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Insider: Buylisting at GP Atlanta

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Welcome back, readers.

Last week I talked about the basics of buylisting. This week I'll cover my buylisting strategy and experience leading up to GP Atlanta.

I'll preface this by saying I got the idea from Jason Alt's article regarding "ogreing". I'd recommend reading the article, but for those who don't have the time, here's the basic premise. Before bringing cards to a buylist, you do all the background work sorting, organizing and pricing cards first. Then you hand the binder to dealers and allow them to decide yes or no at buying each card at your listed price.

The beauty is that because you're saving them the time and effort of having to look up each card and compare to their own buylist (though some may want to for larger items), you can often sell them cards above their own buylist value. This also allows for fewer, quicker transactions. If I can get one dealer to buy 50% of my buylist cards at the highest buylist value and another to buy the other 50%, then I don't have to send out eight buylist orders to different stores. Basically everything is smoother and faster.

One last and important note when you consider buylisting; while the spread is a great indicator for demand and the lower the spread the closer to normal sell price, you need to look at the buylist price and ask yourself, "Am I comfortable accepting this much cash for this card?" (It's that simple.) I'll sell cards with a higher spread if I don't think I can get rid of them any other way, so why not cash out now and use the money to buy stuff I know I can sell.

Preperation

Another advantage of ogreing is that you don't have to sort your cards by vendor. Your plan is to let all of them have a shot at the cards, but at the highest buylist price.

Several of the vendors at GP Atlanta were the top dogs on my card list (specifically Troll and Toad and Strikezone), and since I was using the price they posted on their website I wanted to remember which vendor posted it--primarily because if they passed over the cards originally, I could go back later and ask them to look them up and still get the amount I wanted.

To do this, I put the cards in penny sleeves (up to as many copies of the same card as would fit without damaging the cards), and wrote my target price on the front of the sleeve and the current "highest" vendor listed on the back.

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The other beauty of doing this in person was that I didn't have to wait on them to pay me, and they could accept my price or move on to the next card.

After looking through my trade binders and pulling out all the copies of cards I had too many of and perusing the vendor buylists for the cards they were desperate for (best example; Face to Face Games was paying $0.25 for Ichorclaw Myrs so I went through my SOM box and pulled all copies) I was ready to go to the GP.

Sales

So how'd I do?

My first stop was Troll and Toad, as they were near the entrance and probably 30% of my "highest buyer" prices were to them anyways. Unfortunately, when I started talking to the buyer he said they wouldn't honor their online buylist on site because they needed to cover the cost of the booth.

This statement was, and still is, quite disconcerting to me (if you work for Troll and Toad and this statement was incorrect, please let me know so I can revise this paragraph). I immediately thought, "well that's very shady," and moved on. I certainly appreciated T&T's high buylist prices on many things, but if this truly is their policy I will not be selling to them.

My second stop was to Face to Face Games, primarily because I wanted to unload those Ichorclaw Myrs while they still wanted them. Luckily, this one went much smoother. I sat down and introduced myself to the nice buyer (I apologize that I'm terrible with names so I won't be listing anyone by name as I honestly can't remember them), explained that I had priced my cards to various buylists and that he was free to pick and choose what he wanted for the price on the sleeve.

He went through the binder, picked out what he wanted and I took the option of credit with the ability to cash out if I didn't find anything I wanted. This is a common practice because the stores will get new things in over the day and since you can always cash out before you leave, there's no reason to get the cash immediately. There is a concern that stores will run out of money, so I would cash out on Saturday rather than risk waiting until Sunday.

+188.31 (credit) or $150.65 (cash)

Next stop was to Ivory Tower, which happens to be where Ogre himself works now. Sadly Ogre was off doing his own thing when I stopped by them, but their buyer was really nice and appreciated (and understood) my binder. He was happy to pull the stuff they wanted out and after perusing their case (they had a lot of really good prices on some HP EDH/Legacy staples), I again took the credit with the option to cash out later.

