As we all know, the hobby has grown a lot over the past several years. As a result, the marketplace for online sales saw a record-breaking growth of 142% in 2020. Meanwhile, some sectors, like Soccer, experienced over 14x the amount of sales over the prior year. Along with that, growth has come to many new platforms for buying and selling cards online. For years, eBay has been the go-to place for sports card transactions, and while they’re still at the top, quite a few more sites have challenged them over the past few years: COMC, Starstock, and MySlab, to name a few. Now joining that list is the Hobby Exchange. To keep our readers up to date, Cardlines presents the Hobby Exchange review.
Hunting for the best deals across multiple platforms is time-consuming, and the Hobby Exchange is a search engine dedicated to fixing that problem. They claim to be the premier search engine in sports cards trading, allowing you to find the lowest prices on any card with just a single search.
So, we decided to do a deep-dive on everything the Hobby Exchange offers. This article will give you the lowdown on what you need to know about Hobby Exchange, compare it to search engines on other sites, and see how effective it is at finding the best prices.
The Hobby Exchange is a search engine that consolidates sales across multiple platforms. It thereby allows you to compare prices in one place.
You can search anything you want (players, brands, releases, grades), and you’ll get back all of the posted listings of sales and live auctions from the platforms they partner with. You aren’t buying anything directly from Hobby Exchange; when you click on a card you’re interested in, it redirects you to the host selling it.
Hobby Exchange claims to “be on a mission to reduce the number of tabs you have open while buying and selling cards online.” It’s not a new concept – topical search engines have been popular in other industries for a long time. Think of it as cars.com, but for trading cards.
When you visit the Hobby Exchange website, you’ll notice that it’s clean and clutter-free. The front page has a search bar in the middle and quick links to hot players and great deals at the bottom.
We like that the homepage isn’t trying to shove deals down your throat. They know that most hobbyists visiting their page will be looking for specific items, and their clean interface makes it simple to search.
The search engine itself does a pretty good job finding items relevant to your search. However, one of the most significant drawbacks to searching on eBay is that it can sometimes be too literal. As a result, it can struggle to find related items that don’t match every single one of your keywords exactly.
For example, if we type in “Lamar Jackson Rookie Ticket Cracked Ice Auto PSA10” on eBay, no items come up.
Even though this non-psa10 card is listed on eBay, and still would have been something we would have been interested in looking at.
When we do that exact search into the Hobby Exchange search bar, it finds me these cards:
So, yes, it’s a little bit more cluttered with other players (I don’t need the Trae Young or Allen Robinson cards), but it still finds me items (like the 9.5 patches, no auto) that are pretty close to what I was looking for.
And lower on the page, it shows me that same card from the Cracked Ice card from above that we couldn’t find using those search terms on eBay.
eBay’s search function is pretty good. Therefore, most experienced hobbyists know that you can drop the “PSA 10” part of the first search, and you’ll be able to find more relevant cards. Still, we appreciate that the Hobby Exchange search bar allows for a little more error. It helps find relevant items that don’t perfectly match the description you typed in.
The most glaring issue with the Hobby Exchange is that they aren’t partnered with every important seller in the industry. At the moment, they only support 5 sellers: Alt, ComC, eBay, MySlabs, PWCC.
They claim that they plan to add StockX, Fanatics, and Beckett soon. However, as of now, you still need to search those sites manually when doing a comprehensive search.
Anyone who has purchased cards online knows that there are more than 5 quality sellers online. Unfortunately, for now, Hobby Exchange is simply missing too many sellers to be able to claim that they are finding you the best deal confidently.
Another big issue with the Hobby exchange is there is only one way to sort cards: according to price.
While this might seem like a minor issue, it hurts the site’s functionality quite a bit. The more items are involved in the search, the worse the problem becomes.
It wasn’t a big deal on my Lamar Jackson search from above. Only 13 items came back, so that I could look through them pretty quickly. But if I type in “Joe Burrow Panini Prizm,” it gets difficult to sort through the 443 cards that come up.
eBay has many different ways to sort listings, including most relevant, time posted, and distance. They also allow you to filter specific options like team, season, and grade and select price brackets that help you narrow down your search to items within your price range.
Hobby Exchange has none of that. We find it hard to imagine ourselves looking through all 443 cards when we know we could conveniently find most of those offerings on eBay.
The big question is, how does the Hobby Exchange perform against eBay? We searched 7 cards from different sports of varying value to see how different the results were between the Hobby Exchange and its competitors.
Here’s what we found:
|JA Morant #249 [Rookie] 2019 Panini Prizm PSA9||$75||$75|
|Tyler Herro #212 [Rookie] 2019 Panini Donruss PSA 9||$13||$13|
|LeBron James #221 [Rookie] 2003 Topps PSA 9||$640||$640|
|Joe Burrow #307 [Rookie] 2020 Panini Prizm PSA 9||$69||$140|
|Patrick Mahomes II #327 [Rookie] 2017 Panini Donruss PSA 8.5||$300||$300|
|Mike Trout #US175 [Rookie] 2011 Topps Update PSA 8||$848||$848|
|Bryce Harper [Screaming] #661 2012 Topps Psa 9||$85||$85|
As you can see, Hobby Exchange performed pretty similarly to eBay. Here are a few key takeaways from this chart:
The reason the price is identical on 6 of the 7 listings is simple – eBay is the number one seller on Hobby Exchange. On an average search, anywhere from 60-80% of the total results are eBay listings, and, as you can see, the eBay listings are usually the most competitively priced.
The good news is that Hobby Exchange found all of the eBay listings. Therefore, if you’re using Hobby Exchange, you can feel confident that you’re not missing a better deal.
If you like the Hobby Exchange interface more, then it could, in theory, be a more efficient way of sorting through cards on the internet’s biggest seller. That said, after having conducted the searches on the seven cards, we much preferred the sorting options on eBay over the endless scrolling on Hobby Exchange. But, to each their own.
When you look at the chart, there’s one pretty apparent anomaly – the Joe Burrow Prizm RC. That’s because it was the only card where the lowest offer was from one of Hobby Exchange’s partners (ComC) that wasn’t eBay.
One of Hobby Exchange’s biggest problems is how big eBay is. eBay has the best prices on most cards. Therefore, there isn’t much incentive to use anything other than their search engine. However, if we continue to see the rise of other online marketplaces, then these “better deals” that Hobby Exchange brags about might begin to surface more often.
The Hobby Exchange is a great idea. However, it cannot fully realize its goal of finding the lowest prices on cards.
Instead, collectors should view it as another tool in their search. In rare cases, it can help you locate a great deal with one of their other partners (like it did with the Burrow card.)
With a few on-site adjustments (like more search filtering options) and a complete list of partners, Hobby Exchange has the potential to be a highly beneficial resource. Unfortunately, it just isn’t there yet.