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Insider: Collection Flipping — A Case Study

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Those of you who have been around the financial world long enough have undoubtedly bought and resold collections before. It can be one of the most profitable ways to deal in Magic cards, but it also one of the most time-consuming.

In my experience, buying collections has been very feast or famine. I’ve scored some sweet deals before but I’ve also slogged through a number of collection that are usually hugely overpriced and therefore undesirable. Because of this I have a general rule of ignoring collection sells, though I do keep my eye out from time to time. So it’s understandable that when I saw what looked like a reasonable Craiglist ad I was at least intrigued.

The description was fairly typical of all Magic ads online but contained this one little sentence that grabbed my attention.

“Priced these out at $80 Star City buylist prices but I need cash so I’m willing to take $70 in person.”

The reason that buying collections online is often so tedious is because most people either just make an arbitrarily large number or look at SCG retail prices of a few cards and go from there. It’s so much work to get them to a number you can profit off of that it quickly becomes not worth your time. Seeing someone already working on buylist prices, on the other hand, is something we can work with.

I called him and found out that the seller was actually a friend of mine (Russ) who I played with a year or two back before he left the game when his son was born. I bought his collection then and was able to build my EDH deck from the profits I made grinding out the collection.

It turns out he didn’t actually completely leave the game, though he stopped doing FNM. Instead, he was designing his own block! When I met with him to buy the cards, I took some time looking over it, and it turned out to be pretty cool (you can find it here). I’m no designer, but I do think I’m pretty decent on the development end of things, so he and I were able to talk about his set for awhile and catch up, which was nice.

I bring all this up because it demonstrates a few things. First, Magic’s an awesome game that helps you reconnect with old friends and other sentimental business like that. Secondly, by establishing an actual relationship and having a real conversation, the deal turned out even better for me when he threw in a foil Angelic Destiny to the pile. In turn, I gave him the $80 because I knew I was still making money on the deal and wanted to return the favor (also I only had 20s in my wallet).

Now, I’m not suggesting by any means that you pretend to be friends with people to make money off of them. The very first bullet point I ever wrote regarding Magic was “it’s about making friends, not matching dollar signs,” and I believe that more than ever today. But I tell you that story as an example of how important developing sound connections is in this industry. Were I just some unknown and unfriendly cash machine, I would never get to see Russ’ set or get extra value thrown into my purchase.

Once the collection was in hand, the real work began. Among the highlights of what I got.

Foil Angelic Destiny

Ghoultree

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

2x Birthing Pod

Foil Blade Splicer

Dungeon Geists

Havengul Lich

Drogskull Reaver

3x Garruk Relentless // Garruk, the Veil-Cursed

2x Thrun, the Last Troll

And another stack of $2-4 cards (retail), including some nice Uncommons like Strangleroot Geist and Beast Within, and then another couple dozen true bulk rares. The money cards came out to about $75-80 on SCG’s buylist, though they didn’t have everything listed that I got in the deal.

All in all, pretty decent. Now I could have sent this off to another buylist and made a little bit of money, and if there’s nothing wrong if that’s all you want to do when you buy collections.

Instead I chose to take this box to FNM and try to trade out of it before I shipped it off. After all, there’s nothing wrong with just rolling purchases into your trade binder to increase your power on the trade floor, though in general I like to keep collection flipping separate in order to be more clear on my in/out price with it.

So I took the box of cards to FNM and traded out of it separately from my regular binder to see if I could grind some of the lower-value stuff into things I can buylist easier. This allows you to move a few less expensive cards like Kessig Wolf Run that have good value on the trade floor but bad cash value to dealers. By trading some of the extra stuff like that from the box, I ended up with a much better box to actually vendor.

Now we come to the selling, which is where I’m at now. I have a few options. I can ship it off to a good buylist (initial favorite is Card Kingdom, but their foil prices don’t actually exist on the website). I checked with my local dealer and he didn’t need any of the stock from the box, so I’m trying to figure out my best avenue for selling.

That’s where you guys come in. I have a few dealers I’ve worked with in the past and gotten fair deals from, but I’m encountering the “no one wants all of my cards” problem. Either stores don’t need the foils or they don’t need some other pieces I’m looking to sell. Having gotten in at $80 and then traded some of it for value, I’m hoping to get $125 out of the fewest cards possible and add the remainder afterward to my usual trade binder.

What are your best selling outlets, and how do you think I should go about cashing out of what I have?

