We’re Back…in Card Show Mode!

First, a sleepy, furry word from Tim:

Thank you for your patience while we transitioned to our new catalog.  Welcome to a new era for COMC.com!  We are grateful for the outpouring of support we are receiving, and we appreciate feedback as we continue to work together, building our new catalog.

As we mentioned previously, the next few weeks will be a bit rocky with missing data, errors, and many opportunities for improvement.  Everything submitted is for sale as usual, but items that are missing data are harder to browse/search. The current state of the site is “Card Show” mode.  Just like when you go to a card show and browse tables and bins looking for those rare items and special deals, that’s a bit what shopping on COMC will be like for the near future while we rapidly build our database.  We are optimistic about the speed at which you will see improvement, as our data increased by 10% in one day alone!  Your contributions have been significant.  You’ve made a big difference!

Ways To Make It Better

  • The best way to help populate data is still by playing The Challenges, as the data entered there is normalized. When you assign a team name like New York Yankees to a card, you’re essentially bucketing that card with all the other Yankees cards. Be on the look out for new challenges and prizes!
  • You can submit missing data or corrections for existing data for specific cards in your inventory or for sale on the site:
    • Go to the Inventory Manager in your Dashboard.  When you find missing/incorrect data in your inventory, click the Edit link next to the item description:

Inventory Manager

    • When you find missing data in the Search Results, click on the item and, at the top of the page next to the description, click the Edit link:

Search Results

    • From Edit (from your Search or Inventory), you will get a popup where you can enter data that is missing or needs correction:

Catalog Details

    • Please keep in mind, edits you make to a card are not normalized, meaning if you enter the correction to Teams: “New York Yankees” or “yankees” or “new yyok yankz”, the system won’t bucket it with other Yankees cards. It is still very helpful to use the new Edit feature, as it flags the card as incorrect and lets us know your correction suggestion.  It is just a less efficient process than playing the Challenges and will take more time to correct, as someone here will need to review each correction.
    • Please DO NOT USE the Report Error function, as that is used for reporting ID errors. These will go to the wrong team.

As we said previously, we won’t charge storage fees for the month of April.  We expect to have player and team search functionality fully restored by the end of April.  In May and June, we will be working on more advanced search functionality, such as the type of memorabilia.

Suggested List Price (SLP)

We were hoping to have the beta version of our pricing suggestions live today, but we ran out of time.  We will release it soon and let you know more as it develops.  Once our SLPs are live, contributors who earned at least 20K in Challenge points will receive free SLPs while it is in beta.  In the meantime, we have turned on the “Going Rate” feature.  This feature may help you price your cards by showing you how many like items are on the site and the range at which they are being priced.  While we have previously had quite a few requests for this feature, we have hesitated to turn it on to prevent a race-to-the-bottom with pricing.  We will be monitoring how this feature is being used, and if it remains good for the COMC ecosystem, we may choose to keep it enabled.

Going Rate

Going Rate Feature

The other way to receive helpful pricing information is to click Sales History to the right of the items in your inventory. This activates a popup which tells you the condition, how many are for sale, how many have sold and shipped, and at what price.

Sales History Feature

Sales History Feature

We hope you enjoy COMC while it’s in Card Show mode, and we will continue to let you know as things develop here.  Please continue to contribute to the catalog and let us know what we can do to create the best collecting experience!

Out With the Old: Retiring the Old Site

On August 1st 2012, we began transitioning from Check Out My Cards to COMC.com and running dual sites in parallel.  It has been eight years since we began offering our unique service with Check Out My Cards, and it is with deep pride and a certain degree of sadness that we announce that, as of July 1st, 2013, the old site has been officially shut down and retired, and we will be fully committing to the new site and brand COMC.com.

It has been a tremendous journey that has brought together a team of over 50 unique Team members, close to 3000 sellers, and well over 50,000 buyers!  As a tribute to where we have been as a company, we want to take a moment and relive a few of the crowning moments during the company’s time as Check Out My Cards.

