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Insider: Across the Atlantic – Online Shopping

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Last time I covered how Europe operates in the world of Magic. I want to thank everyone who gave me feedback, as I really appreciate the discussion we had.

This week I am going to cover something I have recently started doing. I talked very briefly about buying most of the small sites inventory in my last article, and now I want to highlight what my methodology is and how I invest my capital in these cards to grind a profit.

Searching

The first step to find these small shops is using search engines. Most of these internet retail shops are not SEO optimized. I mostly go beyond Google, utilizing other search engines, local language search engines and sometimes browse through forums where people can advertise their marketplace.

When you find some websites, be extremely careful to ensure that they are still active. It is handy to call them or send them an email before you transfer any funds via PayPal or bank wire, as as it is extremely hard to find the owner if you can't contact them. If they update their website by adding new sets every month, you should be good. I mostly do this check after I have found out if it is worth my time picking up cards from the shop.

Let's imagine we found a website where we've browsed through some sets and found some underpriced cards. For quick reference, I look at the Zendikar, Mirrodin and Innistrad block cards to find out if anything is severly underpriced or overpriced, where overpriced is something like Skaab Ruinator or Temporal Mastery, which tells me that the owner is not fully up to date on today's market prices.

I use two monitors for this because it is easier to have the shop's website on one screen and buylists of several other sites on the other, including a spreadsheet where I write the cards down I want to purchase. For your convenience, if you click on the screenshot below, you will be redirected to Google Docs of a template you can use for your own ''online shopping spree'':

I think the template is relatively easy to use. Enter the cardname, set, the shop's selling price and quantity there.

I think the most critical thing about the spreadsheet is the usage column where I write down why I want to buy this card. Is it for direct resell profit? For speculation? Or does it happen to fit in my deckbuilding plans? I also include some sort of eBay / MagicCardMarket average in the Usage column, as I get a general idea where I can sell the specific card on.

I also write down the buylist price and the trade price as I typically want to cash the cards in, which I will write a paragraph about it later on.

Grinding

So as soon as I am ready to delve through the retail shops list, I browse through all the sets to find the underpriced cards that I can flip profitably. I mostly recommend doing this between other projects, as it can be very dull but the first few times. I learned what sets are worth looking at with many high value cards, and which others are worth skipping over. I think it takes a lot of practice to memorize cards at buylist and trade value so I took this opportunity to learn it by heart.

When my list is complete, I typically email or phone the owner to see if any discount is available because I am interested in x cards with a total of at least 3 digits. Surprisingly, most of them comply, increasing your profits even more. I generally get between 10-20% discount on singles and sealed products.

Furthermore, it confirms that the shop owner is still active and running.

Assessing

As soon as I have found cards I consider worth buying, worth the currency risk and shipping cost, I make an assessment around how to make profit out of my purchase. I formulate this around the sense of when to trade or when to sell, where do I sell my cards to, what cards will I keep for speculation? This is certainly the hardest thing for me to do as I have encountered some pitfalls, which will be highlighted later on.

Risk & Opportunities

Certainly there are pitfalls regarding an ''online shopcrawl''.

I encountered one this summer, as buylists update themselves due to other customers selling cards to the vendors. If your spread between buying and reselling a card is minimal, we risk being anywhere from marginally up to selling at a loss.

I believe it also has to do with the seasons, as we are now in the holiday summer season in Europe where people are mostly outside (rightfully so at 30-35 degrees Celsius / 86 Fahrenheit !), so demand seasonally drops. I already saw it with Standard staples like Snapcaster Mage, going from 15 to 10 in many buylists.

The Standard PTQ season and World Magic Cup are over, and everyone is going to enjoy the spoiler season of RtR. This leads me to foresee a slight decrease in demand.

Another pitfall can occur if one is timid with buying. Sometimes the prices unexpectedly go up because the store owner had just updated his/her pricing. The item may also be bought out by other customers, diminishing profitability.

When To Move

An important point of discussion is when to move your cards, which I feel largly depends on your community.

If you have a lot of trading activity in your LGS, then it is certainly fine to put the acquired cards in your binder and see if you can trade  up for value. If you need the cash, then your priority often lies in selling it as soon as possible for a profit.

Personally, I put the cards in my binder for around 1.5 - 2 weeks, both online and offline, then proceed to sell the rest off. Just like poker, there is no clear cut walkthrough as there are many different variables. Writing about different strategies could take me an entire article, although I am happy to give you my advice at all times!

