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Insider: Maintaining Your Business

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Today's article will focus on the practical business end of speculation. After all, what's the point of amassing a giant collection of cardboard if you can't turn some of it back into cash?

The Outs

There are many ways to sell cards for cash. Here are the main ones:

  • TCG Player Store
  • eBay Store
  • Facebook Store
  • Brick and Mortar Store
  • Craiglist
  • MOTL
  • Online Store

Most of these are internet-based, which involves a low maintenance cost. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule.

A brick and mortar store requires a great deal of extra work, but does allow for larger profits. It requires hard work and dedication (it's not just hanging out with fellow players at a store that you happen to own). There are also a lot of extra costs associated with a brick and mortar store including overhead costs (facility maintenance, utilities, taxes, rent, etc.)

The next best thing is an actual online store (which several of our fellow QSers run), but there are hidden costs associated with that as well: upkeep costs, payment costs (to accept credit cards or PayPal), and last but not least shipping costs.

Most of us simply use eBay and TCG Player as our "store front" and sell cards that way, which is clean and easy. There are obvious risks; packages getting lost in the mail, people lie about not receiving them, there's a lot of competition.

If you run your store through eBay or TCG Player you have to sacrifice somewhere between 11-12.5% of your profit to these sites (including the cut that goes to PayPal or credit card companies) and potentially a bit more for packaging.

Last but not least you can use Facebook or other social media to buy and sell cards locally. This is great in that it keeps good cards local and eliminates the middle-man and shipping costs. The downside is you need a location that's okay with it and you have to meet people in person. The latter is an issue because carrying expensive things to strangers involves added risk.

Some Important Things to Remember

So now you've chosen your outs and how you'll turn that cardboard into cash. Keep these things in mind:

  1. You can only sell what you have listed. I know this seems obvious, but it's something I have to constantly remind myself as I have a massive amount of stock that's just sitting in boxes and binders.
  2. The money isn't yours until your customer is happy. What I mean by this is that when you sell online you're often paid instantly (on eBay) or with a slight delay (TCG Player), but if your customer is unhappy and complains you almost always have to refund them. Negative feedback and reviews is not something you want on your record. When someone pays you for your item you should do your best to package it safely and send it quickly.
  3. Profit is profit. I know there's always a desire to wait for the price peak, but in all honesty if anyone could accurately predict them they'd be filthy rich. If you can make a decent profit now it's better than a bit more potential profit later. You certainly don't want to sell cards that have hit their lows, but if you have a spec that's jumped up a good amount it's best to sell it into the hype (which Corbin/Jason/etc. all state constantly).
  4. The little things add up. While it may not be fun to list cards under $5 because it's a pain to mail off little stuff--and there's obviously a lower limit; mine is $2--here and there you can get cards as throw-ins and turn them into quarters and dollars. My personal favorite are casual all-stars that many now consider bulk.
  5. There's value in the odd-balls. Recently I purchased a friend's massive collection of bulk and miscellaneous. In the boxes I found a full 2009 Planechase plane set (which I sold on eBay for $150) and some random Archenemy schemes (several of which were $6+ dollars). There were also over 200 bulk foils. After selling the Planechase planes and the bulk foils I've recouped my entire investment into this "bulk". I also found 14x Mind Funerals (four of which sold on eBay).
  6. It's critical to keep yourself well-stocked. While it doesn't make sense to maintain a store-like stock at all times (unless you are in fact a store) focusing on cards that people consistently ask for is a good way to keep business flowing. It helps to keep track of what you've sold/traded so you can get a feel for the demand. I often write down a list of the rarer and hard-to-find stuff local players have asked me for. Before a big tournament I'll usually send them a message (or ask in person) if they still need some of those cards and I'll pick up what I can. Ideally, I focus on the cards that I know will be easy to find outs for. Cards like tutors (Vampiric, Demonic, Sylvan, Personal, Enlightened, Cruel and Worldly) are pretty safe stock and you'll often get favorable trades and/or good prices from the people who were looking for them.

The Ins

To keep selling cards you obviously need to replenish your stock. But what are the best ways to do so?

