By Doug Koztoski
There is a saying that goes something like this: “Tall oaks from little acorns grow.”
About eight years ago, Tim Getsch had an acorn of an idea: A website called LowPriceCards.com, where he sold some of his sports cards. In the summer of 2007, LPC evolved into COMC.com, where anyone can buy and/or sell their cards.
In short, the acorn has flourished in a handful of years, since COMC.com (COMC) now has an inventory of about 8.2 million items, cards mainly, but also sports-related bottle caps, magazines and poker chips, along with a variety of comic books.
“Every day I see the mail roll in I am blown away,” said Getsch, commenting on the shipments of cards and other collectibles that arrive at his office.
In the Spring of 2012, when SCD last profiled COMC, the website had an inventory of around 4.2 million cards, so they have nearly doubled in two years. The growth generated the necessity for additional room and employees.
“We have a warehouse in Seattle that is 27,000 square feet, and another in Vancouver that is about 3,000 square feet,” said Getsch. Even more space, he noted, might be needed in years to come.
What are some elements the COMC founder, 35, credits for the success of his Redmond, Wash.-based company? “We just keep doing the best we can with high quality service, and we listen to our customers.”
Include Mike Warran among the site’s most avid customers. Utilizing the online location for about a year, Warran remains a collector’s collector. “I only buy, I refuse to sell. I just love collecting,” said the Indiana resident.
Warran has purchased more than 1,000 cards, chiefly football, on the site, focusing on Chicago Bears cards. In fact, he bought the crown jewel of his collection via COMC: A 2002 SP Authentic Signature Cuts of Walter Payton (No. 25 of 34). Of his favorite player’s card, Warran proudly said, “That’s my baby.”
The hobbyist points to one factor as his main draw to COMC: “The customer service is top-notch. I’m impressed with how they handle things. I don’t go on eBay or Amazon.”
Marshall Barkman, meantime, has used COMC for a year or so, but only sells cards there. Selling some 2,000 pasteboards on the non-auction site convinced Barkman it offers card enthusiasts many advantages.
“COMC is the best (card) set-builder, collector-based site in the world,” he noted from his home near Gettysburg, Pa. “On other sites, the shipping charges can kill you,” he said.
With COMC, the basic shipping cost is $3 for a package of one or numerous cards.
Submitting about 7,000 cards to the company, Barkman’s experience mirrored smooth sailing. “I’ve never had a missing or damaged card, not one single problem with COMC.”
The longtime card dealer also highlighted the site’s seller affordability. “The fee for housing the cards is so cheap,” he said: A penny a month for cards 75 cents and above, free if cheaper. (See sidebar for an overview of some additional COMC fees.)
Doug Harper buys and sells on COMC – does he ever. In five-plus years, he has sent in about 68,000 cards and sold nearly half of them. Yes, 68,000.
“I’m a very happy user,” said Harper. “It’s so easy, it’s a very simple process. There is a home for every card with COMC. Before that, there was a home for every card – in my garage.”
Harper, based in Nevada, said he uses some of his proceeds from sales on the site to buy cards from the iconic T206 tobacco baseball issue. “I love to collect T206s, they are my true passion.”
Here comes a curve
As with any business, unexpected twists and turns arise, and COMC experienced one near the end of 2013 that caused a major shift: Beckett Media decided to stop providing catalog/pricing information for the online venue. But Getsch & Co. adjusted.
“We appreciated the relationship we had with Beckett for six-and-a-half years in business,” said Getsch, “but now we can concentrate more on our core competency.”
The plan? “To focus on a catalog and price guide for our marketplace, where people can price their collection,” said the COMC founder. “We want to have a resource for the whole industry, where collectors can search all cards of their alma-mater, college, high school . . . people can hone their collection to people they like, a ‘themed’ collection.
“We are building the database from the ground up.”
Part of the strategy calls upon collectors’ input. “We want them to help gather information for cards,” said Getsch. “By early 2015, we plan on having an amazing collection of information about players, teams, where photos on cards were taken (for instance) . . . ”
The COMC owner, who worked for Microsoft for about a decade and knows a great deal about gathering and analyzing computer information, said the site will eventually offer a “suggested list price to facilitate more transactions, the ‘sweet spot’ of pricing, a price guide based on pure data.”
Getsch said he is more excited than ever before about his online creation.
“There are so many great things we can do for our customers and the industry. It’s going to change the industry,” he emphasized.
Barkman perhaps best summed up COMC when he said, “They built the company from the ground up, little by little, getting the customer base nationally and globally. Tim (Getsch) is a visionary. He had an idea, saw it through and is now reaping the benefits.”
Looks like a certain acorn has sprouted into a tall oak, perhaps several of them.
Editor’s note: Doug Koztoski is a frequent contributor to SCD. He welcomes comments and questions related to this article at firstname.lastname@example.org.