Insider: (Even More) Maximizing Ebay Profits

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It's kind of hard to believe that I've been writing weekly for QS for over two years - but then, I've been writing about Magic since 2004 (for a paycheck!) and I'm often pleasantly surprised at my endurance. One of the first articles I wrote for QS was Maximizing Ebay Profits, an article about how to get the most money from Ebay. This week, I'm going to review it with you and we'll talk about what's the same, what's different, and how you can continue to make money from listing cards on Ebay.

First, take a look at the article!

Ebay is the primary way to dispose of excess Magic cards; it generates enormous traffic, is relatively safe to sell through, and it allows for easy visual displays of your items.

Ebay is probably not the primary way to get rid of excess cards anymore, especially for speculators. It has been replaced by the buylist, especially because of advances in TCGPlayer and its aggregation qualities. Two years ago, this sort of thing was much harder to do. Ebay is still a great way to get rid of older and more dinged up cards. I've sold dual lands and Onslaught fetches that had seen some love.

Unsurprisingly, people still lose their brains when it comes to auctions.

In the original article, I went on about the psychological effects that lead to higher Ebay prices. They still hold true today - people get worked up about an auction and have to win it! This is evident in many auctions where the sell price is above the BIN price - people didn't do their homework or didn't care. Think about it - people play poker and know they may throw their money away, or lose a little more than they thought. The thrill of winning kicks in and it's an easy leap for a bidder to think "well I'll spend $3 more to make sure that guy doesn't win it instead!"

Let's address another factor, which I touched on in the original article but needed more development. People will pay a premium to have the certainty of getting cards and avoid the problem of waiting for them. This is how people shop with BIN auctions. This is rationalized but come on, you can wait two days to save $5, right? Many people will not, though, and want those cards now. It's better to place the standard staples in BIN and lock up the really cool stuff in auctions, in my experience.

Competing on the BIN market is easy and powerful.

When I shop for cards, I type in something like "4 Deadly Insect" and then flip it over to BIN-only, low-to-high listings. I want to find the absolute cheapest set of cards and Ebay makes this easy, since they add the price and shipping together. As I mentioned in the original article, you can undercut the market by a quarter or less if you want! You end up getting that sale while someone else loses it because your listing will appear over theirs. This is simple and just requires a little bit of homework, which is something most power-sellers cannot be bothered with.

This, of course, depends on your desire to sell at the lowest price. A price determined by someone else. Maybe you need to get more out of the cards, but you'll have a hard time selling them at premium prices without a reputation for quality. Not everyone gets to be KidIcarus power-sellers.

20:00 GMT-4 is the Golden Hour.

That time, Eastern Standard time at 10pm, remains the golden hour for getting the most from your bids. Contrary to our advice, people don't often use bidding programs to place bids and prefer to do it live. Why is 10pm so good? That's a bridge hour between when people on the East Coast of the United States are getting ready to go to bed and when people in California are getting home from work. It represents a narrow band when you can capture all of America to bid on your auctions as they end. I don't have a scientific study of the best day to post an auction, but I have had great results with Sunday. It's to where I'll schedule an auction for 5 days just to make it end on Sunday if I missed my first chance!

Scheduling an auction on Ebay is easy. Remember that you are scheduling when the auction starts, not when it ends. Naturally, it will end at the end of 7 days at that very time. Thus, you set it to start at 10pm on a Sunday and that's when it will end. It costs 10 cents, which is a bargain.

The complaint of "Fee-bay" is still true.

Ebay has been losing volume in auctions over the last few years. The novelty is wearing off and Amazon is making it much more attractive for small stores to set up shop. You probably cannot avail yourself of an Amazon shop, so Ebay has decided to jack up the prices on you. The prices have risen in the last few years, especially since Paypal is the de facto paying option. If you sell that set of Snapcaster Mages that you've traded for at FNM and gleefully get $75 for them online, here's how your fees break down:

BIN insertion fee: $0.50

Sale price: (11% of $50[5.50] + 1.5) = $7

Paypal fee of 2.9% + .30 = $2.48

For a grand total of $9.98 in fees. Or a sale price of closer to $65.00 than what you originally thought. Oh, and you still have to ship it. And Ebay now charges the same fees on shipping as it does on the sell price, meaning that you can't charge $9 for shipping and hope to dodge them anymore. You don't practically catch any breaks for listing it as an auction instead.

This is sobering; it's a 13.3% rake before you put the object in an envelope. Ebay is, in my opinion, still good for getting rid of the older stuff, but buylists have seriously given it a run for selling commodity cards.

Shipping your cards is now more expensive.

Shipping is more because you now lose fees on the entire cost and there are serious incentives from Ebay to make you list it with free shipping. For one, your auction "wins the tie" on any listing where it's competing with paid shipping - yours gets listed above, so it appears cheaper. You should offer free shipping, anyway - it generates more sales. It's a psychology thing and not a science thing, but it makes you money. When we sold books on this site (many moons ago), we upped the sale price, said "free shipping" and enjoyed about 20% more sales immediately. This translates to Ebay. Plus, if you are selling a $200 playset of cards, you engender a lot of goodwill among bidders by saying that you're covering protected shipping. This leads to more trust and better bids.

