Unsatisfied with the pricing information provided by traditional sports cards price guides, Adam McFarland did what any collector with technical know-how and entrepreneurial moxie would do: he started his own online price guide. SportsLizard uses information from actual sales occurring on the leading sites for sports collectibles, allowing users to get some of the most current and relevant pricing available.
McFarland and his company, Pure Adapt, have actually packed much more than a price guide into SportsLizard, but it's the real time pricing for sports cards that probably has the most potential to excite collectors. To get some insight into how the price guide works and what might be coming down the road, I asked the founder himself, and he graciously served up some answers.
About.com: It's interesting that you started the SportsLizard price guide based on your own frustrations as a collector. What do you feel like your site does better than other sites that may offer similar guides?
McFarland: My frustrations started with print price guides. I think Beckett and Tuff Stuff each do a very good job with pricing (they've done a good job improving in the last 5 years in my opinion), but the monthly update frequency just wasn't good enough for me in a market that changes daily. My partners and I had long wanted to pursue an online price guide, but we didn't know the approach to take.
To prepare for the re-structuring of SportsLizard earlier this year, we did some keyword research about what collectibles topics people were searching Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc. for. We were shocked at what we saw - tens of thousands of searches each month for terms related to "free price guides" and "online price guides". With that kind of demand, we decided to research the competition.
I don't think any of the other online price guides do a bad job per se, it's just that our vision was to be able to type the name of a collectible into a search box (a la Google) and get a value that is calculated the second you search. Once we saw that no one else had even attempted it, we decided to give it our best shot.
A: Obviously eBay is the king of sports card transactions, but does SportsLizard take into account transactions from non-auction sites (NAXCOM, Beckett Marketplace, etc.)? How about sales/auctions done by the leagues themselves (MLB.com, NFL.com, etc.)?
M: Yes - to the extent to which we can get access to that data. A (very small) portion of the data is from our marketplace. With that data we can do a lot more from an analysis perspective, but there isn't yet enough to make an impact on most price searches. The most encompassing solution we could come up with was to utilize data that Google collects for their Google Shopping Search (formerly Froogle). They attempt to compile data from every e-commerce site on the web, and they do a pretty good job of it.
Of the "big 3" collectibles sites (eBay, NAXCOM, and Beckett), the only one that's spotty is Beckett - I'd say half the time Beckett's items are available and for whatever reason half of the time they aren't. To the best of my knowledge, there's no data from the leagues themselves, but there is A LOT from the smaller, independent collectibles sites on the web - which to me is the fourth most important data source.
In my estimation - and this is completely an educated guess - I'd say we're getting somewhere between 60 percent and 75 percent of the items selling on the web. Not a bad start, particularly for a small company like us, but there's a long way to go and we've got some ideas to improve in the future.
A: Even in this online era there are still hobby shops and shows. Do you feel like information from the SportsLizard price guide can still benefit collectors who are making old school, physical transactions?
M: Yes and no. I think anyone who has ever collected can at least see the value in what we're attempting to provide. I think the divide between people who like what we offer and those who don't is less about how you buy your cards and more about being open to new things and trying out new technology.
Regardless of age or how you purchase, if you don't want to try out new technology you aren't going to want to try out our Price Guide - you're going to want to stick with your Beckett magazine. And that's fine, but we certainly think there is a large group of tech savvy collectors that are searching for new information sources and we are trying to cater primarily to them.