I recommend you to read Corbin Hosler's formidable article about the Myths of Making Profit, since it comes down whether putting extra effort in uptrading your cards is worth it versus direct reselling to vendors/players. It can help you in making a better assessment on whether to keep the cards for trading or to sell them directly on marketplaces or to players and retail sites.

I was surprised from the shopcrawls that certain cards have a high or low ratio of buylist/trade value, meaning some cards are easier to move than others. Becoming familiar with card prices makes you more comfortable and confident in your trading, creating a big edge in trading with almost everyone.

You also become acquainted with the online store owner who might give you future discounts and free goodies, as well as price spotting store price trends. I know a few that have underpriced Standard stock, indicating they may be underpricing upcoming RtR stock as well.

Another topic: trades!

I am looking to post some remarkable trades I made online and offline with my thoughts on each. This is not a section where I want to brag, but I am mostly looking for a discussion around finding out if something was wrong so we can all benefit from the dialogue.

Trade #1

I gave: 1x Cathedral of War 3.5  , 1x Scavenging Ooze 35 , 2x Thalia, Guardian of Thraben 5.5, Spell Pierce 1.
Total 50.5 euro or $62

I received: 1x Bonfire of the Damned 29 , Splinter Twin 4.8,  Master of Etherium 3.95 , Ancient Ziggurat 1.8, Necropotence 3.95 , Tradewind Rider 3.5 , Silverblade Paladin BaB Promo 4.5
Total:  51.5 or $63.5

Rationale: We rated Nedermagic.com retail prices, which put me in a bit of a disadvantage, since the market low price of Scavenging Ooze is around 30 euro. There was a big discussion about Bonfire of the Damned and if/when the bubble will burst.

My Scavenging Ooze got the attention of lowballing traders, but other than that it was just sitting there for 5 months from back when I bought a used Commander deck for 30 euro. Furthermore, I also own 2 sealed Counterpunch Commander decks, so I can crack them for 2 Oozes when I need them. I also bought the Thalia at 3 from my online shopcrawl as well as the Spell Pierces for 20 cents.

I already have 5 Bonfires butm from my observation, the demand is overwhelming on all websites I operate on. It was sad it changed from 25 to 29 during my negotiations, but I felt it was still good enough. The Splinter Twin and Master of Etherium are cards I wanted to pick up for my Modern deck, and they are pretty overpriced here. Necropotence and Ancient Ziggurat are cards for my EDH deck and have a stable value rating. The Tradewind Rider is a card I picked  up only because of its buylist value. The Silverblade Paladin is rated 10 on other sites, so picking it up for 4.5 seems nice.

So doing this trade for me was simply trading away a Legacy staple that had not moved well in my binder (and features some 'reprint' risk) for Bonfire and Modern staples.

Which side do you prefer to be on?

~

If there is anything you would like me to write about here in Europe or in general, please do not hesitate to mention it in the comments section or on Twitter (@gervinho_)

Thank you for reading and I am welcome any comment!

- Gervaise ''Gerv''

6 thoughts on “Insider: Across the Atlantic – Online Shopping

  1. "You also become acquainted with the online store owner who might give you future discounts and free goodies"

    I have one particular very unknown shop where the owner includes some goodies with almost all my orders (deck boxes, pen set, notepad, nothing major, but sort of cool). He was also willing to negotiate a 25% discount on Zendikar fetches when they rotated out of type 2 and he was already priced low. A shop I love to return to regularly, however unfortunately he doesn't often restock older cards.

    I think I would have preferred what you gave away, but I would never be able to move Standard stock quickly, so the Bonfire bubble bursting is more threatening to me than the Ooze reprint.

    1. Hey Sven! It absolutely pays off to have some sort of contact with the store owner just as having contacts with the LGS for reasons like FTV , Commander or other stock they have but cannot sell in the shop.

      About the Mystic at 6.5 , I think I forgot to write down that the floorprice on MagicCardMarket of the Stoneforge was 6.5, now it is 6. I hope I could give you good news that a store was overpricing these in their buylist but no sorry =(

    1. hah well another Pokerplayer found me through here so it is not so random =) I did not played actively on FTP from 2011 onwards because I liked other sites (software was not so bad but higher rake, softer fish). I do recognize your name from 2+2^^

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