+182 (credit) or $166.75 (cash)

Next stop was Alterreality Games. The buyer was a nice guy, but I go the feeling he wasn't as thrilled about my strategy. After looking through the whole binder he only found a little bit. I thanked him and this time just took the cash option.

+$2 (cash)

I then found my way over to the Card Advantage booth. The buyer was very nice and really liked my approach (it saved him a lot of time looking up small cards and let him pick stuff quickly and easily). While they had a lot of good stuff in stock, I felt that I wanted to keep the "credit" option only for orders greater than $100, so again I took cash.

+$54 (cash)

Next I stopped by MTG Card Market. The buyer was again a nice guy (they obviously have to be, given they are trying to get you to sell them cards, but I feel it's important to keep re-iterating because they are human and if they read this I want to know that I appreciated their time.) Unfortunately, the binder was becoming more sparse and he was only able to find a couple bucks worth of stuff.

+$2 (cash)

Next stop was Gaming Etc. The buyer was very helpful and easy to talk to, he loved my approach but was the first (and only) vendor to warn me that I should probably be careful where I brought this binder out so that I didn't appear to be selling cards. I thanked him for his word of caution and promised that this binder was for vendors only. He only found a dollars worth of stuff and I was on my way.

+$1 (cash)

I swung by the Pastimes booth and sat down, explained to the buyer my binder and told him to just pull whatever he wanted. I had put a few cards specifically in the binder for Pastimes as their buylist was extraordinarily high on some random cards ($0.5 for Increasing Savagerys...yes please).

At first he passed over them, which had me a bit worried, but he did say that they'd gotten quite a few in already, so I couldn't really blame him for that. Luckily for me, he went through a second time and took half of them off my hands. To be honest, I was most concerned about this vendor because they were also the TO and if they had an issue with my approach (specifically the labeling of prices in the binder) I didn't want to get kicked out or accused of doing anything they disapproved of. Luckily, that didn't occur.

Humorously enough, as I was talking to the buyer, Ogre himself sat down next to me with the other buyer and pulled out a giant box worth of stuff to sell. Needless to say, he was still there after I'd completed all my vendor visits for the day (I do think the binder approach is faster and better than the box approach, for what it's worth). Again I left Pasttimes with cash as it was below $100.

+$28 (cash)

I was now down to three vendors (although I only visited two of them) remaining. I swung by MTGDeals.com and got to have a really nice long chat with their buyer. He really loved my idea and because the binders had been picked pretty clean I was more willing to play ball with alternate offers. Because of this he actually gave me more on some cards than I was asking (to keep the numbers easier). In the end I feel it was likely a wash, as I got $0.2 more on about ten cards to cover the reductions I accepted on others.

While discussing the idea with him, I realized that it would be best to use the most common numbers to keep the math easiest (I actually mentioned to him that the reason I hadn't was that I didn't think a lot of buyers would appreciate it if I kept rounding the $0.4 cards to $0.5).

Despite the binder having been looked over by a lot of different vendors, they were able to find over a hundred dollars worth of stuff. However, they didn't have a trade-in credit bonus, so cash was the obvious choice over credit.

+$139 (cash)

My last stop was to Strikezone, which I was happy about because many of the cards still in my binder had the SZ's on the back anyways. I approached the buyer, explained the binder, and let him look through. Unfortunately, he didn't want anything (despite the fact that the cards were priced at their advertised buylist prices). I thanked him for his time, and left.

I was a bit worried about them doing the same thing as Troll and Toad, so I pulled some of the cards that I knew were on their buylist out of the sleeves and went back to them about an hour later asking how much they'd pay for what I had left (I priced it to around $48) and just handed them the stack with no prices on it. He looked through it and basically said they didn't want to pick up any of the little stuff at the event.

