Insider: The Revenue Review – Of Podcasts and Pitfalls

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[Corbin wrote this article last week while traveling to Grand Prix Nashville. He was unable to find a reliable connection in his travels, so here is his Insider article from 3-16-2012.]

I’m in the middle of a big two-week stretch for me where I hit up SCG Dallas last weekend and am traveling to Nashville for the Grand Prix there this weekend. I want to talk about a few things I noticed on the trade floor last weekend and my plan for this weekend, but first I need to announce something pretty cool.

The first-ever Financial Podcast is now live!

Calling it Brainstorm Brewery, it’s Ryan Bushard (@CryppleCommand) and myself (@Chosler88) talking about MTG financials while Marcel tries to keep us from going on too long about prices and such. Why the Brewery, though? Because we’re also talking rogue deckbuilding. All three of us like to brew, and I only brew when I know my deck is competitive.

You can find all that, and more, on our first episode here. Our second episode should also be up very soon, so keep an eye out for it.

Please provide feedback to us in whatever medium you want, whether that’s on here or on Twitter (@Chosler88). We want to turn this cast into what you guys want it to be, so don’t hold back.

With that in mind, let’s get into a few other things I want to talk about this week. For starters, the pitfalls of selling, also known as “the power of a good buy list.”

Finding the right list

It makes me really sad when I attend a SCG Open weekend and see players lined up to sell their collection there. This is not a knock on Star City directly, but it’s a well-known fact that they have some of the lowest buylist prices around on the majority of the cards you have in your collection (though I’ll duly note their Legacy buy prices are typically better).

Of course, cash is king, and that’s why people sell to them. But they are leaving, in many cases, hundreds or even thousands of dollars on the table by selling out like that.

A good trader has a number of outlets for selling. When I’m at a big event with multiple dealers, I shop around to find out where I can get the best prices on individual cards, and then split up where I’m selling to maximize profit. I’m sure you would do the same, since it seems so obvious. Why, then, do people not do this when it actually comes time to sell?

My best guess is that many people are either unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the process. Selling your cards is the time you should be looking forward to, not dreading, because it’s when your hard work at the trade tables turns into actual pay-the-rent money instead of theoretical dollars sitting in a binder.

Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that, provided you have a real reason for making theoretical dollars instead of real ones. For instance, since I won’t sell to Star City Games at an Open weekend, I used my time in Dallas to simply stock up in preparation of selling the next week at Grand Prix Nashville.

Remember, there are a ton of dealers out there and they all have different needs. Don’t think that just because you have a growing collection means you have to be in a rush to sell, especially if you’re sitting on more stable cards such as casual hits like Mind Funeral or something that’s steady due to older formats, like Stoneforge Mystic. It may be worth it to move your Runechanters Pikes as soon as you can to make a profit, since sitting on the Standard flavor of the week is dangerous, but for the other cards make sure you get the right deal.

In no particular order, here are some other tips that I wish I had known when I started to learn the process of cashing out your cards.

Shop around

I’ll admit that my very first sell ever came to Star City Games over the internet, simply because I didn’t know any better. I imagine I’m not the only one who’s been in that position. Treat your Internet selling like you would if you were at Grand Prix and find the lists you like.

As I said, buy prices fluctuate like crazy between different stores, but Card Kingdom, Strike Zone Online, and AdventuresOn all typically offer very good buy prices, and Don’s Magic and Sundry offers a blanket buy policy based on percentages, which can be helpful. You encounter different standards from each of these stores on things such as condition, so make sure to consult the Reseller Reviews in our forums, but these four stores are all a good place to start.

Keep it local

You don’t have to take to the Internet to sell. Make friends with the dealer at your local game store. I’ve called a couple different shops home now, and there have been advantages and disadvantages to each.

For instance, the shop where I used to live didn’t really have a thriving singles business, but the owner let me sell cards for cash on site. This meant I could get better than buy prices whenever I made a sell, but it also raised the probably of not being able to move cards whenever I wanted to. At the store I go to now, the owner and I have a very good partnership where he cuts me pretty decent prices and I keep cards moving to him that he needs.

Develop and foster these relationships as best you can, because a lot of the time you can save yourself the trouble of dealing with a store across the country (and save a trip to the post office).

Don’t be scared to negotiate

I’ll let you in on a secret: the price a dealer quotes you when you sit down across from them is not set in stone. They’re going to make a profit when they resell your cards, whether that’s at a 30 percent margin or a 40 percent margin, and you’d be surprised how willing many dealers are to work with you, particularly if you understand what both parties need from each other.

Dealers and floor traders have a symbiotic relationship wherein both parties need the other. Dealers need stock to sell to customers, and traders need an outlet for their cards.

I’m not saying to nickel and dime them on every card, but if you know they’ve got Gravecrawlers in the case at $10 and they’re only offering you $5, don’t be scared to ask for a dollar more on each, because that’s still a perfectly acceptable margin for them. This won’t work every time, but it will definitely make an impact on your bottom line if you can keep it easygoing and friendly with dealers when you’re selling.

