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Insider: Tales from the Floor: GP OKC

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Wow. What a crazy weekend. I’m writing this after waking up from a 13-hour nap that was rather necessary after Grand Prix: Oklahoma City.

I know to most of you this event was no big deal. It’s just another Grand Prix, and a boring Sealed one at that. But it’s also the first Grand Prix to ever come to Oklahoma, and in particular my hometown. Having an event like this ten minutes down the road is something we’ve never had before, and it’s the first time I’ve ever attended a multiple-day tournament while also sleeping in my own bed.

And man, was it a busy weekend. Here’s the basic rundown of my weekend.

Friday: Get to the event site, follow a dealer in an hour before the doors open to the public, and proceed to begin selling off a few thousand dollars in cards. If you’ll recall the collections I talked about a few weeks ago, I finally moved these out on Friday, and having all those loose ends wrapped up felt nice.

Friday afternoon: See everyone who’s arriving on site and say hi. Then rush off to work, where I cover a football game until midnight. Head home, begin work on the stuff I have to finish over the weekend.

Saturday, a.m.: Get up early and work to complete my stuff for my day job as a journalist. Then rush to the GP, where I spend part of the day trading, part playing EDH, part selling a few more things and part losing in the finals of my first Theros draft.

Sunday: Wake up early again (something I’m very bad at doing) and head to the event, where I meet up with Mike and Nate, who start to show me the ropes of doing coverage. I spend the day writing features, recording drafts and covering the GP quarterfinals.

Sunday evening: With the semifinals in progress and my quarterfinals report done, I plan out how to carry the 31,000 unsorted commons and uncommons I bought from a dealer. After dumping only a few thousand on the ground on my way out, I finally get them to my car.

Pretty much all day Monday: SLEEP.

So, yeah, it was busy. Let’s break it down and pull out some financially-relevant stuff.

Coverage

This isn’t particularly relevant to finance at all, but I do want to share it. It's pretty cool.

That's me!
That's me!

I love writing. And I love Magic. It’s about time I figured out how to get the two of those things to work together. I was fortunate enough to be given an opportunity to help out with the official WOTC coverage, and I jumped at the chance. I would like nothing more than to have another chance to do so in the future.

I’m particularly proud of this piece, which is the type of feature I would love to see done more in coverage. In writing it I also got to feature a local who did a pretty awesome and unique thing to welcome people to Oklahoma.

Okay, on to stuff you care about.

Selling

Running into a dealer in the hall and getting in before the doors opened was a stroke of luck, but it’s one born of good planning.

I had a ton of cards to sell, and boxes to piece out when I arrived there. The best time to do something like this is early Friday afternoon. Not only do dealers sometimes run out of money to buy cards if you wait until Sunday, but they’re usually slammed on Saturday and Sunday. This is all bad for you. Buy prices go down and so does the amount of cards they want.

By getting there early on Friday, we had enough time for a good conversation while working through all the stuff I had to sell. I was reasonable but firm in what I was asking for, and Justin, the buyer from Power Nine I worked with, was the same.

One thing this weekend reinforced for me was not to be afraid to question a number. A buyer doesn’t have time to look up every card as they dig through, and their memories aren’t perfect. If you have a card that you know is worth money and they don't, point it out.

In our case it was foil Expedition Map and foil Manalith. Card like that are easy to forget the exact price on, and sometimes dealers will simply pass on something like that because they don’t remember it. I would say that most of the time this isn’t the dealer trying to lowball you, it’s simply a matter of reciting a price from memory.

The lesson here is to not be afraid to talk or negotiate. But there is a big difference between good negotiating and playing hardball. It’s not always fair to expect a dealer to give you the absolute top buy price on every card, especially when, as we found out this weekend, those prices can actually be higher than the eBay number. A lot of times these numbers come from a dealer looking for just one or two copies, and the buyer you’re working with simply can’t afford to pay that much.

There’s a middle ground here. Don’t be afraid to ask for good numbers on your cards, but don’t get the point where you’re arguing for that last 50 cents on every single card.

Trading

A few stories from the weekend. Aside from OKC being as good as I would expect in trading, since the ratio of sharks to average players was favorable, I noticed a few things.

First, those who say trading is dead are mostly right. Yes, the old model of value trading is pretty much gone now, but it’s not like every single player is out to shark you. I had people trade away foil Zendikar lands at $10 because they simply didn’t want them, and I had people who were happy to just trade card for card as long as they were close to fair.

I also had some experiences on the other end of the spectrum. The worst was with a trader who owned a store in Texas. We sat down, and after I opened his binder and found that he had already marked the Star City Games price on the page in his binder, he tells me he owns a store and works on a margin so he has to give me those numbers in the trade.

This was kind of humorous for me, since I just whipped out my business card to inform him that I too run a store, and after that he was fine trading straight across. I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with what happened here, since there was no argument or hard feelings, and we ended up making a good trade.

Of course, when I say “good trade,” I mean for me. Writing Star City prices on your sleeves may save a little time, but it’s just asking to be taken when your information becomes outdated. For instance, I pulled out my phone to do a few quick checks, and targeted the Sphinx's Revelations from there.

Revelation, if you didn’t know, had one in stock at $25 on Star City (they’ve since raised to $30 and are out of stock), while the card is at $26.50 (and rising, which I expect to continue past $30) on TCGPlayer. Giving away free information by putting the price down on the page just allowed me to trade away a bunch for $3-5 cards at SCG prices while picking up an underpriced staple.

