Insider: Lessons from Selling on TCGplayer

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Back in January I mentioned that I had started a TCGplayer store. Since then I've been tracking all my Magic expenses throughout the year (both buys and sells). While I'm certainly no power seller, I've got over 100 total sales so far. I decided to dig down into the data I've been collecting and see if there was any information worth sharing.

For reference, my initial article about starting my store can be found here. I'll admit that I recently ignored my own advice in that article and put up cards under the $5 mark since the buylist value was so low (and I hoped to sell multiple copies which can help recoup the loss). Here is my list of sales for the month of September.

TCG Sales (September 17) Qty Sold Total Sale Value Buylist Price Buylist Value Difference
1x Foil Hull Breach 1 $5.36 1.58 1.58 $3.78
1x Exsanguinate 1 $1.75 1 1 $0.75
4x Canoptek Scarab Swarm 4 $7.33 0.5 2 $5.33
23x Canoptek Scarab Swarm 23 $36.67 0.5 11.5 $25.17
2x Watery Grave 2 $24.44 11 22 $2.44
4x Canoptek Scarab Swarm 4 $7.86 0.5 2 $5.86
4x Illusionist's Bracers 4 $8.01 0.9 3.6 $4.41
1x Paradox Haze 1 $1.22 1.5 1.5 -$0.28
3x Canoptek Scarab Swarm 3 $5.30 0.5 1.5 $3.80
1x Darksteel Plate 1 $6.56 7 7 -$0.44
1x Exsanguinate 1 $0.89 1 1 -$0.11
2x Tectonic Edge 2 $1.77 0.75 1.5 $0.27
4x Hedron Crab 4 $8.75 2 8 $0.75
1x Sage of Fables 1 $2.45 0.8 0.8 $1.65
3x Mwonvuli Acid-Moss 3 $4.12 0.5 1.5 $2.62
1x Sage of Fables 1 $2.45 0.8 0.8 $1.65
4x Spirit Link 4 $3.51 0.62 2.48 $1.03
1x Sage of Fables 1 $2.45 0.8 0.8 $1.65
1x Stony Silence 1 $3.51 3.5 3.5 $0.01
2x Stony Silence 2 $7.87 3.5 7 $0.87
1x Stony Silence 1 $3.51 3.5 3.5 $0.01
2x Soothsaying 2 $5.69 1.5 3 $2.69
1x Sulfur Falls 1 $4.17 4.34 4.34 -$0.17
1x Canoptek Scarab Swarm 1 $1.03 0.5 0.5 $0.53
1x Steam Vents 1 $8.97 8.5 8.5 $0.47
3x Expedition Map 3 $5.69 1.25 3.75 $1.94
1x Paradox Haze 1 $1.22 1.5 1.5 -$0.28
1x Purphoros, God of the Forge 1 $12.19 11.5 11.5 $0.69
2x Steam Vents 2 $18.78 8.5 17 $1.78
1x Karador, Ghost Chieftain 1 $5.25 5 5 $0.25
1x Purphoros, God of the Forge 1 $12.19 11.5 11.5 $0.69
1x Sulfur Falls 1 $4.17 4.34 4.34 -$0.17
4x Mwonvuli Acid-Moss 4 $5.78 0.5 2 $3.78
1x Carpet of Flowers 1 $3.95 4 4
1x Sedge Sliver 1 $6.78 6 6 $0.78
4x Paradox Haze 4 $7.87 1.5 6 $1.87
1x Purphoros, God of the Forge 1 $12.19 11.5 11.5 $0.69
2x Paradox Haze 2 $3.51 1.5 3 $0.51
3x Rishadan Brigand 3 $27.29 4.25 12.75 $14.54
1x Rishadan Brigand 1 $8.53 4.25 4.25 $4.28
1x Rishadan Brigand 1 $8.53 4.25 4.25 $4.28
3x Rishadan Footpad 3 $8.05 0.16 0.48 $7.57
3x Canoptek Scarab Swarm 3 $5.56 0.5 1.5 $4.06
16x Shadowborn Apostle 16 $19.63 0.54 8.64 $10.99
Total   $342.80   $219.86 $122.94 

The farthest-right column is the difference between what I sold each item for and what a buylist would have paid. As we'll get into below, I should have put more effort into comparing these options before putting cards up.

This data has shown me a lot about selling on TCGplayer. Here are my main takeaways.

The Pitfalls of Cheap Cards

Cheap cards can actually be a source of great profit, but they carry a lot of risk. Once Canoptek Scarab Swarm was spoiled in Ixalan, the old Invasion copies went from bulk to almost $2 each. As the buylist price hadn't really budged yet, there was definitely a lot of profit to be made by listing them asap.

