Strategies to make profit from MTG Finance come in many shapes and sizes. Some people grind out trades while others strictly focus on buying and selling. Some invest in long term holds like Power and sealed booster boxes while others enjoy the thrill of Standard speculation. Some manage a small binder of cards while others handle budgets approaching six figures in size.
All of these strategies are fine if they are making people money effectively while also giving folks the thrill of the hunt.
While I enjoy making money in Magic regardless of the strategy, I must say my favorite opportunity for profit comes from buying underpriced cards and simply selling them at market rate. The risk to this strategy is virtually zero as profits of some sort are practically guaranteed. Most would agree that if they could simply buy underpriced cards all day and simply sell them at market price they would be happy to do so. The problem is, these opportunities are difficult to find.
Last week I came across such an opportunity – I found a NM Tropical Island on Card Shark for $123 shipped. The seller had a decent enough feedback rating (4.7) and I felt it was worth the gamble. Without seeing any scans of the card I pulled the trigger and made the purchase.
First of All
Before I get into the meat of the article I want to take a moment to remind people about Card Shark. It has to be one of the most well-known yet overlooked buying option for Magic. When Dual Lands spiked I managed to pick up a few played copies at old prices. When Star City Games upped their buy price on Ancient Tomb to $15 I saw at least 10 copies under this price on Card Shark the next day.
Even smaller cards can become worth purchasing on Card Shark if you can find sufficient copies to justify shipping. Right before Sylvan Scrying spiked I was able to find over a dozen copies priced at near bulk ($0.10-$0.25) from a single seller.
Don’t forget to check for multiple printings too. Sometimes a seller may have just one or two copies of a card from a given set, but they may have a few more copies from a different printing. Do the math up front, and you’ll ensure you don’t get dinged on high shipping costs. /plug for Card Shark.
You’ve Got The Card – Now What?
Imagine my delight when the Tropical Island arrived in the mail less than a week later, and in Near Mint condition! Score another victory for Card Shark.
But having this piece of cardboard didn’t mean I had profited just yet. I needed to find an out for the card. Since I don’t get to local MTG events nearly as frequently anymore, I decided I would go for the sale. After all, I could use the cash.
The top buy list price on a NM Trop is currently $146. This number was higher than what I paid so naturally I considered this easy option. But when it comes to Dual Lands, card condition is very subjective and buyers will scrutinize ever square millimeter of the card. I’ve been burned on condition downgrades in the past, and I did not want to ship the card if I couldn’t get the NM price. To me, the risk of selling to buy lists wasn’t worthwhile, and stores I trust most like Star City Games and ABU Games were not paying nearly as much for NM copies.
I went to eBay next, where I saw NM copies of Tropical Island selling in the $155 range. This was definitely higher than what I paid, but eBay did not end my quest to sell this Dual Land. After a 10% fee to eBay, 2.9% + $0.30 fee to PayPal, and $2 for shipping I would be down to about $133 net funds. Yuck! I would rather risk shipping this card to a less-trustworthy retailer and gambling on their grading.
Near Mint Tropical Islands go for substantially higher on TCG Player, but I wasn’t so confident in this outlet either. Besides the fact I have no selling account on TCG Player, I also recognized the likelihood that my card would sit on the site for extended periods of time without selling. Even after a sale, I would still incur a sizable fee and I’d have to wait days or even weeks just to get paid. Finally, there is still the risk a buyer receives my card and disagrees on condition.
Alternative Selling Outlets
None of the traditional selling options were very enticing. All I wanted was a quick flip for reasonable profit without having to worry about an unsatisfied buyer. Fortunately there are other selling outlets worth considering, and while they may not increase your profits directly they may provide some non-monetary benefits in the long run. Allow me to explain further.
Selling cards on sites like TCG Player and eBay is incredibly impersonal. A few clicks and you buy cards from generic seller ABC. No connection is made and no relationship is developed.
Not so when selling through other means. Selling in the QS forums connects you to other QS Insiders while also developing your reputation within the community. Selling on MOTL will at least net you references while also enabling you to avoid unnecessary fees. You could also sell in the Facebook group “High End Magic Stuff for Sale”. Selling here has the potential to connect you more personally with other members of the MTG Community. Some big names frequent this Facebook group, connecting you with major players who have over $100k in MTG inventory. These are worthwhile connections if you know how to use them.
One suggestion I have is to price your card at roughly 5-10% below TCG Low / eBay completed listings. You may net the same profit number by passing savings onto buyers, but you also make personal connections. I’ve bought a number of cards from sellers this way, and I take note who is willing to give a deal to enable a quick sale. By avoiding fees and passing the savings to the buyer, you can earn a positive nod from members of the MTG community. Enough of these and you develop a reputation, making it easier to sell cards in the future.
You can also sell cards through Twitter. Again, having the right connections here is critical. You may not have a large Twitter following, but if you relay a few good deals to big-name players to prove your credibility, they may be willing to retweet sales for you. Just make sure the deals are reasonably priced – trying to sell cards at TCG mid on Twitter will get you nowhere. But the right pricing should allow you to net greater profits than what you’d earn on eBay or TCG Player.
Food For Thought
When selling cards, I encourage you to think outside the box. Traditional outlets such as eBay and TCG Player can be frustrating. You need to wait long periods of time for a sale and fees really eat into profits. Why pay eBay 10% when you could pass that 10% onto the buyer while also helping you develop your network? The bottom line may not increase by much in the short-term, but relationships do pay dividends over time.
What happened to my Trop? When I tweeted about my the purchase, a Twitter follower asked me to tell him when the card arrived. When I confirmed it was NM/NM-, I sent pictures to the Twitter member and he expressed interest. Going through the process described above, I decided to charge him top buylist + shipping. This nets me a higher number because my shipping is covered, and I avoid disagreements on condition because he saw the card’s condition via pictures. I made more than I would have on eBay too because I had no fees to incur To top it all off I strengthened my relationship with someone on Twitter, who may be inclined to buy cards from me in the future as well.
All in all the deal was very favorable for all parties. These win-win scenarios require compromise, but the resulting payout can accumulate nicely. Before you know it you’ll have a strong reputation in the MTG Finance community, and people will contact YOU when they want to buy something. It takes time to develop these connections, but the cost is nearly zero when compared to all the fees incurred from selling through popular channels.
- First off I would be unjust if I didn’t call out SCG’s recent restocking of Vintage staples. They were out of stock on many high end cards for a long time, but all of a sudden they restocked a ton. Perhaps they were waiting to see where the market settled? Either way, they now have 20 ungraded Moxen for sale where as last week they had 1. They also stocked 9 Bazaar of Baghdads. The duration of time it takes for these cards to move will provide an accurate read of Vintage market strength.
- SCG is sold out of Temple of Malady with a $9.99 price point. The G/B Temple quickly became one of the most desirable due to its utility in the current Standard environment and smaller print-run. This one may be most popular now, but I expect nearly all of the Temples will have a chance to shine once Standard rotates. I’ll still trade for any of the cheaper Temples when I get the opportunity, though I’m refraining from putting out more cash at this time.
- The Judge Promo Force of Will is dropping back to reality very quickly. After a quick stint at $1000, these are now retailing for $799.99. I’ve seen sellers go as low as $650 to move their copies and I don’t think the bottom is here just yet. To be fair, I have no interest in these – but just in case others are getting itchy fingers I encourage you to wait a little longer before pulling the trigger. The same goes for most of the other new Judge Promos as well.