Sportscard Tools Closes Doors after Two Years of Building Innovative Auction Management Solutions

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After two years of building and maintaining innovative online sales solutions for sports card sellers, Sportscard Tools Inc. is closing its virtual doors. Sportscard Tools Inc. was a private, closely held company that provided value-added auction management services. Founder Alex Malone plans to leverage this experience and create a company that focuses on innovative product search technology.

After two years of building and maintaining innovative online sales solutions for sports card sellers, Sportscard Tools Inc. is closing its virtual doors. Sportscard Tools Inc. was a private, closely held company that provided value-added auction management services. Founder Alex Malone plans to leverage this experience and create a company that focuses on innovative product search technology. For those who have achieved great productivity using our products, we apologize for not being able to continue our services. Alex Malone designed the products after experiencing the vast amount of unnecessary work involved in listing sports cards on eBay. We are most proud of our Velocity product, which was the first product to consolidate all listing steps into a single program. Using Velocity, the user could place 9 cards on a scanner, select the cards from the database, and set the prices and options. The program performs automatic cropping of the cards to separate high-quality images, fills in the listing details, uploads the images, and creates listings on eBay. Central to the architecture was the idea of a single place for inventory, and the ability to make a listing available on a storefront, eBay or other marketplace. The company cited several factors contributing to the failure to achieve profitability.

Firstly, the cost of maintaining such a large and detailed database was too great for such an application. Typically, these databases are applied to price guides, such as those published by Beckett Publications, Krause Publications, and Canadian Sports Collector. However, creating another price guide is a doomed effort, as Beckett has a near monopoly despite the efforts by its competitors. Our database was designed in such a manner to allow for attribute searching and the automated construction of listing titles and descriptions, in a way that other databases designed for the printed page cannot accommodate. We also underestimated the cost of extracting the data from the card manufacturers. There are some companies such as Donruss/Playoff and Upper Deck that will furnish spreadsheets of set releases, yet a fair amount of effort must be dedicated to keeping track of releases, following up to get spreadsheets, and converting the inconsistent data to a proprietary format. There are other companies such as Fleer and Topps that will only supply spreadsheets to printed publications. Furthermore, their websites have missing, incomplete, and often incorrect information.

It is interesting to note a trend visible on online marketplaces such as eBay: immediately after a new release is made available, the prices paid for cards provides sellers with a good return. However, after the prices are listed in a Beckett price guide, buyers will only pay up to half the high-book price. Given this trend, our goal was to ensure that our database contained new release checklists before the sellers received them. Thus, our service would allow our sellers to be the first to list their cards online (and know the stated print-runs of their cards) to realize the best return on their product.

Secondly, while eBay provides a great API for developers to create applications that leverage the eBay platform, they also develop competing products! They provide Turbo Lister for free, storefronts for a monthly fee, image hosting and applications such as eBay Seller's Assistant or Selling Manager for a fee. Clearly, the value-added auction services sector spells failure for all but the largest of companies.

Thirdly, the integration with online marketplaces is still in its infancy. eBay was the first to provide a comprehensive API for 3rd party servers to connect to eBay to create listings and manage transactions. However, it is still a dynamic platform which is constantly changing. Last year, a major upgrade was put in place to support tightened security for third-party integration. More recently, in May 2005 the XML API will no longer be supported and developers are required to migrate to SOAP web services. In addition, there are periodic hiccups where problems will arise and fixes need to be implemented or changes need to be made. Still there are other marketplaces such as Yahoo!, BidVille, and Amazon which still do not yet provide a 3rd Party API that allow developers to programmatically create listings. A company that provides value-added auction services is best positioned only when there are multiple viable marketplaces. Additionally, a company that provides pre-filled listing data such as Muze Inc. needs more than a single consumer for its data.

Thank you to all of our loyal customers and special thanks to Chris Malone, Mike Malone, Richard Scott of Canadian Sports Collector, Don Williams of Upper Deck, Rob Springs of Donruss/Playoff Inc., Mike Monson formerly of Pacific Trading Cards, and Baron Bedesky of In The Game, Inc.

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