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Insider: When Trade-in Credit Makes Sense

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Ever since mtg.gg was launched I have fallen in love with the buy list concept. I often unload many cards at prices close to what I’d be earning after fees on major sites like eBay anyway. With buy lists there’s the added bonus of not dealing with excessive listing process. What’s more, there’s no risk of dealing with obnoxious buyers or receiving unmerited negative feedback.

I also love how some retailers pay above-bulk prices on somewhat arbitrary rares. You want to buy my Crimson Hellkite at $0.20? Sure thing! You want my Demonlord of Ashmouth at $0.15? Why not? When there are hundreds of copies of a card under $0.50 on TCG Player, I’m frequently satisfied with $0.15-$0.20 on bulk rares would otherwise rot in my binder.

Payday – An Important Decision

Last night I threw together a buy list order to Card Kingdom when I found myself encountering one of the tougher questions when it comes to buy listing: how do I want my payment? While simple on the surface, this multiple-choice question can really have an impact on both the amount of value you’ll get from your cards and the time it takes for payout.

Last night was particularly tricky for me. A few of the cards I was unloading I was admittedly selling at a small loss. This includes Domri Rade (chart from mtgstocks.com), which I will boldly claim is not done dropping in the short term.

I also sold some Sphinxs Revelations. I acquired a few at decent prices and they were paying $16 a copy. But while these two cards made up about half of my total sale order, I wasn’t as enthusiastic about this sale as I have been with previous orders. I took some risks which in the short term haven’t paid out as I’d hoped.

Then when I was faced with the payment decision, a thought occurred to me: sending cards in for trade credit instead of cash may not be a bad idea! Cash is always king, but there are some instances where trade credit is not only acceptable but even preferred. Let me give you an example.

Sealed Product

By now, everyone probably knows I am a fan of sealed product. These are great investments which are sure to preserve capital while providing plenty of low-risk growth opportunity. It only takes two years or so for one of these investments to pay out. Recently, growth has begun even sooner – consider Innistrad booster boxes as a prime example, which currently sell on eBay for nearly $120 shipped.

I’m always keeping a close watch on recent booster box prices to make sure I buy into the right sets before they take off. Innistrad hit my radar the other day when people starting discussing how foil copies of Liliana of the Veil sell for $150. While Liliana is no Jace, she’s still a highly desirable eternal Planeswalker. And while Innistrad was printed in massively larger quantities than Worldwake, I think $200 booster boxes of Innistrad are likely in a couple years.

So I decided I would buy a few. I purchased one on eBay last week and I begun my daily searches for a fair price on another.

Last night I was about to click “submit” on my buylist when something caught my eye: Card Kingdom (along with some other retailers) pays a cool 30% bonus on trade ins. Reading the fine print, it seems like that store credit could be used to purchase anything from the store…including Booster Boxes. So I humored myself with a quick search – turns out Card Kingdom had 28 Innistrad Booster Boxes in stock for $119.99. Not quite the cheapest, but certainly an acceptable price considering I’d be getting a 30% trade in bonus for my cards!

Online retailers are competitive with their sealed product pricing. So if I want to stock up on sealed booster boxes, this could be an acceptable route. I figure even if I have to pay $12 for shipping, I’d only be paying a 10%-15% premium for purchasing this box at retail. This is more than the 30% trade in bonus Card Kingdom provided, so getting credit seemed like an obvious choice.

Which begs the question: have I been doing this the wrong way all along?

Singles, and the Key Comparison

I recognize that I’m a bit more passionate about sealed booster boxes than most. Perhaps you read through the above and found it irrelevant because you live in a different country and retailers won’t ship booster boxes to you. Fortunately I thought of this and I have an idea.

If a retailer is paying 30% trade in bonus on buy list orders and you are planning to take the cash, at least first consider store credit. The 30% bonus is not something to sneeze at – this number adds up quickly, and it would behoove you to at least do a few quick searches on the retail site you’re selling to before clicking the check or PayPal button.

Perhaps there are some singles you need rather urgently. Perhaps there are some obscure cards you’re looking to acquire, but no one in your LGS has a copy. Or perhaps you have a friend who is desperate for a certain card and would be willing to give you a profitable trade for it. All of these scenarios would merit at least a quick search on the retailer’s site to see how much of a premium they demand vs. eBay or TCG Player. If that premium is smaller than the trade in bonus, then taking the credit is a mathematical no-brainer.

Trade credit could also be saved for a future speculation opportunity. Having $100 in store credit on hand from selling $70 of cards could mean you can go deeper on a new speculation target than you otherwise would have.

If all of this fails, then there’s one last fall-back idea I can think of – buying fairly prices staples. For example, if you had some trade credit at Star City Games you could buy some regular and foil Steam Vents.