I can certainly understand this philosophy since they'd likely have to pay to ship everything back (to Texas). I mentioned that all the ones I handed him were on their buylist and his response was that I could mail them in. Unfortunately, that eliminates the ability for me to contest their grading and it leaves the cards in their hands. I found this a bit upsetting, but as I mentioned I could understand.

The only vendor I didn't go to was Ron's Comic World. The main reason was that by the time I'd gone to all the others, plenty of players had dropped and the vendor booths were getting crowded. I had concerns that they would be less willing to work with me when lots of players were nearby, since I was basically asking them to pay more than they wanted to on cards.

However, the second reason was that I visited their buylist before leaving and after looking up ten random Legacy/EDH/Modern staples I found them significantly lower than anyone else on MTG.GG. I do wish I had gone to them though, simply because I wanted to unload everything in the binder.

In the end I took cash (instead of any cards) because there was really nothing that I felt I needed. My final total was:

+$543.40

Which is nothing to sneeze at, especially when you consider the most valuable card I sold was a Ranger of Eos (which I got $9.1 for).

I also got to enjoy discussing my approach with my friends who were amazed I'd gotten that much money (I let them leaf through the binder before I began). What's even more impressive is that I'd already sold $63 dollars above that to my LGS owner (and he requested another $5.5 worth of stuff).

Moving forward, I will always have a "buylist" binder that I can bring to these big events or to my LGS owner and let him look through and pull what he wants. I'll still mail stuff in to vendors when their buy prices are really impressive, but doing everything in person was a really positive experience and I left the venue with that cash in hand.

Bonus Travel Preparedness Section

A lot of things went wrong for me at the GP (unrelated to my buylisting experience). You lucky readers get to benefit by hearing my woeful tales and the lessons I learned from them!

Always make sure your cell phone is fully charged before you leave and bring your charger with you--we had one travel buddy's phone die and it took us 25 minutes to find him, even after getting him paged over the intercom.

Secondly, be aware of construction materials in the road; after finally leaving the site (around 9:30) we left Atlanta and stopped by a Steak and Shake outside the city. After putting in our order (our drinks came 15 minutes after ordering...which is really bad when two guys haven't had a thing to eat or drink since noon) and waiting another 25 minutes without our food, we finally just told the waiter to cancel our meal and we left to go to Wendy's.

Except our driver had managed to get some metallic object wedged into his tire around the venue site and the tire had deflated as we sat waiting for food that never came. We got the spare on and started back on the road. Our driver thought it felt a bit flat and we stopped at a gas station to air up the spare tire. Despite it saying to inflate to 60 PSI, we got to around 55 when it popped.

Meanwhile, everyone's phone but mine was now dead, so I pulled out my battery charger ($10 off of Amazon...it's a worthwhile investment) and we called my friend's brother who lived about 25-30 minutes away. We were finally at his place and asleep around 2:00 AM.

So, if you're going on a road trip to an event I'd suggest the following be included in your overall supplies:

  1. Water bottle (per person)
  2. Granola Bar/Snack bar/Pop Tart (per person)
  3. Phone charger
  4. Backup phone battery
  5. Flashlight
  6. Tire repair kit
  7. Portable Inflator
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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 Buylist, Finance, Free Insider, SellingTagged , ,

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23 thoughts on “Insider: Buylisting at GP Atlanta

  1. Thanks Sigmund. On one hand, I hate hearing that other people have had bad experiences with certain vendors as well, on the other I feel better knowing it wasn’t “just me”. I feel that while the reactions were definitely mixed, they were for the most part positive. While it does seem bold, in the end, I (or anyone) is selling our cards and as the salesperson we have every right to charge what we want (the same as the vendors do). The fact that I basically told them what their competition was buying the cards for, made them accept the fact that they are in fact in competition buying the cards from me (us). If they don’t want to pay the price I’m asking, I’ll ship the cards to someone who does, plain and simple. After all, I’ve heard several writers re-iterate that turning the cards into numbers is the best/easiest/fastest way to make money. I am hoping one of our many lawyers (at least according to the love Doug’s post about the WoTC lawsuit) will chime in regarding the “buying for below their own buylist” issue, as one of my business friends warned it might be considered a “bate and switch” which is something that can be sued over.