Use the power of the buylist

If one dealer is offering you $5 on Green Sun's Zenith but another is offering you $4, it’s pretty easy to know what to do. But what if you’re selling online and the second dealer only has a better price on one card, in this case the Zenith? If you’re not careful, you can eat up the extra money you’re getting by spreading yourself too thin and incurring more expenses.

Knowledge is truly power, as they say, and you can use this to your advantage. Establish a line of communication with the dealer and let them know that you need a certain price on this card. More often than not, if you’re giving them real numbers, they’ll match the price because, like I said above, they need you just as much as you need them.

This works even better if you have a local outlet to move cards and can use the power of a good online buylist to get the same prices at home. You save the hassle and expense of shipping and get to help out and establish a good working relationship with your friendly local shop owner.

That’s all the space I have, but I feel like I’m just getting started. I plan on recounting how Grand Prix Nashville next time, but I’ll definitely revisit the topic of working with dealers in the future. Let us know in the comments or Twitter or wherever else if you guys have any other helpful tips!

Thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler
@Chosler88 on Twitter

12 thoughts on “Insider: The Revenue Review – Of Podcasts and Pitfalls

  1. The title to the article confused me, I was expecting it to be about podcasts and pitfalls involved with podcasts.

    Unfortunately in The Netherlands there is only 1 online shop that has a buylist. I regularly trade in cards and do make sure to negotiate a bit (he's generally willing to come down a bit on price of what I am trading for unless I've caught him on something that has already exploded in price on other sites). Fortunately this shop is quite close to me. I understand that WeQu is going to put online a buylist for his Belgium based shop, but that is still in the testing phase. I might consider shipping some cards to him at some point. Sending cards to the US is just not worth it unless it's a few expensive singles because otherwise shipping will kill any profit, similarly to how I am frequently disappointed at TCGPlayer, picking out some nice and cheap cards at one of the shops only to discover they charge $40 to ship my $10 order.

    I guess what I am saying is that you're very fortunate to have many shops to choose from :-).

  2. Pi, have you ever considered dealing cards in the U.S. through a 3rd party? Sure, you'd need to find someone you could truly trust first and that may take time. But in essence, you could possess a "second collection" remotely in the U.S. You could purchase cards and have them shipped to this US location, and you could sell cards via US buylists and MOTL and ship them from this same location. Every once in a while, when you have a significant amount of cards stocked up, you could have them all shipped at once to you in the Netherlands and start over. This would really cut down on shipping costs and it would open many doors.

    Just a suggestion, do with it what you will 🙂

    1. Yeah, but to maximize profits, you shouldn't hold sentimental value to most of your cards anyway. They are all replacable, after all.

      So you could touch the cards, but you could enjoy keeping track of them all in a spreadsheet or something. It'd be like trading stock through a broker. When we buy shares of a company, we don't hold paper certificates. But we still get paid the dividends and we can still buy/sell the stock at our discretion for a small fee.

      I could be a Magic Card broker!

  3. Interesting, no, I haven't considered that. I know very few people in the US, none of whom I know well enough to continually trust them with my money and with grading. You make a good point though, at the very least it should be cheaper for that $10 order to just be forwarded by someone (it should fit in any regular envelope) than ordering it from those guys directly.

    What you're proposing is basically the opposite of what was suggested on the forums for, which is apparently unavailable for US based buyers. However I am able to buy from US based shops just fine, it's just that a few charge far too much for shipping. I have in the past frequently paid only about $4-$10. Not exactly cheap, but given the exchange rates and cheaper cards in general a lot more interesting than getting it here in Europe. Not that it's always bad to buy here, I frequently find underpriced cards at shops that are slow to update their prices. I even know some cards on the buylist of that 1 shop that are listed at higher buy prices than US sell prices…

    The problem I found with TCGPlayer's shops is something that seems to have started recently. 2 months ago just about any order I tried went just fine with shipping costs in that $4-$10 range depending on volume. Maybe many new shops joined that don't like to sell overseas? I was thinking about suggesting some kind of shipping cost filter to TCGPlayer.

    Btw, an interesting extension of your suggestion would be to fund a US based grinder. Why have a second collection just sitting there doing nothing, right?

    1. Wow, we just broke into a whole new level of the game. Paying someone to grind out your collection! For a small percentage, these people go to the large events in the U.S. and value trade as much as possible. Then when they cash out on MOTL or with dealers, they get to keep a certain percentage. They take on much less risk and don't have to put in any initial capital, and you profit abroad. Love it!

      Of course, there's NO way I would have the time to support such an endeavor. Not sure how many people would.

      In terms of buying cards from U.S. sellers, having the cards shipped to a contact in the U.S., and then having those cards shipped to you for a cheaper price….this seems less time consuming. Especially for someone like me who is going to the post office frequently to mail orders anyway. And again, a tiny incentive (like $1 per shipment to you, for example) would be all it takes to buy my commitment :-).

