In my last column, I discussed some of the resources you should have to being making short-swing trades on cards, using the power of real-time social media instead of the snail's pace of "real life". Today, I’m going to discuss how to identify the stores that may have advantageous pricing, and how to "make the rounds" as effectively as possible. Today, I plan to arm you with the proper way to make the rounds and put other people’s pricing apathy to work for you.
Finding the Dusty Old Store
The “Dusty Old Store” is the most important resource that you have access to on a local level. In my last article I described it as a card store where they price cards via an old issue of InQuest or Scrye, though it could just be any store that’s been in business for five plus years and doesn’t cater to a Legacy or Extended crowd. These formats not being accommodated as much as Standard means that pricing updates are less likely. Basically, you’re looking for a place that prices with stickers. For example, the store in Baltimore that used to be the best store for regular tournaments doesn’t have a lot of Legacy regulars. It hosts a Legacy playtest group every Monday, but they have a box behind the counter filled with cool stuff like Beta Red Elemental Blasts and (formerly) Grim Monoliths. It’s a goldmine to know they have what they consider to be a bulk-box but the only reason I know this is because I have a close friendship with an ex-employee.
For those of you who are Dusty Old Store challenged, the strategy to find this store is pretty touch and go. I like to use Google, because it's Google. One of the ways I recommend, is to google "[insert your city/town here] comic book shops." Call them ahead of time to make sure they stock singles, and then pin them into your drivearound maps. The other great tool is actually the only reasonable use for the otherwise terribly-designed Store & Event Locator. The site sucks on ice, but you can use it to find FNMs which are a premium place to trade, and often occur at stores which have an average of attendance of just enough to sanction. These places are great to use as a marketplace, but prepare to get max-pointed if you play and manage to lose.
Make Nice with the Help
One of the key components of benefiting from the Dusty Old Store, especially if there’s only one or two in your region, is to be nice, be charming and cultivate relationships with someone who doesn’t have any skin in the game (note: “skin in the game” is a finance term we use. It means “to have a stake in,” or “to be emotionally or fiscally invested.”). These persons are often employees who have been working for the shop-owner for a little while (seasonal employees) who don’t get benefits other than their employee discount. If you help them out – give them a ride here and there, hang out with them, just be genuinely social and nice, they’ll help you out. They don’t have anything to lose by buying some old card at cost and then selling it to you immediately for a couple-dollar markup, nor will they be reprimanded if they get rid of the stack of Metalworkers sitting around for $3 a piece because “This guy offered to buy all 15 if we did them for three bucks, and we haven’t sold one since 2001!” He’ll make excuses for you because he’s your friend and the shop-owner isn’t. [Many Dusty Old Shops just "have" Magic cards, and to them, turning them into cash is more important than getting up-to-the-minute accurate value for them. They mainly traffick in other goods and will appreciate your polite willingness to take everything if they're not "into" Magic. -KBR]
Know your Enemy
I want to make it clear that I’m not bashing the people who own or work at shops, but what did I say in my first column? Everyone has more money than you, and everyone is out to screw you over. Meet “Everyone.” Your friendly neighborhood shop owner and his right-hand man. This isn’t your home-base shop (99% of the time). It's important to think about ways to capitalize on every relationship in order to maximize profitability; but these people can be an impediment to your progress. The key is to try to befriend them, but don't give up your tech! This is key. If you cannot befriend them (this is a process, but use your best judgment), then the best way to picture them is someone who would passively stand in your way. They won't go out of their way to make things difficult for you, but if they suspect you'll pay more for a card, they'll try to charge you more. In light of this, telling them you suspect Isochron Scepter to skyrocket because they're reprinting it as a Mythic is a bad idea. When you scour decklists for a hot mythic that is common throughout the top 8 decks, you have an opportunity, one that you fiercely diminish by telling anyone else, let alone the person selling you the cards.
They'll often ask things like "So what're you building?" and it's cool to say "Oh, a Legacy deck," I personally like to go on the defensive and say it's for EDH.
Setting up your Drivearound
So now we have our location(s) and we know who we need to talk to. Let’s set up the drivearound day. The drivearound day for me is usually the day of or after finding out about a spike. This can occur before a spike in price, but if we’re using the day-trading method I discussed last week, then we won’t likely have the heads up on a given card until the very last minute. Often, this heads up will be after the last minute (if you’re using the system to it’s utmost efficacy).
I like to go out with a pile of cash (my bankroll) and commit to only buying cards I want for my portfolio with the rare exception that they have a dumb-low price on a Standard staple (like Jace the Mind Sculptor for $40, I’m gonna pick that up and add the cash back into the bankroll after the drivearound; don’t miss opportunities!). Don’t buy your EDH stuff on the same day, dammit, I ensure you, when looking through these older binders you’re going to find weird stuff that you’ve never seen before or never considered the synergy of with your Experiment Kraj deck (Anthroplasm, anyone?) but don’t do it. Don’t be your own downfall.
