Where in the world did Tim go?

10 millionA lot has happened since my last check in. January turned out to be a pretty good month. Many people reported having their best month ever. Also, on Friday night we crossed 10 million items actively for sale. This is quite an accomplishment. Collectively we continue to set records for the largest variety of trading cards offered under one physical roof. Way to go COMC Nation!

Tim’s Time Off

Tim with childhood best friend Pete

Tim with childhood best friend Pete

I am glad for everything positive that happened while I was gone. I generally don’t like to publicize when I take vacations, but that wasn’t really an issue in 2014 because I didn’t take any. Well, technically I headed back to Minnesota on Christmas eve 2014 to start my first vacation in more than a year.

All 5 of Tim's nieces and  nephews

All 5 of Tim’s nieces and nephews

After two weeks in Minnesota and Colorado, I came back to Seattle with a “gift” from my nieces and nephews. Unfortunately, it was the kind of gift that kept me bedridden for a week.

At this point I was 3 weeks behind on email. I spent most of the next week taking care of stuff at the office, and then I had another one week business/personal trip.

Tim's brother Terry playing a recently restored pinball machine from their childhood

Tim’s brother Terry playing a recently restored pinball machine from their childhood

I went to Georgia to visit my brother and his wife for the first time in a couple years, and I took a little detour to catch an NBA game. This is a necessity since Seattle lost the Sonics.

Tim at an NBA game

Tim at an NBA game

Needless to say, I am still a bit behind on email and a few other things.

Status Update

Now to give you an update on the top requests that our customer service team has been receiving.

Auctions
Around Christmas, we gave you a sneak peak of COMC Auctions. Many of you have been curious when and how we will roll them out to the public. We are still wrapping up some loose ends to make sure we are doing everything the correct way. This will take at least another couple months. We may selectively launch some more test auctions in the meantime. Once we do start allowing you to run your own auctions, we will gradually roll it out. For example, there will be a limit to the number of auctions each user can run. We don’t want to flood the market with more auctions than it can handle. As we see how the market is responding to auctions, we will adjust the limits. The Auctions feature is just one of several big improvements we are working on this year.

Website Issues
There are two known issues on the website that we are tracking down right now. Both issues appear to have been introduced when we made some upgrades just before Black Friday. The first issue is causing some computers to sporadically get new shopping carts. If this happens to you, please contact us, and we can restore the items in your cart. We have not yet found a consistent way to reproduce the problem, but we have added some code to help us track it down. The second issue is a timeout error when trying to search from the Inventory Manager section of the website. This appears to be a regression from the database upgrade we made. We are searching for a workaround to this issue. Until then, you might be able to work around this issue by searching your port, and editing prices from the item details page. This is not ideal, but it might work for some of you.

Response Times on Escalations
Um… Yes. I was on vacation. I am back now. If you are still waiting for a response to something, please contact us again, and we will make sure you get a response more quickly.

Time to Print Checks
In the past when the company was smaller, I processed all checks myself as the requests came in, and there was plenty of time for them to be delivered within 2 weeks of the cash-out request. As we’ve grown, this now goes through our accounting system that is structured around the print date rather than the delivery date. While the new system is a much better process internally and has freed me to spend more of my time on things you really care about, unfortunately, it can sometimes take a bit more time. We will be updating the website to reflect that checks will be mailed within 10 business days of the cash-out request.

Catalog Progress
Thank you for your patience as we continue to improve our catalog. Even though it has room for improvement, many people have still been able to post their best months ever. At this point we are working on the long tail. We estimate that 96.5% of the data has been entered, and we still have more to clean up. We ran some good challenges in December to help us clean up the data, but I haven’t incorporated the results into the catalog yet because of my time off. I expect to get that done in the next few weeks.

Some people have asked why we have done work on other areas of the site when the catalog is not done yet. The short answer is that we have limited resources, and the catalog will never be “done.” Also, not everyone in the company has the necessary skills to contribute to the catalog. In any case, we expect to always invest in improving the catalog. Sometimes I may choose to make unrelated improvements to the site because they have potential to increase our available resources. This will in turn allow me to have more resources to put back in the catalog. I fully expect our catalog to be superior to any other trading card catalog in the near future. The amount of resources we have available will determine how near that future might be.

