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Insider: The 5 W’s of Buylisting in 2016

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There has been some great content on QS this week! Tuesday had Brian DeMars exhaustively breaking down every financially relevant card from the Pro Tour. These quick hits allowed Brian to get a ton of information out to the readers in a quick manner. Then Wednesday David Schumann broke down the Top 8 decklists from the PT, their pros and cons in Constructed and their financial takeaways. If you want to know what’s going on in Magic finance, you definitely chose the right place.

There was only one downside from this awesome writing---I had to scrap my article and start over. If you didn’t ready those two articles yet, make sure to check them out. They contain everything I was planning to discuss this week.

Onto today’s topic: mulligans. Just kidding, but that would be an ironic topic to discuss after scrapping my original article that was halfway completed. Our topic today is buylisting. This is a subject that has been on my mind a ton lately because it’s something that I do frequently.

It’s rare that I go to an event without a stack of cards to move while I’m there. Usually I consider a trip unsuccessful only if I don’t come back with more money than I left with. If you’re selling while you’re competing, it can help soften the blow when the tournament doesn’t go your way.

I’m going to tear a page out from your high school English text book and go through the 5 W’s for this topic. This grammar example will help us thoroughly cover the topic and bring back some fun memories from your former days all at the same time.

Who Should Buylist?

This is the first and most basic question. Decide whether or not you should be buylisting your cards. I think this should apply to everyone these days. Unless you have an active trading scene in your area, what are you doing with all those extra cards laying around?

Everyone has random prerelease promos, draft leftovers and undesirables from packs they bought or won. If they are serving no purpose, don’t let them collect dust; get the most out of your hobby. There are plenty of reasons to hold onto your cards. The writers here on QS highlight cards you should be seeking out or holding all the time so keep up with the recommendations, but ultimately you have to decide how to handle your collection.

There are many types of players. Some never get rid of anything while others unload every card they aren’t currently using and everything in between. If you are a person who holds all their cards, consider moving some once you accumulate more than a playset.

What Should You Buylist?

These days, most Standard cards are great to buylist. Prices are so competitive that buyers have to offer hefty sums in order to appeal to players. Let’s do a little case study from Trader Tools to help illustrate this point.


The first card I looked up was Always Watching. This was just the first card that came to my mind because the white aggressive decks have been so popular in Standard lately. We can see the spread, or difference between the buy and sell prices, is 35%. This is a good percentage, especially on a low-cost Standard rare. Usually I would expect the buy price for this card to be double that percent.


The next card I searched for was Sorin, Grim Nemesis. My thinking was that the cards at the low end would be better to buylist, but Sorin was an example where one of the more expensive cards in Standard had a small spread. In fact, this card had a buy price even closer to the sell price. At 30% spread, I was thinking about a trend but wanted to confirm my suspicions.


To follow Sorin up, I chose Jace, Vryn's Prodigy // Jace, Telepath Unbound because it’s the most expensive card in Standard. Surely it wouldn’t be a good idea to buylist this type of a card. Yet again though, we see a 30% spread.


What about a card that has fallen out of favor with players as of late? Archangel of Tithes had a 42% spread. That makes more sense. You see, a more desirable card, one with a high current demand, is likely to have a smaller spread. The less popular a card, the higher the percent should be.

Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh // Chandra, Roaring Flame, Hangarback Walker, and Liliana, Heretical Healer // Liliana, Defiant Necromancer all had similar price layouts.


Those cards are popular with some competitive players though as well as casual players so I searched Abbot of Keral Keep. This card ended up with a 50% spread. It’s out of favor right now but it’s still a great card for competitive play and it still had at least 50%.

What I found though is that many, if not most, cards in Standard seemed to be at a healthy percentage in terms of getting most of your investment back out of the card you obtained.

Spiking cards are great to buylist. I know that seems counterintuitive because spiking cards should be easier to sell online, but the race to the bottom is real and hard to keep up with. You can catch the timing right occasionally, but if you miss the window you'll be caught holding cards that are coming down the other side of the spike.

Let’s take Seasons Past or Dark Petition, for example. These two cards jumped in price this past weekend due to a lot of camera time at the Pro Tour. Right now, the price info for these cards is still off due to the recent and drastic change to their prices but the spread should be about 50%. Many stores had lots of copies of these cards sitting around and so the buy prices won’t be as competitive. But even at that percent, you might get more out of your spec than listing them online. More on that topic later.