I like to find out where I’m going to go, based on trajectory from my house. So If I’m in the center of a map, I’ll either spiral outward OR jet out to the furthest point and then spiral back in. The requirements for these sort of excursions are often a couple hours, so it’s obviously an added bonus if you’re in a line of work with flexible scheduling, or you’re living home with mom and can just do whatever, because you don’t have a job anyway and why can’t you be more like your brother Andy? Andy has a job, and a house, and a nice girlfriend who he’s going to marry. Why don’t you go out and meet a nice girl?
Andy’s perfect life notwithstanding, I like to make sure I know the shops I’m going to are open. This may seem trivial, but honestly, a lot of these stores are closed on Mondays or some random weekday. Most often they use this time to just do inventory and maybe get comic subscriptions put together, but in the case of Mondays, it’s often the kitschy vanity thing the shop-owner does because he wants to fully assert that “I’m my own boss, and I don’t like Mondays, so I gave myself the day off, haha!” You get the point [Actually, we do it because Monday is usually a dead day because everyone's tired from school or work, and just spent all weekend at the shop. Just like us shopkeepers. --KBR]
Once you know their hours, an additional important note in prepping your drivearound is to not call ahead. I know this was an issue for a commenter, Tyler who said:
"One of them also had four Lim-Dul’s Vaults. I was calling ahead so that I wouldn’t have to drive to no avail. They said they had the four priced at $1. By the time I got there the person behind the counter had spoken to someone else about its recent price jump and said that he could sell them for $7…."
I know you don’t want to waste gas or time, which is why it is advantageous to have several Dusty Old Stores, but sometimes, you have to swing and miss. If the store has been open long enough, they’ll have the cards 7-8 times out of 10. If you call ahead to ask them to hold them for you, only the most bumbling and apathetic employee won’t look them up. If he’s not already your friend, there is virtually no excuse for this, with the only exception I can think of being that the store is 40+ miles away and the only store in the region and you just don’t have the time/gas to go out there for nothing, but in that scenario, you should be buying this stuff online, and probably only making in-person pickups at conventions and tournaments.
My associate, Mr. Linn, was kind enough to point out an occasion when calling ahead is more than appropriate: when it's a new store. He used the following example, which I'll reproduce here, because it's just so spot on:
"I just got back into Magic after getting out awhile ago and I'm looking for some old cards to make some decks I liked to play. Do you guys have Fallen Empires or Invasions (say Invasions) or things like that?"
If the Dusty Old Store is actually a Dusty New Store, Doug's strategy is certainly the right move. Not just the right move, but a magic arrow in a quiver where staying sharp means you stay on top.
Wrapping it up
I’m a little upset that I don’t really have anything to offer you in the way of pickups, but here’s a couple pieces to chew on (Note: these are not portfolio pickups, just some thoughts).
Voltaic Key: If you have access to Vintage tournaments or players, then I’d recommend picking up a couple foil Keys if you can get them at $6 or less. I’d hold on to one or two, but ship the rest to players not dealers. Dealers won’t likely pay a high enough premium to show a profit on these, but you can probably trade them to people who want to pimp their Vintage decks (Vintage players are the most guilty of the pimping infraction, our own Jonathan Medina is a recovering pimpaholic, and Kelly wrote a fabulous piece on why not to pimp) at no less than $10. In a couple years (especially if Key isn’t re-reprinted) these could go as high as $20-30 each in foil, so that’s why I’d hold a couple.
Crystal Ball : Is a card I wouldn’t be uncomfortable having several of, foil or otherwise. It’s an excitingly underrated card in M11, and I have a sneaking suspicion it could be the chase uncommon of M11, a la Bloodbraid Elf or Path to Exile. No promises, but if you can get them as throw-ins, do.
The one recommendation I’m going to make today is a big commitment, so if you’re not comfortable with it, probably not a huge deal.
If you can preorder FROM THE VAULT: RELICS (at retail) do it. They’re like $34.99 at MSRP, and include the following (of note):
Mox Diamond, Sol Ring, Aether Vial, Nevinyrral's Disk. They either aren’t available in foil currently, or are pretty high-priced if you can get them. For FTV: Exiled, StarCityGames was buying them for almost $100. I’d crack one of these if you can get two, and sell it whole if you can only get one. They are exceedingly limited in supply (if the last two FTV sets are any indication) and you will find a buyer (this is why you want an eBay account).
The Mox Diamond alone should put this over the top, but get as many as you can, especially if you can preorder them. I’m not even joking when I say I plan on sitting outside of stores that get them the day of for probably about an hour before they open, just to ensure I can get four of these. If they let you preorder and prepay, do it. It’s the quickest flip from $35 to $70 I can even think of, just make sure you move it.
Current Portfolio: At the end of today, you still have only obtained about 7 Mind Over Matters and 1-2 Lim Duls Vaults. your bankroll is about $65, approximately (closer to $30 if you have preordered and prepaid for a FTV: Relics).
Current Performance: Slightly up; there has been a run, inspired I’m sure by advice from this site (from Jonathan and myself) on MOMa in the last several days, the eBay median price for sold is up to about $4.50, but is still very wax/wane (several have sold for sub $4.50), so still hold these, don’t get nervous.
Guys, I loved the comments on the last column, keep it up!
Leave a comment below, or email me at DAVE at 02DROP dot COM.
Until next time, may your favorite color be Green!