Insider: Buylisting 101 Tips

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I know we spend a lot time talking advanced concepts on here, but I think it’s important that we go back to basics every once in a while. After all, not everyone is an old pro at this MTGFinance thing, so I find it pretty helpful to keep it simple every now and then. For those of us who have been at this for awhile, I still find it helpful to review these things myself from time to time.

So today we’re going to talk about buylists, the art of selling your cards to a dealer for money. Jason did a great piece on this topic last week, and I want to elaborate on how I handle some of these steps.

Let’s get the basics out of the way. Yes, you’re going to make less money than if you sold on TCGplayer or eBay. Yes, dealers are going to be more strict on condition. Yes, it sucks to see your cards go at lower prices.

Yes, you’re going to spend much less time buylisting. Yes, you’re going to make much less on TCGPlayer than you think you are. Yes, buylisting is easier than ever thanks to Trader Tools 3. Yes, buylisting typically offers the most reward for the least effort.

It’s really not that easy of a decision, is it?

What Works for You?

I say that with the utmost seriousness. Maybe you plan on selling enough cards on TCGPlayer that it becomes worth it for you. Maybe you don’t move enough cards at a time to really make shipping to a buylist worth it.

Hell, maybe you proxy every card you own with a sharpie so no dealer will accept them. I don’t know, but it can be true that buylisting isn’t always the best option.

But I’d wager that most of the time it is. Moving $200 dollars to a buylist in two hours using Trader Tools 3 is a hell of a lot more profitable than spending six hours to move $300 cards through TCGPlayer, at least for me. If you have enough free time that spending the extra hours is worth it, more power to you. But I know that for a lot of us this is a side hobby, so those hours are usually better spent at “real” work or with our families.

Choosing a List

We have some great stores in Trader Tools 3, and there are a lot of great stores out there that aren’t yet on our list. By shopping around and finding all the highest prices you can really start to increase your numbers.

But don’t spread yourself too thin.

This is a mistake I made several times when I started. I would sort a pile of cards into five different stacks only to find at the end that I’m paying $5 shipping on a $30 order when instead I could roll it into an already-existing pile for $27.

There’s a rule (that I can’t recall the name of) that states it’s better to find the point where time and money peak. In other words, you should find the point where the least amount of effort nets you the most return. Like I stated above, if you can spent an hour to get $75, is it really worth it to spend another two hours to dig out that last $25?

This is how I approach lists. Usually CardKingdom or one of the other top lists on Trader Tools is where I send my cards, because even if I can squeeze a few bucks out of another outlet, it’s not worth the extra time.

What to List

I apply the same rule here. A wise man once said “only buylist nickels if you hate yourself.” If you have 10,000 cards to sort through and you’re checking on every quarter card to find out if a buylist is paying a nickel, you’re going to start eating up time very quickly. It’s just not worth it.

In my earlier days, I used to limit myself at a dime. I’d pull every card I could that I thought might buylist for a dime. Something they did, sometimes they went for 15 cents and sometimes they weren’t worth anything at all.

The more I’ve done it, the more I’ve started to set my sights on things I might fetch a quarter on a buylist. All change adds up quickly, but I decided to set my own line a little higher.

It’s hard to say what’s right for you. It’s something you’ll find out after you’ve done it a few times, and it also depends on the size of the collection. Inputting a single Dimir Charm may not be worth your time, but if you come across a dozen sitting together it suddenly looks much better.

Moving up the chain, you also have to decide what to do with the expensive cards. I’ll buylist $5-10 cards all day, but if I come across an Underground Sea I’m probably going to find another outlet. The reason for this is that, even if the percentage of a buylist order for a Seas is the same as a Relic of Progenitus, the raw numbers reach a point where it is better to find a direct seller. Again, this is something that is different for anyone.

When to List

Remember that buylists drop before retail value does. So while we may not see the retail numbers on Standard staples like Sphinx's Revelation drop for a little while, buylists will always be ahead. And, just as rising buylist numbers indicate increasing demand, declining buylist numbers mean the opposite.

The time when this is most relevant is with Standard rotation. Retail values won’t really dip until the end of the summer, but buylist numbers will drop a month or two before that. That means, if conventional wisdom says to out your rotating Standard cards in September, the optimal time to buylist is likely in July and August.

Likewise, Modern cards typically reach peak buylist numbers near the beginning of PTQ season, even if retail prices don’t peak until the middle of the season. If you plan on buylisting those Modern specs, that’s the best time to do so.

Shipping the List

Everyone has their own tricks for doing this, and I typically work like this:

  • Use fatpack boxes or 1000 count boxes to sort cards.
  • I don’t want cards to shift. At all. The delivery process is rough on your box, and you don’t want the cargo to be damaged. Something like bubble wrap is optimal, but I’ve definitely used paper towels to pack the contents in a box before tightly taping it up. If I can shake the box and hear no movement inside, I know I’ve done a good job.
  • I ship in padded envelopes with tracking and insurance. While this whole process may be slightly more expensive than other methods like flat-rate boxes (particularly good if you have a ton of cards to ship), it does guarantee everything arrives where it’s supposed to in the best condition possible.