Date Event
Dec 21st, 2005 Check Out My LLC is founded
Aug 1st, 2007 Check Out My Cards launched at the 2007 Nationals
Sept 4th, 2007 Make an Offer function is launched.  During January of the following year, the Counter Offer function is added.
April 9th, 2008 Check Out My Cards moves into a bigger warehouse
Nov 28th, 2008 Check Out My Cards has its first Black Friday sale
July 2nd, 2009 Check Out My Cards adds its one millionth item to the site.  To commemorate, Tim buys the card from the user
Aug 23, 2009 Check Out My Cards partners with Blowout Cards
Mar 12th, 2010 First card valued over $1000 sold on site
May 14th 2010 First official port sale completed.  On September 15th of the following year, the port sale offer system is added
Nov 24th, 2011 Check Out My Cards launches the wildly successful First Time Seller Coupon and Referral program
Dec 3rd, 2011 Check Out My Cards moves into its current warehouse
Aug 1st, 2012 Check Out My Cards transitions to COMC.com
July 1st, 2013 Check Out My Cards is retired

As we gaze across the path that brought us here, it feels right to also see where we stand in the present.  Check Out My Cards laid the groundwork for everything that COMC has become and the switch to COMC has provided us with new tools and options that weren’t possible before.  A short list would include:

  • Being able to filter search results
  • The Promotions Feature including the now frequently used Partial Port sale function
  • The Beckett Grading Service integration
  • The ability to expand into new collectibles such as comics and many yet to come.

Memories, like candles, light the pathway to the future.  Or something corny like that.

Yesterday, the team at COMC allowed Check Out My Cards to finally retire.  We would love to hear about your personal experiences with the old site and where we have been.  Please feel free to use the Comments box below to fill us in, and help us celebrate the next step into COMC.com’s future.  We’re still expanding the new site experience and we know our users always have a lot of great suggestions for changes and features.  Keep letting us know what you’d like to see and we’ll keep listening and improving.

New Service for High End Items: The Vault

We at COMC are proud to announce the launch of a new service designed to handle your high end items: the Vault.  You will access this new service through a new subdomain: http://vault.comc.com.  As a separate site from COMC.com, it will have a few key distinguishing features to optimize the sale and purchase of collectibles of the highest value.  Whereas COMC has historically found a sweet spot with items in the $1-$100 range, the Vault will really make it worth sending us $100+ items.

By Jonathunder (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Why You Want To Use The Vault

  • Only 10% commission on all items sold
  • High quality 36x zoom scans of front and back of each item
  • Items may be showcased at some of the most prestigious shows in the country
  • Additional payment options (e.g. wire transfer)
  • It is the safe and easy way to buy and sell high end collectibles

What Sellers Need to Know:

When an item sells through the Vault, the seller may opt to receive 100% of the sale as COMC Store Credit or we can immediately cash it out for 90%!  All items marked as Vault Eligible will receive 36x zoom scans of the front and back, making it even easier for buyers to know exactly what they are purchasing.  The official launch of the service will be on July 31st, 2013 at the 2013 National Sports Collectors Convention.  The exact date this subdomain will become active will be announced closer to launch.

To make your items Vault Eligible, simply use any of the following services

Items that used any of the above services after January 1st 2013 are already Vault Eligible.

You may list any Vault Eligible item on COMC, the Vault, or on both. Pricing on each site is independent of one another.  In the near future, you will be able to see which items are Vault Eligible from your Inventory Manager.

Storage Fees

A fee of $0.01/day will be charged for items with an asking price of up to $1,000.  For more expensive items, it will be $0.01 per additional $1,000 per day. This fee is in place to help offset the cost of insurance.  Storage fees for the Vault will be charged daily similar to the way COMC storage fees are charged monthly.

What Buyers Need To Know:

There are 3 ways buyers may purchase items in the Vault:

  • Instant Purchase: Pay in full via Credit Card, PayPal, or Amazon Payment
  • Down Payment: 5% COMC Store Credit down payment + remainder via check, money order, etc.
  • Make Offer: Unlike COMC which requires 100% of the offer amount to be funded before making an offer, the Vault will only require an offer reserve of 5% of the original asking price in COMC Store Credit. It will be refunded if the offer is countered or rejected, just like COMC offers.

