Magic the Gathering is a great game, and with practice one that pays for itself. Before turning Magic the game into Magic the income stream, keep a couple of things in mind:
- You won't have a Magic collection anymore. It's been replaced with a Magic inventory.
- The only way to measure your Magic acumen is to actively seek to extract value from your inventory.
- Managing risk in Magic is very difficult and in some ways impossible.
Lets examine these principles more closely. I owned a Beta Clockwork Beast. I always put it in trade binders, and, while it never generated any interest, it always had a spot because I fell in love with the art and the card's place in Magic history. This week I finally sold off my Beast to a dealer for six bucks. It was a long time coming.
Treat your binder like a rental property. Every slot is paying you rent. If you have cards in your binder that don't generate interest and can't keep people working through your stuff, they don't belong.
Have you ever noticed how much better Target Stores look compared to Wal-Mart Stores? Better yet, have you ever noticed how the rest of Target looks compared to the messy area dedicated to collectible trading cards at the front of the store? We all do. Wouldn't you rather shop in a better looking store?
Apply that to your binder. Here are some color coded layout examples using 9 pocket sleeves:
Return to Ravnica allows you to mix and match colors and then tie them together with gold/multicolored cards. Horizontal and vertical striping is another effective way to beautify your binder.
Don't let your binder look like it's been raided or picked over. Always keep your slots full and make note of what is moving and what is not.
The better your binder looks, the easier trading becomes. And trading is what the binder is all about. If something isn't trading, it's time to move that item out and do a price check. Sell anything that prices out to your satisfaction while keeping these prices in mind.
You will grind out a lot of profit by simply familiarizing yourself with binder duds that sell for "good" cash. Refreshing your binder this way also gives you great trading habits. Suddenly you want cards no one else is looking for - those cards that also happen to trade at a discount to retail. Compare this to a typical Snapcaster Mage trade and you'll see you've increased your return on investment AND simplified the trading process.
You want a binder that inspires awe but not shock. Sticker shock is real. Always keep a place in your binder for popular uncommons and commons. They round out trades and keep people from being intimidated while trading.
Spread card value out in a binder. You won't always know what kind of card the person on the other side of a trade is looking for, so spread out trade targets to keep them in your binder.
Split up trades into smaller parts. While looking through a binder, always keep an eye on what the other side of the trade wants. The minute you can put a deal together, stop looking and make an offer. The first trade is the hardest. If you can trade three times with the same person in the same time you could trade once, break up the trade. You build a relationship this way and can take advantage of reciprocity.
While you should never be afraid to take a big position in a single card, especially when you acquire that large position through trading, you must diligently sell down those positions OR trade into older cards with price inelasticity and high liquidity.Never let your binder reflect the size of your single card positions. No more than a play set of any card needs to be represented.
The only other hedge you have in the world of Magic finance is cash. When you are trading, always keep buylist pricing in mind. Presently Birthing Pod is being purchased for 2$ by a retailer that is paying 14$ for a Snapcaster Mage. That means Snapcaster's cash value it 31% discount to retail versus 25% for the Pod. There is plenty of opportunity for profit trading out of Snapcaster today and into Pod with an eye on selling out of Birthing Pod.
Birthing Pod will likely pop up in Modern, Legacy and Commander formats again and again. Selling three copies for every four acquired would allow a trader to generate income while reinvesting in their Magic inventory.
Be conservative when reinvesting cash into your Magic inventory. Unless you own a retail space you will be overpaying for sealed product. Save your cash for distressed sellers, save it to help close a favorable trade and save it to buy collections on the cheap. Using cash to speculate on Magic cards should be done as cheaply as possible and only for cards that have a long price history.
Understanding what cards can appreciate in value thanks to an unexpected events can present you with great opportunities and often cash is the fastest way to take advantage. Unbanning and similar events can effect multiple cards on the periphery. Work with retailer distrust and allow their unwillingness to fill large single card orders to force you to pick up three or four cards that will benefit from the same unbanning/event.
If you like to gamble, go out there and ask as many players as possible for their most underplayed/under-rated cards. You might get lucky and find the next Gate to Phyrexia. But even here, exercise caution. Look only to BUY the cheapest of these cards and even then limit the quantity. There are plenty of good ideas out there.