Card #15,000,000 & The Modern Baseball Card Investor

TheModernBaseballCardInvestorAbout a week ago I got an email from Jeff Hwang, author of The Modern Baseball Card Investor.  I first met him at the Industry Summit in Las Vegas a little more than a year ago, and we had a really good conversation about the baseball card market.  His book is now done, and he wanted to send me a copy of it. I just got my copy in the mail the other day, and was pleasantly surprised with how well he described COMC.com in his Enhanced Liquidity section of the Introduction (pg 30-31).  eBay got a paragraph and we got nearly a full page.
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Jeff did a great job of summarizing the difference between COMC.com and other sites.  It captures the essence of what has made us successful.

Here is an excerpt…

The online consignment site COMC.com has further enhanced the liquidity of lower priced cards by creating a centralized online exchange where all the cards listed online are in one physical location, and can be traded multiple times without being shipped.  Launched in 2007 as CheckOutMyCards.com, COMC.com allows users to submit cards to the company’s website in Seattle, where the cards are scanned front and back and listed online for a small fee, as little as 25 cents per card.

In contrast to eBay, where a seller typically incurs both eBay and PayPal fees for every transaction made, a seller on COMC instead receives store credit for the full amount of the sale, and pays a further cash-out fee only upon cash out – similar to the way a stock investor only pays a capital gains tax upon selling a stock, and not while holding.  Meanwhile, a buyer only pays shipping if/when he wants to have the physical item shipped; he can turn around and relist the item without incurring a shipping cost (the card is already located in COMC’s warehouse), or can otherwise save on shipping costs by waiting until he has acquired multiple cards.

As such, users can flip cards for profit on COMC.com without ever physically being in possession of an actual card, the same way a stock investor can trade stocks online without ever physically being in possession of a stock certificate.  But more importantly, the site dramatically improves the liquidity of low-priced cards by lowering the otherwise prohibitive transaction costs associated with them – most notably shipping costs, as well as the time it takes to list and sell and then ship such cards.

At the sports card and gaming collectibles Industry Summit in Las Vegas in March 2013, the company announced that it had listed it 10 millionth card, and had to that point shipped 3.6 million cards to 75 countries.

2000 Upper Deck MVP Pro Sign #IB - Isaac Bruce - Courtesy of COMC.com
Card #15,000,000
I thought it was fitting to announce that just today (writing this on Friday July 11th, 2014) we identified item #15,000,000 as 2000 Upper Deck MVP Pro Sign #IB – Isaac Bruce, deposited it in Fiber1’s account, Fiber1 put it up for sale, and I purchased it.

Not only have 50% more items been consigned with us since March 2013, we have also shipped 50% more items to buyers.  That is more than 5 million items shipped all over the world.

Thank you COMC Nation for making this possible!
 

 

 

A Towering Achievement

COMC has crossed the line!  The 10,000,000 item line, that is.  On Friday, February 22nd we uploaded item #10000000 onto the site.  The card featured none other than Marcus Pollard, who played a season for the Seattle Seahawks in 2007 after many successful years with the Indianapolis Colts as a tight end.
The specific card was a 2001 Private Stock Game Worn Gear #68 Marcus Pollard.  2001 was Pollard’s best year with the Colts; he averaged almost 16 yards per catch and scored 8 touchdowns.
With over 2,500 sellers now submitting items to the site we wondered where number 10 mil would come in from, but we couldn’t have been more surprised to learn the consigner was from right in our own backyard!  Seller john316 had dropped off the batch in person, driving down from Everett – just about a half hour away.  We called him up to congratulate him and asked if he would be willing to come down to take some pictures with us.   He graciously agreed, and so we were able to thank him and purchase the card from him personally.

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Tim gives john316 a check for the high book value of the card.  “I never would have gotten that much for it!” quipped john316.  John316 was also awarded $100 in store credit for submitting item #10000000 as the winner of our countdown contest.

