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Insider: Non-TCGPlayer Outs

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Today's article is one I was honestly surprised to see I hadn't already covered. The more I use TCGplayer as on out to sell cards, the more painful all those fees become. If you're a full-blown brick-and-mortar store that sells a lot of cards, then switching to TCGplayer Direct can save you a good bit of money. But for those of us whose stores are just a source of additional income outside our day jobs, the 12.75% + $0.3 really adds up.

Granted, TCGplayer has its benefits, most notably the huge pool of customers you get access to. They also do special kickback programs (like the recent promotion for 10% off on Black Friday), which help you sell cards but come out of their profits. All that being said, they aren't the only game in town. I felt that it would be wise to look at some of the other options on the table.

eBay

This is the most obvious one, and arguably the biggest competitor to TCGplayer as an online marketplace for collectible card games. eBay is definitely far better known (outside of the Magic sphere of influence), and its customizability allows you to sell cards differently than TCGplayer.

On TCGplayer you are limited to listing every card (or sealed product) as an individual item. That means a player might buy one card from you at a time, increasing transaction costs. eBay allows you to sell collections of cards (like, say, one of every Khans fetchland, or some other grouping that isn't just one item).

The downside is that eBay has a very similar fee structure, so you may not really save much money. eBay's fee structure looks like this:

  • Insertion Fee: $0.3. Only added if you list more than 50 items per month.
  • Final Value Fee: 10% of the final total, including shipping. This didn't used to include the shipping, so people would list items for $0.01 with a very high shipping cost—eBay put a stop to that.

Based on this fee schedule, eBay is cheaper than TCGplayer...or so it would seem. Unfortunately, there's a bit of fine print. If you end your auction early or don't meet their "minimum performance standard," you are hit with an additional 4% on your Final Value Fee. That puts eBay over TCGplayer by a good 1.25%.

MTGPark.com

This was a site founded by a few members here at Quiet Speculation. These gentlemen felt that the TCGplayer fee structure was too high and wanted to create some competition for them. The only fees on this site are the standard PayPal and credit card fees that the owners have no control over.

I remember getting very excited about this option when they first announced it. Currently the biggest problem is that they aren't well known. While they have a decent number of sellers, the lack of traffic means that sales originating from the site are much lower than TCGplayer or eBay. So you make about 10% more profit on each sale, but you make fewer sales.

I'm still hoping that this site will grow and more players will check it out, because I love having competition in every marketplace.

Magic Card Market

This is the European version of TCGplayer. While I haven't used them (as I haven't traveled to Europe in some years), they appear to be a solid option, charging only a 5% fee per transaction.

The challenge for those of us in the US is of course postage. International postage isn't cheap. It's unlikely that those in the US could use this marketplace very effectively without a counterpart in Europe or some method of getting the cards over to Europe frequently enough to mail them out.

However, it's important to know they do exist. Note that you can't register an account from the US (as the United States is not an option in the "country" box) so you have to have a European mailing address as well.

Facebook

Not only is it a great way to waste countless hours of your life, but you can also sell cards on there too! There are a lot of different Magic groups available—damaged cards only, general buy/sell, foreign buy/sell, foils, altered cards, and more. This option has been growing by leaps and bounds and will likely continue to do so, simply because the fees are extremely low (they can be down to the cost of shipping).

However, Facebook also carries with it a lot of risk. Transactions typically occur via PayPal or other money-exchange services, and neither the groups nor Facebook are accountable for you getting the cards you buy.

In this particular option, one's reputation is hugely important. One bad transaction can get you banned or kicked out of groups. People typically request references for each transaction (with a reference being a person you've done business with in the past who will vouch for you). People with a lot of references tend to be more trusted and there is less risk associated with doing business with them.

Most transactions are done via PayPal (at least for those of us in the US) which allows two options. The first is "Friends and Family," which carries with it zero fees to both parties. However, should the other person scam you there is no easy way to get your money back. (I haven't run into this issue yet, so I don't know if it's impossible or just extremely difficult.)

The other is through a regular PayPal transaction which carries a 2.5% fee to the person receiving the money. Should the other person not deliver, you can file a PayPal claim and get your money back.

According to PayPal, this is the proper method—Friends and Family is meant just for that. However, when using this method many sellers require that buyers eat the fees. My personal recommendation is to use the legitimate avenue, because the 2.5% fee is still the lowest option of any listed so far.

One other word of caution is that you need to price competitively on most Facebook groups. After all, if you are trying to sell cards at TCG Mid, why wouldn't your buyers just go to TCGplayer and buy the cheapest copies (especially since they are protected by TCGplayer if they do)?

Craigslist

If you want to move cards locally, Craigslist can also be a viable route, especially if you live in larger urban areas. Obviously you need to be smart whenever you physically meet up with a stranger. I suggest meeting at a very public place, ideally during daylight hours.

Around my hometown, a lot of Magic transactions occur at our local Barnes and Noble. They are accustomed to people coming into their coffee shop and sitting down with books/laptops/etc., so Magic cards aren't a stretch. They sell drinks and snacks, so if you get stuck waiting a while at least you won't go hungry or thirsty, and they have clean restrooms.

If you are buying off Craiglist you want to do a bit of prep work.

  1. Make sure to get good quality pictures and/or lists of cards ahead of time.
  2. Be very cautious of deals that sound "too good."
  3. Review every card of significant value (I examine everything over $3 personally).
  4. Check with local game stores ahead of time to make sure no collections were stolen recently (as Craigslist is an obvious out for thieves).

If you are selling, make sure you provide good pictures and a list of cards. Organize them in a way that allows your buyer to review the cards easily.

As an aside, you can also use Facebook for meeting up to buy/sell collections (I've done this a couple times).

Conclusion

While TCGplayer offers a massive marketplace and a lot of buyer protection (their seller protection is unfortunately rather limited currently), they aren't the only game in town when it comes to buying and selling Magic cards. As your business grows you'll find that fees that didn't bother you initially really add up, and it's important to maximize your profits when you can by using multiple options.

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 Insider, Selling

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