Monday, May 7, 2018

The Evolution of COMC

In case you weren't aware, COMC is running their annual Spring Cleaning sale.  And if you weren't aware, welcome to the club.  I happened to come across information that the sale was taking place on pure happenstance.  I've recently jumped on the Trading Card Database bandwagon to add my Pirates collection.  There are some errors in the team tags, and in order to get editing ability I needed to make a forum post to prove I wasn't one of the feared internet robots.  So I hopped over to their forum and noticed the most recent thread was "COMC Spring Cleaning Sale Next Week."

I found it funny, because the day before I had checked COMC to see if they had announced anything.  The Spring Cleaning sale has been a bit of a moving target.  Usually it's in the Spring.  One year I think they forgot about it and it ended up happening in mid-June.  Had I not seen that thread on a forum that I will likely not visit again, I probably would have missed it completely.  I don't frequent Blowout or FCB these days.  I'm plenty active on twitter, but tweets can be easily missed.  And COMC did send out an email, but I registered under an old email account I rarely check.

But the bigger point - one of their two major annual promotions is taking place, and it seemed to get announced quietly with little advance warning.  I've been buying on COMC since 2010, and it's still my primary go-to for online card buying.

But the COMC I see today is a lot different than the site I first joined.  Late last night I loaded $20 onto my account and primed for shopping.  That's usually enough to get me started and grab the best bargains before flippers snap them up.  Then I'll add more funds as needed throughout the sale.  But that $20?  It usually lasts me through 45 minutes of searching and buying.  As I sit here typing at 1pm, 13 hours after the sale went live, I spent $12.  And that's after searching for Pirates, Steelers, Pens, 2000 refractors, 2001 Donruss cards, 2000 Ultimate Victory, 2005 Zenith, and a whole host of player collections.

All that.  And a handful of purchases.  And if you follow this blog, you know I'm not exactly a picky buyer.

But I am a low end buyer.  And when I first joined COMC, that was the place to be.  I scooped up hundreds of low end autos, cheap serial numbered cards, and other treasured additions that much of the mainstream hobby probably considers "junk."  And as a team collector and proud dime box digger, that's the heart and soul of my collection.

At the time, COMC's fee structure encouraged people to send in large batches of cards that would be considered worthless.  They ran submission specials frequently, would give people store credit on their first submission, and submission rates worked out to somewhere around $.10 per card if I'm remembering correctly.  Not hard to turn a small profit with little work.

Times change.  Fees get raised.  I get all that.  But it also seems like the nature of what gets submitted has changed, particularly as COMC has worked in Amazon and Ebay integration.  Where recently submitted cards used to be akin to what I'd find in a quarter or fifty cent box, as I scroll through COMC many of the cards are the higher end variety that used to be ebay-only.  Now sellers can get their cards listed across platforms without doing much work.  It makes sense, it does.  Send your card off to COMC, they do the heavy lifting, and you can set your price as sky high as you want waiting for it to sell.  But that's not my collection.  Those cards don't interest me.

It's just one more space I feel squeezed out of as a collector.  Go to a show, at least in this area, and you're likely to see two types of cards - high end modern and vintage.  Again, it makes sense.  That's where the interest is, and that's where the money is.  Ironically, that accounts for just a small percentage of cards that get produced.  Seeing COMC following the same route is disappointing. 

The blame can't be heaped on COMC explicitly.  After all, they're just the venue for sellers.  If sellers would rather submit high end than low and mid end cards, it is what it is.  But there are certainly ways to encourage wider submissions.  And things like throwing up a major sale with little warning can definitely account for the small percentage of sellers participating in this year's Spring Cleaning.

I'm having more fun collecting than I have in years.  But it can be tough to feel like I'm not swimming upstream against the hobby current sometimes.  Oh, and if you weren't aware, check out the COMC sales.  Hopefully you have better luck than I did.


  1. The days of finding really good deals and sales on COMC are in the past... at least for me. I go back and look at some of the prices I paid (especially on graded rookie cards) and kick myself for not buying more. I still buy a lot off of their site, but it's not usually a "super great" deal. It might be a little cheaper than eBay, but not much.

    1. I kick myself for not buying more in 2010-12ish. There were great deals to be had and you could still get the $.15 bulk shipping rate, which is a significant savings when you're buying cards $.50 and under. But I was a poor grad student at the time. It's still my primary online buying option, but online buying becomes harder and harder for mid-low end cards with shipping costs and higher prices.

  2. I would love to run a site like Just need the volume to make it worth while!

    1. Oh, when did justcommons rebrand? It's been a few years since I've ordered anything, but I was ordering every month or two for a while.

  3. I trade with a lot of collectors that don't crave the "hot" products, but when it comes to selling, it seems like that's all people want is high end, shiny rookies, or graded stuff. I took a whole table worth of my extra set singles and lower end star cards to a local show and had about three people walk up to the table. Nobody bought a damn thing. The only stack that drew interest was some Bowman Chrome cards of the same guy. I don't get it.

    I regularly start shopping on COMC and find a few things, mostly for my player collections, but then I compare the same items on SportLots and usually end up putting an order together on there instead. COMC is a little better for selection of oddballs and higher end singles, but like you guys have said, they've lost the low end market.

    1. The hobby is definitely all about "what have you done for me lately." It amazes me when I see autos of former perennial all-stars in $1 or $2 boxes. Not that I can complain - I'll gladly add them to my collection.

      It just seems like the middle gets lost. Sportlots is great for base and common inserts, but I don't see as many middle tier parallels (cards in the 150-500 range, let's say) as I used to, or if I do the prices are inflated. There are a couple sellers who I've found myself buying from regularly, but I think overall seller traffic has died down from the mid 00's. I'm excited for the National this year, since it seems that that's where a lot of those kind of cards get dumped.

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