Insider – Bulk Trading

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Welcome back readers. My article today is about bulk trading. I realize this topic has been broached several times, but I would like to re-emphasize how amazing this strategy is and more importantly explain some of the nuances of this style of trading.

Bulk Box

First, the bulk box. The concept of a "bulk box" is a box you trade out of that has a set price. For example, my bulk box(es) have these rules written on them: each rare = two new rares, a mythic/foil rare counts as two rares and I will accept some uncommons (this is the most complicated one as I only want uncommons that I know I can trade/unload easily).

This means that if someone roots through it and pulls out 10 rares they need to put 20 new rares or the equivalent in mythics or some combination. This is a pretty easy concept for people to grasp and one that can really work out well for you. I only accept uncommons that my LGS (Nextgen) is looking for at the time because I know I can get immediate trade in credit for them (they also tend to be uncommons that are more valuable than usual).

Now, one "rookie" mistake might be to repeatedly check prices in your bulk box to pull out anything that isn't truly bulk (i.e. stuff you know you'll only sell at bulk rates to stores). This is a lot more work than you'd think given how prices fluctuate, and more importantly it means that your bulk box will end up being only the lowest-end chaff that nobody wants.

That's not where you want it to be, the reason being that your rules already state that each rare in it can potentially net you two rares, so anything that's worth less than two bulk rares is the same whether it's in the box or not. But even more importantly, if you don't have little hidden gems in the box, people will not feel a need to root through it over and over (this is where the real beauty is).

Another lesson I learned was to seperate my bulk box into two boxes, Standard and not-Standard. The reason for this is to allow people to search more easily. The Standard players are only concerned with the Standard box, and usually look for cards that are slightly above bulk or they need for a deck they are building; these are my favorite bulk box traders as they often have little use for non-Standard cards and often put in non-Standard cards that are above bulk.

I then filter through the new stuff looking for any hidden gems that I actually need and put all the other stuff into the non-Standard bulk box. The non-Standard bulk boxes tend to be more geered toward casual and EDH. For the non-Standard box you want a lot of diversity, as EDH decks can often vary greatly based on play style. It's important to have all kinds of random cards from all different sets.

Bulking Out

Second, we have the practice of trading high-end staples for "bulk". This is something I've seen other people do far better than myself.

There's one guy who attends many of the events here in the south. I won't call him out, but he always brings an impressive binder full of duals, Onslaught fetches, and every manner of Legacy/Standard staple you can think of. He trades for bulk constantly.

In my earlier days I traded with him twice, to pick up a Savannah, Karakas, Show and Tell and Tarmogoyf. He traded them at fair prices, but the beauty was he knew what the buylist prices were for most of my cards. So he offered me a fair deal, then could walk over to a vendor and sell my stuff for cash (often more than enough to replace the cards I'd picked up).

I finally learned my lesson and decided to branch out on my own. I now offer people the opportunity to trade for anything in my trade binder (at TCG mid value) at bulk prices (0.10 cents per rare, 0.25 cents per Mythic/Foil rare).

I enjoy this because it takes me out of the equation. My trade partner can go through their binders and unload the stuff that nobody wants and get the high-end cards for "crap". I just have to go through the effort of filtering it out and then finding the appropriate dealer to generate the most revenue.

While I can see some feel there is an ethical grey area when people trade you stuff that isn't bulk at bulk rates (and this is something I've actually wrestled with); the fact is that sometimes it would be nearly impossible to go through all the stuff people are trading in and alert them. This is the main reason I let them make the decision of what to trade in and what not to trade in. Only trade in stuff they have no use for.

When someone trades in a large amount of bulk and while going through it later I find stuff that is considerably more valuable than bulk I try my best to credit them (this only works for people I see on a semi-regular basis), so that if they ever need something small or we're trading "normally" I can make sure they get a better deal. You certainly don't have to do this, but I feel like I should (it's a personal decision).

The best time for bulk trading is right before or right after a Standard rotation. The Standard-only players will dump their old stuff to get the latest stuff and this is prime time to get a lot of new "bulk" to trade to EDH/Casual/Eternal players later.

In case you're wondering how well this can turn out (and this isn't actually meant to be a brag), I've received the following cards as "bulk":

I did credit the people who traded these in, so the next time we trade and they are a couple dollars off I won't sweat it.

Cashing Out

Last but not least, remember that you can and should cash out cards every once in awhile. My rule of thumb is I don't want anymore than eight of any rare in any particular bulk box.

If I go above eight copies I'll pull them out and put them in a "cash out" box, which I can then send to a dealer. Our very own Gus Landt actually pays well for non-Standard bulk rares (he may very well get inundated with them now), but you always have SCG as an out as well.

