Collection-Buying Etiquette: To Screw, or Not To Screw?

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Since discussions about buying collections seem to be all the rage these days, here's another gem from /r/mtgfinance. ( some formatting and spell-correcting done by us, because we care ).  Answers in the thread range from "screw them for every last penny you can" to "give them the most for their money" to "take their asking price if you can make money on it" and everything in between.

The original poster, Quacksalvar said:

I searched the history of this group and did not find any discussions regarding this, so I thought I'd ask.

I am interested in starting to purchase collections from leads found on craigslist. What is considered reasonable or unreasonable during these transactions? Do you guys ask them what they wish to get from the collection to see if they throw out a low number? Do you guys search ALL of their cards? Do you guys throw buylist prices at them? Do you guys go over or under buylist?

I've heard some buyers look through for some notable cards, and then buy based on those prices, taking the rest as surplus/profit. Is this a common method?

I'm not interested in screwing the sellers over, though I am not interested in losing myself money either. What is "respectable" and common practice in dealing with this kind of thing?

The first reply endorsed using retail prices on a few key cards and getting bulk as a throw-in.  There's definitely a danger in looking up a card or two, because you run the risk of someone realizing they don't know what anything's worth and looking up every damn card.  You don't want someone with 3 booster boxes of Ravnica realizing that Goremand isn't "just some uncommon" and getting cold feet.

problemgambler replied:

As one who has purchased collections before, buying a whole collection can be tough, especially when you have no idea what you're walking into (90% of Craigslist). If the seller has no idea about current prices, I try to be honest and show them TCG mid on their high ticket items, then offer roughly 60% of that, with any remaining bulk as a throw-in.

If the collection is larger, this can get time consuming, so I try to finger though and get an idea of the value (bulk commons and uncommons vs. unsorted w/ rares) and offer based on that. Very rarely do people want full retail, they know they're losing a percentage, so just don't rip them off.

I've found that being honest about prices then explaining things like ebay fees nets me more eager sellers in the long run. You'd be surprised how often a satisfied seller can lead to more referrals, which is more profitable in the long-run than scumbagging somebody.

Points for endorsing honesty, especially for using things like eBay fees to haggle down prices.  You don't have to even use eBay, you'll probably get less than buy list prices that way.

invertation added, politely:

If you want the cards to keep, offer buylist. If you're looking to flip them, consider the effort involved in that process, sorting, condition of the cards etc. Your knowledge of the system is of value to you, not them. They are attempting to gain value off your experience. Let them, pay them 80-90% of buylist based on condition and dont include the bulk.

It takes your time and energy to sort and ship that. If you "feel" like you're ripping them off when you do that, remind yourself its your gut talking. Your gut has shit for brains. Pay yourself a fair wage for sorting their bulk. If you can't afford their collection, explain that to them, and offer what you can afford. Explain how they would have a difficult time getting the max % and if they are willing to bring for 6 or 8 months to get a little bit more out of it, thats fine, but your offer is firm and have the cash in hand.

Never Lie about a cards value. Almost every time i have interacted with someone on craigslist they have looked up 1 or 2 cards and this will cause to headaches. Always take the time to explain that retail is what stores with bills and returning customers can charge. they dont pay that. You are under no obligation to tell them what it is worth.

Avoid Quoting card prices. if asked "what are these worth", Hedge with "i'm going to need to look them over to figure that out". Or "I'll pay you xyz us cash dollars" They are not all reasonable. You will often times not close the deal. Not buying cards is better then paying full retail to some random for cards you didn't want as singles from a reputable dealer. If we all wanted all the cards at retail, there wouldn't be any for sale.

Also, a websites determination of value is not a full accounting of value, not the actual value either. Worth = what someone would pay for something. Thats worth xyz to me. Shorting people makes you an ahole, don't do it. Be fair, and honest where possible. Read an article or two by someone scumy and avoid doing all that shit.

Another vote for "honesty is the best policy" with a little bit of "take everything, give nothing back".  Definitely points for "value your own time and knowledge too".   I also must agree with the concept that it's better to let a collection go than to pay full retail.  If you wanted to pay retail, just order from Star City Games or something.  You don't even need to meet in a Denny's parking lot.

It's hard to flip through bulk and not grin like the cheshire cat when you see stuff like that.  If you know about it before you close the deal, will your conscience be clear?

pixel_juice added:

My method (far from perfect) is to ask them what they would like for the collection, look through it (just a cursory flip through), and if I can make at least a reasonable profit we're done.

If I can't profit with their offer, I will counter with a reasonable offer that lets me at least break even and hope to get value out of trades later. My offer is based on what I see and what they were hoping to get.

