In my latest Cards Online column, I look at COMC.com and what it’s all about, primarily from a buyer’s perspective. In a nutshell, it’s a site that offers single cards, not just inserts and high-end cards but commons as well. Unlike other consignment sites, everything is shipped by COMC from their warehouse, so you’re not paying a bunch of separate shipping charges.
Below is an email interview I did with Jeremy Williams, Strategic Projects Manager at COMC.
NSU: For non-sport collectors, what sort of advantages does COMC offer over other sites when it comes to buying?
Jeremy Williams: Great question. There are a lot of places to buy on the internet, and most either use the single-seller/single-location model or the multi-seller/multi-location model. The advantage of the first is a consistent experience. The advantage of the second is a more diverse user base. We are the only company with a multi-seller/single-location model – we have all the benefits of buying from a site with many thousands of unique sellers, but also all the convenience and safety of buying from a single retailer.
NSU: When I’m buying, I like that I can find singles for several sets I’m working on all at once. How can COMC make it work when others can’t be bothered with commons?
JW: Commons are an extremely tough market, and we freely acknowledge that it is difficult to make money selling commons on our site. COMC’s prime range is cards that will sell for between $1-$100. We’re about to open a high-end service called “The Vault” to better serve items above that zone, but cards that consistently sell for under $.50 are trickier. We charge $0.25/card for our processing and identification services, but we can’t compete with sites that simply use stock images and sell cards for $0.05. Our current solution is to offer a computer-managed account offering many different commons from a variety of sport and non-sport sets. In order to not compete with the market this account offers those cards for well above standard prices – typically $0.50 to $1. We’ve found that if someone is only buying a few cards they don’t mind paying $.50 for a $0.05 card so long as they can see our high-quality scan and know exactly what condition they’ll receive the card in.
NSU: How many different sellers use COMC to sell non-sport cards?
JW: Non-sports currently makes up about 1% of our inventory, but non-sports items are offered by over 20% of our sellers. We find that really encouraging because it can better support the growing demand. If it was just a few folks sending in the bulk of our items the growth wouldn’t be as sustainable. The strength of our platform has always been to serve a lot of people who want to do a little business rather than to pander to big “anchor tenants”.
NSU: Excluding gaming cards, what are the most popular non-sport licenses/titles among users?
JW: We’ve got a wide variety of non-sports representation, but the most common items we receive are mid-90’s tv and movie sets and pre 1960’s tobacco cards. The vintage tobacco cards seem to be the most collectible – we have items all the way back to 1888 Allen and Ginter N2 Celebrated American Indian Chiefs. These are the kind of items for which condition is completely crucial to the purchase decision, so our platform and scanning technology really shines in those categories.
NSU: The non-sport side of the hobby is showing signs of faster growth than some on the sports side. Are you seeing this with COMC?
JW: It’s difficult to predict trends; card collecting as a whole isn’t a surging industry to be in, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at our quarter-over-quarter stats. In-house we compare stats to the previous quarter rather than the same quarter of the previous year because our growth is just so rapid that looking back a whole year makes no sense. Right now we’re experiencing a lot of growth in hockey cards due to our Canadian office opening, but there has also been a definite increase in non-sports. Whether this is due to increased market presence or a change in our processing policy isn’t certain. A few years ago we would send back many items that Beckett didn’t list, but now we have the resources to create these sets internally so we can list those cards. It’s a good feeling to know that we’re able to do that for people, and we actually send a lot of our checklists and corrections to Beckett so in many non-sports categories our data is assisting them in improving their user experience. We don’t see ourselves as being in competition with any other service since we’re so fundamentally different – there’s room enough in the hobby for lots of different businesses to succeed and we want to help that happen wherever we can.
NSU: About how many non-sport cards are sold on the site each month? How many are listed?
JW: Currently there’s about 50,000 non-sports items listed for sale on our site, and that number is growing daily as we add more sets and the word gets out that we aren’t rejecting them anymore. The core of our business is still sports cards, but we love being a place where non-sports collectors can find some items to complete their sets and actually see what condition the card is in before buying. Last quarter we shipped out well over 3000 cards every day and probably 10-50 of them were non-sports items on any given day. And then sometimes someone discovers us and just buys us out of a few hundred Garbage Pail Kids or something, which is great – the sellers always send us more when something heats up so it’s win-win.
Thanks to Jeremy for taking the time to answer our questions. You can learn more about COMC in the current issue of Non-Sport Update magazine.