Sure, SCG’s price on NM copies of Steam Vents are probably a buck too high to really be a decent price. But since SCG pays a 25% trade in bonus on buy list orders, you could do worse than sinking some credit into Steam Vents, even if their price is 20% too high. Plus there’s always upside potential from sitting on Shock Lands. Foil prices are also reasonable, albeit a tad higher than I’d like.

And if Shock Lands aren’t your thing, there’s always Scars of Mirrodin Lands and Worldwake Man-lands, which are pretty cheap nowadays. Some Standard cards may also be solid buys as we enter Standard PTQ season. Something like Supreme Verdict has been on a steady incline lately, with more upside potential as we prepare to say goodbye to Terminus in Standard (chart from mtgstocks.com).

If worst comes to worst, there’s always the hot casual card worth searching for. A retailer may have a competitive price on something like Platinum Angel, which has been on the move of late.

A Second Look

After reading through this entire article, if you still default to selecting the check option when selling cards to retailers, I can't fault you. As I said earlier, cash is always king. Taking cash means you’ve converted your current MTG positions into the most liquid position possible.

All that I ask is that you at least consider that trade-in credit for a couple moments. If you can find some singles with prices not much higher than auction, this could be a viable alternative. With thousands of unique cards in the game of Magic, there are bound to be a few competitively priced singles each retailer may have overlooked. If you don’t want to search through endless singles prices, think about grabbing some sealed product, even if it’s to draft with friends.

The bottom line is that when we are buy-listing cards to a retailer, it’s not because we’re quitting Magic. It’s often to obtain some cash which we intend to use to speculate on more cards. So if we’re thinking about buying cards or sealed product in the next month or two anyway, we might as well check prices at the retail site we’re selling to. If the premium they demand on their site is less than the trade in bonus on cards you’re selling, you’d actually grind greater value taking the trade in credit vs. cash to acquire the MTG cards you were planning to purchase eventually anyway.

Sigbits – Buylist Edition

  • Yes, I admit I sold my Sphinxs Revelations after touting them a couple weeks ago. I purchased a couple copies in the $15 range a few weeks back. They have increased slightly, but I haven’t seen massive movement on them. Card Kingdom is paying $16 on them and I could only get $20 from eBay before 12% fees and shipping. Since I was mailing some other cards anyway and I wanted the 30% trade in credit, I pulled the trigger.
  • Buy prices on Shock Lands are so low right now. Card Kingdom is paying highest on Steam Vents – a measly $3.75. These have really dropped hard, but I am still optimistic they will recover in the long term.
  • There’s nothing I love more than buying a card at lower price than a current buy list. This is exactly what happened to me with a foil copy of Dralnu, Lich Lord. I bought one from a Card Shark seller as part of a larger purchase for a couple bucks, and proceeded to sell it as part of a larger buy list order for $4. The profit is small, but since I was already buying from the one seller and selling to the one buyer, the amount of incremental effort for this profit was virtually zero.

-Sigmund Ausfresser
@sigfig8

Sigmund Ausfresser

Sigmund first started playing Magic when Visions was the newest set, back in 1997. Things were simpler back then. After playing casual Magic for about ten years, he tried his hand at competitive play. It took about two years before Sigmund starting taking down drafts. Since then, he moved his focus towards Legacy and MTG finance. Now that he's married and works full-time, Sigmund enjoys the game by reading up on trends and using this knowledge in buying/selling cards.

View More By Sigmund Ausfresser

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16 thoughts on “Insider: When Trade-in Credit Makes Sense

  1. Sigmund..i’m sitting on 2 boxes of Zendikar and am wondering if this will hit $350 within the next couple of years?Since you like sealed i appreciate your opinion.Also i’m sitting on 16000 bulk rares and am reluctant to sell them since bulk cards can turn into big bucks(glimpse of nature).Am i wrong in thinking that what i consider bulk can turn into gold somewhere down the line?

    1. You are correct on bulk rares (though it’s more rare than you’d think). What you need to keep in mind is that bulk rares have a “set price” that most stores will give you for them, so it’s worthwhile to sort out the really bad ones (thoughtlace anyone) and unload those. I have a smaller box of bulk rares I keep to allow casual/edh players to trade out of. I think you may be overvaluing the zendikar boxes (unless they are from the first wave) a bit.$350 seems quite high for a largely printed set. While there are the possibilities of foil fetchlands, most of the other cards are considerably cheaper…I could see the boxes going for $275-300, but there’s a strong possibility of WOTC reprinting the old onslaught fetchlands in the time frame you’re discussed which would drop the value of the Zendikar ones somewhat (as there’d be more fetching options for modern)

    2. I am sitting on 1 box of Zendikar myself, and I am kicking myself for not purchasing more. That being said, I have to agree with David – $300 is a bit too bullish for me. For the longest time, Onslaught boxes could be had for around $150 even though the Onslaught Fetches were getting very expensive. The price on Onslaught has since risen, and Zendikar is legal in Modern. These two factors have bumped the price ceiling on Zendikar. But I think $250 is more reasonable in the next year or so unless Magic really continues to explode. Even if it does, are people really going to crack boxes of Zendikar for the Fetch Lands?

