Insider: Cash or Credit? – Maximizing the Value of Trade-ins

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This week's article is on a subject that comes up a lot in our forums. People want to know whether they should get cash off their buylist submission or go for trade-in credit.

While there may be a few exceptions, most stores offer credit bonuses for buylist submissions. They understand reducing cash outflow while maintaining the same stock inflow is a win-win. The question becomes, do these bonuses ultimately benefit the buylister?

The best place to start is obviously to know what the trade-in bonus is for all the major stores.

Store Name Trade-in Bonus Notes
Card Kingdom 30.00%
Star City Games 25.00%
Troll and Toad 25.00%
Channel Fireball 30.00%
Coolstuff Inc 25.00%
Isle of Cards 20.00%
Cape Fear Games 20.00%
ABU Games 35.00%
Adventures On 0.00% +5% if buylist matches what is submitted (cash or credit)
Mythic MTG Varies Credit bonus based on card


The other half of the equation is the buy price itself. A higher trade-in bonus will be offset by corresponding lower buylist prices.

The best way I can illustrate this is to show an example. Let's say you have 4x Deathmist Raptors in NM condition you want to trade in, and you want to maximize your value.

The buylist prices on Deathmist Raptor are as follows:

Store Name Trade-in Bonus Buylist Price Credit per Card
Total Credit
(4x Copies)
Card Kingdom 30.00% $9.75 $12.68  50.70
Starcity Games 25.00% $10.00 $12.50  50.00
Troll and Toad 25.00% $10.00 $12.50  50.00
Channel Fireball 30.00% $12.00 $15.60  62.40
Coolstuff Inc 25.00% $14.00 $17.50  70.00
Isle of Cards 20.00% $15.75 $18.90  75.60
Cape Fear Games 20.00% $12.50 $15.00  60.00
ABU Games 35.00% $11.92 $16.09  64.37
Adventures On 0.00% $11.50 $11.50  46.00
Mythic MTG Varies $9.00 $10.00  40.00



The most obvious takeaway here is that a great trade-in bonus doesn't necessarily equate to the best deal. If you look at the three stores with the highest trade-in bonus, only ABU offers one of the three highest "credit per card."

Picking the store with the highest "total credit" allows us to maximize our trade-in credit, but that's only useful when the store has something we want. So the other major factor at play is the sell price(s) at the store in question.

After all, if they charge twice as much for singles (this is a bit extreme, but it makes the principle easy to explain), then getting the highest buylist price may still not be the optimum play.

Let's delve a little deeper and compare the sell prices of the different stores. We'll use one of my favorite speculation targets right now, Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, as an example.

Right now I'm sitting on 13 Elesh Norns from Modern Masters 2015 (MM2015). She's amazing in EDH and casual, and is a great Modern target. She has only two printings, both at mythic from relatively short print runs. I would not be opposed to picking up more, so she seems a good card to purchase off of trade-in credit.

A brief note on Isle of Cards. The chart shows them as offering the highest credit per card, but the caveat is they only deal in Standard cards. If you're looking to sell or purchase anything else, you'll have to move to the next option. If you're looking to transact only in Standard cards, however, they're the best option by far (as their sell prices are competitive as well).

Elesh Norn currently sells at each store for the following:

Store Name Elesh Norn (MM2015) Sell Price
Card Kingdom $12.99
Starcity Games $12.69
Troll and Toad $14.99
Channel Fireball $11.99
Coolstuff Inc $12.99
Isle of Cards N/A
Cape Fear Games $12.95
ABU Games $12.59
Adventures On $13.99
Mythic MTG $12.99


Now it's just a matter of running the numbers side by side to maximize the number of copies of Elesh Norn we can get from each store by trading in our Deathmist Raptors.

Store Name Total Credit Elesh Norn (MM2015) Sell Price Number of Copies
Card Kingdom $50.70 $12.99 3.90
Starcity Games $50.00 $12.69 3.94
Troll and Toad $50.00 $14.99 3.34
Channel Fireball $62.40 $11.99 5.20
Coolstuff Inc $70.00 $12.99 5.39
Isle of Cards $75.60 N/A N/A
Cape Fear Games $60.00 $12.95 4.63
ABU Games $64.37 $12.59 5.11
Adventures On $46.00 $13.99 3.29
Mythic MTG $40.00 $12.99 3.08


Credit Winner

Thus the winner is Coolstuff Inc. This store will allow you to convert the Deathmists into a full five copies of Elesh Norn, with an extra $5 credit left over.

This is the best and easiest approach when you have just a few cards you're trying to sell and pick up. Things get more unruly when your buylist is larger, and when you don't know exactly what to pick up (or want to bank the credit for later).

The calculations above took me about five minutes, and that was to sell just one card (Raptor) and buy one other card (Elesh Norn). About half this work was done by QS's Trader Tools program, so you can expect more doing it by hand.

Five minutes doesn't sound bad, but compounded over, say, 40 cards, it comes to 3.33 hours! When you consider that your time has value, this means trying to squeeze every penny out of this method may not be worth it.


Even if acquiring copies of Elesh Norn were still your goal, another option would be to take the cash for the trade-ins, and buy the singles elsewhere (eBay or TCG Player, most likely).

If we go back to our credit table for Deathmist Raptor, we see that Isle of Cards is paying the highest cash price at $15.75. So if we sold them our Deathmist Raptors we would get $63 cash.

Checking TCG Player for the lowest prices on MM2015 Elesh Norn, we see the options below. The first image shows the price with shipping included, and the second image shows the item price only. We want to look at the latter because combining on shipping for multiple copies may yield cheaper overall costs, even if the individual shipping cost is higher.

Elesh Norn TCG prices
Price + Shipping
tcg elesh norn item price only
Item Price Only


We'll also look at eBay prices:

elesh norn ebay prices

Cash Winner

It looks like eBay is on the expensive side, so TCG Player is our best option here. As this is a speculation target, we'll only pick up NM copies.

So going the cash route, we could get the five cheapest copies (with shipping included) for a total of $55.54. This would leave us with $7.46 cash in pocket.

Overall Winner

For our example, the clear best option is to sell our Deathmist Raptors to Isle of Cards, take the cash option, and buy Elesh Norns on TCG Player.

However, it's important to note this outcome is related to this exact pair of card choices. If we were selling a different card, or picking up a different card, the outcome might well be different.

It's worth taking the time to do these types of comparisons to maximize your return on trade-ins, especially for large quantities of the same card. Just don't forget to factor in your time costs.

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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 Finance, Free InsiderTagged , , ,

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2 thoughts on “Insider: Cash or Credit? – Maximizing the Value of Trade-ins

  1. Really great article David. I actually just had a question about this on an AMA. Here was my response – Great question Brandon He. When specs don’t work out I think really the best (and probably only) option is to hit the buylists. Since you’re trying to recoup losses I’d be looking to take the extra % on a credit trade in.

    This way you’re essentially getting close to your initial purchase (whether it be cash/trade/whatever) and can turn that into something better and easier with the added % credit. The new card you do invest in I’d look for liquidity just to sell it and this way you’re covering yourself a bit better.

    So, I like the way you wrapped up the article. It’s really a case by case basis. Use your best judgment and it matters what you’re trying to get cash/credit for and why.

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