So you're looking to shop for trading cards online. Today, collectors have no shortage of options. In the early days of the Internet, eBay emerged as the clear place to go for just about anything to do with collecting.
But as time has passed, things have changed. eBay is still the go-to place for most collectors, and for good reason. However, there are others closing in that are increasingly enticing. One of the biggest, is COMC.
Putting eBay and COMC head to head right here and now, which is the better place to buy sports cards?
Just as it has been for the better part of 20 years, eBay continues to be the place collectors generally go to for high-end cards and new releases. It's also one of the best places to find things like sets and boxes.
COMC has its share of rarities but it's not the place most of us think to go to initially.
With such a massive audience, eBay is likely the starting point for any major card like a top-tier Superfractor or unique patch. That's where the biggest audience currently is so that's where the buyers go. It's kind of like the chicken and the egg.
For most cards that sell for $50 or more, eBay continues to be a good starting point to gauge prices and availability. It used to be this way for all cards, but increasing fees in recent years and tighter regular have led to a lot of dealers looking to move their low-end stuff to go elsewhere.
That's one of the great things about COMC. There might not be the same number of Superfractors and such, but it is a great place to find that last common for a complete set, some of the cheap but hard-to-find short prints from a few years ago or something for your player collection.
Once upon a time, collectors were the ones in control of prices on eBay as everything was done with an auction format. You decided what you were willing to pay.
There still are auctions, but more and more, the retail site has pushed the concept of fixed-priced listings. A lot of dealers still accept offers, but eBay has become a lot more like other online retailers where prices are set and you buy it immediately.
This means a lot less bidding strategy and late-night deals.
COMC is similar in this regard. They're slowly moving into auctions, but it's mainly deciding whether the price is right and adding them to your cart.
For rarer things where there are only one or two copies, COMC does tend to be more expensive than eBay. That doesn't mean deals can't be found. Or made.
There are always some decent prices to be found. If you're not looking for anything in particular, you can start by browsing the promoted sales on the COMC home page.
Another way to get deals on COMC is to make sure you're logged in and have a balance in your account. That way you can make offers. Many times I've gotten significantly lower prices, even from those with high pricing. Just like eBay, don't make obvious lowballs.
It'll likely deter from the seller from wanting to work with you. And it's annoying. There's nothing wrong with trying to get a good price, but there comes a point where you're wasting people's time.
When it comes to finding what you're looking for, eBay is a step above the wild West. There are no rules. Different sellers use different titles. There are spelling errors. And if you're looking for a hot rookie card or any sort of autograph, you have to filter through a bunch of irrelevant listings for packs and "non auto" cards.
Even if you know how to get through the stuff you're not looking for, you can easily miss out on a listing.
This is a big plus for COMC.
Every card is cataloged. This makes them easy to find. It also means that you can easily compare prices of the same cards.
When you're buying cards online, images are extremely important. You want to know what kind of condition their in but you can't hold them. eBay is inconsistent when it comes to image quality.
About half of eBay use great scans. They're big, they're high quality and the don't hide anything -- at least on the front.
The other half are a mix of stock images and poorly angled, poorly lit cell phone shots that do very little as far as showcasing the card you might be interested in.
COMC, on the other hand, has scans of every card. Stock images don't exist. Whether it's a $250 rookie card or a $0.25 1990 Donruss Teddy Higuera, both sides of the card can be seen. The watermark and size can make it difficult in extreme cases, but COMC gets it right overall for images.
Remember when shipping on eBay used to be simple? But as shipping rates have risen and eBay has started taking a cut, it's gotten a lot more expensive for all parties.
For buyers, eBay shipping rates are also inconsistent. Some sellers have flat-rate shipping. Others combine. Some charge you the full rate for each card.
If you're looking to buy in bulk, you have to pay each seller individually. That adds up.
COMC keeps things simple. The first benefit is that they have everything in their warehouses. That means one shipping rate. It starts at $3.00 for standard shipping. That's as many cards as you want in one package, whether it's one or 100.
If you're using store credit, you can also buy cards on COMC for a while before requesting shipment. This is handy when you're building sets or you're not in any sort of rush.
There are upgrades for shipping on COMC, but they're reasonable considering what they cover, whether it's faster shipping or added protection.
For international buyers, the basic rates on COMC are the same as well. So even if you're buying one or two cards, you're unlikely to find postage cheaper anywhere else unless it's included in the price.
The one drawback I've experienced with shipping with COMC's basic service is that it can take significantly longer than most eBay sellers. That said, most of the stuff I get from there I'm not in a major rush for and I take this into consideration when I'm buying.
Just like it is for groceries, household items and shoes, choice is always the best option for consumers. When choosing between COMC and eBay, it doesn't have to be one or the other. The smartest thing is to use both when you're shopping for sports cards.