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Item #10000000 in all its glory.  The closest guesser in our countdown contest was ivbaseball06 who correctly predicted the sport, and was off on the upload date by just one business day!  Congratulations to ivbaseball06 who also wins $100 of store credit!

Ten million is a huge number and hard to even think about.  It’s amazing to look back on how far we’ve come together from the first few items that Tim uploaded from his personal collection.    Thirty thousand buyer accounts, three offices, and two web address updates later, we still feel as if we’re only getting started.  On March 1st we officially rolled out our second supported item: comic books.  We’ve got even more updates and features in the works that we’re very excited to tell you about, but for now we just want to take a moment to thank everyone who made this milestone possible.  Without the loyal COMC buyers, sellers, traders, and flippers, this simply would not be possible.  Thank you for trusting us to care for your inventory, thank you for giving us constructive feedback to build on, and thank you for believing how big this little idea was capable of becoming.

How much is ten million?  We’ve put together a graphic to illustrate: (click on the image to see a larger version)

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A towering achievement indeed, and it’s just the beginning.

Condition Reviews, Security & New Video

Vintage Cards & Condition Reviews
You may have noticed that all pre-1980 condition notes have been changed to “Pending condition review. Please review the scan.” This is because we have started a new condition review process. Once we have completed our condition reviews, we will start cleaning up the old condition notes. This will take several months. You can watch this video to learn more about the condition review.

Graded & Conditional Pricing
For years graded cards have been listed on Check Out My Cards with N/A for the book value. Last week we added support for graded pricing and conditional pricing to COMC.com. This allows us to give a more accurate book price for anything that has been graded or condition reviewed. Check Out My Cards hasn’t been changed and still lists N/A for the book value. You must use COMC.com to see the graded & conditional pricing.

Basic Condition Reviews
We are currently in the process of doing hundreds of thousands of basic condition reviews. This is something that we do for free as part of the standard processing service for vintage cards. For the basic condition review we simply lump cards into the following buckets: “Poor”, “Poor to Fair”, “Good to VG-EX”, and “Unreviewed”. You might notice that the naming of these buckets has already been updated based on customer feedback since the video was posted last night. Thanks for helping improve our service!

  • Poor: Any card that is in Poor condition.
  • Poor to Fair: Any card that in less than Good condition. Typically this would be Fair condition cards, but it also includes cards that are on the border between Poor and Fair.
  • Good to VG-EX: Any card that is less than Excellent condition. This would be any Good, VG, or VG-EX card, and it could also include cards that are on the Good/Fair border.
  • Unreviewed: Any card that we haven’t reviewed yet or that we think might be in EX or better condition. This is where nearly all of the cards on the site are today.

These buckets have been strategically chosen because they will significantly reduce our need for condition notes and because we can assess them quick enough that we don’t need to charge anything extra for processing.

Detailed Condition Reviews
By the end of the year we plan to add a command on the Manage Inventory page where the owner of a card can request a “$2 Condition Review”. When this is selected, we will remove the card from the seller’s account, we will scan the item with a 36X zoom instead of our standard 4X zoom, and then we will have 2-3 employees carefully review the condition in detail before putting the card back into the seller’s account with a new Item #. Cards that receive this service will be listed on the site with industry standard conditions (i.e. MINT, NM-MT, NM, EX-MT, EX, VG-EX, VG, GOOD, FAIR, POOR) and with a new Super Zoom feature that can go all the way to the 36X zoom. We just started doing some of our first 36X zoomed scans yesterday, and they look amazing. These items will also be eligible for the new Vault service that we plan to launch in the next few months. Stay tuned for more details…

Grading
When we release the detailed condition review feature, we will also be releasing a similar option where the owner of a card can have us send the card off to get graded. This will be just like the detailed condition review only instead of our employees doing the condition review, we will send the card off to Beckett, PSA, SGC, or KSA to get graded. We will do the same 36X zoomed scan before sending it off and after receiving it back. This will help ensure that there are never any mixups. We expect this service to be much more convenient than sending items directly to the grading companies, and we will pass along the savings we can achieve by doing bulk submissions.