  1. The personal buylist is my favorite. I created a group on Facebook for trading, buying and selling MTG cards. Not only does it serve as a way to sell cards, it also allows you to replenish supplies by offering people cash for their cards.
  2. Craigslist is another favorite. Unfortunately, thanks to the popularity and economic strength of Magic, Craigslist is often inundated with people trying to sell their collections at full retail prices.
  3. If you're a store you can set your own buylist. Most players will also check the internet from at least a few stores so your prices need to be competitive. At the same time if you don't feel there's enough local demand for a give card it's wise not to pick it up.
  4. Keeping on good terms with as many players as possible always yields potential for good buying opportunities. Local players often come to me to unload an expensive card that local shops aren't buying or won't give them a good price on. Only one store in the area keeps Legacy/Modern stock, while the rest are almost exclusively Standard or EDH, so this situation benefits me significantly.

Organization

Staying organized is one of the harder things to do. The reason it's important is quite simple--you need to know what you have, what you've sold/traded, and what you're looking for. I suggest using an Excel worksheet to monitor what you've bought/sold/traded.

Keeping track of stock is more difficult. I happen to have a pretty good memory and have a general idea if I have a card or not when people ask, but obviously the more obscure ones are harder to remember.

However, there is a downside to immediately answering the question "Do you have Y?" Saying no gives them almost no incentive to look through your cards.

When it comes to your trade binder, it helps to have some form of organization. I've separated mine by format and color. There is some issue with multiformat cards, but my logic is that the card goes into the oldest format's binder.

This color and format coordination has proven useful time and time again, when someone needed some oddball card right before a tournament and were able to find it quickly in my binders.

David Schumann

David started playing Magic in the days of Fifth Edition, with a hiatus between Judgment to Shards. He's been playing Commander since 2009 and Legacy since 2010.

View More By David Schumann

Posted in Finance, Free Insider, SellingTagged

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4 thoughts on “Insider: Maintaining Your Business

  1. I just opened a brick and mortar 2 weeks ago. It has been extremely difficult for me to keep Legacy staples in stock. I have found that Channel Fireball has great buylist/trade prices. I have had some people come in and off cards to me, but I’m looking for a way to keep my Legacy staples well stocked. I have been able to make margins off buying low tcg, then selling at cfb retail, but it seems like that will have diminishing returns. I am placing an add in Craigslist, but most people are either offing at full retail or have bulk.

    I hold tournaments with store credit as payout to off the cards. For me, acquisitions are the issue. Any thoughts as to how to keep my awesomesauce stocked would be welcome.

    1. As Matt mentions, 1 good way is to grind out events though the downside is most people will want a premium trading legacy cards for anything else, which may or may not be profitable for you. Unfortunately, the # of people with legacy cards who want to unload them is declining and the # of people who want legacy cards is still increasing. While this is great for the sellers it’s bad for people trying to buy and even worse for stores trying to stock up. However, other routes you can try is posting a buylist in the Exchange forum on QS itself. If your prices are better than MTG.GG you should have an easier time restocking. The one trick/concern with keeping a good legacy stock is that you really need to have your finger on the heartbeat of the market, by that I mean you want/need to know what you’re players are looking for. I say this because as you know a lot of legacy staples are quite expensive, which means that if you guess wrong on what your playerbase wants you could have a lot of capital tied up which prevents you from being able to buy more of the cards they do want and thus making more profit.

  2. Trade into staples at large events. Making sure you don’t overpay for stuff (at best meet mtg.gg buy prices) will allow you to trade to other dealers profitably, even for specific staples. Also, you need to raise prices until you feel well stocked. Allow people to negotiate, but you can afford to raise prices if the problem is holding ontocards. GL

  3. Craig’s List is overflowing with people looking to sell magic cards. I find that there are a ton of people on both ends of Craig’s List and you will have some competition. There are people that are looking for full retail on their cards and you have to have tough skin to deal with them. I tend to look for older posts that are still up. These people have usually already talked to a dealer and know what their cards are actually worth. Recently I contacted someone who talked to a local dealer I know about two weeks previous. I offered him lower than the other dealer and he took it. My advice is to just keep grinding

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