Insider: Pick of the Week

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You thought I was going to give you some specs to pick up, didn't you? Well, you're hooked now. Try and contain your disappointment, I have something that is actually pretty useful to go over and can potentially make you more money than even the spiciest spec.

I talked a bit about buylisting these last few weeks, but I want to talk today about something you'll need to do before you can even get to that point: picking a collection.

Are You Doing a Tutorial on Shoe Tying Next?

Okay, wow, tough crowd. This isn't mean to insult anyone's intelligence, it's meant to demonstrate a few ways I save time when I pick collections.

Since you're all insiders, you have access to Trader Tools. Since the site I use for buylisting primarily is Trader Tools, I use Trader Tools as when I pick collections as well.

Even if you use other methods to buylist, I still recommend taking a few seconds to do some research before you pick. I have spent enough time on buylisting to know that there are always going to be surprises. There are a few different reasons why stores put cards on their buylist.

  • They are seeing a ton of play in a format people are playing right now.
  • They have a ton of casual appeal.
  • They ran out as a matter of course.
  • They think they will go up.

Some of those things you can predict, and some you can't. Sure, it's obvious that you pick Lightning Strike out of Theros. But how many of you are picking Spellheart Chimera? All of you? No? Really?

Well, I pick the Chimera, and that's because I spot-checked the set before I picked it and I noticed that Spellheart Chimera is (today) buylisting for almost the same amount as Lightning Strike. Don't believe me?

While it's not that surprising that an uncommon should buylist for as much as a common, we're talking about a big gap in appeal here. Lightning Strike is a functional reprint of a staple burn spell and gets play in Standard red decks. The other you can find in trash cans after a draft and appeals mainly to casuals.

If you are about to pick a big pile of Theros cards, wouldn't it be useful to know if there are any surprises like Spellheart Chimera?

There is a quick and easy way to do this.


This is the home page of Trader Tools. The arrow points to a dropdown that allows you to sort by set.

When you click the button, it will bring up a page with the entire set sorted.


The set view page has a few filters you can click. If you click the dollar sign the arrow points to it will sort by buy price. Click it once to put the lowest buy price on top, click it again to put the highest on top, sorting the set in descending order.


That's more like it. Elspeth is on top where it belongs, followed by Stormbreath Dragon, etc. Still, you don't need Trader Tools to tell you to pick Elspeth, Sun's Champion out of a collection. That would be ridiculous. So let's scroll down a smidge.


Do you pick above a nickel? If you do, Burnished Hart is a card you have likely been missing. You don't have to pick Hart out, but now you have the option. You know every time you pause for a tenth of a second to drop one into a pile, you've made $0.07, which by my calculations, is better than a shotgun blast to the torso.

If you feel like picking these out to pad an order to Adventures On, you know that a pile of these will help you pay for shipping. Flat Rate shipping containers make it possible to make money doing that. If you're not inclined to pick them, fine, but at least you know that they have value.

What about an older set, potentially before you started playing Magic? Same procedure.


Sure, you would have pulled Wirewood Symbiote and Undead Warchief and Pyrostatic Pillar but how many of you

  1. Pick Pemmin's Aura; or
  2. Know Pemmin's Aura is worth more than Tendrils of Agony?

Sure, if you do this enough, you might know that off the top of your head, but if you don't, taking a bit to refresh yourself before you do a big pick will make you miss fewer picks. Trader Tools is a good resource and you have access to it, so make the most of your subscription and use it if you need it.

You want to make the most of sorting Trader Tools by set? You may not like to hear it, but...

You Have to Sort the Collection By Set

Yes, this sucks. However, as I said in previous installments, it is going to save you time in the long run.

I mentioned before that I take all the white-bordered cards out of the collection and put them in one box, take the old-bordered cards and put those in one box and put the modern-bordered cards in a third. This makes the set sorting process much less overwhelming.

