Insider: (Part 3) Collection Flipping – A Case Study

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When we last left off, I was grinding a small collection I bought a month or so back. Today, I’ve decided it’s time to sell.

A good point was raised in the comments last week. If you’re making money trading the cards you bought, when do you draw the line and sell?

I have a few thoughts on this. The first thing that comes to mind is the thing I always have on my mind when dealing with Magic cards – How do I make money on this? You don’t make money by amassing a huge collection or buying a lot of cards to add to it. You make money by selling cards. And that means at some point you have to actually sell the cards for cash.

You don’t have to clean out your collection or deplete your binder to do this, but every few months you should be selling, whether that’s just moving casual cards (as I usually do), or selling rotating Standard cards, older cards that have spiked, etc… This way you’re able to cash out some of your profits from trading and still have a collection to make money on while you’re on the trade floor.

The second thing is a question of freshness. If you go to the same one or two stores every week, as I imagine many of you do, the amount of interest you’ll get in the first week of introducing a bunch of new cards will statistically be much higher than what you’d get six weeks in. That means the cards are starting to stagnate and at that point you should probably be getting ready to sell.

Wrapping up the trades

One note is that I found a local buyer for the foil Snapcaster Mage and foil Stoneforge Mystic. I was able to sell both of them for $70 total to a friend, cutting him a great deal and recouping my money from the investment, basically netting a free SP Wasteland in the process. I had a cash offer of $25 for the Wasteland from the local shop owner, but I decided I was better off trying to trade it, at least for the night, before going down that path.

I ended up finding a guy who wanted the Wasteland and actually had something I was interested in, allowing me to extract maximum value out of it. Star City Games is sold out of Wastes at $50, this allowed me to ask for a $55 price for it, since SCG often raises the price when they restock. As a player, he didn’t see any problem with the condition either. In return, I got a NM Polluted Delta, a Dungeon Geists and another $5-7 card (though which particular card escapes my memory).

SCG buys Wastelands for $30 and Deltas for $25, so once you add in buylist values of the other two cards this is pretty much straight up, though the upside on Dungeon Geists is nice. And that’s not even mentioning the fact that the Wasteland was played, so in reality I’m coming out $10+ ahead in cash on this trade.

I added these to my personal binder since I was already breaking even from selling the other two cards. Basically I netted a freePolluted Deltaand change from that particular deal, which is insane for a few hours of work and one trip to the ATM.

Selling out

Now we get to the crux of this piece. After selling the two foils, I’m basically $82 into the “collection pile,” so that was my breakeven point when selling.

The first thing I did was separate the collection into two piles. The first was the pile of bulk or near bulk. I don’t need to bulk out anything here, since that’s not really going to impact my profits at all. In addition, I pulled out a few cards I wanted to hold onto in anticipation of rising prices. That included things like Dungeon Geists, Kessig Wolf Runs and a stack of Strangleroot Geists. In short, I’m coming up with a pretty nice amount of stock to put into my trade binder. Even if most of it isn’t particularly expensive or desirable, having it gives me an opportunity to profit.

The second stack was the pile of things I wanted to actually sell, since that’s where all my profit is going to be. I was planning on selling all these cards at once, so we needed to find the best place to move these. I have a few favorites I like to sell to, and here are the advantages and disadvantages for the three stores I priced it out at.

Store A

By and large, the first store had the best prices and was buying the most cards. The only problem was they don’t buy foils. This was a problem because I still had the foil Angelic Destiny from the collection and there were a few other foils in the pile of cards I was selling from my “usual” binder.

Store B

A pretty average buylist, but one with some nice prices. The problem was that this store was buying very little, so chances are to get the good prices I would have to split up my order, in essence wiping out those extra dollars since I would have to pay double or triple shipping.

Store C

Here we come to a smaller store, and one that was buying the least cards. That said, their prices were pretty good, and I had met and done some business with the owner at an event before, so I wanted to give them a shot.

Wheeling and Dealing

Here’s where things got a little more messy. Just based on the numbers online, I would have been best off moving most of my stuff to Store A and getting the foils to the other shop. However, I really didn’t want to split up the sale, so I took the next step — I called each of the individual stores.

I found out why Store A doesn’t take foils and doesn’t want any at all, killing my optimism for shipping it all there. But Store C’s owner was willing to work with me. He took a look at my spreadsheet and made me a very fair offer for buying everything together. I happily accepted it, and we both won. He got cards he’ll be able to sell at a profit, and I got cash and the convenience of moving everything at once, even the stuff he didn’t have on his buylist. This shows the power of working with dealers and developing a professional relationship, something I can not stress enough.

