Insider: Bulking Up (The Good Way)

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Welcome back readers, speculators, insiders or potentially future insiders (depending on when you read this)!

Last week's article focused on specific cards (specifically ones not to buy) and I like to waffle between specific and generic (also I like to use the word waffle whenever possible....most often at breakfast, but in this case it doesn't mean a delicious bread-like treat I get to have when the stars align and milk, eggs, and waffle mix--Banana Nut, because that's how I roll--are all together at once in my fridge).

Any who, back to the subject you actually came to read about, Magic investment/trading/speculation.


I've gotten to the point with my collection where there isn't much I need to trade. Thanks to the massive influx of value traders it's getting more and more difficult for me to trade with people.


Sure, I have what you want, but you often don't have anything I want, thus I look through a lot of binders but rarely see anything I need. It's even harder when my trade partner finds exactly what they want really quickly.

Now, this issue wouldn't be as much of a problem if I was active in online selling. However, my regular job takes up a lot of time (and often times some of my "free" time) so I don't put the effort necessary to run a good store.

The new "dropship" upgrade for TCG player will likely keep me from opening up a TCG store and I'll just stick to eBay (even though I lose out on a little bit of money from fees), the ability to sell playsets together is really nice. I'll likely take up buylisting more now as a way to just convert cards into cash quickly and easily.

Bulking and Buylisting

The only exception is bulk rares. I love bulk rares and will always trade into them when I can. The reason is simple. I'm a pretty conservative investor and bulk rares are about as conservative of an MTG investment as you can make.

I like to compare them to gold, which used to be very stable and occasionally jumped up in value but rarely lost value. That and it's awesome when cards like Porphyry Nodes jump to $5 and you got six of them at $0.1 each.

Unfortunately, it's not often you'll find people willing to bulk out, for the same reason (the cards are always worth their bulk rates). Your best bet is to have high-dollar Eternal staples, as I've found people are much more willing to "bulk out" or "buylist out" for cards that are expensive and difficult to acquire. My Legacy trade binder is full of these sorts of cards because that's primarily what I want to entice potential bulk traders into.

One of the biggest challenges of being a bulk trader is maintaining "fairness". When you find someone willing to bulk out to you, they'll often hand you a stack/box/pile/binder and let you go wild. More often than not there are some non-bulk cards in there. It's up to you to determine the level of honesty you want to approach this subject.

I pull out the stuff I know is bulk. The other benefit of doing so is that it shows your trade partner that you're more honest and provides them with a higher level of comfort. If they see $4-5 cards in the $0.1 pile they are going to think you're just ripping them off.

Now, on the flip side of that coin it's impossible to know the buylist of every card in MTG. So, it's critical to just have a general idea or level of comfort with most cards. If you hand me a pile of 100 random MTG rares, I can usually guess which ones are more than bulk. I may be off on my price somewhat if I haven't seen them in a while, but you still can get a general idea.

This is why it's important to do multiple piles. Just because you aren't getting a card at the lowest bulk rate doesn't mean you're still not getting a great deal on it. I've gotten numerous piles of cards at $0.25 or $0.5 each only to find they buylist for $1-$2...which is still amazing profit. Paying more than bulk rates for cards is what's called "buylisting," as you aren't getting them at bulk prices, but rather buylist (or better) prices.

The last thing you need to determine is what rate you'll be using for bulk. I personally use SCG's bulk rates because they are pretty common now and accepted by the player base. (It's really hard to convince someone to sell you cards at $0.08 when they can walk over to the big name vendor and get $0.10 per card).

You also have to price your own cards fairly. If someone wants your Volcanic Island and is willing to bulk out, using TCG mid seems pretty fair (it's also hard to convince most people that they should trade for your dual land at a store's sell price when they can go trade into that store and get store credit in addition to the bulk rate for said card).