Setting Expectations
2014 was by far our most challenging year. We basically had to re-invent ourselves. In doing so, I had to set the course for COMC and rally the troops to go there. While we did not accomplish every goal we set out to hit, we are now stronger than ever. As Confucius said, “If you shoot for the stars and hit the moon, it’s OK.”

Now for 2015 I want to focus on under-promising and over-delivering. We still have another big year ahead of us, but we don’t have all of the time crunches of 2014. 2015 is going to be an exciting year. I look forward to the next phase of the COMC journey.

Test Auctions & Win a Shopping Spree

If you haven’t tried out our new auction system. Now is a great time to kick the tires. We have more than 400 auctions that end tomorrow, and we will be starting hundreds more that end on December 25th.

COMC auctions are refreshingly simple. When you win auctions, the items transfer into your account within minutes of the auction ending. If you don’t have enough store credit in your account when the auction closes, that is OK. As soon as your account has sufficient store credit, the items will automatically transfer into your account within seconds. And as always, you get flat rate shipping on unlimited items, or you can put items you win back up for sale instantly.

Win a Boxing Day Shopping Spree
Go test out placing a bid. On December 26th, we will be issuing $1,000 worth of shopping sprees. 50 different users that have placed bids will win a $20 Boxing Day Shopping Spree. You will get one entry for every different auction you bid on, and you will also get one entry for every dollar you spend on auctions that you win.

Auctions to Watch
2014 Topps High Tek TEKtonics Diffractor #TD-CR - Cal Ripken Jr. /50 - Courtesy of COMC.com 2014 Topps High Tek TEKtonics Diffractor #TD-CR – Cal Ripken Jr. #33/50

Here is a must-have for serious Cal Ripken collectors. This is a true /50. There are no parallels of this card. Only 50 collectors can add this card to their collection.

2014 Topps High Tek Autographs Cyan Printing Proof #HT-NR - Nolan Ryan /1 - Courtesy of COMC.com2014 Topps High Tek Autographs Cyan Printing Proof #HT-NR – Nolan Ryan #1/1

For Nolan Ryan collectors, you have a rare opportunity to pick up a 1/1 on-card autograph.

2014 Panini Limited Rookie Signatures Black #158 - Troy Niklas /1 - Courtesy of COMC.com2014 Panini Limited Rookie Signatures Black #158 – Troy Niklas /1

Notre Dame fans? Want to speculate on a rookie? Here is a 1/1 autographed rookie card of Arizona Cardinals tight end Troy Niklas.

2014-15 Panini Totally Certified Jerseys Purple Die-Cut #76 - Andrew Wiggins /99 - Courtesy of COMC.com2014-15 Panini Totally Certified Jerseys Purple Die-Cut #76 – Andrew Wiggins /99

Great opportunity to pick up a jersey card of the leading candidate for rookie of the year, Andrew Wiggins.

Cyber Monday Promotions & Shopping Sprees

Cyber Monday Shopping Sprees
Some of our Black Friday Weekend Shopping Sprees went unclaimed, so we just issued 100 more shopping sprees. If you logged into COMC in the past year, you may have won a Cyber Monday Shopping Spree.

Check to see if you won

2005-06 SP Game Used Edition SIGnificance Dual Extra [Autographed] #XSIG-MM - Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan /25 - Courtesy of COMC.comCyber Monday Promotions
Many of our sellers are running Cyber Monday Sales with the deepest discounts they have ever offered. You have until midnight PST today to buy up as many of these items as you can.

Best Deals Contests
Don’t forget to post your best deals by tomorrow night for a chance to win a box of cards.
Learn more about the contest

Free Shipping
We are providing Free Shipping on any order of 10 or more items. This special only applies to items that were purchased in Simplified Shipping Mode, not Advanced Reseller Mode.