Security
Our existence is directly dependent upon the trust we have earned from our buyers and sellers. The security of each person’s items is of utmost importance to us. We consider every potential security breach with extreme scrutiny. We would not be able to offer our current services or any of these new services if our customers didn’t completely trust us.

We realize that our company is built by humans, and humans make mistakes. That is why we put so many extra precautions and security measures in place. Every time a mistake is made, we study it to determine why it happened and what we can do to minimize the chances of it ever happening again. Over the past 5 years, we have built an amazingly elaborate and resilient system for processing, storing, and shipping cards. As we grow we continue to face new challenges, so we are contently in pursuit of better and more secure ways of doing things.

Over the past year the company has nearly tripled in size, so we have definitely felt our share of growing pains. I am not going to claim that we are perfect. We have made our fair share of mistakes, but I know that we always strive to give the customer the best experience we can.

How we Handle Potential Security Breaches
Yesterday we had an opportunity to exercise and evaluate our security procedures. It was brought to my attention that one of our largest sellers thought a shipment from last month didn’t make it into his account. Fortunately, he is very good about always sending us notifications every time he mails a package. This was a critical piece of our investigation, and it allowed us to narrow down what to look for.

We had one investigation team review all of the pictures and videos we recorded of his packages. They were able to verify that we took pictures of all 12 of the tracking numbers that he had submitted. They also had the videos of how we transferred those 12 packages into 23 batches.

Another investigation team reviewed the 23 batches. We tallied all of the cards deposited, counted the few cards set aside to be returned, and double checked that we didn’t forget to identify any scanned images. In the end the margin of error between his estimates and our counts was 0.03%. That is 3 in 10,000 cards. So we are confident that all 12 packages made it completely into his account.

At the end of the day we are glad we have so many checks and redundancies in place, and we are fully confident that our systems are solid. This investigation was a great test of our dedication to excellence, and the strength of our teams. Every item we handle is a sign that someone trusts us with their property, and we never forget the responsibility we have to handle all of our inventory with respect and diligent security.

Improved Incident Escalation
One of the fall-outs of our investigation was that we discovered a couple other customer issues that we had started investigating but had not resolved in a timely manner. This was an unfortunate consequence of our rapid growth and record setting workload, but we recognize how important it is that all potential mix-ups be resolved quickly. As a result, we have instituted a new policy that requires all such issues be escalated all the way to the CEO (that’s me) if they are not resolved within 48 hours.

As always, we see situations like this as opportunities to improve. We care about our customers, and we want to do everything we can to ensure that you always get great service. Rest assured that we will constantly strive to ensure that we are always the safe & easy way to buy & sell collectibles online.

9,000,000 Stats

2010 Topps Series 2 Attax Code Cards #15 - Jon Lester - Courtesy of COMC.com
I just bought item #9,000,000 from bonds0128! We are going to have to do a contest for item #10,000,000. Leave a comment with your suggestion for a contest.

I also noticed that we recently crossed 250 million total page views over the past 5 years. Wow! A quarter of a billion page views… what a ride.

Q3 Stats

Notice the spike in cards added this quarter thanks to the the 5th Anniversary special. We have increased our quarterly processing capacity over the past 4 years from 115K to 1.17M. That is 10x the capacity. Not an easy feat. We have an awesome processing team that just keeps getting better. A special thanks to Jade Aspiras and the Identification Team for many long nights.

It is also good to note that while we have increased our processing capacity by 10x over the past 4 years, the demand on our shipping team has grown by 13x. That is a great sign. It means that the demand from buyers is growing faster than the supply from sellers. Hence sellers are getting better sales rates today than they did 4 years ago.