15 thoughts on “Insider – Bulk Trading

  1. Great insights. Thanks.

    I have my bulk box for more than a year. People ask for it. The ever going refreshing of cards make people want to see it over and over. It’s great for those who don’t want to spend too much money on magic and who want to get rid of their bulk rares. Price for buying was 0,50€.

    Recently, I divided the box in two: one box for 0,25€/card and one box for 0,50€/card.

    The 0,25€ box became the new bulk trade box. I also filled both boxes with commons and uncommons that are worth something.

    You made a fair point about filtering too fast. I do this now every time. Taking out some cards for the 0,50€ box or 1€ binder. But you are probably right that taking out everything that’s worth something isn’t great. I need a good reputation for that box. Maybe it’s better to join both boxes together, and cash out the really bad bulk rares.

    I do some bulk trades on facebook. I put some cards for sale/trade and ask for bulk rares or money.

    I don’t want to disturb Pi’s monopoly on nedermagic, so I tried to find my own platform.

    Some questions:

    – Do you keep some kind of order in the boxes? I try to sort them by color, but in my experience, this is too difficult for magic players ;). The moment someone more than 1 person starts looking at it, the box becomes one big chaos.

    Why also commons/uncommons? I’m afraid this will make it too complex and you lose the simplicity of the box. Also you can enjoy a game of magic while let your box do the trading work.

    Some questions for others:

    Where can I do a decent cash out for bulk rares in Europe?

    1. I’m very specific when it comes to commons/uncommons. Basically I would only take ones that have some value to them and I know I can sell for more than a bulk rare (Lingering Souls is the best example). The only “order” is non-standard vs standard simply because as you mentioned as soon as one person starts in on it, another and then another’s actually fun to watch it cascade…the best I’ve had was one guy trade in some bulk and another guy immediately grab something out of that pile for his own pile…The most important thing to keep in mind is that everything that goes into the box…you got for 10 cents (in value), even if it’s worth 60 cents or so, you got it at 10 and it’ll probably get pulled out and you’ll get at least 20 cents in value (if not more)…the more you filter your box, the more work you’re doing and honestly if it takes you an hour to filter it and you pull out 5 cards that are actually worth 0.75 to 1.00 in trade…then you’ve paid yourself between 3.75-5.00 an hour for work…which isn’t worth it to me…also people light up when they see the slightly above bulk cards and the beauty is that the very definition of “bulk” differs from person to person…I had someone thrilled to pull 2 cards out last week worth 0.75 cents each…but in his trade in pile was a card worth 1.30…

    2. LOL, actually one person did try to compete with me, but I haven’t seen his posts come by for a while so I think he’s given up (he was using the normal auction format and his auctions were ending very low, I know of at least 1 person who thought it was very funny to get his cards for absurdly low amounts and was always trying to). Surprisingly recently I’ve done my best deals through private message rather than through my auction.

      I don’t keep a bulk box myself, my group seems to think it’s too tedious to browse through. I don’t go to places where many people gather often enough to benefit from such a box. I do have the foil fan in my group exchange any foil he wants from me for 2 foils of the same rarity.

      I get a pretty insane amount for my bulk from the shop I use, they have actually raised their buy/credit prices recently to about $0.23 cash and about $0.30 credit. I also have a deal with them that I get $0.4/$0.5 for any card over $0.75 on their site. About 30% of the bulk cards I get in tend to fall in the latter category. I’m afraid I’m not willing to share which shop this is as I fear they will be flooded, losing me the great deal I’ve got. I do however know a private party in The Netherlands willing to pay €0.15 each ($0.20) and I might be inclined to hook you up if you make it interesting for me in some way. I think you know my e-mail address.

      I accept 3 foil commons as 1 bulk rare, I got a foil Nihil Spellbomb from that. Relatively speaking that’s probably the best I’ve come across. I’ve found about 10 Shadow of Doubts, always setting them aside, expecting that they should go up at some point. Those have also been pretty good :).

  2. I don’t mind being inundated! Everything people send me as bulk rares gets put into my B&M store’s 50 cent box. Cards in a 50 cent box longer than 6 months get bulked off to a trade partner of mine. 🙂

    1. Well come rotation you’ll be getting a bunch :)…sadly my non-standard pile to send to you isn’t very impressive yet…but when rotation hits it gets a lot bigger.

  3. I have a practical question too.

    Do you have your box with you every time you visit the LGS?

    If so, what other trading stuff do you bring with you?