Very Large Shipment Requests
If you try to put in a shipment request for more than 500 items, we will process those requests after midnight. They will still get the same promotional rates, but we don’t want to bog down the server with these requests while everyone is shopping today.

Black Friday Update
In case you missed it. Here is a quick video update on our Black Friday Status and other COMC news.

Black Friday Shopping Sprees

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Here is the breakdown of Shopping Sprees that were awarded for Black Friday.

Facebook Peyton Manning Contest
– 1 x $509

Scavenger Hunt
– 2 x $100
– 10 x $50
– 108 x $20
– 237 x $5

Buyers (based on items purchased and shipped since last Thanksgiving)
– 1 x $200
– 200 x $20

Sellers (based on items consigned in 2014)
– 100 x $20

Users were allowed to win more than one of the above prizes.

Find out if you won

Successful Stress Test

Thank you to everyone that hammered on the site for the past hour. We have successfully discovered some areas of the site that need to be fixed.

We will be taking the site down from 11PM to 5AM to address these issues.

We are extending the free shipping shipping for 10+ items 2 more hours, until 9PM tonight. If you miss that, please just come back anytime from Thursday through Monday to get free shipping.

Also, we will be giving extra prizes to everyone that hit an error or that attempted to purchase store credit during the hour.

Thanks for the help. I hope you enjoyed the scavenger hunt!

Pre-Black Friday Scavenger Hunt & Stress Test

ScavangerHunt
The first 50 different people that complete the following tasks between 6PM and 7PM Pacific time today will receive a $20 Black Friday weekend shopping spree. Additionally, we will randomly give away another 20 more shopping sprees ranging from $20 to $100 based on the entries listed below. We will be giving out a total of $2,000 of shopping sprees.

Warning: This is intentionally a stress test. We are doing this before Black Friday to measure what load our servers can handle. We do expect that you will experience some errors. Try as much as you can over the course of the hour.

Have fun!

Tasks
(OPTIONAL) Buy some store credit (1 entry per $1 you buy)
Make an offer on anything in the Charity account (1 entry per offer. It will be automatically accepted.)
Use store credit to buy an item that is currently on sale and features a player in a black jersey
Set an asking price for the item you just purchased
Use store credit to buy an item that is currently on sale and features one of your favorite players
Place a shipment request (1 entry per item shipped, Free shipping on 10+ items)
Add a comment to this blog post stating that you completed the tasks (1 entry for posting, ONLY 1 post please)

Optional Tasks
Add some items to your cart that feature players on your favorite team
Purchase your shopping cart with either Amazon, Credit Card, or PayPal (1 entry per item purchased)

6 PM PST is just 2 hours away, so start your engines!

UPDATE: 6:50 PM PST
Congratulations! You successfully stressed out our server, and you helped us uncovered some areas that need to be fixed. We will be taking the site down from 11PM PST to 5AM PST to address several of these issues. Since many of you were unable to accomplish some of the tasks because you were so successful at stressing out the server, I will see what we can do about awarding some extra prizes for those of you that hit errors.

Historical Suggested Prices

About a month ago we rolled out our first version of Suggested Prices. Based on the feedback of many COMC customers, we have revamped our model and just released v2 of our BETA Suggested Prices. This time we have included some charts to help you analyze our suggestions.
SalesData

For those of you not familiar with our Suggested Prices, you can learn more here.

As I mentioned in my original announcement video, we have the cleanest set of historical sales data ever complied. This gives us a unique opportunity to provide relevant price suggestions without having to factor in so many variables.

Our Suggested Prices are still in BETA testing. We want your feedback. Here are some important details about the COMC Suggested Prices.

Data Sources
We only use COMC historical sales data. We do not factor in sales from any other websites, and we do not use any other guides or services. All of the COMC Suggested Prices are based on a mathematical model that I designed and implemented. We have made no attempt to replicate or mimic any other guides or services. We fully expect that you will find our Price Suggestions to be very different from other guides or services. My goal was to boil down a bunch of numbers into a few easily digestible suggestions. Here are the goals I tried to achieve and what numbers went into generating each suggestion.