The reason I’m going to come out well in this, besides the social reasons I talked about above, is that our baseline was SCG prices. In my experience, that’s the single best way to profit while being honest with your sellers. You can show them the SCG buylist, which is the biggest name in the business, and offer to give them SCG prices on the spot and save them the trouble of shipping. This works for them because it’s easy cash and most people either don’t know how or just don’t care to scrape around the Internet for better buylists, something I don’t have a problem doing.

I hope that you guys are able to use this recent acquisition to see some of the behind-the-scenes tricks and details of the collection-flipping process, and let me know what you think I should do with the stack of cards I have left!

Thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter

POSTSCRIPT — Inspired by my success with this collection, I decided to take up another Craigslist ad of a family looking to sell a box with a few decks in it. They only wanted $25, so I figured the price was low enough to make the 45-minute round trip to check it out. Of course, when I got there I found a Tempered Steel, a Dragonskull Summit and 10 bulk rares waiting on me. Sadly, I had to pass, even at the $25 mark.

Like I said, feast or famine. Hope I have better luck next-go round!

9 thoughts on “Insider: Collection Flipping — A Case Study

  1. I monitor marktplaats (craigslist equivalent) for nice collections, but only go for the really interesting ones. Those that are not obvious unless you really think about it.

    One was a repacks offering that seemed at a good price, he suggested he had a list of the cards. Looking at the list buying all repacks seemed a good deal and I just made an offer for all and he threw in his spare (un)commons and some other stuff.

    On another occasion there was a way overpriced collection (300 euro for 3000 cards), but with a few random, but very good looking legends cards in the photographs. Asked him for more pictures explaining that what he was showing didn't really come close to justifying the 300 euro. First a picture of an Island of Wak-Wak came in, later pictures included some cards an old school player would have really enjoyed (like Glasses of Urza) and finally, surrounded by a lot of crap and a Legends Vaevictis Asmadi: a Mox Emerald. Offered 250 assuming the Mox would be fairly damaged, which he accepted, turned out the Mox was NM and the collection included a lot of other old goodies not visible in the pictures and almost everything was in EX+ – NM+ condition (Mana Drain, a whole stack of Chain Lightnings, Mirror Universe, many Legends from Legends, Duals, Factories, etc.).

    For a fellow student at the university I agreed to appraise his collection. Lots of Beta stuff and a lot of cards from then till Ice Age. Told him all I could offer was 400 as I just didn't have more, 600 could easily be had selling on marktplaats and probably 800 with a little effort. He was ok with the 400. I moved most of the Beta stuff a week later for 350, leaving me with plenty of other goodies.

    What I am saying is, let the other guys snipe the collections that are obvious and make a little money on it. Wait for the good ones yourself and of course, when an opportunity arises among the people you know, jump on it!

    I should add that I also don't have time to move a lot of small collections, so time wise going after the weird but high profit ones is more logical.

  2. It never fails to amaze me. The prices people post on CR are insane. I don't understand the subset of the world that expects retail value for their cards. Believe or not, we are doing a favor for these people!

  3. Found your article interesting, I run up against the same problem on occasion. I am trying to rectify the problem with building a website, I have to wait until june as time is an issue and school is a problem as well. I would love to hear ideas about your experiences and ideas you might have to incorporate with my site, which by the way will mtgflip.com. My email is doug_montalvo@yahoo.com
    thanks,
    doug.

  4. Bidwicket.com is a site I use to sell off collections. With so many dealers posting buylists on the same site, it's pretty easy to split hundreds of cards between 3 or 4 dealers for maximum value. Very time consuming, though, so get ready for a full weekend of looking up cards one by one.

  5. Magic Traders is still probaly the best, although lately seems to be just sharks. 🙁 MTG fanatic has GREAT buy prices but they are SUPER anal on conditioning and take a month or more to pay you. They do however offer a played buy price and if it doesn't meet thier standards they just send it back rather then pay 6.00 for your darkslick shore that is clearly just SP (card kingdom channelfireball). FYI: MTGfanatics played condition is more like most peoples nrmt any kind of real wear it comes back to you. Anymore just wait til a GP and sell to dealers there. Carl at empire cards used to be the spot to sell stuff but since his store he just wants to give credit for his cards that are priced worse then SCG prices. Empire cards has changed its prices on me while I was checking out on the site after I messaged him to see if i could just pick them up to avoid shipping kinda dirty imo 🙁

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