  2. Consider adding trusted vendors which you buylist too, or reference and article in the past to add value to your article for your subscribers. I like mtg.gg too, it is really useful for me in deciding if I should buy/sell something without checking multiple sites. As for shocklands I think you can get them cheaper from currant levels in just a few months. Summer is notorious for doldrums on the demand side.

    1. Jonathan, thanks for the comment and insightful feedback. In this specific case I mainly stick to vendors listed on mtg.gg. Personally I’ve now sold to Troll and Toad, Star City Games, Channel Fireball (not on mtg.gg yet), AdventurersON, Card Kingdom, and ABU Games. If you’re interested in hearing others’ experiences with various vendors check out the vendor assessment thread in the forums. There you can read about the experiences of others (though be careful, as most are negative).

      You think Shock Lands will drop even further? I can definitely see that being likely for Gatecrash Shocks…but Steam Vents is already below $6 on TCG Player. You think it will go lower than that? Eventually they’ll return to their pre-Modern levels, at which point they really shouldn’t decrease further. Granted supply is much higher, but now these are actually seeing play…in two formats even! I’m not buying more copies at the moment since I already have money invested here, but I will continue to trade for them.

  3. I’ve stopped selling the Card Kingdom for the most part, they always ding me on stuff, last time being $13 on a $46 sell order. I usually stick with ABU, AdventuresON, or T&T, they buy most stuff and a lot of times (in the case of ABU especially) even have the highest buylist. Coolstuffinc, while not crawled by mtg.gg is also solid, moreso for casual staples than recent T2 stuff.

    1. Great add, Justin. Thanks for the comment! I haven’t tried Coolstuffinc before, but I have lots of casual goodies to unload. Maybe I should check it out.

  4. As I often purchase cards for my collection / decks I generally like getting credit if the bonus is high enough. As you know I have recently sent $950 in credit to a shop I frequently use. I fully expect to use that credit on cards they have priced cheap to fairly.

    If I am going to spend the cash on cards anyway I might as well get more by taking credit.

  5. I have been using the credit option for years. I can’t tell you how much credit I got from JTMS when he was around 100 in standard. I got almost full retail value out of them going to Channel. I do agree with Justin regarding Card Kingdom. I used to sell to them a ton, and still sell to them, but they have gotten really bad about dinging things that shouldn’t be. I have to wonder if that is why they have such high buy prices, so they can adjust in that manner. I rarely get close to what I should get from them, fortunately that is usually higher than anywhere else. I love Channel for the credit, because I tend to buy more from them, and with their free shipping on orders over $50 that helps too.

    1. Yeah, I often forget about Channel Fireball because they aren’t in mtg.gg. When you go to sell cards, do you just always check CFB in addition to mtg.gg to see if you should be sending cards to CFB instead? Seems like twice the work at that point.

      Regarding Jace in Standard, I remember when Ben Bleiweiss made a point to highlight the fact that you could have traded in your 4 NM Jace’s for credit to get a MP Unlimited Time Walk. Maybe I should have done that trade after all…

      I think I will look to getting store credit more often. Cash is so nice because I can see my account increase as I profit. But to maximize value overall, trade-in credit must be the way to go.

      Regarding Card Kingdom: I get dinged sometimes too, but I find they pay rather high on many cards and they buy a lot of random worthless stuff for $0.20 to $0.60, so I figure that helps make up for the dinging on the bigger cards a bit.

  6. Sigmund,

    I enjoyed the article. One thing that caught my attention was this statement ” Having $100 in store credit on hand from selling $70 of cards could mean you can go deeper on a new speculation target than you otherwise would have.” You get 30% more of the $70 dollars, i.e. $91 not 100…take your credit in cash * 1+0. in store trade in credit (for example $70 * 1.3 (30% trade in credit)=$91. Otherwise you might have some confused readers expecting more than they get.

    1. Thanks for the comment. You definitely went a bit further than I had anticipated as I was just using round numbers to emphasize a point. Yes 30% on top of $70 is only $91 :-P. Sorry if that confused anyone!

  7. Since signing up Here I’ve sold $590 worth of innistrad to card kingdom for store credit it did get knocked down to $576 But I feel thats very reasonable considering some of the cards I did play in draft with out sleves. I hope to use the store credit for dragons maze boxes or speculate on singles after modern masters hits.

    1. Vincent, I’m glad your experience with Card Kingdom was acceptable. Mine have been as well (though I did just look at their site and they are now sold out of Innistrad booster boxes :(). Oh well, like you said I hope to use store credit for other boxes or to speculate on Modern after MM hits. This sounds like a solid plan.

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