What you don't want to buylist are usually desirable foils and many eternal format cards. Check into the card before you decide what you want to do with it though because sometimes stores offer crazy high numbers on Modern cards because they have a hard time obtaining them. As for foils, some places value them much higher than others. Don't be content with just one opinion. Feel free to shop around for your harder-to-come-by cards so you get the best price.

When Should You Buylist?

The short answer is two times a year at minimum. Before, we got into a nice groove unloading our rotating Standard cards before the Summer in order to maximize their value. That is still the case; we are just adding a second time to replicate that procedure.

This fall, the set that enters Standard will kick out Dragons of Tarkir and Magic Origins and we will truly be on the two-set block schedule. Our process of clearing out excess cards before rotation won’t change at all. We should be readying ourselves for that process quite soon actually. It may be right to wait and see what happens with Eldrich Moon before you start thinking about rotation, but tread lightly.

Next Winter, we should be preparing for the April release and get on track for this schedule of two rotations per year. I think the optimal time to buylist your cards is a couple weeks or a month after the last set releases. So this past year, that would have been Oath and this summer it will be Eldrich Moon. By following this process, you will maximize your value.

Where Should You Buylist?

There are tons of great vendors out there, but QS can help you out with our aggregate search on Trader Tools. This isn’t a comprehensive list, but it should help give you an idea of what companies are paying for certain cards. If you buylist regularly, you will develop your own opinions about which stores you prefer to deal with.

Don’t forget about local shops too. Many local stores offer better numbers because they have access to fewer players selling to them. Take note of these good prices and use every advantage you can find.

My favorite place to buylist is in person at big events like Grand Prix or even Star City Games Tour stops. SCG has opened their venues up to other dealers and depending on the weekend, there could be some good options for you there as well.

At a Grand Prix, you are likely to have your choice of up to a dozen different dealers to sell to. These dealers compete with each other for buy prices and you can reap the rewards from this competition.

Why Should You Buylist?

The why of the matter is the true reason for this article. I can show you examples and tell you all about the topic but why you should buylist is what many of you will take away as the most important aspect I’ve written here.

Let’s take a look back at our Trader Tools examples of spread. We are looking at the market value of a card, and that ends up being quite similar to the TCG Mid value. Most of the time that is the price you will pay if you want to acquire a card, but occasionally there will be the appropriate number of copies that you need down towards TCG Low.

What price would you need to sell at though if you wanted to compete on TCG Player? You would need to list your card(s) close to that Low value if you want to be seen. Otherwise, you end up multiple pages into the list and are sometimes forgotten.

If you are listing your cards near the bottom so they sell, then the spread is going to be completely different than what is listed. It’s going to be much smaller. Let’s take a look at what happens when we replace the Mid number with the Low number and see how that affects our spread.

I rounded the TCG Low value to an even increment and took condition into consideration with the numbers I chose there and look at the results! So, you can spend all your time listing these cards online, but most of the time you will only be achieving the best buylist value out there.

Certainly no one can get the best buylist value for every card, so you would still make a little more on TCG, eBay, etc, but after you pay the fees for those sites, your profit will be hovering right around buylist numbers for many cards.

For me, I buylist often because I don’t have time in my busy schedule to list every card. I’m a shop owner and I’m telling you I buylist to other stores. I think that should be a big sign on its own. You may not know, but dealers do this relatively frequently. They just don’t do it where it’s visible most of the time.

How Should You Buylist?

In person or online are your two options. Most of that has been discussed previously but I wanted to caution everyone about buylisting online. There is a huge reason why I and others prefer to buylist in person: condition matters less than if you send your cards off in the mail.

When you are sitting down with a buyer, he is on a time schedule. He doesn’t need to spend tons of time differentiating between Light Play and Near Mint. You will still get graded for Moderate or Heavy Play cards, but most of the time Light Play is treated the same as Near Mint.

If you are sending away your cards in the mail, you know how much the grading process can detract from your profit margin. I have stopped mailing buylisted cards for the most part because of this very reason. Some of the companies we have listed in Trader Tools I have still not tried mailing cards to, so I can’t say for certain about every company, but from my lengthy experience, most companies are much pickier from the mail than they would be in person.

To finish up, I have found buylisting to be an invaluable part of my hobby. It gives me spending money at events, helps cover a trip's cost, and lets fewer cards sit around gathering dust. No matter what you decide to do with your extra cards, make a plan and don't miss out on your value.

Until next time,
Unleash the Force!

Mike Lanigan
MtgJedi on Twitter

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