I also hold the cards upside down so when I flip through them, I can quickly flip through and see the expansion symbols. It's more important to see that than to see the card name, so since I am right-handed, I flip the cards upside down so I can view more cards in less time. This was one of those ideas that I was mad at myself for not thinking of sooner.

Since I like to sit on my computer and watch Netflix while I do boring stuff like sorting sets, I keep a window with Trader Tools ready to go in case I want to look something up.

Do You Advocate Set-Sorting Everything Before Picking?

I really would not. I tend to do a "rough" pick, erring on the side of caution and "overpicking", which means I will assume a card is a pick rather than not. It's easier to put a card back in the box than to realize later that Night's Whisper is worth more than $1 and you left about a dozen of them... in one of those four boxes you just picked.

Not wanting to leave cards in the boxes is one of the main reasons I will take a minute to check every set for surprises. You can quickly bring up each expansion set, sort by buylist price and check for cards that you didn't expect before you pick the cards. This may seem a little bit time consuming, but if you are confident in your picks, you will pick faster and that will ultimately save you some time in the long run.

Sure, you may lower your chances of missing something if you sort everything first before you pick so you can check the entire set against the list of picks on Trader Tools, but how much is your time worth?

A lot of the things I am suggesting are designed to save you time, and wasting it this way isn't worth the small amounts of value you will avoid missing. I think taking a small amount of time to refresh your memory is a good investment that will pay itself off in time saved, but looking up every single card in Trader Tools is not worth it.

This Card Should Be a Pick!

Maybe it should. I went over the reasons a card is a pick and the opposite can be true. A card that a dealer has a ton of but is a pick ordinarily might not be on the list at the time you're buylisting.

If I run across a card that I feel like I shipped last time I buylisted, or which is better than its price would indicate, or if I am just unwilling to ship for the price dealers are paying, I have a special box set aside. I put those cards there and sit on them for a little while.

The next time I buylist a major order, which could be a week or two later, I will recheck some of those cards. A lot of the time, I will ship a significant portion of that box. Some things were being underpaid on and I will find that, in time, the price is more fair.

Also, cards that go above the number of copies a dealer will take go into this box. I could ship them to the next dealer on the list for cheaper, but I like to sit on them to see if the original dealer paying the best raises their quantity again. If it's a hot card, they will blow through copies and need more. If it's not a hot card, it isn't a big deal, and its price usually doesn't make it worth bothering about.

One technique I will use to identify cards like this is to sort by spread.


Clicking the icon I indicate here will sort by spread. Click once to put the highest spread on top. You can check this for cards with high retail prices. If you find a card with a decent retail price and a high spread, those are cards to sit on.

For whatever reason, dealers are not jazzed about picking those cards up. You can wait to see if the price goes up later.

What do you have to lose? The opportunity cost to having collection fodder is low and if you make more money just because you sat on a card with an artificially high spread, you did well.

If you click on the icon twice, it will put lowest spread on top. Looks like there is a negative spread on Spark Elemental right now. I had no idea until I picked a random set to take this screenshot. Who knows what you'll find if you spend some time perusing Trader Tools?

Until Later

That's all I've got for you this week. If you have any questions, or want to tell me I suck, leave it in the comments.

Jason Alt

17 thoughts on “Insider: Pick of the Week

  1. Hello

    I am also right-handed and check expansion symbols, rather than card names.

    But I don’t hold the cards upside down when I flip through them…

    Would you mind sharing pictures/video showing why it’s easier/faster the way you do it (holding them upside down), because I don’t seem to grasp that part 🙂


    1. I usually remember the sets that belong to the names, but, should I ever check for symbols, usually when browsing through a large stack of commons I will do the exact same thing Jason does. I like to move the cards to the right when I have them in my hands and when I do the previous card will cover the expansion symbol. When they are flipped I don’t have that problem. I think you probably browse through them in a different way that has you move the cards towards the left?