Anyway, that’s the long and short of why I don’t like putting numbers on pages ahead of time. The SCG/TCGPlayer difference is something I could have taken advantage of regardless, but by putting the numbers down on the page the weekend before the event, you’re just asking for trouble.

Now, here’s the real problem. Later I see this guy trading with someone else. As I would suggest, the second guy is double-checking all the prices on his phone, and our store owner becomes extremely irate with him, berating him for “wasting time” by repeating the work he’s already done. Needless to say, this trade ended with one party walking away angry and the other standing looking shellshocked.

This is ridiculous. If I’m shopping around for a new car or TV or whatever, I don’t walk into one store and have someone tell me a price but then scream at me for looking at other stores. This is crazy. It’s fine to say “I’m going to trade these cards at these prices,” but the other party absolutely has the right to look these things up themselves. Taking this a step further by harassing that player for doing their own due diligence is just absurd.

Anyways, I’ll end my rant there. Just remember, don’t feel bad about looking up prices. If you choose to trust your trade partner’s numbers that’s fine, but don’t let anyone make you feel bad for double-checking their work.

Trends

Like I mentioned, Revelation will continue to go up if the deck puts up results at the Pro Tour this weekend, as will Jace, Architect of Thought. I know both of these were absent from the SCG Open, but the good news is they aren’t going to plummet in price immediately if they don’t show up this weekend when the pros start brewing. If they don’t make an appearance, you can still get out and be fine.

But if they do, both cards will likely march past $30, at which point I’m outing my remaining copies.

I also hope you got in on Blood Baron of Vizkopa at $7 like I suggested a few months back. The card was in good demand this weekend, along with Jace, and will also go past $30 with a Pro Tour showing.

Looking at the larger picture, I think it’s hard to deny that it’s time or very-nearly time to cash in our profits on our Return to Ravnica specs. There may be a little more left after this weekend’s price movements, but I doubt it’s much. We’ve had a bunch of easy double or triple-ups, and I’m locking in the rest of my profits next week regardless of how these cards perform at the Pro Tour.

That’s all the space I have for this week. Enjoy the Pro Tour, and make some money!

Thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter

Corbin Hosler

Corbin Hosler is a journalist living in Norman, Oklahoma (also known as the hotbed of Magic). He started playing in Shadowmoor and chased the Pro Tour dream for a few years, culminating in a Star City Games Legacy Open finals appearance in 2011 before deciding to turn to trading and speculation full-time. He writes weekly at QuietSpeculation.com and biweekly for LegitMTG. He also cohosts Brainstorm Brewery, the only financial podcast on the net. He can best be reached @Chosler88 on Twitter.

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Posted in Buying, Finance, Free Insider, Predictions, Selling, TradingTagged , , , , , ,

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12 thoughts on “Insider: Tales from the Floor: GP OKC

  1. Great article, Corbin. Congrats on the GP coverage position as well. I’ll be getting my hands wet with trading at GP Louisville, and I’m admittedly lucky. This article was a great little refresher on what to do and what not to do!

  2. With the “traditional” form of value trading dead (and why do you say that? Is it too many people in for value, or an increase in refusal to give up value?) then does that leave only speculation trading, where someone with the foresight of which cards will go up gains value in trading away cards that are at their ceiling?

    I know the dynamic of trading changed drastically with the end of print publications like Scrye and Inquest, with their slow, monthly updates to prices, and again with the SCG Open and other such circuits providing many more tournaments a month than previously available. Also, the prevelance of smartphones further changed the dynamic of trading, and financial articles available to the masses (for me, it was Medina’s SCG run) brought more people into the fold and highlighting the good (and bad) of value trading.

    I’d be interested to read more of the community’s insights to this latest proclaimed shift of “trading is dead”.

    1. Before, I could go to a GP and sit and value trade all day and make good money doing it. These days, 80-90% of your trades involve someone with a phone looking up every price. Simply put, your hourly rate plummets from where it was at even 3-4 years ago.

      This is why you have to get into spec trading and so on, or just being upfront with people on the floor you run a store and have to make a margin.

  3. If Video Killed the Radio Star, Smartphones Killed the Value Trader. But in all seriousness, people are tired of getting fleeced and will check their phones for prices. I don’t blame them. The whole thing will add 5 minutes of time to the trade if done properly. Information is key in making money in the 4G era. Doing your homework and having an idea what cards are ready to make moves will pay off handsomely. I have found that being honest with people when looking up prices helps tremendously. I had a dude call Kor Spiritdancers $2 because of his price memory. Instead of running him over the rakes, I told him that the price was outdated and gave the correct price. The dude trusted me after that and pulled out the Binder O’ Good Stuff after that.

    Okay, I’ve blathered enough in a comment without commenting on the article. Excellent writing, as always, Corbin. I always look forward to your articles and point people towards them when they ask me where to start learning about trading.

  4. Corbin:

    Private message me the name/store of the Texas STore Owner you were dealing with – I think I know who it was just based on your description in the article, and wanted to see if I’m right 🙂

  5. I live in Texas and am familiar with the stores in the area and would love to know the dealer as well if you’re open to sharing. Ben, we should trade thoughts too to see who’s closest to the pin… 🙂

  6. Corbin,

    What info do you put on your business card? Reason I ask is that I’m starting to venture out as a dealer in my area and I’m curios as to what info dealers/stores place on the cards.

    Great article by the way. I see how building trust can pave the way to better dealing for both parties.

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