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Insider: Selling on TCGPlayer

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Last week I wrote up my introduction to vending, and this week I'm going to break down the process of an essential element of my business--selling on TCGPlayer.com. Other ways to move inventory include eBay and building your own website, and TCGPlayer is a U.S.-only website, but I can only speak to what I know.

The process on other continents, or even in Canada and Mexico, is definitely going to be different, and I'd make sure to be aware of this case if you're operating in Europe. If you're in the U.S. and you're looking for an efficient way to move medium-dollar cards though, this guide will be very helpful.

Why TCGPlayer?

The efficiency of TCGPlayer's established marketplace is why I love using this medium. All I need to do is type in a card's name and I get to select which edition I have, what condition the card is in, and see the lowest list price so that I can post competitively. Posting on eBay involves writing up your own item descriptions, tracking down photos, and often being at the mercy of the auction system.

At the booth, we have no trouble moving cards like Kolaghan's Command that are of medium-high value and see regular competitive play. Cards like Dragonlord Ojutai and Deathmist Raptor will sit in our case a little longer, but we know they'll sell eventually. Darksteel Colossus, on the other hand, we are never asked for. They sell immediately on TCGPlayer though.


The more buying and selling that you do, the more medium-value and obscure cards you encounter. TCGPlayer gives you an easy way to sell them quickly, which is invaluable when you want to make a lot of quick flips.

Getting Started and Fees

There are no start-up fees for selling on TCGPlayer, but at the starting seller tiers you have to charge shipping fees. Until you've made enough sales to stop charging shipping, there are going to be some difficulties for your storefront, so you'll want to tread cautiously in the early stages of selling on TCGPlayer.

When you start out, you need to charge for shipping, but you still list in a market full of vendors offering free shipping. That being the case, you need to charge less for individual cards in order to move them, because nobody is going to buy cards for more than they have to. The consequence of listing cards at lower prices is that if somebody buys you out you're then giving them a discount but are only correcting this with a shipping fee once.

By putting this all together, you can conclude that until you can move cards with free shipping, you're going to want to only list one or two items at a time. I recommend finding a $5-8 card that you know you can sell quickly and listing and selling them one at a time. We used Siege Rhino in the early stages of our TCGPlayer store, but something with a healthy amount of demand like Kolaghan's Command or Bloodghast would be great for this purpose.


And now for the actual fees. TCGPlayer and PayPal charge you 8.5% and 2.5% + $0.50 respectively. That is, they charge you 11% and an additional $0.50. That guaranteed $0.50 charge is the reason that you'll want to be selling medium-high priced cards on TCGPlayer. It just cuts too far into your margin on low-end cards, especially when you consider that your end goal is to ship for free and you still need to pay $0.49 on a stamp.

The reason that this startup process is preferable to eBay is that when you start selling on eBay your lack of feedback will discourage people from bidding on your items, whereas it's something of a non-factor on TCGPlayer. It is worth noting that eBay's fees are slightly lower, so it's still an avenue worth exploring if you want to pursue a less-efficient marketplace.

Pricing Cards

When it comes to selling on TCGPlayer, unless a card is being bought out, you're basically only going to be moving product listed at or barely above TCG low, with shipping factored in. A lot of people trade at TCG mid, but that's a pretty goofy metric. TCG mid exists above TCG low because there are sellers with cards listed too high. As a buyer, you're only ever going to buy the cheapest listings barring getting the best overall deal with shipping factored in.

As such, it only makes sense to buy things you don't believe you'll be able to sell live based on the TCG low price, and then to post them at TCG low or slightly lower in order to increase your odds of a sale.

Knowing What to List

With TCGPlayer fees and the fact that people will pay more for a card to have it now, knowing your local customer base is essential to maximizing your profits. I know that I'll sell a lot of medium-expensive Standard and Modern rares in my booth. I know that I'll generate some interest in high-end foils. More importantly, I know that medium-expensive to expensive EDH and casual cards don't budge from my case.