      Jason, one thing to consider could be that non-US based members may not benefit quite as much from TT. We usually can’t ship the cards quick enough and it gets riskier when shipping internationally, we get hit by currency conversions, can’t really use checks (lots of banking fees to cash them), etc. We don’t benefit as much from articles like this one.

      Also Jason, “je zuigt” (adding an international dimension to how much you suck ;).

      1. I think that while European readers may not be able to buylist profitably to the sites listed on trader tools, I find it difficult to believe that the market for each individual card is that radically different that the process described by Jason wouldn’t still be beneficial.
        A couple years back I wrote about in the forums, my experience at a European GP where I was able to engage in currency exchange rate manipulation to essentially make an extra 10%. Europe also sees an import tax on magic sealed product that translates into inflated standard singles.
        Wish our European writers could discuss these things in greater detail.

        1. Main issue is lack of buylist with non joke price. There’s like 2 in France and they update slowly. I wish i cna BL to the US for all those EDH staple that don’t move here becasue of 1vs1 and cash out those pile sof commons at 0.25$ that are bought at 0.05 here.

        2. I’m not saying there’s no benefit, there is. The basic approach works for us too, it’s just that TT only shows us what we could have gotten in the US. I have tried using TT for identifying which cards should do well at buylists in general, but honestly, what I found on the buyslists I can feasibly use is that they were very different.

          For me it makes a lot more sense to just open up one of the few buylists I can use and go from there. Or, in the case of my preferred shop to trade in to, which doesn’t actually have a very usable buylist, I just go by TCGPlayer low, ask that amount in credit or perhaps a little less and more often than not they agree. In the few cases they don’t we can usually come to an agreement that beats top US buy prices anyway.

          In general though I am trying to create awareness that articles that make extensive use of TT will have less relevance to a part of the audience. It is somewhat like a writer located somewhere in Europe deciding to describe the ins and outs of MagicCardMarket. The basic principles probably hold, but the specific implimentation would be fairly useless to members located in the US.

    2. It’s because you only have to move the cards 0.5-1 cm to see the next card, instead of 3-4 cm. I know it sounds so small it couldn’t possibly matter, but believe me, this type of improvement is what process engineers dream of.

    3. I hold the cards in my left hand and transfer them to the right hand. I use my left thumb to shove cards over to the right hand, and the fingers on my right hand to pull cards from underneath. When I try to transfer cards from my right hand to the left right side up, my thumb works fine, but the fingers on my left hand are less adept at pulling cards over and they end up less straight. I feel like I can go much faster going from left hand to right so I hold the cards upside down. I don\’t have to look at the card name or anything- I just recognize the symbol and do what I need to do. It\’s much faster for me, personally.

      1. I see. I do that from right to left 🙂
        I tested this just a few seconds ago and upside down cards from left to right goes way slower, so I’ll keep my current way of doing that.

        One advantage for right-handed persons doing it Jason way, is that you’ll get thumb-ache at your left hand. I am getting trouble writing after sorting through thousands of cards, because I’ll have thumb-ache at my right hand 🙂

  2. I now have a way to mitigate shipping costs when I buy-list, thanks Jason! Such a basic concept and that’s the beauty of it. This gives me justification to keep grabbing the draft “leftover” as it’s free money in a sense.

    I do have a question regarding tokens and that niche sub-market (or lack there of). What is the best way to out those and what types do you think are worth holding? My current thoughts are THS elemental tokens (Master of Waves), BNG cat solider tokens (Brimaz), THS Satyr tokens (Xenagos); pretty much the ones that go with mythics that do/may have eternal playability. Any thoughts?

    1. I don\’t know why tokens retain value when so many people print their own and give them away as promos. I think unique tokens have a tendency to retain value, and unique tokens that go with an expensive card like the Wurmcoil tokens are a good bet. Still, as someone whose podcast is always printing new tokens, I am not sure I like them as investments. Still, more surprising things have happened.

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