If you’re anything like me, you frequently check websites like MTGStocks or MTGGoldfish to check on the price movements of cards. Every once in a while, and seemingly often these days, a card has suddenly spiked out of nowhere. If only you could have predicted the movement, there would have been a ton of profit to be made. As it turns out, there is often ample opportunity to profit from these spikes even after they have occurred.
I don’t know exactly how these prices and movements are calculated by websites, but they seem to be tied to the prices on major retailers, with TCGplayer specifically being referenced, and while cards may have been bought out on that platform, that doesn’t mean the cards aren’t available elsewhere for the pre-spike price.
A Case Study in Scrounging for Deals
For a case in point, last week Blood Sun was spoiled, and the internet went crazy about the hard, hyping it up for Eternal formats especially, as a sort of alternate Blood Moon. That night, when I was checking prices, I noticed that Lotus Vale had seen a massive spike, from around $12 to $40, due to its drawback cost being eliminated by Blood Sun. A deeper look into the phenomenon showed that Scorched Ruins had followed suit for the same reason, spiking from around $7 to nearly $30. The cards offered possibilities in Legacy and Commander, and as old cards on the reserved list, these were prime for a buyout, which drove up their prices to obscene levels. Beyond the price movements, I hadn’t read or heard anything about these cards, so I assumed the buyout had happened very recently, and there was still a possibility that I could track down some copies and make some easy profits.
In the old days, I would have hit up the cases of local card shops hoping to make some easy money, but it doesn’t feel great to profit off the stores that build the local community and that I’d prefer to support financially, and besides, lately it seems every store checks TCGplayer or Star City Games to price their cards in real-time.
That leaves looking online as the best option, so I sprung into action, first searching for the cards on eBay, but cheap copies were gone, and there were already new copies being listed for the post-price spike, with auctions being actively bid on, which indicated there was some real demand at the new prices. Next I went to Amazon.com, but cheap copies were non-existent.
That brought me to my oldest standby, CardShark.com, and sure enough, I was able to score three copies of Scorched Ruins for an average of $10 each from three different retailers after accounting for the high $2.99 shipping from each, which still left me plenty of room to profit. I then turned to an old favorite, bidwicket.com, which shows the inventories of many retailers in one place, but it was bought out of both cards.
I then checked some major retailers, but they were expectedly already bought out. I went deeper, searching every retailer I could think of, and I was amazed when I found a full playset of near-mint Lotus Vale in an unexpected place, ABUgames.com, which I assumed would have been one of the first places bought out. The price was over $18, which was higher than the pre-spike price, so I am not certain if it was already marked up or some sort of automatic system had increased the price, but that price still left me room for plenty of profit for the effort, so I quickly picked up the playset.
I then simply turned to Google, searching for each card under the “Shopping” option, but all the good deals it showed were already purchased. That left me Googling for things like “mtg cards” and “magic cards for sale” in a last-ditch attempt to find obscure Magic stores that might have the cards listed for sale. I searched a ton of sites without luck, but by going deep I was able to find a store that had a full near-mint playset of Scorched Ruins, which I picked up for around $32, a huge score. I also came across a site that had played copies for around $15, but I reasoned there wasn’t much money to be made there, so I declined.
For some further insight into the market, I also checked MagicCardMarket, and there were actually copies of both cards available for significantly less than on TCGplayer, so there was a potential arbitrage opportunity available for those in Europe that could make the purchase.
With my cards ordered, the next move would have been to list them for sale ASAP on my preferred outlet, which in this case was TCGplayer, where I could capture the spiked price. Another option is eBay, where an auction could capitalize on hype to earn big profits. I didn’t consider listing on Facebook, but it would have been a great option to avoid fees. However, because the cards had been purchased after a spike, I thought there was some chance orders would be cancelled, so I wasn’t comfortable listing cards before I received a confirmation, so by listing them the next day when the prices had been tempered down a bit I left some profits on the table.
Lessons Learned and Improvements to Make
Next time, I’ll likely list on Facebook first, where there’s no real penalty if the retailers do indeed cancel on me, or I’ll suck it up and just post on TCGplayer or eBay and deal with it if they are cancelled. That said, in order to make cancelling less likely, I only buy a playset of cards when more are available, as retailers seem more likely to cancel when a buyer is clearly buying them out, or at the very least may cancel the order over a playset.
Wanting to capture a high price before the cards fell considerably, which they tend to do, I priced the cards to move, as the cheapest copies available for my condition. I went a bit low on the Lotus Vale, since played copies were already available in the low to mid $20s, listing for $29.99 each and selling the entire set to one buyer within the day, getting just over $100 after fees and shipping, making around $25 profit, but I likely could have sold for $34.99 each, based on an eBay auction for the set selling for $140, and nearly doubled my profits.
I sold the playset of Scorched Ruins for $18 each, profiting around $30 total, doubling my investment. I listed the remaining three copies when they were confirmed, and because the price had already fallen, I sold these ones for $16 each, making around $15 total, for a 50-percent profit from the $30 I invested. When all was said and done, I made around $60 from my endeavors, not a bad result from about an hour of grinding, and a great learning experience.
It’s a method I’ll attempt on future spikes, and sure enough, this week Pyrohemia spiked from under $1 to $7, so as a little experiment, I went to seek out some copies. A simple Google Shopping search showed ToyWiz.com having three copies in stock for $1.25 each, which after the $2.99 shipping I acquired for under $7.
I figured this was the perfect opportunity to try selling on Facebook, so I posted them asking $6 each, or $15 for all of them, and by the morning I sold a copy. After the stamp and shipping supplies that covers about $5.25 of my $6.74 costs, meaning I have two left that cost me about $0.75 each, or the pre-spike price, so it’s basically all profit from here, regardless of what they sell for. I’ve posted on Facebook and I’ve listed them on TCGplayer at around $6, so I’ll be approximately doubling my investment if the remaining copies sell there or on Facebook. At these prices and for so few cards, it might not have really been worth my time, given the risk that I didn’t sell any, but it was a good exercise.
Another card that spiked this week is Resplendent Mentor, up to $4 from $0.50, and a search shows plenty of copies available. Shipping can be expensive from retailers, so I could acquire copies of Mentor for around $1.50 each and sell them for around $3 at the most, which doesn’t make this particular buy worthwhile, especially because they will likely fall. Besides, played copies are available in the $1 to $2 range, but it’s telling that with some effort there could be profit made, or at the very least one could buy an affordable playset. Assuming this was a spike for an actual Modern playable, with potential for even further future gains, it would have been a great opportunity.