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Insider: The Folly of TCG Mid

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A couple weeks ago I was waiting between rounds at a PPTQ and happened upon two people trading. One of the traders suggested that the two trade at TCG low, while the other was adamant about using TCG mid. He had some weird reasons about using mid, but the one reason most people would agree with was that the low price usually leads you to a card in poor condition that is understandably discounted.

Ultimately, this ends up being a better argument for just scrolling to the lowest price lightly-played or near-mint version of the card. The player advocating TCG low ended up making a very profitable trade for himself, though one that looked even on TCG mid terms. The reason? Spread.

Spread is a term that all financiers will be familiar with--the difference between an item's sell price and its buy price. The reason that the trader mentioned above came out ahead was that he understood that TCG mid generated larger spreads for specific cards without dramatically impacting the spread of others. To fully understand this, let's look at some numbers.

TCG high is obviously a worthless metric. It could be a card that dropped in price with sellers leaving their high card posted, it could be that sellers are anticipating a spike and posted their cards above the price of other sellers, it could just be an error, or a myriad of other anomalies. The point remains that nobody in their right mind is trading at TCG high.

The problem with TCG mid is that the high numbers impact the average, and if I were to acquire cards at or near TCG low--the price point people actually buy cards at--then I'll be able to trade cards with inflated TCG mid values for cards with lower TCG low-to-mid ratios.

Take a look at the TCG values for Cryptic Command. I can buy a few copies of this card for about $29 shipped. Some chucklehead is looking for $58 for his copy though (TCG high), and the mid value of this card is $36. The difference between what I'm paying and the value I can trade it at is $7.


Now let's say that I want your Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. If I want a moderately played copy I could get exactly one in that condition shipped for $22, but after that I'm paying about $25 a copy, which is very close to the mid price of $26.41. If I have a Command on my side of the trade and you have an Ugin on yours, I'm charging you a tcg mid tax of $5+.


When trading, you already want to be considering a card's buylist price so that you're not getting killed on trade spreads to begin with, and worrying about the difference in TCG mid-low differences only adds another layer of complexity. I'm not advocating for using this information to rip people off. What I am saying is that there are people out there who will try to use this against you, and trading at TCG low is a safer and more accurate way to reach fair agreements.

While I think it scummy to exploit this margin on trade tables, it is a great tool for users of Puca Trade. Puca Trade allows players to acquire cards for Puca Points that are earned by shipping cards to players for their TCG mid value, with one cent being translated to one Puca Point. So, if I were to buy the low Modern Masters Fulminator Mages at ~$17.50, I could then ship them for 2100 Puca Points.


That's going to be 20 potential "bonus points" per dollar spent ((2100 / 17.5) - 100). Now what we need to do is find a card with a TCG mid closer to its TCG low relative to the cost of the card. I'd take Ugins all day ((2641 / 24.5)) - 100) = 7.796), but it's not a card that you can reliably expect Puca Traders to ship. A more realistic card that I like as a spec would be Sorin, Solemn Visitor.


Buying a bunch of Sorins outright is going to cost you around $7.50 per copy, with the Puca Point value being 800. This means that the "Puca tax" per dollar on Sorin is 6.67 points. This means that every dollar we spend on Fulminator Mage and convert into Sorins generates us just over 13 Puca Points. Bear in mind that shipping costs will eat up some of this value as you have to pay for what you send out, but this sort of investment strategy is at the level of Magic finance where you'll have plenty of envelopes and top loaders sitting around.

Ordering cards just to ship them and then trying to acquire more cards with points generated from said shipping is a slow grind, and not one that's necessarily going to benefit individuals. However, this is a good strategy for vendors and stores to employ. While cash is obviously a more desirable asset than Puca Points, this is a great way for a seller to sell a card that they might otherwise have difficulty moving for slightly more than they would just tossing it on TCG Player.

There are a ton of foils that sell very slowly and also command significantly higher Puca Point values than actual market values. If I had a foil Huntmaster of the Fells I know I'd be much happier with the 4,163 Puca Points it could fetch me than the twenty-some dollars I could get by selling it.

~

TCG mid simply isn't a metric based in reality. It's easily exploited in trades, and utilizing Puca Trade's economy being based on TCG mid is a nice way to grind some value. If you're a trader, I hope you already use TCG low or begin to in the future, and if you use Puca Trade I hope you're playing the market wisely.

Thanks for reading.

-Ryan Overturf
@RyanOverdrive on Twitter

7 thoughts on “Insider: The Folly of TCG Mid

  1. The fundamental problem with mid is that it isn’t a mid at all. A mid price should be the midpoint between me selling versus me buying something from a dealer (eg forex), not the mid between the best and worst dealer, which would be biased upwards.

  2. I agree that TCG mid can be deceiving. However, TCG low doesn’t take account of shipping. A very realistic and accurate way of calculating price is how much you’d have to pay if you wanted to buy 4 copies of the card on TCGplayer, shipping included, divided by 4, and you’re allowed to buy from any number of sellers. This method is however extremely unwieldy during trades.

    1. You have to look at shipping when using tcg low, yes, but it’s not hard to come up with a fair price just looking at the first few listings factoring condition and shipping. All prices I used were tcg low shipped.

  3. Yeah, so all of the values one could use have faults. TCG Mid, as you and others have said, is best when trading for low spread cards. TCG Low, trade for low spread cards that have a very small Mid/Low gap. Best buylist, fluctuates daily and are slow to adjust to spikes. Using a single store’s prices, biased towards their inventory/cash flow. While making others aware of this is fine; a more valuable lesson (IMHO) would be taking each of these valuing systems and breaking them down logically to see if one could emerge as a better choice. Otherwise, they remain all flawed with no reason to use one over the other than preferential bias. I really like Yuka’s idea but have no idea if that’s even possible programming wise as the number of lines of code I’ve written in my entire life is less than 01.

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