A new day for baseball card collectors

Collecting baseball cards is so much fun but way too hard and time consuming. It doesn’t need to be like this. The following is a short biography of my collecting experience and a vision of what I want to enable for fellow collectors.

As a child I started collecting baseball cards in 1986. Every time we would memorize a Bible verse, our youth group leader would give us a pack of baseball cards. I remember the first time I saw a price guide and found out that my Lenny Dykstra rookie card was worth $2. As an eight year old, this was really exciting.
1986 Topps #53 - Len Dykstra RC (Rookie Card) - Courtesy of CheckOutMyCards.com

1987 was a big year for us in Minnesota. The Twins won the World Series, so now it was time for me to start following major league baseball. The next year, I discovered a new hero, Orel Hershiser. After 59 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings, a gold glove, and a World Series MVP, I had to get his rookie card. That brought me to my first sports card show at the Thunderbird Hotel in Bloomington, MN where I paid $6 for a 1985 Topps Orel Hershiser rookie card.

Being in love with numbers, I studied the stats every week in the newspaper, and I read all of the prices each month when the Beckett came out. The other day I ran across a line graph I had plotted by hand to track the price changes for the Robin Yount and George Brett rookie cards. By the time I was 12 I had my first table at a card show. Seeing how popular someone’s dice game was, I went home and calculated all of the odds so that I could optimize the customer’s expected value without risking too much of a loss for me. (Yes, I eventually became the captain of my high school math team.) The dice game was a big hit at my next card show.

I don’t know if it was my love of numbers that drew me to sports cards, or if it was sports cards that gave me a reason to love numbers. But growing up, my parents thought I spent way too much time and money on sports cards (probably true). So they banned me from collecting sports cards, but we all know how obedient teenagers are. This inspired some childhood “creativity.”

In 1996 I started going to college, and very quickly ran out of extra money. At this point my childhood passion had to be shelved, and the next few years were spent cultivating my interests in numbers and computers. I received my BS in Math and Master’s degree in Computer Science from the U of MN. In 1999, I started working for Microsoft as a Program Manager on Excel. I like to think sports cards played a big part in sparking my interests in math and inspiring me to get through college… so that I could get a job making enough money to afford more cards. 🙂

In 2003, after working very long and hard on Microsoft Access 2003, I got a chance to poke my head out at the world. I discovered etopps.com and rediscovered eBay. My sports card interests had laid dormant for 7 years, and the industry had changed a lot. Through eBay, I was able to find all of the cards I was collecting in 1996 for next to nothing.

eBay can be a very time consuming hobby. So I built an Access database to track eBay auctions, and I was able to successfully acquire tons of cards for very low prices. Of course, I got way more cards than I needed, and I wanted to let others pick and choose cards from the big lots that I was winning. So I started to build the site LowPriceCards.com as a fun little hobby.

While talking to a local dealer, he asked where I typically bought cards. When I mentioned that that I got them online, he was curious how I was willing to pay for cards that I couldn’t see. Though the cards I was getting from eBay weren’t always perfect, I was still getting a good enough price to make it worth my while. However, this comment stuck with me. I realized that buying and selling sports cards online was a fairly risky and time consuming venture for most collectors.

Drawbacks of collecting sports cards online

  • Almost never get to see what you are actually getting
  • Typically high prices if you do get to see what you are getting
  • Small transactions are not cost effective (payment charges and shipping charges are a killer, mailing checks or SASEs take too much time)
  • Beckett, naxcom, sportlots, and other collector sites force you to pay for shipping from each dealer separately
  • Not worth the effort when another dealer or user doesn’t follow through
  • Time consuming to keep an eye out for your favorite player, set, or card
  • Most sports card websites are very poorly designed
    • Poor search functionality
    • Limited to no browsing
    • Tedious shopping cart experience
    • Required user account creation and log-in
    • Out of date inventory

Drawbacks of selling cards online

  • Little or no tools for managing your inventory
  • Time consuming to catalog inventory
  • Impossible to find sold inventory
  • Tedious packaging and shipping process
  • High maintenance costs
  • Large seller fees

These are just some of the drawbacks for buying and selling cards online. I am sure many of you have seen more areas that you would like to improve. Many of these issues were addressed by LowPriceCards.com.

LowPriceCards.com Features

  • Every card offers a 2x zoom of both the front and back (patent-pending technology)
  • Low prices (50% off book on average)
  • Friendly and prompt customer service
  • RSS feeds to subscribe to your favorite player, set, or card
  • Well designed
    • Simple and flexible search functionality
    • AJAX shopping cart experience
    • No log-in required
    • Inventory always up to date
  • Powerful database for managing our inventory
  • Ultra-fast inventory cataloging
  • Seconds to find sold inventory
  • Optimized packaging and shipping process
  • Low maintenance costs

The problem with LowPriceCards.com was that it only helped me and a couple buyers that were interested in my inventory. I kept getting requests from people who wanted to post their inventory on a site like mine. So I decided to open this functionality to fellow collectors.

In 2006, my wife and I formed Julia Getsch Enterprises, LLC, and in early 2007 we launched COMC.com as an effort to become the premier sports card consignment website. We are currently beta testing our consignment functionality with a handful of users, and a month ago we hired a web developer to work on our site full-time. Over the next few months we will be rolling out many new features. Here is a sampling of what is to come.

How you might use COMC.com

  • No hassle consignment and purchasing (get rid of the cards you don’t want, and pick up the cards you do)
  • Just send us the cards you want to sell or trade
  • Pick prices for individual cards or set pricing rules for players or sets
  • Receive notification when a card’s book price changes
  • Funds automatically added to your account when cards are sold
  • No need to contact the buyer, package the inventory, or ship the items, we do that for you
  • Buy cards and have them added to your online inventory (avoid shipping fees)
  • Use funds in your account to instantly add items to your online inventory (no shopping cart necessary)
  • Minimize shipping fees by holding items in your online inventory until you have multiple items to ship
  • Enable cost-effective small transactions by using funds in your account

These are just a few of the ways that we are hoping COMC.com will improve your collecting experience. We have many additional innovations that we will be rolling out soon. So keep an eye on this blog, and sign up to be notified as more functionality becomes available.