For me, there is a single website that has, more so than any other, defined the way that I collect cards over the last number of years; Zistle.
It all started for me back in 2009 when I posted here on this very blog about a rinky-dink Access database I was working on to track my collection digitally. I wasn't that happy with the results, and didn't want to maintain and upkeep it, but I knew that tracking and organization was critical to my enjoyment of the hobby. After all, if a card sits in the dark in a box and you don't even know that you have it, what good is it really doing you?
A couple of days later I received an email from a kind woman named Ashley asking me to check out a site she and her husband had developed for exactly this purpose called Zistle. I was hooked. Ashley and her husband Josh were motivated and responsive, and the site was everything I had visualized but didn't have the time or skill to bring to life myself.
Thanks to this wonderful (and free!) online utility I completely digitally organized my card collection to the point where I could tell you with a couple of keystrokes exactly how many cards I had of a certain player, team or set. I could look at the collections of my hobby friends in the same way, making for super efficient trade packages. I "met" (virtually) and traded with dozens of other collectors who found a home in the same place.
As one of the early adapters, I told everyone who would listen how great the site was. I communicated with Ashley and Josh constantly, they were receptive and added features that collectors were looking for. At one point they even did a blog post about my collection on the Zistle blog (now offline). Hell, to this day it's my Zistle collection you see a screenshot of on the homepage for the site (can't miss that Whalers logo):
The thing is, COMC is a huge company who I'm sure has its own legal team and the resources to fight a giant like Beckett. They did, and they won. I think if Zistle had pursued the same course they would have ultimately won too, but we're talking about a husband and wife team here, presumably with limited funding, both of whom I believe have other careers as well. I got a knot in my stomach right away.
Once the lawsuit was filed, there was basically no news or updates provided at all from that point forward. A couple of months later I started to notice oddities with the site. Zistle had always been about the collectors building the library through their own contributions, but I began to notice that less and less adds/changes were being approved. I began having issues using the site with certain browsers. Nothing huge, but little annoyances that years ago would have been tidied up by Josh or Ashley promptly. I started exporting my collection from the site on a monthly basis as a CYA maneuver, but I wasn't ready to give up just yet.
Then, finally, in the last few weeks, came the news that I fear is the final crushing blow. Some keen observer noticed that on Josh's LinkedIn page it was noted that Zistle was sold to Beckett. It was a punch to the gut to say the least. A few days later, the site's SSL certificate expired, making it totally unreachable for most without some browser settings changes. It has since been renewed and the site is online again, but the same issues that existed before have gone unaddressed. For example, I can no longer add any new cards to the library using Firefox.
If Beckett was smart (which they are not), they would take this buy-out as an opportunity to use the Zistle framework/platform to overhaul their own online collecting site. After all, theirs is so awful that it's one of the main reasons people flocked to Zistle in droves to begin with. Hell, if they just rolled the Zistle site over and re-branded it as Beckett I would happily pay $10 a month or so just to keep using it. I have no confidence that this will happen though.
At this point I think the lawsuit accomplished its goal; to bully two young, motivated individuals with a huge following right out of the hobby. Hell, Ashley and Josh never even said a word about what was happening, and stopped answering my emails as well. I'm sure they have no choice, and were forced to sign some sort of non-disclosure agreement not to speak about anything as part of the buyout, but man does it hurt after all these years of contributing my valuable time.
If I had to make a prediction, it's that Beckett renewed the SSL cert for one more year just to cover themselves legally for anyone who had paid for a 1-year Zistle "Gold" membership. I don't think they will touch the site ever again after that, and I expect that a year from now, or whenever the last Gold membership expires, it will ultimately be shut down.
So, now I find myself at a crisis with my collection (this is the definition of a first-world problem, I know). Sure, I've exported it out of Zistle so I haven't lost my inventory, but what fun are spreadsheets after years of a vibrant, online community and a slick site with great presentation, search capabilities, photos, and even an automated trading engine?
Is anyone else reeling from this as badly as I am? Any suggestions for digitally tracking a collection? I still don't know exactly what this means for the future of my collection just yet, but I do know it will mean drastic change in one form or another. I can tell you one thing, now that the jerks at Beckett have sued both of my favorite hobby sites within the last couple of years and really put a damper on the hobby for me, I will never buy another one of their shitty price guides again.
Josh and Ashley, if you ever see this, I'm sorry it had to end this way, and I truly appreciate all that you both did to make collecting an absolute blast for me over the last 7 years...