  • Suggested Retail Price (SRP): The SRP is intended to be a fair asking price for a retail store. This is currently just a standard markup on our Suggested List Price. We figure it is fair to expect to pay a little premium in order to see the item in-person before buying.
  • Suggested List Price (SLP): The goal of the SLP is to be a reasonable List Price that a seller might use to put an item up for sale on COMC. The SLP is based on the total price that buyers actually paid to take possession of their items. That means we only factor in items that were sold and shipped when generating the SLP. While this is based on confirmed sales, it is not an average. An average or median would leave no room for buyers to make offers without constantly driving the price down. Instead we have factored in a little bit of room for people to negotiate prices.
  • Suggested Wholesale Price (SWP): The SWP is intended to represent the price that sellers can reasonably target if they are trying to sell their item quickly. Often buyers in this price range are purchasing with the intent to resell. That is why we refer to this as the “wholesale” price. This factors in all sales on the site, but we treat port sales and other large offers with a grain of salt.

Chart Elements
Bar charts have been added to the top right corner of each card details page. Bar charts, with additional lines representing suggested prices, have been added to the popup you see when you click on card prices. The bar chart represents the number of items sold in a given quarter (3 month period) for that particular card. The rightmost bar represents the sales for the current quarter, which will just be a portion of a quarter. The sales from all the different conditions and grades are lumped together in the bar chart. The lines represent the SRP, SLP, and SWP. The points are measured on the last day of the given quarter. The rightmost point on the line represents the current Suggested Price. The chart shows the last 15 full quarters and the current quarter.

Partial Sales Data
Because the rightmost bar represents only a portion of a quarter, it will often appear lower than other bars. This does not typically mean that sales have been decreasing for an item. It more often means, that we are simply in the middle of a quarter and we are still adding to the total sales for that quarter.

Charts with No Lines
Some listings do not have enough historical data for us to generate a Suggested Price. You might even find some listings that used to have Suggested Prices, but they no longer have suggestions. This is because we consider older historical sales as less relevant. If the total relevance that was factored into a suggestion is too low we discard the suggestion. Years ago, this data was more relevant and our model may have been able to make older suggestions.

Extrapolation
The current model only looks at historical sales of the exact same item in the same condition or grade. Later this fall we will begin factoring in similar products and conditions. This will help enable us to make price suggestions for items such as printing plates. While we may have never sold a particular printing plate, we may have sold a different color of that plate or other printing plates of that player or other printing plates from that set. These data points can help us make recommendations for items that we haven’t sold yet.

Vintage Suggested Prices
We know that vintage card prices are very condition sensitive. Please take all pre-1980 COMC Price Suggestions with a grain of salt. Because we have not factored in detailed condition ratings, we may choose to completely turn off these suggestions if we find that they are too misleading.

Frequency of Updates
We re-run our analysis every night. If a player has a great game, the sales from today will be factored into tomorrow’s model.

Historical Suggestions
You might wonder how it is possible for us to offer Suggested Prices that go back 4 years when we only started offering these suggestions a month ago, and I have to say, that is very perceptive of you. You see, I have been watching a lot of YouTube videos about Astrophysics, and I recently stayed at a Holiday Inn Express. As a result I was able to find two colliding black holes and hitched a ride going faster than the speed of light in order to run the model at different points in time over the past several years.

Actually, I just designed the mathematical model so that I can plug in any point it time and it will generated the suggestions based on the historical data before that point.

Changes from V1
We got feedback that the Suggested Retail Price from our first version of Suggested Prices was too inflated. This feedback has been incorporated into the new mathematical model we use for the new version of COMC Suggested Prices. If you notice an SRP is lower than what you remembered, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the value is decreasing. The entire model was adjusted. It is best to refer to our charts to understand the direction the market might be heading.

Feedback Wanted
Please go play with the site, find interesting data, and discuss it in the comments below and on other forums. We will be monitoring the discussion to find ways to improve our suggestions.