Monday, August 4, 2008

An Interview with Cardtarget's Mike Masinick

The following interview occurred via email on Sunday, August 3rd.

EIMW: Mark Sapir told me about a new secondary market for etopps cards for this blog and just made the announcement in the update section about its partnership with cardtarget. For those of us who have been using cardtarget and the cardtarget market already for buying and selling cards, is this anything more than just an "official" endorsement?
MM: The main important change from our user’s persepective is that all CTM transactions will be transferred immediately upon receipt of payment. We’re also going to be sharing much more data between sites, such as eTopps having access to our price data so that their card prices are more accurate as well.

EIMW: How did this partnership happen?
MM: eTopps has supported CardTarget for many years in an unofficial capacity and recently it became apparent to both us and eTopps that an official partnership would be mutually beneficial. Obviously CardTarget would benefit by an increased market share and promotion on the eTopps website, but eTopps would also benefit by having a more stable and controllable secondary market.

EIMW: How do you think Mark is doing as the head of etopps compared to those previously in charge?
MM: The last few years of eTopps have been the best so far. Mark, and all of the Topps staff, have done a great job picking cards and making decisions regarding IPO prices and print runs that will give eTopps the ability to be a sustainable product.

This means that there has been a good balance between price retention after IPO and Topps’ ability to make money at IPO. It’s a tough decision process, but I think Mark has done an excellent job adding other exciting extra sets such as the Mantle set and the upcoming Yankee Stadium set.

I was mentioning to people at eCon yesterday that this is the first year that I have really seen people buying eTopps cards specifically to play the games with them… so that’s a testament to Mark and the eTopps staff too.

EIMW: How is the state of etopps?
MM: Pretty healthy. I don’t know how satisfied eTopps is with the print runs that they have currently, but they do create a healthy marketplace where many of the cards go up in value and only a select few lose much.

There appears to be a great amount of demand in the marketplace and a good mix of investors/speculators and collectors to create a good liquid marketplace.

EIMW: What can be improved?
MM: I believe that the sense of community has eroded greatly in the last few years. Perhaps this is because the community has gotten larger, but it also has to do with the state of the eTopps message boards.

There was a time (2002-2004ish) when you could sign on to the General eTopps message board and see 100 new posts in a few hours time. Now you might get two posts in that same time frame – sometimes none.

That’s because there was no leadership on the message boards and they are moderated by a faceless person who is uninterested in eTopps.

I believe Topps needs to drop that message board entirely or put it into the hands of people who have a vested interest in the success of eTopps.

EIMW: How did you discover etopps?
MM: Cruising eBay in April of 2002. Bought a Hideo Nomo for $7 one night and got hooked.

I had a master set at one point in 2005 and sold it for around $12,000. The value of a master set, even with all of the IPO’s since then, is still under $12,000. My current portfolio is under $1000 and I don’t actively trade much anymore.

EIMW: What is your favorite etopps card?
MM: Hmmm… I guess right now it’s got to be the Joe Saunders 2008. He went to my high school and was on the 1998 Virginia state championship team with my brother. I know his family and it’s neat seeing somebody you’ve known since they were 11 years old on an eTopps card.

EIMW: Do you collect in-hands?
MM: I collect classic autographs. I have about 40 of them signed at this point.

EIMW: What led to cardtarget?
MM: Back in 2002 there was virtually no data about eTopps cards that were being bought and sold on eBay. My first few jobs out of school were programming jobs for dot-bomb companies, most notably

I left the programming world in early 2002 for another job and missed programming quite a bit. I saw a whole lot of data in the eBay/eTopps world that needed to be collected and analyzed to see price trends and other data (buyer/seller stats specifically).

So I started collecting the data myself. Turned out that Jason (my CT partner) had started doing the same thing only a few weeks before. I emailed him and asked if he was interested in doing a more detailed and official looking website for this data he was receptive to it.

It’s just grown from there into a real business, but it started as a hobby – which is what still makes it fun for us.

EIMW: How did you come up with the name cardtarget?
MM: It was really a “what domain name is available” thing. We came up with a list of about 20 business names and we thought was the best domain name available off the list at the time.

EIMW: You seem to be the go-to person for almost everything related to CT. How much is Jason a part of CT? Is it a division of labor between the two of you?
MM: We complement each other very well. I believe that we could each do all parts of CardTarget if necessary, but over time we have taken on duties of the site more in line with what we are both best at.

Jason is a better programmer than me and I’m better at the business and customer service, but we do consult each other on nearly everything. We’re both very active in the day to day operations, although you’ll usually get more emails from me.

EIMW: Will the Partial Shares Market ever offer more cards?
MM: Not in its’ current form. We’re not going to rule anything out for the future, but for now we’re concentrating on improving our eTopps offerings.

EIMW: For you and Jason, how has the CTM changed without ebay?
MM: It’s more work. But eBay was not easy to work with either. So it takes a little more time to get things done on the tradepost, but it’s much less stressful.

Our new partnership with eTopps should make all of that obsolete within a month as all cards will be transferred immediately upon receipt of payment.

EIMW: Will we ever see a cartarget market for in-hands?
MM: With any luck you’ll see it soon. We have been planning an in-hand/auto market for eTopps for over a year and it has turned into a much larger project than we anticipated.

I don’t want to give a date for a market opening, but hopefully we should be able to beta test in the early Fall. When you’re dealing with shipping of cards there are a whole new set of problems that we have to account for in order to have an automated marketplace.

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