  2. While it seems like you got out really well at Atlanta, I feel like you missed out by not stopping at Ron’s. I am also terrible with names, but their main buyer worked with me quite a bit and was quite a pleasure to work with. Instead of ogreing (namely because of the fact that I was flipping a collection I bought the day before literally and didn’t have enough time to go in and label everything) he gave me the best buylist prices from mtg.gg for the entire collection. Saved me the hassle of going to any other vendor. When I went back to sell some of my personal collection the next day he upped some prices because of how much I’d already sold to him. Would do business with him again in a heart beat, and hope to see him again next time. This was my first GP, and I do believe I probably could of made a tiny bit more if I shopped bits and pieces of the collection out to all the vendors, but I got what I expected out of it this way and it saved me the hassle of shopping it to every vendor in the room and allowed me to enjoy the rest of the GP.

    1. Thanks Matt. After reading your comment, I do regret my assumption. While I do think that you can save some time by doing research on vendors ahead of time, the fact that he used MTG.GG (and that’s what I basically used, though I did visit vendors not on MTG.GG to check what they were offering, which is how I knew to bring some of the oddballs that some vendors were paying very well on); I will consider this one a lesson learned and will make sure to give all the vendors the benefit of the doubt.

      1. Just to clarify, he wasn’t using mtg.gg, I just showed him the list on my own laptop and he matched it. Still, utterly pleasant experience and hope to sell to him again.

  3. Hi David,

    It was nice meeting you this weekend. I have to aggree with Pasttimes; when I sat down to trade with you and saw the binder with prices marked in it, I first thought you were trying to sell the cards or something like that. I run into that occationally, but sometimes those prices are actually on the pages from a different time when the person was trying to sell them. I think carrying them in a box would be better, and one of these days when I do try ogreing cards I plan to use a box with price dividers. When it’s all seperated by price, the vendor doesn’t have to pay attention to what’s written on the sleeve.

    I’ve also come accross Troll and Toad not willing to pay their site prices at events. I tried selling them bulk mythics and bulk foil rares at a GP and they said those prices are only for mailing them in. They still offer the best prices on some stuff, so I’ll just save it up and mail it in.

    I do not sell to Strikezone because of issues in the past, and I’ve found Card Kingdom overly strict on card condition. Selling in person is one way to deal with that, but I’ve also had success sending orders to Card Kingdom with a note that they send back anything that they don’t consider NM. It costs a little more in shipping when they send stuff back to you, but as long as you are sending fairly large orders it’s well worth it.

    1. Sy,
      I am definitely thinking that the box approach would be far less dubious, I used the binder primarily because 1) I got it in a collection and didn’t really have a use for it otherwise, 2) it lets vendors see everything and the price really easily. I may try the box approach next time (especially since I have quite awhile before the next GP in my neck of the woods). I won’t sell cards to anyone but vendors (nor will I buy cards from anyone but vendors) at events. I’ve definitely had people walk up to me and try to sell me stuff, but I’ve had to politely thank them but pass on the opportunity.

    2. Fair enough. Looks like you found the same thing I did. Vendors are willing to work with you when you make extra effort (as they realize that you could just sell the cards to someone else).

  4. David, Thanks for selling cards to us at MTGDeals 🙂 It was a very smooth, enjoyable, and easy process to buy cards from you. Not many people besides Ogre actually “ogre” their cards so it was a fun adventure with a new face xD lol hope to see you at a future GP. Thanks again man

    1. Brian,
      Thanks for working with me. I will definitely sell to you guys again as you were really easy to work with and just as easy to talk to. I hope that this article inspires more players to realize that vendors can be pretty easy to work with and are a great resource for unloading cards that your local player base can’t absorb (which would otherwise just sit in a binder/box doing nothing). I feel as a player and in this instance “seller” I really needed to emphasize the vendors who provided a great selling experience because I wanted to let them know they did a good job, I appreciated it, and that I encourage others to work with them.

