed case is that everyone has equal chance on getting good cards that only fall once per case of cards. Some eBay or non reputable dealers will open a product and pull the case hit, then sell the rest of the boxes knowing there isn’t a better card in there to recoup some money.

Reputable dealers are the most important thing when buying online to get your money’s worth. Now I’m not being paid or getting anything special for mentioning these companies, I just want you to know the reputable companies. Now if they want to send me something as a thank you, you can find my email on here somewhere. Just kidding. I have two favorite places to buy from that are on my list of preferred dealers. The first is DACW.com or DA Card World. DA Card World has solid prices as well as you get free packs or boxes depending on how much money you spend. Occasionally they will also run promotions for free raffles if you buy a certain product. I like DACW because of those things. but also every box and pack is guaranteed to come from an unsearched box or case. If I get to upstate New York anytime soon I will contact them on getting a tour of their warehouse, but friends have had tours and can personally attest to that guarantee being accurate. My next favorite retailers is Blowout Cards. I like Blowout because most of their products are at the lowest prices on the web. What’s better then low, low prices? They are known throughout the hobby community as providing good customer service as well which I can personally attest to. For instance, I once bought a case of 2008 Heroes baseball from Blowout and found out that the week before it was on sale for $30 less. I emailed the company and was quickly given a $30 credit to use whenever I wanted. That’s good service.

Those are my top two favorites, but other hobby favorites that are very reputable are: CardsByTheBox, Cards Infinity, Atlanta Sports Cards, PGH Sports Wholesale, and DCS Sports Cards.

All these places are great places to start when looking for the best place to purchase your packs or boxes of cards. Check each of these out and look for some other places that you may be interested in.

In conclusion, stick with reputable online retailers if you are going to buy online. You never know what you are going to get if you just buy from a random person off of eBay or anywhere else online and when you are spending your hard earned money on a product, you want to get what you are paying for.