Workin’ Hard & Settin’ Records

Today our Identification team broke a record that was nearly 2 years old, and they didn’t just barely break it. They smashed it by more than 35%!

Before yesterday, we had never identified 30,000 cards in one day, and yesterday we identified more than 40,000 cards. Then to show their ultimate dedication to our customers, half of the identification team continued to stay here and pull an all-nighter. Several of them are still hard at work as I am writing this. A few of them are taking naps on their office floor.

Our team is literally doing everything they can to make as many happy customers as possible. I am so proud of every person on our team. We have been growing so fast, and everyone is working really well together. Our administration staff has done a phenomenal job of finding and hiring talented people that are gelling so quickly with the rest of the team.

Today we hired our 55th employee, and I spent the last 5 hours reviewing possible locations for the Canadian office we hope to launch this fall. The fun just never stops.

$1,000,000 Mark Broken

Congratulations to SwagCards! A year ago SwagCards let us know that he was going to be the first seller to cross the million dollar mark, and yesterday he became the first seller with more than $1 Million dollars worth of book value on consignment with us.

Here is an interesting comparison of our top seller board from today vs. two years ago.

Notice that the #10 seller today has more book value than the #1 seller two years ago.

eaglescards and baseballcardsetc are the only accounts that have been able maintain a footing the Top 10 list.

Rookies_n_Jerseys is an account to keep a close eye on. He only started consigning cards with us 6 months ago, and his account is half way to the million dollar mark.

Item #6,000,000 just hit the site

Item #6000000, submitted by arcaiser
1996-97 Ultra Decade of Excellence #U1 - Clyde Drexler - Courtesy of CheckOutMyCards.com

Here is a quote from CheckOutMyDeals who discovered that item #6000000 was live before we did. I guess we have been a little preoccupied with our move.

I think it’s wonderful that not only did you process an additional 1 million cards in record time, but you also improved the site to address at least 2 of the user’s top concerns since card #5000000 was processed.

People wanted an easy port sale feature and they now have it.

People wanted an increased customer base, and you’re now cross-posting cards to Amazon, potentially adding millions of new customers.

Some features I would love to see:

* The ability to tag players with Hall of Fame status, All Star status, major awards won, teams played on, etc.

* The ability to tag sets / cards as autographed or memorabilia cards.

* The ability to filter searches by several factors. For instance Yankees memorabilia cards over $10 book value that are at least 50% off book value.

One feature I would really like to see:

The ability for a seller to subdivide their port into several smaller ports. The port could then be sold as a bulk lot using the port sale feature. It could also be subjected to different auto accept percentages than other cards.

That way, if someone wants to accept 50% offers on basketball cards but only accept 10% offers on baseball cards, they could do so. Or if they would sell their hockey for 10% of book, but only as a bulk lot, they could also do so.

I’m very happy with COMC and all of the positive improvements that you are continually making. Good luck!

Let’s see how many of these feature requests are live by the time item #7000000 hits the site.

Side Note
Over the last few months we knew we were running out of space in our current warehouse, and we chose to spend our energies hunting for a new home instead of giving specials or trying to get more items on the site. As a result it took us 2 days longer to get from item #5000000 to #6000000 (137 days) than it did to get from #4000000 to #5000000 (135 days). This is actually quite amazing when you consider the fact that we ran virtually no processing specials during that time. When we don’t run any specials, people send us cards that are more difficult and time consuming to process. One way to approximate the difficulty of the cards submitted is by looking at the average book value. Generally the more valuable a card is the more rare it is and the harder to identify what it is.

As you can see from this chart, we had been hovering around $5/item for an average book value the past few years. Over the last 6 months as we have been working on the items in the 5,000,000’s you can see that our average book value shot up to just under $6/item. It was quite a feat to get all of those items processed in virtually the same amount of time as the previous million items.

For the next million items we will have room to hire more people and give them enough space to work efficiently. We will see how this translates to our stats.