As such, I can offer a higher relative buylist price for Collected Company than I can for Vigor. Both of these cards are of relatively similar values, and are cards that people won't always be excited about the buylist price for. When it comes to Collected Company, I'll be a little more aggressive trying to buy them as the price trajectory is positive on the card and odds are somebody will buy it for a tournament. When it comes to Vigor, I won't be nearly as aggressive, because it's going right on TCGPlayer.


Supplies

The last thing that you need to factor into selling on TCGPlayer are shipping supplies. As mentioned above, stamps run $0.49, and you'll want sleeves, envelopes and toploaders on top of that. As a Magic player, you should have plenty of sleeves lying around, and toploaders and envelopes are very low-cost. If you don't ship with toploaders, then you are scum.

The last thing that I recommend acquiring is a "do not bend" stamp. Machine sorters can wreck up envelopes, and if you write "do not bend" or "not machinable" on your packages then you won't be liable for such eventualities. A stamp or labels with your return address is also highly recommended, as hand-writing all that stuff every time is tiresome and not a great use of time.

~

If you have any questions about operating on TCGPlayer, I would be more than happy to help. They have a very useful FAQ that I recommend looking over if you want to go this route. I hope that this write-up prove helpful as well.

Thanks for reading.

-Ryan Overturf
@RyanOverdrive on Twitter

12 thoughts on “Insider: Selling on TCGPlayer

  1. It’s worth noting that writing or stamping “do not machine” or something of that nature on a plain white envelope is a excellent way to raise your shipping costs. The USPS can and usually will charge a nonmachinable surcharge of something like 20c.

    This is not the case for parcels, where we’ve found stamping top greatly reduce the amount of mail “lost” by the USPS.

    1. I haven’t had this problem, though I have run into varying rates any time I try to track something at the post office. The structure seems quite loose.

    2. I had a few packages held at the buyers post office because of the do not bend stamp. They do indeed charge more for hand sorting. They also charge more if the top loader is ridged, although it’s not often. To avoid the hassle, I use the flimsy card saver II top loaders and no stamp.

  2. If you are just starting on TCG try listing your cards with the .99 cent shipping in mind. I sold cards at .18-.24 cents above what the last sold is this encourages people to buy 4 or more cards from you. You also don’t feel totally burned when someone buys 10-20 cards

  3. Just to reinforce the point about the $.50, it’s applied to your purchase regardless of whether the buyer is buying *only from you* or if the purchase with you is just part of a larger multi-store purchase. In other words, if I buy one Lightning Bolt from your store and the rest of my modern burn deck from other stores all in one go, you still get hit for that $.50, instead of it being split up the way that I had intuitively assumed.

    Consequence? I *had* been listing plenty of less expensive cards, and as a result, over the six months or so I’ve been selling my total fees are close to 20%!

    1. Kinda didn’t finish my thought, whoops. If that portion of the fee had been split as I expected, I’d have paid quite a bit less. So, be sure to keep this in mind when selling. If you’re buying collections, treat anything under $2-3 as ‘free’ (or as a bulk rare, whatever).

      A good alternative for the cheaper stuff that’s still worth selling but not because of fees is buylists. In fact, even high dollar specs can be better sold off via buylists, sometimes. Many stores offer a 25-30% bonus if you take store credit. Combine that with vastly reduced shipping costs, no fees (and time saved!) and often times the buylist route comes out ahead. You can take the credit and just roll it into your next spec.

  4. The problem with using low (one of them anyways) is that low doesn’t include shipping and is usually set by a brand new shop charging 2-3 in shipping. On top of that, those same stores mess up mid with that nonsense 🙁

    1. When you match low, it accounts for shipping that other distributors charge. You can also sort prices by “price + shipping”.

      1. Low listed on TCGPlayer.com and any other websites that list it does NOT include low. Is “low” in the TCGP backend different from low as presented to the general public?

        I use a CC like service so I never use the TCGP backend. My order volume is too high for it 🙁

        1. Wish I could edit my comments on the new website. “Does NOT include low” was supposed to say “does NOT include shipping”. My bad.

        2. Yeah, it’ll show the price and the shipping cost. Then there’s a button to match the low price, and it matches the sum of the two.

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