  5. Great article. I’m curious though as to how the written price relates to the highest buylist price. Did you actually just write the highest buylist price on the front? or like 85% of it to account for fees/shipping? Mostly curious if it was a mechanical process or more along the lines of how much you “felt” it was worth in regards to the buy price.

    1. I wrote the buy price listed on MTG.GG. I did round up/down depending on if it was 0.49 (then I rounded to 0.5) or if it was 0.42 I rounded down to 0.4. My thought process was that I I could pull everything that didn’t sell out and mail it to the buyer (written on the back) so I didn’t want to just put what I “felt” it should be, I wanted to make sure that I had an acceptable buy price that I could point to if anyone was skeptical. As I mentioned the numbers sometimes got a bit tricky, especially when it’s like 0.15 cents on MTG.GG (do you round down to $0.1 and lose 50% of what you could make) or round up and risk nobody being interested. In the future I will likely avoid some of the oddball prices (0.15, 0.2, 0.3, 0.65, 0.8) and try to stick with more common prices. As you mention, that even if I have to round down on a lot I’m not paying shipping fees and they evaluate the cards in front of you (so if there are any condition issues you don’t get stuck with “well I can take what you’re offering or losing money for you to send it back”, however, I will say it’s VERY important to pre-sort on condition and think of this process like you are mailing them so that you only give the dealers cards in NMish condition otherwise you risk them losing interest in buying from you at all)

  6. Awesome article! Great to read some first hand experience selling to retailers at a large event. Organizing a sale binder with BL prices on the sleeves sounds like a very easy and convenient way to unload stock (for both the seller and the buyer). I’ll have to give it a try.

    Do you think that a dry erase marker on the actual binder page would work? Or might it get wiped away too easy? Might be able to eliminate the penny sleeves. Just a thought.

    1. That’s definitely an interesting idea (I didn’t consider it or try it out). The one issue I had with the binder/penny sleeve approach was when I didn’t let the marker dry fast enough and it smeared inside the binder sleeve. I do think that you have a decent chance of wiping off regular dry erase marker, but it’s certainly worth trying out. I do think you not having a direct link to the highest buyer (like I did with the penny sleeves) unless you want to advertise it in the corner of the page) might require you to recheck everything afterwards if you want to unload them to an online buylist. I had a lot of cards to send to AdventuresOn that nobody at the GP wanted, so being able to quickly see which sleeves said AO was a pretty convenient methodology.

  7. As an attorney, I’d doubt that bait and switch would apply. Most advertisements aren’t contracts, they are enticements to enter a contract. Buylists are even less likely to be considered a set offer of any sort. I’m only licensed in two (2) states, so your mileage in your state may vary. Please don’t take the above as legal advise or counsel.

    Pine

    1. Pine,
      I appreciate the feedback. I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical of the “illegality” of doing things their way, however, it does come off as shady none-the-less. If Anonymous is correct and that they pay their buyers a commission based on what they buy for vs sell then that seems like a very shady way to rip players off and encourages buyers to lowball players as best they can, which means that they’ll develop a bad reputation to sell to and discourage players from going to them. The fact that they then hide that practice with high buy prices (to encourage players to sell to them) is even more disturbing.

  8. This article is excellent! I’ve been developing an ogred box, didn’t even think of a binder for it. Out of curiousity, would you [or Jason Alt, for that matter] consider ogreing to larger vendors, namely ChannelFireball or SCG? Do you know if they have any issues with it?

      1. I only ask because I’m going to an Open this weekend, and wanted to know if I should bring the ogred section to sell. I can try it out and report back to you!

        1. Please do. I just don’t know if SCG feels the need to bargain when it comes to buylists because they have a lot more opportunities to restock, but I’d love to know.

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