One more tip: Always take a check if possible. Many stores will offer you the choice between a check or a Paypal payment. The small percentage fee they charge for using Paypal may not seem like a big deal on a $100 order, but by the time you scale up to $1,000 it starts to become quite relevant. Just take the check and wait a few more days for your money to come in.

Exhausting Ourselves

Between Jason and I, I feel like we’ve covered this topic pretty well in the past week, so I imagine it will be a while before we revisit it. So if you have any questions just let me know in the comments and I’ll be sure to answer!


Thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter

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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 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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15 thoughts on “Insider: Buylisting 101 Tips

  1. the focus on buylist on this site is the reason why I don’t want a permanent subscription to this site.

    I like the insights on the forum (sometimes). I learn a lot from many articles, but the trader tool is crap for europeans.

    How can the tradertool be more useful for non US citizens?

    One of the things I noticed is that the US market for magic singles is less stable than the EU market. Half of the price jumps don’t happen here for example. And a buy out is less influental, because you need to target cards in French, German, Spanish and Italian too.

    I’ve seen buyouts of English cards. Nobody noticed, and one week later, the market is filled again with English cards.

    I just wanted to illustrate some differences in our markets, but the result is that the trader tool is mostly useless for us.

    1. You cannot really expect writers that are located in the US to be familiar with your situation. If you want to be able to use their suggestions it’s up to you to identify how to apply them to your situation. (They may at times keep in mind that others may be in a different situation though).

      The trick is filtering out the information that’s useful for you. I am from The Netherlands, so I know the situation you’re in buylist wise, but, you can usually get a feeling for which cards see sustainable spikes and which will drop down just as hard. I hope it’s obvious that you need to identify the former and stay clear of the latter.

      While I prefer to use the forum over TT as my source of information you could use TT to identify whether US based buyers have faith in a card or not. If they do chances are it’s a sustainable spike.

      Of course how you then move the cards is up to you. There are some buylists around, or you could trade or sell in person. Ebay is always a consideration or MCM. Find what works for you. For me it’s a combination of trading for crap rares and buylisting, but for you that might be different.

      Mostly you have to create some kind of filter that takes an article like the one above and distills the information that is useful to you. Some articles may not have much useful information, but one of the others released today is basically saying “hey, look, these planeswalkers are underpriced” and while any reference to TT can be ignored that information is still very usable regardless.

      Good luck!

  2. “One more tip: Always take a check if possible.”

    Checks are terrible in this part of the world, they add a lot of fees, bank transfer is where it’s at here.

    1. I actually didn’t know much of this, from the check issue to the downside of TT3 to you guys. I wish I could help more, but like you said I don’t know anything about the market there 🙁

      1. I got a check while in the US for work, it was for $100. I could only mail it to my bank and they highly recommended signed delivery (as the address implied there would be a check in there increasing the risk of theft). I then got a processing charge too. When all was said and done I ended with less than $90.

      2. As for TT3, no need to help, but do consider that you’re only writing to part of your potential audience on this site. It’s good enough to be aware that due to shipping time we can’t really use the shops in TT and that if we did the currency conversion would probably make it an unexciting prospect anyway. keeping that in mind you may want to throw us a bone and include a few things that have general applications in articles like this one.

        There aren’t many buylists in Europe and those that are around tend to update very slowly. I have built up a pretty good relationship with one particular buyer for one of the shops and I basically send him a list of cards with my prices as they don’t even have a real buylist. Usually what I get in credit is not much lower than TCGPlayer low, but that’s exceptional in these parts (hence my reluctance to tell people which shop I use).

    1. Yeah, I have only buylisted to strikezone once…and that was enough for me. They charge for the check, are ridiculously strict on their conditioning, and take a very long time to mail the check… No thanks.

      1. Same here, sent them a tester order a few months ago. They rejected a huge number of SP cards, which I sold to other buyers and got paid 100% on. Plus it took nearly a month to get paid.

        1. I’m used to them rejecting cards, which is why I prefer to only sell to them in person. Didn’t know they also nailed you for taking a check; that’s dumb. Not selling there online again.

  3. Strikezone is the worst. I sent them a $500 order, and they sent the entire thing back to me minus some cards that they stole to make up a $5 value because the ‘overall condition wasn’t optimal.’

    Never, never again.

    1. Thanks for these comments….especially since I was going to send them in some stuff this weekend. I think I’ll go with the stores I know are good rather than making a little extra per card.

      1. Yes, stay away from SZO. I buylist to Card Kingdom, ABUGames, AdOn, and TrollnToad. I’ve never had an issue with TnT, not sure why they were removed from TT2. Glad they are on TT3, they pay really well on foils and obscure cards.

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