If a buyer does not pay for an item on which they have placed a down payment, half of the down payment will be passed along to the seller in COMC Store Credit as a restocking fee.  For instance, if an item sells for $1000, the down payment would be $50.  If the buyer doesn’t pay for the item, $25 would go to the seller and $25 goes to COMC as a restocking fee.

On COMC’s end, we will continue to provide the same excellent customer service.  In the event that a buyer receives a Vault item and it is deemed unacceptable, the buyer will have 7 days to return the item.  After the 7 day waiting period has expired, the funds will be available for the seller.

Exposure at Shows and Conventions

There is one more benefit to having items in the Vault for both buyers and sellers.  Items in the Vault may be eligible to travel with COMC and be sold at some of the most prestigious card shows in the nation!  For example, later this summer COMC will have a 100 sqft corporate booth at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago where we will feature showcases of items from the Vault.  Even as your physical items are being viewed by some of the most discerning buyers, they will still be on the site and available for sale.  In this way, your items will receive the most exposure and acclaim.

Now this is worthy of celebration!

Now this is worthy of celebration!

We hope you are as excited as we are to finally see this new feature rolling out.  We encourage you to  begin sending Vault Eligible items in to us as soon as possible.  All Vault Eligible items received by July 15th will be taken with us to the National Sports Collectors Convention at no additional cost to you!  Be one of the first to have your best in show at the best of shows.

Stay tuned for a video interview with our CEO Tim Getsch about the Vault.  Submit your questions in the comments below and they may be featured in the interview.  As always, we want to know what you think and now is the time to tell us before the service goes live.

COMC.com Launch Postponed

While developing the many major updates that we have discussed in recent posts, we have decided to make some additional much needed user experience improvements.   Because of the scope of the changes, we felt that it would be best to take another couple weeks to test the site and polish off the changes before launching it to the public.  This will be by far the largest single update we have ever made to the website, so we don’t want rush it or potentially sacrifice any quality.

We will continue to make performance improvements and bug fixes to Check Out My Cards in the meantime.

Sneak Peek @ the National

Those of you attending the National will have an opportunity to get a sneak peek of the new COMC.com.  You can watch demos and test drive the new features.  Please swing by and give us your feedback.

Three Strikes Rule, Site Etiquette, and You

Based on the comments from the previous post, there is a lot of confusion about how our new “Three Strikes” feature works – partially due to what may have been an unclear explanation, as well as a bug that didn’t correctly ignore counteroffers.  Everything is now working correctly, and we’d like to take another stab at explaining how it works.

The 3 strike system is simply a temporary black list of items on which a specific buyer must wait before sending another offer.

Think of it as a friendly reminder for buyers that send a very high amount of offers.  Instead of repeatedly making an offer a seller has already rejected multiple times, we simply limit the number of times a buyer can get an offer rejected.  You get 3 “strikes” for every 90 days for each item.  If the item is sold to another seller, your strike count resets to 0.

Buyers and sellers don’t get strikes.  Only items get strikes, and those strikes are specific to buyer/seller combinations.  Sellers can get offers from hundreds of different buyers on the same item and reject all of them.  When a specific buyer gets 3 offers rejected on the same item in the past 90 days, the buyer must wait before making another offer on that same item.  We have removed all strikes on items predating May 23rd, so everyone will have a “clean slate” going in.

While this feature is more of a tool to help make offers more effective, we still encourage our users to utilize some etiquette when communicating offers.  Some things we would ask user to consider regarding offers include:

  • Think of making an offer as walking into someone’s store or up to their table and asking them to sell you a card at a discount.  How receptive would you be to your own offer?
  • Keep in mind we allow offers up to 50% off asking price.  A “low-ball” offer should be seen as a starting point of negotiation, not as an insult.
  • If you and another user do not reach an agreed upon price for an item, please do not be offended.  Just as in face-to-face negotiations, it happens.