I don't low ball, I don't part out the good stuff (as this will waste the seller's and their next potential buyer's time).
Sometimes we can't come to an agreement and that's OK.

I don't lie to them, but I also don't worry about protecting them from themselves (unless they are under 21). Anyone can easily find current prices on cards and if they don't want to spend the time to look it up, that's their business.

But my experience so far is that you don't find power 9 or crazy deals these days. People have an idea what the cards are worth or have asked a friend to help them figure it out before they even post the ad.

At no point do I take out my phone to look anything up. That way lies madness.

The key to all this is "what they hoped to get". It's not my job to make sure they squeeze every dime out of the collection. I just want them to feel satisfied with the transaction and so far I've had no issues from sellers.

Yet another vote for "don't lie but don't tell too much of the truth either".  The "under 21" part kind of confuses me.  Is that some sort of ethical line we as a collective agreed upon?  Last I checked, 18 year olds had computers and smart phones and a working knowledge of, you know, numbers.

Ultimately, it seems like there's no group consensus on The One True Path.  But everyone agrees that the name of the game is getting paid, not doing a favor to a stranger.  What do you think?  What are your rules and guidelines for buying collections?

Kelly Reid

Founder & Product Manager

View More By Kelly Reid

Posted in Buying, Finance, FreeTagged , , ,

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7 thoughts on “Collection-Buying Etiquette: To Screw, or Not To Screw?

  1. I think the thing to remember is that there is always someone else in your area doing what you are doing regardless on what side of the morality debate you are on. If someone spent the time to make a post on craigslist or contact you that means that they are patient enough to check around, obviously they are worth money why else would you want the whole thing? So even if you choose not to be the good guy, you have to be the best guy, losing a collection to someone else loses time, money, and reputation, without these you have nothing.

  2. Interesting article for me — I just bought my first collection. Met a gentleman who had a beautiful collection he found in a storage locker and had no clue the value of his cards. He was moving and needed money. The collection included 20 duals, 5 force of will, 5 wasteland, 10 enlightened tutor, 10 maze of ith, etc. About 10,000 cards total – everything sleeved and SP-NM condition.

    I could have offered him anything and I think he would have taken it. I sat with him in Denny’s for four hours and pulled out everything over $10 and offered him about 75% retail value on the collection. Paid $3,500 and will happily move his collection for a 1.5-2K profit without being a scumbag.

    Part of me has a little regret. I could have paid $1,000 and made a ton of money for myself. But I know I did the right thing. Now I’m learning how to buylist bulk ><

  3. If I know the asking price and they have given an indication of the number of rares my first check is: are they asking more than 1 euro per rare? I have never, not even in the most amazing deals I got on a collection, come across a collection that was worth more than 1 euro per rare. It’s theoretically possible of course, but I need to see proof before I believe it.

    Having passed that check I try to get information on the time period the cards are from. Some blocks simply have more expensive cards than others. Obviously, if they’ve listed cards I’ll check on those to. When they played may also be a decent indication of what is valuable to their mind, for example Jester’s Cap and Shivan Dragon were very valuable back in the day. I may also consider whether I would be interested in bulk from that time period from my own collection (I am low on Alliances cards for example).

    If things still look interesting I will arrange to meet them. If it’s a small collection I just go through the cards and separate out the high(er) value stuff while explaining to them that that’s mostly what I’ll be basing the value on. If an offer hasn’t yet been made I’ll make it at this point. If, based on the information available, I have already made an offer I am instead just checking if the cards I knew about are present and if so I hand over the money and will inspect the rest later (no need to waste their time or let them see me get excited over hidden gems).

    When I get home I will do a more thorough review of the cards.

    I don’t often buy collections, maybe 1-2/year, and I tend to go after the ones that seem to be priced relatively low. Every time I met up with a seller I’ve gotten a deal on the collection. Most of the time when I respond to a collection online it results in a deal too, though sometimes it turns out it’s not worth my time or that they are just trying to get a feel for what their cards are worth.

      1. You’re welcome.

        Let me emphasize that you should know your plan when looking to buy collections. If you move through a lot of cards you have to be less picky than I am as you’ll need more product. I can be patient as I only want 1-2 collections per year to (partially) supplement my own collection and can just wait for an especially good one to come by. I may in fact go an entire year without buying any collections. As such the person trying to buy stock should be much more pressed to make purchases and will respond to less interesting collections that I simply ignore. I just wait for the hidden gems that come in through my own forum and personal contacts or that fly under the radar due to an especially poor description (got one where the seller showed his Squee’s Toy, but not his Mox Emerald…).

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