I've honestly found that fairly evaluating cards has still been profitable and several people I've met at nearby events told me that the next time the event rolls into town they'll bring me more stuff. Repeat business is always better than instant maximum profit.

The Rub

As you might guess, bulking and buylisting is how a lot of larger stores make their money, so some stores frown on anyone else doing this. So before you even consider it, you'll need to determine if they allow it. One of the easiest ways to bulk out quickly and effectively was to have a playmat with card prices listed; unfortunately almost all venues (depending on the TO) now will not allow these mats by anyone other than a store paid to be there.

I'm currently in the process of figuring out a good way to sort without use of my mat. (I can tell you firsthand how confusing it can get keeping track of 14-20 piles of cards. I imagine using stacks of coins would be bad because it might look like "selling" and I know WoTC doesn't like coins being used even for tokens (to prevent any resemblance to gambling).

One friend mentioned using dice, which I really like so I'll be trying that for now. Of course if you have a good memory or do it a lot, you could just space the cards out in front of you in a specific order (usually one that mimics a buymat) to keep them sorted properly.

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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, TradingTagged

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5 thoughts on “Insider: Bulking Up (The Good Way)

  1. I ALWAYS let them choose what they consider to be bulk. I will explain that while I am knowledgeable on what is bulk I am also not infallible and that I do not want to get into the sort of discussion that results from them discovering I picked out something that wasn’t bulk by accident. I will only review the number of cards and the condition (though I will point it out when I see something that’s too obviously above bulk: I make enough on the true bulk as it is).

    I find that during a multiplayer game of EDH there’s usually enough downtime for people to pull bulk rares from their binders. I’ve also made a deal with the foil fan of the group where I handed him a stack of foils under the agreement I would get back 2 of the same rarity per card the next week. Even though he was able to do the online research if he wanted it still included a few above bulk foils.

    1. O I agree 100%. I let them choose as well. But the downside is that will often mean you miss out on the cards you could have gotten at $0.25 or $0.5 that end up buylisting for $0.75-$1.00. A lot of guys here will just hand you a binder (unless they have their bulk already sorted) and just let you pull stuff…that’s when I’ll seperate into different piles because it doesn’t have to be at bulk rates to make a good profit.

  2. I suppose I use a hybrid method. I let my trade partner pull out everything they are comfortable moving at true bulk rate. Then (assuming we aren’t at enough for them to get what they want–which is almost always the case), I will go through and make the $0.25, $0.50 and higher values for anything else that’s in the binder.
    Further, I offer double the true bulk rare rate for mythics and foil rares, and half the bulk rare rate for foil commons and uncommons.

    I take in bulk reasonably often, and not just for high end cards. I’ll do this trading my cards away at full retail values, but call the bulk rare rate $0.15. Doing so accounts for the hard floor cash price of bulk, and helps set me apart from others accepting bulk because of the higher rate.

    All that I do to check is rotate the cards so I view them upside down, and then thumb through them all to verify that they’re rares. [I thumb through from my left hand to right hand, hence the rotation.]

    As for the piles, I do the ‘invisible buymat’ a lot. I usually do 2 rows of 5, for 1-5 and 6-10, have the quarters and half-dollars to the left of that, often rotated 90 degrees, and anything above 10 set above the two rows.

    One of the other reasons I let my trade partner decide on their bulk is that it is time consuming and tedious to do all those bulk offers and pull cards out individually. By doing it this way, I’m able to help someone else [trade]. In my local groups, I’ve had some players hand me a box of bulk rares they had put together at home, and we then proceeded to deal with all the other stuff.

  3. When I see someone making piles sorted by price, I always imagine a shark in clothes next to it.
    I rarely see honest trades done that way. If I have that feeling, than I can expect others to have the same feeling.
    It would bad for the reputation here.
    I let them pick their own bulk. And when I clearly know a card is more than bulk, I tell them and say for example: “that’s worth 2/4” bulk rares.
    It’s safe and honest. And they keep comming back.

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