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Insider: The Basics of Buylists

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Today's article will focus on buylists and buylisting.

The Basics of the Buylist

To first figure out buylisting we should probably take a look at the reasons behind the buylist prices. First and foremost, though, we need to define a buylist.

To put it simply, a buylist is a list of cards and prices for those cards an entity is willing to pay. They may or may not have stipulations on quantity, but they almost assuredly will have them on conditions. Obviously, the worse condition your card is the less they want to pay for it.

With more and more stores opening up and creating an online presence, there is more competition to buy cards. The good news (for those of us selling cards to buylists) is that the buylist price for the more in-demand cards will go up because of this. The bad news is that as awesome as our Trader Tools program is, it doesn't include all buylists--some because they don't want to be included, and many more because they simply haven't requested to be added or may not even be known to exist.

It's important to keep in mind that a because a buylist is determined by a store, there are many extraneous factors that can go into that pricing. For example, if the player base in the area is heavily focused on Standard, then that store will often take a more aggressive approach to buying Standard staples that they can sell easily. That same store might choose not to pick up Moxes or Ancestral Recalls simply because they don't have anyone in the area to unload them to.

Some stores don't maintain a buylist, or even worse just choose to use another store's. Many owners just use Star City Games' buylist for their buylist prices and the sell price for their selling prices; unfortunately for them, they doesn't understand that the reason SCG prices their cards they way they do is because they have access to a much larger player base and also maintain a much larger stockpile of cards.

Think of a buylist as a gauge of how "in demand" a card is at that particular store.  If the store owner sees a strong demand for a card and can't keep it in stock, then it's obviously smart to get more of the cards while demand still exists; the easiest way to do this is to raise your buylist price to encourage your players to sell to you.

However, when you simply use another store's buylist you're making the assumption that the demand they see is the same as the demand you see, which is often not the case.

A good example is a store in my area that purchased a very large collection from a player that included a lot of dual lands and Onslaught fetchlands. Now, I happen to know this store falls into a "doesn't maintain their own buylist" policy. To make matters worse, his player base has no desire to play Legacy.

While he may have gotten the duals and fetchlands far below their market retail value, he can't move them and won't break them down into stock that he can move (his choice). This is why it's critical, as a store or even individual, that when you create a buylist you maintain it and understand your core audience (i.e. who you expect to sell to as well as your outs).

The "demand gauge" I mentioned earlier is the primary reason that buylist prices actually do differ between stores, sometimes quite vastly. I know my favorite LGS owner will take every Sensei's Divining Top he can because our local EDH community wants them in every single deck, just as I know he won't touch power (unless the price is really good and he has me come look at it) because there's no demand in our area.

Lastly I want to talk about the spread. Its calculation is simply (Current Sell Price - Current Buy Price) / Current Sell Price. So if a card currently sells for $10 and the highest buylist price is $5 then the spread is ($10-$5)/$10 or 0.5 (50%).

The reason this calculation is important is that it signals how badly the buyer really wants this card. The closer it gets to 0, the closer they could just go and buy it elsewhere immediately; whereas the closer to 1 the less badly the buyer wants it.

My favorite cards to buylist are low-spread cards because when you factor in the costs of selling the cards to people online (you typically lose 10-13% anyways) you're selling them close to your retail profit anyways, but you're doing so immediately and all to one (hopefully) trustworthy source.

The Basics of Buylisting

Now that we know what buylists are and what they are meant to convey, let's get down to the money making part. Because the stores are competing to buy your cards, buylist prices can change quite often. This is also one of the reasons that once you set cards aside for buylisting you shouldn't sit on them. Trust me, nothing sucks more than spending hours separating cards one night, forgetting about them for a couple days, and then going back to finish sending your buylist order in to see that some of the cards are no longer desired or the price has dropped.

Keep in mind that most of the stores in Trader Tools are typically very critical on condition. This makes perfect sense as players will pay the most for NM cards, thus they need cards coming in to be NM condition. As people grade cards differently, the safest approach for these stores is to be incredibly strict, so as to appease the most number of potential customers.

I can't stress this aspect enough. It's upsetting to find out that you aren't getting what you thought because they grade your cards differently than you. Whenever I come across a card that might be questionable, I hold it back, as the "value reduction" for poorer condition is often enough to dissuade me from sending the card.

It is also important to review the stores you're looking to send to ahead of time (our own Reseller Review section in the forums is spectacular for this). You can get a feel for how strict the store grades; how they deal with condition discrepancies (some send the cards back and remove the cost of return shipment from your payment, some keep the cards, some downgrade them without alerting you, some you have to request an alert); how quickly they pay (from very slow to right on the ball); if certain payment methods will cost extra (some charge you for sending out a check, some simply delay the check, most won't gift with PayPal, so you'll lose PayPal's percentage); and most importantly how reputable they are (after all once the cards are in the mail, they don't really belong to you anymore).

Lastly, one useful strategy when you're planning to go to a big event like a GP is to research what vendors will be there ahead of time. Then look for cards you're willing to unload to them on site. The reason this helps is that you can see them grading your cards in front of you (and you can say no if they downgrade it),you can save on shipping costs, and you get paid immediately and without losing money for PayPal fees or them cutting a check.

My Personal Buylist Strategy

I wanted to seperate this bit from the previous paragraph because this is an example of how I buylist and there is certainly no "right way" to buylist.

  1. I determine which vendors I feel comfortable selling to (hence why I suggest you do a thorough read of our Reseller Review section).
  2. I make 5x7 notecards and list the vendor name at the top. At this time I figure out if I think I'll want to be paid in cash or store credit. This is important because if the store has something I really want I may be more lax on my step 3 requirements in order to make sure the numbers add up.
  3. I go through my binder and figure out what I really want to hold on to, what hasn't moved, and sometimes what I just want to sell before I think it will lose value.
  4. I go to TT3 and look up values and spreads--my personal preference is 35% or below.
  5. Verify the quantity the store with the highest buy price (on my "approved vendor list from step 2") wants.
  6. Thoroughly check the condition of each card I place in the pile.
  7. Move on to the next card.
  8. Once I've compiled my buylist piles, I put them in a fatpack box (marked "Buylisted")  to keep them isolated from other trade stock. If I have time I'll swing by my favorite LGS and let him comb through the box and pull out anything he wants (so long as he matches the highest buylist price on TT3).
  9. Place buylist orders with approved vendors.
  10. Place each vendors buylist order in a small box with appropriate packaging (the old tournament pack boxes are great for orders of 50-70 cards and a packing peanut can be put inside to keep the cards from shifting about).
  11. Place those boxes into a bubble mailer.
  12. Go to my local post office (I've found their prices are much lower than UPS or Fedex) and mail off my order.
  • The cost of shipping goes up depending on how far away the destination is, however it's usually not that much more.
  • Weight is a major factor in the cost of shipping. Sometimes it's cheaper to ship two smaller packages to the same location than one larger one.
  • Keep in mind shipping costs when determining whether a buylist is worth sending; after all, if you're sending out $5 in buylist to a store but shipping costs $3 to get it there you're really only making $2.
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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 InsiderTagged ,

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