We would also like to thank everyone for so actively contributing to our Blog discussions and Facebook pages.  We’re proud to have one of the friendliest user bases around, who aren’t afraid to speak their minds and tell us how we’re doing.  As the site grows and more users are frequenting these areas, we feel it is our responsibility to set up a few guidelines.

Things we cannot allow:

  • Any kind of personal attacks or “callouts” on other users (regardless of prior posts, personal grievances, etc.)
  • Linking to or promoting unaffiliated websites
  • Profanity, slurs, and inflammatory posts
  • Posting personal information (someone else’s or your own)

Posts not abiding by the guidelines we’ve set will be deleted, and anyone who repeatedly ignores them may find they are unfortunately no longer able to contribute to these pages.

Again, we would like to thank each and every one of you for making this community the amazing place it is.  We at COMC want to be proactive in our responsibilities to help keep it that way

New site improvements

I finally set aside some time to make improvements to the site. Here are some of the things I was able to get done this weekend.

Performance Improvements
Now that we have been getting a lot more data, there have been some noticeable slowdowns on certain parts of the site. Here are some areas where we improved performance this weekend.

  • Home page average render time was about 3 seconds, now the average is 0.03 seconds
    • This 100x performance improvement was achieved by using a technique called Partial-Page Output Caching. We couldn’t use the simple output caching because we display the number of items in your shopping cart, and this always needs to be calculated.
  • Search page render time was commonly 3-10 seconds, now it is almost always less than 1 second

Quantity Manufactured now displayed in the search results
You no longer need to dig into the card details page to see if a card is serial numbered. The quantity manufactured is now tacked on to the end of the description. Also, you can choose to sort the search results by the quantity manufactured.

Sort by Quantity Manufactured

Sort by Quantity Manufactured

More Meaningful Sorting by High Book Value
Cards that are listed in Beckett but do not have a book price are now mixed in with the rest of the cards when sorting by highest book value.

We have been getting more and more cards that have very low serial numbers and do not have a price listed in Beckett. The previous default sort order would put all of these at the top, and this kept burying the legitimately high priced cards further and further down. Now we try to weave in the un-priced cards approximately where they might be if they had a book value.

Great post on the Microsoft Access team blog

Here is a great post on a handy trick I told some buddies at Microsoft.

Here is a screen shot of one of the many places we use this technique in the inventory tracking system we use for managing the data behind CheckOutMyCards.com.
Hyperlink Example

As a front-end development tool, Microsoft Access provides an incredible balance of power and rapid development that allows us to move quickly with changing demands. Microsoft SQL Server 2005 is currently our back-end database for both our in house inventory management system and our ASP.net web site.

Preparing for Growth

At COMC.com we have been working hard to strategically prepare for growth.

Better Storage System
We recently invented a new storage system to complement our inventory management system. This new system will allow us to easily grow from 80,000 to 1 Million+ cards in our current facilities. The storage system is fire retardant, theft deterring, earth quake resilient, and massively scalable. All this and we can still access any card in seconds.

Better Servers
We recently installed new servers that have more than 10 times the horse power of our previous server, and we are ready to scale with more servers as traffic increases.

Better Database Performance
We recently improved indexes used to perform searches so that all searches are fast, no matter how you choose to sort them. Nearly every search is now being completed in less than 0.20 seconds.

Better HTML Markup
We recently reduced the markup used on our search pages so that the views that have hover pop-ups (all views other than the details view) render in 1/10th the time they used to.

Better Page Response Time
We recently enabled gzip compression on our server so that the total bits transferred to the browser were reduced by 1/2. This makes the site feel a lot more responsive.

How I recovered Exchange Server 2003

This is probably not very interesting to sports card collectors, but if you recently had a power failure or just got impatient with your Exchange server and did a hard reboot, you might find this useful.