I decided not to name the stores right now for a few reasons. It’s mostly irrelevant what particular stores they were, since it’s the principles here that matter. I also haven’t received permission from the owner who bought my stuff to put their name out there. If I hear back from him and he wants that, I’ll be more than happy to share it, but as a professional courtesy I also don’t want to send a ton of people his way asking him to change his policy. That doesn’t change the fact I think you should be willing to negotiate with dealers, but it’s probably best if I don’t flood someone’s email without at least asking.

As for the collection, I ended up getting a little over $200 for my entire sale, about $125 of which came from the collection I originally bought for $80. So, by grinding the collection in trades, I was able to add another $20-25 in cash in just a few weeks while also depositing some of that profit into my regular trade binder.

I’ll take that.

Of spreadsheets

I love making spreadsheets, and use it at every opportunity. It takes a lot of work to set one up, especially when you’re pricing for multiple stores, but it’s well worth the effort. As you saw, simply having a spreadsheet already compiled made the entire transaction easier for both myself and the dealer, and it’s an invaluable tool to have for your records.

If you’re interested, you can see my spreadsheet for everything here.

Wrapping it up

In the end, I was able to make $45 profit from the sale of the collection pile, and another $90 from the cards I sold from my regular binder. The important thing here is that when trading, I essentially turn my trading profits into what I call “dealer bait.” The things like Glimpse the Unthinkable or Captivating Vampire that sell at a good margin to dealers but don’t trade particularly quickly. Because of this, flipping through my binder now you’d barely notice anything missing even though I pulled almost $100 in cash out of it.

As far as the collection goes, I made a good amount of money from buying it, and even more from choosing to trade it rather than immediately flip it. By keeping the cards for a month to trade away, I was able to both add value to the collection and to my regular binder.

And that concludes our three-part series walking you through the process of buying and flipping a real-life collection. I hope you all have enjoyed the series, and let me know what you think!

Thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler





7 thoughts on “Insider: (Part 3) Collection Flipping – A Case Study

  1. Interesting journey, Corbin. I particularly like the part where you shop your set out to the highest bidder. I believe that most stores are willing to throw in a few extra dollars on a large buy to someone who asks. Worst thing you'll hear is 'no', and if you can't get a better offer you might be able to work out a store credit deal for an extra percentage.

    As for when to sell: my advice is immediately. I always start with the cheap stuff and sell everything as singles to dealers until I've recuperated all, or the largest part of, my investment. Sometimes that leaves you with one or two prize cards, sometimes a ton more, but you're then poised to re-invest that money into another collection while you slow grind the good stuff. Plus, it makes your efforts immediately apparent and easy to determine. (ie "It took me X dollars and Y hours to earn this pile of cards in my hand")

  2. I find this and many Quiet Speculation articles to be unnecessarily verbose. The relevant lessons could be said in a few paragraphs. The story and anecdotes, for me, are less then entertaining filler. I understand the market is relatively small, and a writer could easily run out of material. Still, for the sake of attracting more sellers/traders I recommend more editing.

    The basic ideas you are espousing are economic 101, buy low sell high, see what the market will bare, sell your product where the demand is the highest, etc. I see you bought; foil Snapcaster Mage, foil Stoneforge Mystic, and a NM- Wasteland for $72. Conservatively, these cards sell on ebay for $50, $40, $30. Therefor, you either found someone generous or foolish. Assuming the people paying for insider content know how to trade up, your many examples seem like “good for you” moments, not tips for aspiring traders.

    There are some interesting tidbits in here, but it feels like real work to glean relevant information from Quiet Speculating insider articles.

    1. While you're likely right that some part of the audience just wants the basic facts in bite size chunks ready for implementation in their own speculation activities (or at least, that's what i think you are looking for?), there is a different part of the audience that likes the verbose descriptions (I would be one of them). Whatever your preference though if you note this for more insider articles it might be a bit unfair to Corbin to raise it as a point just for his article. It seems more like something to raise as a general comment to the site on the forums, which will also make sure more people will notice it and it may become more clear how many people have a viewpoint similar to your own.

    2. I'm sorry you feel that way. The same could be said, I think, for just about every article written on any website, financial or otherwise. And just because they are some basic economic principles doesn't mean it doesn't help to see them in action in the MTG market. After all, nothing written means much without context. This isn't a textbook, and there's a big difference between spouting off economic principles and seeing them in live action.

  3. What I missed in these articles was something like a time versus reward analysis. You put in $80, made about $45, how many hours were spent to do this? Also, what would the results have looked like if you did not find a very good deal for the Foil Mage, Foil Mystic and the Wasteland?

    With the travelling and extra effort, $45 feels like it might not constitute a very good hourly rate.

  4. I disagree with forcing all to one outlet. I have 4 sites that I sell to for various reasons and easily make more than the shipping in the difference in the buy prices.

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