    I Don’t have unlimited space, so I can’t bring all the binders with me. I try to get the bulk box with me, but it’s always a choice between what binders to bring. And it’s always sad to meet someone looking for standard when you left that binder at home. (I use the bike to go to the shop, so this limits the amount I carry with me).

    1. Well I drive my car to the shop…so my bulk box tends to stay in my trunk. My trade binders are broken down into the following categories;




      Legacy Commons/Uncommons

      I also have a personal standard binder which I sometimes bring (if I’m playing in a standard tournament), personal legacy binders which I never bring, a personal EDH binder which I never bring, and 2 speculation binders (lands and everything else).

  4. Man great article. Ive been wanting to make my bulk work for me for a while, Im just not sure how to pull it off. is it taboo to walk in to an LGS with a bulk box tying to trade? somehow that makes me feel weird. anyhoo, great article

    1. It isn’t taboo at all…though I have heard of some who dislike the competition for cheap rares (as many sell them for 0.25-0.50 per), but honestly basic competition is a good thing. It’s a good idea to make sure it’s ok with the shop owner ahead of time. I’ve actually got a deal with mine that he can pick up some hot standard stuff he runs out of for bulk rares with me…I trade him the standard staple @ TCG mid and he gives me that many bulk rares at my rates (bulk rares aren’t a huge seller in the store anyways).

  5. dave..i’m sitting on over 16000 bulk rares and thanks to QS found 15 copies of shared animosity in there.How in hell do you keep up with the constant repricing of preceived bulk(shared animosity) and true bulk.How often do you go thru your boxes and pull the newly hot bulk that was nothing a week before?Other than QS and tournament results how can anyone keep up with this trash to treasure fiasco?my mind is blown away by the big spikes in sowing salt and keen sense.I have quantity which i could”nt sell for .25 but now everybody wants do you keep up?Sorry for my rage but maybe you can enlighten us all with how you do it thanks in advance

    1. Quite honestly…I don’t. I filter through every once in awhile and pull stuff I know isn’t bulk anymore. The main filter I use is when I get new stuff in, I go through it real quick and pull out the stuff I know. If you filter out everything that isn’t “true bulk”, people won’t want to bother going through your stuff because there aren’t any “hidden gems” in there. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you view them each as worth 10 cents when traded to you…any value above that is bonus, but if it takes you 4 hours to go through your bulk stuff and you pull out 30 cards worth $1 then you paid yourself about $7.50 an hour (not bad…but you just have to determine how much you value your time). It’s often difficult to overcome the “wow that guy just found 5 dollars worth of cards in my bulk box and he’s only giving me $1 worth back”, but you just have to keep thinking (but I only traded $0.50 worth of cards for that $1).

  6. Bulk rares are the best! I’ve gained a bit of a rep at my LGS for being “the bulk rare guy” because I trade my high-end staples for huge amounts of bulk relatively regularly.

    I’ve also got a very popular bulk box, and have a page at the back of my Standard folder called “Bulk Rare Yahtzee”, where people give me two bulk rares, roll a bunch of dice and then get a card corresponding to whatever number they roll. Obviously the more probable rolls are cheap stuff like bad foils, non-english bulk (never trades. ever. and sells for less), some commons. But then in the very unlikely rolls (like rolling 24 on four dice) have foil shocks, planeswalkers etc. People who don’t usually trade their bulk rares away, or don’t have enough rares to trade for anything reasonable, are often quite happy to have a laugh playing the game, and I make at least 40+ rares out of it every night, many of which aren’t actually bulk. A few of us joke; “it’s not gambling, it’s trading, with dice!”

    1. It really does pay to be the “bulk rare guy”, however, I will warn you now that the “Bulk Rare Yahtzee” concept is often frowned upon at many major events as it’s considered a form of gambling. I definitely see why it’s popular, but that’s one place I won’t go as I have heard of people being kicked out of SCG Opens/GP’s/etc. for doing exactly that. But I’m 100% for trading down high-end staples for huge amounts of bulk, as it’s really just “cashing out” with the potential upside that some of the bulk is worth more than the cash value assigned to it.

      1. Yeah I thought the Yahtzee thing might cause issues at bigger events. I haven’t had any problems at my LGS, but I’ll be leaving it at home for GP Brisbane later this year.

        Large bulk trades are absolutely the best outcome for us, I frequently get heaps of non-bulk cards in these piles, and recently shipped off a box of marginally-more-than-bulk cards to CardKingdom which should net me $130. I’ve had enough experience with bulk now that I can more or less pick 80% of actual bulk just by sight, but MTG.GG makes the whole process sooo much easier 😀

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