Comparing COMC vs. Sportlots

One man’s review of the two popular card sites

When it comes to buying pre-war cards, my top preference is eBay. Quick, easy, and usually quite painless. The amount of bad experiences there as a buyer can probably be counted on one hand.

But I’ve started branching out and buying cards elsewhere, too. Over the past year or so, I’ve been buying from COMC. I don’t buy a ton of cards there and, look, if you’re wanting to buy pre-war cards, you’re typically going to do better elsewhere. But I have been buying more there ever since I started collecting Dwight Gooden cards. And, heck, I’ve even found some solid pre-war buys there from time to time.

Lately, I’d heard of another site called Sportlots. I’ve known about this site for quite a while but hadn’t bothered looking there until only recently. Once I got beyond the overly quirky interface, I bought some cards.

Because both sites are somewhat popular, I wanted to try to give an honest opinion of the pair.

Price

This is the trickiest factor in comparing the two.

Regarding the price of individual cards, there’s zero question that I found many more to be cheaper than what they cost on COMC. On COMC, I’ve found finding many cards under $.50 difficult. On Sportlots, you can get a bunch for less than half that price. I paid $.18 for many Gooden cards I needed that would have cost me $1 each or more on COMC.

That has been a point of frustration for me ever since I started buying Gooden cards. Having to shell out $1 for a card that should realistically cost me about ten cents was kind of annoying. But there’s the convenience of finding those junk wax era cards all in one place so plenty, including myself, will pay for it.

So, finding cards so cheap on Sportlots was a refreshing change. But that price advantage is only in the actual cost of the card. As with anything, there’s a catch — and in this case, that catch is the shipping.

Shipping

The shipping between the two sites is one of the biggest differences. At COMC, all cards are held by the company and then a seller wants to offer cards, he/she sends them to COMC. COMC then does all the listing, selling, and shipping. The best part about COMC is that they have a flat $3.99 shipping fee and while it can take about ten days or so to get your cards, paying $3.99 for shipping any amount of cards is a big bonus.

Sportlots makes up for their cheap prices with individual seller shipping. Sometimes, that shipping is reasonable. For example, I had many of my cards ordered from there shipped for under $1. But even then, you’re at about $1.25 on many cards and for that, you may as well go somewhere else.

And many times, however, that shipping is even more expensive. Shipping often ran a few bucks and those sellers are under no real obligation, seemingly, to treat the buyer fair there. I paid $2-$3 for some cards that were as little as a quarter or so and shipped in a plain white envelope. And while that can happen on eBay and elsewhere, it really takes a bite out of what savings you think you’re earning on individual cards.

But even in addition to the price, COMC has a big advantage when it comes to how your cards are shipped. My orders from COMC are always well packed. The cards from Sportlots, however, were a mixed bag. Most sellers protected cards with a toploader but some did not. Some even shipped the card without any protection at all save a piece of computer paper. Now, I often ship cards to friends in nothing more than a semi-rigid toploader but those are usually freebies. Charging someone $2 to ship a card that way? No bueno, no matter how cheap it is. As stated, I had about 40 different orders from Sportlots and only a handful came in anything more than a white envelope.

The other thing here to remember is that, at Sportlots, you’re getting packages from as many different sellers from whom you buy. I bought a total of about 60 cards from about 40 different sellers on Sportlots and, while opening that many envelopes was kind of fun, it made accounting a nightmare. Frankly, I didn’t even bother checking to make sure all of the packages had arrived. Who has time? Conversely, COMC sends you one package and while you might still have to account for all of the cards, it’s easier to do when they come all in one shot. Plus, COMC hasn’t yet shorted me a card that I’m aware of yet.

Quality Control

As you’d expect, quality control differences exist between the two as well. COMC shows clear, large images of their cards, grades them accordingly, and ships them out. While some collectors might differ with their grading processes, I’ve found them to be pretty accurate.

Sportlots is like eBay in that the seller is assigning his own cards a grade. I had to fish for photographs and most sellers didn’t even have any. And in the cases of some that did, the pictures weren’t great.

Plus, in my order, I had a few errors. One seller listed a card as NM but when it arrived, it had two creases in it. It was well-protected, so I am confident it was not likely a shipping issue. Another seller completely misidentified a card and, $2 later, it was a complete waste. I tried to see if it was something that could be quickly fixed but no such luck as I couldn’t easily figure out to file a complaint.

That leads me to the interface.

Interface/Layout

Another really big problem with Sportlots is their website layout. Simply put, it’s not terribly user-friendly.

Now, I will say that I registered, found items, and paid for them with little trouble. But with no pictures for many of the cards and a somewhat jumbled site, the experience could have been a lot better. And while COMC isn’t quite perfect, there’s no doubting that it is far more user-friendly. Bigger operation, I get it. Sportlots really needs to invest in the web development side of things.

The trouble I had in filing a complaint on Sportlots is a perfect example. On eBay when you have an issue, you revisit the card page, contact the seller, and you’re off. When you buy a card on Sportlots, it only shows up on your Pending Feedback page and from there, you’re in a never-ending rat race trying to figure out what cards you bought and how you can contact the seller. For $2, it just wasn’t worth my time.

And while my ordering experience on Sportlots was relatively pain-free, I didn’t even bother trying to figure out the confusing symbols that appear after sellers’ names indicating that they offer certain perks and whatnot. Just way too confusing and while it might be okay if you’ve got nothing but time to kill, that ain’t me.

Summary

I think there’s some potential for a space like Sportlots. But potential is the key word. The one great thing they have going is the low price points on many cards. But when you factor in the shipping costs, that advantage shrinks up pretty quickly.

I would buy cards again on Sportlots so my experience there wasn’t terrible. But I’d probably only do so if I couldn’t find what I was looking for on eBay and COMC first.

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