Now that we have our new servers up and running, I needed to move our old server to be next to the new ones. The old server is just used as our mail server running Exchange Server 2003. Well, after giving it a good 10 minutes to shut down, it still hadn’t completely shut down, and I was getting impatient (it was 2:30 AM). So, I just pulled the power cable, and moved the server.

When the server finally came back up Exchange complained with this error in the event log.

Information Store (3812) First Storage Group: Database G:\Program Files\Exchsrver\MDBDATA\priv1.edb: Page 3031 (0x00000bd7) failed verification due to a flush-order dependency mismatch. This page should have flushed before page 7216 (0x00001c30), but the latter page has instead flushed first. Recovery/restore will fail with error -255. If this condition persists then please restore the database from a previous backup. This problem is likely due to faulty hardware “losing” one or more flushes on one or both of these pages sometime in the past. Please contact your hardware vendor for further assistance diagnosing the problem.

I have a default Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2003 install with the Exchange data files in “G:\Program Files\Exchsrver\MDBDATA\”.

To fix the issue I did the following:

  • Made a backup of the entire “G:\Program Files\Exchsrver\MDBDATA\” directory
  • Found this article about eseutil
  • From “G:\Program Files\Exchsrver\bin” I ran the following command.

    eseutil.exe /r E00 /l”G:\Program Files\Exchsrver\MDBDATA”

  • This complained about priv1.edb being corrupt, so I ran the following commands to repair and defragment the edb files.

    eseutil.exe /p “G:\Program Files\Exchsrver\MDBDATA\priv1.edb”
    eseutil.exe /d “G:\Program Files\Exchsrver\MDBDATA\priv1.edb”
    eseutil.exe /p “G:\Program Files\Exchsrver\MDBDATA\pub1.edb”
    eseutil.exe /d “G:\Program Files\Exchsrver\MDBDATA\pub1.edb”

  • This fixed the corruption, but when tried to restart the “Microsoft Exchange Information Store” service, I got this error in the event log.

    Information Store (3600) First Storage Group: Database recovery failed with error -1216 because it encountered references to a database, ‘G:\Program Files\Exchsrver\MDBDATA\priv1.edb’, which is no longer present. The database was not brought to a Clean Shutdown state before it was removed (or possibly moved or renamed). The database engine will not permit recovery to complete for this instance until the missing database is re-instated. If the database is truly no longer available and no longer required, please contact PSS for further instructions regarding the steps required in order to allow recovery to proceed without this database.

  • This was very confusing because the file actually was present, but it turns out that you need to run a recovery to bring the database back to a clean state. So, I ran the recover command again.

    eseutil.exe /r E00 /l”G:\Program Files\Exchsrver\MDBDATA”

  • This time it complained with the following error.

    Operation terminated with error -1216 (JET_errAttachedDatabaseMismatch, An outstanding database attachment has been detected at the start or end of recovery, but database is missing or does not match attachment info) after 130.0 seconds.

  • This was the result of having to run the repair command without doing a clean shutdown. To resolve that issue I had to run the same recover command with the /i switch to ignore the inconsistencies.

    eseutil.exe /r E00 /l”G:\Program Files\Exchsrver\MDBDATA” /i

  • Finally I had to mount the mailbox and public folder stores by doing the following.
    • Open Server Management (Start -> Server Management)
    • Expand the Advanced Management node
    • Expand the <DomainName> (Exchange) node
    • Expand the Servers node
    • Expand the <ServerName> node
    • Expand the First Storeage Group node
    • Right-click Mailbox Store (<ServerName>) node
    • Click the Mount Store node
    • Right-click Public Folder Store (<ServerName>) node
    • Click the Mount Store node

At this point I was able to connect to Exchange with Outlook and everything appears to be back to normal.

New blog design!

Hi there folks! Andy here.

A few days ago I changed the theme of the main website to match our branding, and now I have altered the blog to follow suit. I used the infamous WordPress theme ‘Contempt’ (thanks Vault9!) as a bedrock and modified the style to my liking.

The new blog layout has yet to run the gamut of different browser versions, so if you see any oddities, I would really appreciate it if you would let me know.