The profit margin would have been good regardless (because it jumped so much higher than buylist prices). However, the important fact was that players were far more inclined to buy more than one (typically I sold 3+ at a time, with only one exception). The biggest hit on the little stuff is usually the flat $0.5 PayPal fee per transaction, so this helped push the profit margin up further.

Another important point to note here is that I switched over to free shipping mid-month. This encouraged a lot of buyers to buy one copy of a cheap Commander card (like Exsanguinate), which obliterated my profit margins. Unfortunately you have to have a TCGplayer Pro account to set a minimum purchase order on free shipping. I have since pulled everything under $3 off of my inventory.

Don't put up cheaper Commander cards (any under $4). These tend to be purchased one at a time. Unless you luck out and have a buyer purchasing multiple singles, you're more likely to come out ahead by buylisting these types of cards. You can counteract this by not offering free shipping, but I did notice a dramatic increase in total number of sales after I switched over to free shipping.

Comparing to Buylist Prices

In a few other instances I lost money even on cards greater than $3 simply because the buylist price was more aggressive than I had thought. Had I checked the buylist for Sulfur Falls and Darksteel Plate, I likely would have simply shipped them off to the buylist and made more money (though granted not a lot more).

I didn't do this because it's easier (and less time consuming) to just put up the cards all at once and not worry about a few cents here and there, but if you're doing this full time the pennies can add up over time.

Using the Price Differential Report

I got a lot of sales after I switched over to free shipping. Part of the reason for that is when I originally priced my cards I factored in the shipping cost (somewhat). Before switching to free shipping, I took my inventory offline and did a Price Differential Report.

This is a very valuable tool that allows you to quickly compare your prices versus the lowest offer on TCGplayer. Sometimes you don't want to match it, but sometimes cards have fallen in value and your price is much to high to be competitive. You can also catch when your price is too low (before purchasers find it out for you). If you're going on vacation it's a good idea to turn your inventory off, and to run this report before turning it back on.

My report showed that I was competitively priced on most things when I dropped the cost of shipping. However, as I stated earlier I failed to account for how that would affect all the one-of small-dollar purchases. Just because you're competitively priced doesn't mean you want to sell at that price.

Selling into Hype

As you can see, near the end of the month I managed to make a good $52.40 selling into the hype of the new Pirate Stompy Legacy deck that's floating around. I pulled all those cards out of bulk I had purchased, so the profit margin is through the roof. Unfortunately, I sold all of them before they re-spiked (the Rishadan Brigands are now sitting at $20 and I sold at $10.75). But I don't honestly think the deck will last.

Before listing my copies I checked MTGTop8 to see if Pirate Stompy had had any success on MTGO dailies. It hasn't shown up in any of the top spots on any Legacy tournament listings on the site. I sold the Rishadan Footpads after I noticed that the deck played four copies of those. Given it's a single-print Mercadian Masques uncommon (which likely makes it about as rare as a modern-day rare now, if not more so) it seemed like I could easily set a new price. They sold within 30 minutes at $3.40 a piece.

There's definitely a good opportunity for strong profits if you see a card spike dramatically and there is a similar card that hasn't budged yet. I feel the same way with all those Canoptek Scarab Swarms I sold. Every single one was pulled from Invasion bulk commons I purchased at the going rate, which means they too had a massive profit margin.

I'm honestly surprised their price has remained so high now that one can get Ixalan versions for less than half. I imagine as more Ixalan gets drafted we will see the price on both drop significantly, so I urge anyone sitting on a bunch of copies to move now. The buylist price on the card has had plenty of time to correct itself and it's still sitting at only $0.5. This says that stores do not think their current price will stick either.

Card Condition

One major thing to consider is that buylist prices are almost always for Near Mint (NM) copies of cards. So the comparison I did above is only accurate for NM copies. I am a pretty harsh grader so a lot of the cards I sold were actually listed as Lightly Played (LP), or Moderately Played (MP) in some cases.

Buylists that do buy played cards usually offer a percentage of the NM price. Typical numbers are 70-80% for LP and 50-60% for MP, with Heavily Played (HP) often being more like 30-40%.

Thus it can still be more profitable to sell a lower-priced LP card on TCGplayer (you can often charge close to 90% of the NM price) than to buylist that card, even if the NM buylist price is above what you make (after fees and shipping).


I learned some valuable lessons selling on TCGplayer so far. I outlined some of the pitfalls and mistakes I've made and hopefully emphasized some ways for you to make extra money. TCGplayer is one of many platforms you can use to make money through Magic, and as with anything the better acquainted you are with the details the more you can make.

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