      Having someone you can trust is very key here. I'd wager people on this site would be trustworthy, but I couldn't sign people up of course.

      1. 😀

        I was somewhat joking when I suggested that (I realize that may not have been entirely clear). Not that it would not be an interesting option, however it feels like too much to trust somebody with whom I've never met. To make it worthwhile for the person doing it I'd have to spend thousands of dollars as well to get it started, I am not that rich. If MTGO keeps usable logs of transactions it might be more interesting to go in that direction anyway. I have been thinking how trading towards entire sets for redemption purposes might be interesting as a replacement for me buying boxes, however fanatically trading on MTGO is out of the question for me due to Carpetal Tunnel risks (already have a mild form, don't want it to increase). If I could fund a grinder there, bounce ideas off of each other and on the whole make it cheaper to get my cards it could be very interesting. The problem remains that I would still be trusting somebody with a lot, however at this point they could be based anywhere in the world which might make things easier.

        I might take you up on your offer for reshipping cards. You might also consider if you would be willing to do it for sealed product: prices here are higher in euro than the dollar prices in the US, however Wizards does not want US suppliers to sell outside of the US. It's a logical extension I suppose but it might need a little more consideration. Let me see how long it takes before I again consider making a purchase only to find shipping costs are excessive :).

  4. Let's open a post on the forum for that. I would be interested in opening an account on some shops with an account that has a US based address and have the cards that arrive on my name arriving there be shipped let's say once/twice a month.
    I you feel like you can find the time to manage that, work something out I'd say! 🙂

  5. It all seems like a logical option, and I'm sure there are people who already do it. There are a couple things to consider before diving in of course:

    1. Legality (for singles I can't see any moral dilemmas, but for sealed product I could see possible pushback)
    2. True cost
    3. I don't know how easy it is to receive someone else's mail at my address. This could be tricky. You may have to have the cards shipped in my name so there are no issues with the post office sending mail back and what not.
    4. Discussion of liability (lost/damaged cards, periods of time where I would be busy and couldn't make it to the post office for a given week)

    Overall, this is such an interesting thought exercise, but I just don't know how practical it is. I wish someone else would chime in with some perspective. 🙂

  6. 1. True, this is why I wanted to stress it.
    2. Yeah, obviously should I encounter a reason to want to do this it should definitely be clear what it'll cost.
    3. If I can enter anything but your name I can probably manage adding that detail as well ;). It's probably a good idea to just send it to you rather than using someone else's name, though on the other hand of course the post office won't know who exactly lives at your address.
    4. Good point. Time wouldn't be much of a problem, mail already seems to take between 1 and 3 weeks fromt he US so it's not like I'd really notice (unless you start talking something like months). Liability could be a problem and that's where I am in a perfect position to get screwed, either by someone offering this service deciding to "lose" a package (if you catch my drift) or by the shop not providing the promised quality. I am very picky regarding card quality and if there is an issue and the order is in your name communicating with the shop would become a little awkward (card grading really seems to have gone down the drain recently, though it might be because I order older cards more often these days).

  7. Just some quick thoughts…
    I believe this is doable if you have the time and willingness 🙂

    1. True, but I suppose main focus should be singles anyway. You could say (if interested in providing this service = singles only)
    2. You are the guy who can really state exact costs (and profit) for this. What does it cost to ship 10 cards? 20 cards? 100? 1500? … etc 🙂
    3. I would like to create my own account, using the "provider" address. The way I see it : I order with the account that has your address. I provide details of the order via mail. You get package and check quality of cards. Let me know via email. I provide feedback to shop. That's part 1.
    Part 2 would be to gather all orders and ship them once in a while. DC only (I assume). I provide via paypal the total cost to handle the shipment. Only after I received all cards I'll provide you your profit.
    4. See above. Part 1 is between shop and me. Part 2 is between you and me and I have a reference number of the shipment. If I would do this, I believe I would like to opt to provide all details about the orders, amount, … on the forum, so everyone can follow and I can provide a kind of feedback via the forum. This will allow you to grow in the service and I give it more visibility and lower the risk 🙂

    I propose to discuss the idea and really let it mature.
    Try to find any pitfalls, discuss liability, … Let's give it a shot to work something out.
    I am willing to take it a shot anyhow!

  8. The idea is tempting. I love the idea of getting paid to walk to the post office once in a while. At this moment in time, I don't know if I can take on the endeavor myself, however. My wife just had our baby, and so I don't get a whole lot of free time these days. While the actual commitment may be small at first, this would be one more thing I'd have to manage. The more I take on, the higher risk I make mistakes.

    If you are truly serious about the idea, perhaps you can take it to the forums and see if someone else is willing to help? I'd hate to help develop the idea and then leave you hanging, but I need to keep my commitments to a minimum right now, especially with others' assets.

    Perhaps in time this is something we can revisit 🙂

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