By Doug Koztoski
Like a box of Cracker Jack, last October’s “Show at Chantilly” at the Dulles Expo Center in Northern Virginia had its usual solid mix of consistently fun ingredients: Loads of vintage and current sports collectibles and autograph guests, as well as a nice prize.
Sure, I picked up some pasteboards and supplies I needed during the three-day show, but the main “prize” for me was stumbling across the booth of Check Out My Cards (COMC, www.comc.com).
At their table, COMC’s Steve Hollander asked passersby if they had heard about the site. I had not. Plus, he was giving out $20 coupons for first-time sellers on the site. The hobbyist in me just had to further explore the scenario.
“You can buy and sell your cards on our site,” Hollander explained. “If you sell cards, we scan them front and back and do the shipping,” he said. I knew those features alone saved a lot of time.
Hollander also pointed out that COMC is not an auction venue. “And it’s free to join,” he emphasized. Other aspects of the site will be explained later in this article.
A seed of an idea
“Born” in December 2005 as LowPriceCards.com, Tim Getsch started the site to sell his own cards at affordable prices. The company morphed into CheckOutMyCards.com in the summer of 2007 and this summer it’s scheduled for rebranding as COMC.com. As part of the rebranding, eventually the second C will stand for Collectibles, as in the coins, comics and memorabilia slotted to accompany their card inventory.
In 2007-08 the site sold approximately 40,000 cards. Two years later, the Redmond, Wash.-based company had 1.36 million cards in stock and sold about half of them.
“Once we had an inventory of 1 million cards, we reached critical mass,” said Getsch. “At that point, we saw we had a viable business model.” Lately, the company’s inventory held about 4.2 million cards.
“The site really started to take off in the last year-and-a-half to two years,” said Getsch, 33, who is still a hobbyist.
“I’m a big collector,” he said, “I mainly collect (current) basketball and hockey.”
Recent COMC inventory percentages unfolded as follows: baseball (45 percent), football (28 percent), basketball (15 percent) and hockey (8 percent), with many of the others being non-sport. “About 7 percent of our cards are vintage (pre-1980),” Getsch said. Graded cards, he added, make up less than 1 percent of their inventory.
Logging some miles
Mike Wills, who joined COMC three years ago, sells a great deal of hockey cards on the site. “But,” he noted, “I have found that the four major sports all sell very well year-round there.”
Before finding COMC, Wills said he had virtually stopped selling cards. “It was to the point that eBay had very little traffic and there was no profit to be made for the time required to sell.”
The site’s key according to Wills? Simplification. “They have made selling every card easy. They have also done the same thing for buyers, as they can see the front and back of every card and they all have an easy to follow and unified description,” he said.
Wills noted that the cards being shipped from one location at a set shipping and handling rate helps, too.
Joel Edelman, another three-year COMC vet, said he buys and sells on the site, and enjoys its efficiency. “I can do much higher volume with the same amount of effort,” said Edelman. “I have a customer service background, but I’m happy that COMC takes care of that aspect for me.”
For Matt Wheeler, COMC outdoes eBay. “The cards I sell, I feel, I get better prices for than on eBay. For instance, I have purchased cards on eBay and turned around and sold them for substantially more on COMC,” he said.
The key for Wheeler is patience and the fact that COMC’s monthly storage fees are a penny per card. “I am in no hurry to sell,” he said, “and therefore COMC works exceedingly well for me – much more so than eBay.”
More nuts and bolts
Depending on what services you want, there can be several different fees associated with COMC. For instance, if you want your cards turned around in a week from submission to online, it will cost a minimum of 35 cents per card. It costs a nickel extra to submit a card in a top loader.
COMC provides a “book” price range for most submitted items, based on Beckett guides, but sellers set their own prices and can adjust them at any time. The site regularly adds card condition notes (crease through center, wax stain, etc.), if necessary, to listings.
One can use their “bank” to buy other cards on the site, cash out or do a mixture of both. Money, of course, can also be sent to COMC for purchases. Cashing out costs 20 percent of the total requested plus some processing fees, depending on whether you go the PayPal or check route.
Raw cards are your most affordable buying option for postage and processing. Shipping and handling on a “raw” purchase is $3.99 up to the first 10 cards. It is 20 cents for each additional card in that order. If you bought 15 raw cards at once, for example, your shipping would be $4.99. For graded cards, add 75 cents each per card to those numbers.
The site’s fee structure is readily available, and prices are subject to change.
How did I do?
Redeeming my $20 first-time seller coupon at Chantilly, I went with the best bang for the buck: Submitting 85 raw cards (each with a 20-cent per card processing fee) for a one-month turnaround. The other $3 of my coupon went toward the standard basic COMC processing fee.
About four weeks later, my cards appeared online, starting the clock on my 90-day free trial. Granted, I was very conservative with my submission, mainly 1965-75 baseball and football cards, much of it in Very Good condition and mostly commons. I was not expecting great results. But I wanted to give myself some time to “test-drive” the site before seriously considering a second submission.
Within a couple hours after setting my prices I had my first sale: 1969 Topps Leo Durocher. The Excellent condition card of the Hall of Famer, in this case the Cubs’ manager, listed at $4. Somebody bought it for my asking price: $2.50. The next morning, I received an e-mail from the site about that sale.
I kept my prices in place for the bulk of the first six weeks and had about a dozen sales. After that, on average, I started to lower my prices every 10 days. On a few occasions, I raised prices. At the end of the 90-day window, I had sold about half of my cards.
At that point, I lowered some commons to a quarter each to not accrue any storage fees on them. I figured if they had not sold at 50-75 cents in three months, it was time to slash prices.
At press time, the five-month mark after my cards first appeared on COMC, I have sold 60 of my 85 cards.
After 90 days, I had about $35 in my bank; at five months, about $40. I know – just some pocket change. But since I only had about $22 into the cards and some others of mine were still available for sale on the site, I was ahead of the game.
I decided to use the bulk of my bank to “check out” the COMC purchasing experience.
I bought 16 items, including a 1961 Nu-Card Baseball Scoop and a handful of 1971 Topps Baseball coins, but the key item was a 1909 Colgan’s Chip card of Brooklyn’s John Hummel ($25) in about VG to VG+ condition.
The items arrived in Maryland in about a week, well packaged and as seen on the site.
With a little left over in my bank, I decided to let it stay there and I plan to add some money and/or cards for sale to my account in the near future. My next submission will likely include more vintage cards in Excellent or better condition and more stars. That combination, I think, should sell better.
Overall, I found the site easy to use, and Getsch said they welcome member feedback to help make adjustments along the way.
A nice prize
As a bonus to SCD readers, COMC provided a $20 “first-time” seller coupon for this article (online and print). The coupon is good until Dec. 31, 2012, and goes toward certain fees. Storage fees are waived for the 90-day trial offer. The $20 coupon does not apply toward postage.
Cards can also be submitted at COMC’s headquarters, but call ahead to make an appointment. You can submit cards at a show where the company has a booth, usually in the Portland and Seattle areas. They will also be at the 2012 National Sports Collectors Convention in Baltimore.
Visit www.comc.com for more details.