On the topic of shipping, I have now expanded my list of countries to whom I shall not ship from "Italy and Spain" to "any country that doesn't rhyme with 'Smuh-merica.'" International scamming is frequent, Ebay will take your money and side with the buyer, and tracking breaks down internationally. Much safer to sell to the already-huge US market.

Think of BIN as free advertising for rare stuff.

And rare stuff doesn't just mean Magic cards, it can mean the other stuff, too. There was an original piece of art, the Ice Age painting of Icy Manipulator, that sat on Ebay for months, for about $5,000, unbid. It costs virtually nothing to keep rolling this over and over, and eventually someone bought it. I think that the final buyer was someone who kept looking at it over and over and finally jumped for it. There are just too few people who buy the really rare, expensive stuff to make an auction go anywhere. It's much safer to use BIN on a large, rare item and open it up to Best Offers. You get the same appeal of an auction (people blindly bidding numbers) and you don't have to sell until something good comes along.

I hope that you are fortunate as a player and seller to have the opportunity to move some truly rare and cool pieces of Magic history!

Pictures will make or break you

We both know that the older or more expensive the card, the more pictures you need. An auction for a Beta Tundra should be drenched in photos. If you're selling something old, use the macro feature on your camera, get some pictures against different backgrounds and show what the card looks like from all angles. You may think "well I don't want to show just how junky it is," but bad photos scare bidders. I'd rather avoid something that I can't see than willingly bid on something I know looks worse. Who knows, maybe I'll get into a bidding war and fight over it anyway!

With auctions for standard staples, it's not much work to pull a photo from online and use it as a stock photo. I'm still amazed at auctions with no photos! This is also a good point to mention that the more you write, the better your auctions end up. More auction writing lets me know that you are a human and not a drone that lists for some store, and it makes me feel like I have a better shot at getting things resolved to my satisfaction.

In summary, Ebay remains a good place for a lot of cards, even if the lower-end stuff is best sent off to dealers or sold through MTGO. A lot has changed in two years, but a lot remains the same! Please share your Ebay tips and suggestions below!

Until next week,

Doug Linn

Douglas Linn

Doug Linn has been playing Magic since 1996 and has had a keen interest in Legacy and Modern. By keeping up closely with emerging trends in the field, Doug is able to predict what cards to buy and when to sell them for a substantial profit. Since the Eternal market follows a routine boom-bust cycle, the time to buy and sell short-term speculative investments is often a narrow window. Because Eternal cards often spike in value once people know why they are good, it is essential for a trader to be connected to the format to get great buys before anyone else. Outside of Magic, Doug is an attorney in the state of Ohio.  Doug is a founding member of Quiet Speculation, and brings with him a tremendous amount of business savvy.

View More By Douglas Linn

Posted in Finance, Free Insider

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11 thoughts on “Insider: (Even More) Maximizing Ebay Profits

    1. After I lost a full, nice set of English Maze of Iths to the Croatian mail, I got shy about sending internationally. So many seller protections evaporate with international shipping, but all of the buyer protections remain. If there were a low-cost way of shipping Magic cards in a way that was tracked, I\’d do it for sure. I\’m sure it\’s the same reason that MKM doesn\’t ship outside of Europe (well, that and standardized postage).

      1. ALSO, I\’ll note that if you ship internationally, you must never indicate on customs forms that they are \”Magic cards.\” That\’s a recipe to have your package stolen. Some countries also have bans on importing tarot cards (gypsy menace?) so you\’ve got two reasons to avoid it. I list \”collectible picture cards\” which is descriptive enough in my mind, but I\’m also a lawyer so prone to rationalization.

  1. I used to ship internationally via eBay. But then every time an auction would end 5% higher than I had hoped, I’d get very excited only to see that someone in Europe won the auction. This means I’ll be taking greater risk because I won’t pay $25 for tracking thus setting myself up to get scammed. Even if the buyer is honest (which is most cases) there’s still an inherent cost to my worrying for 2 weeks that the item “doesn’t make it”.

    And my shipping costs are also increased by 50-100% vs. shipping domestically. The slight bump you get from a broader customer base often doesn’t outweigh the added risk and costs of shipping overseas.

  2. Hey, this is offtopic, but I wanted to apologize for being an ignorant prick in your other post a few weeks ago. You were quite right about Jace, and I was as wrong as incestual ATM. Keep up the great work!

  3. It’s possible that this should go in the Loyal Retainers forum thread, but this seemed more appropriate. If I want to sell (English) Loyal Retainers and Xiahou Dun on eBay, am I better off going with a long-term BIN or an auction? On the one hand, they’re very rare, so you might I could get a bidding war. On the other hand, I’m not sure there are that many people out there looking for them *in a given week*, so an auction might miss completely. Recommendation?

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