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Insider: TCGplayer Store – A Year in Review

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I began my TCGplayer store on March 12th, 2017. You can read about my initial setup here. It's been about 10 months since I made my first sale. Since then I have had a lot of sales (which is great, because I paid for an engagement ring and am in the process of paying for a wedding with said money) and I've learned quite a bit.

In my initial article I showed the percentage return from each sale based on the actual sale cost (which factored in the TCGplayer fee, shipping cost, and PayPal fees) and concluded that I didn't want to put up anything under $5. Throughout the year I learned a good number of lessons—hopefully by reading this you don't make the same mistakes I did.

The $5 Rule

I initially set this rule in place because I didn't like the percentage returns below $5.

Sale Price TCGplayer Fee Shipping Net Income Return
$1.00 $0.61 $0.51 -$0.12 -12.00%
$2.00 $0.72 $0.51 $0.77 38.50%
$3.00 $0.83 $0.51 $1.66 55.33%
$4.00 $0.94 $0.51 $2.55 63.75%
$5.00 $1.05 $0.51 $3.44 68.80%

I've included the table from my initial article (up to the $5 mark) to serve as a good reminder. A lot of buylists offer 55-65% on many cards, so at the $4 mark you can guarantee a sale (out to a buylist). Shipping a bunch of cards this way will likely do better than outing them on TCGplayer since you'll be able to combine shipping costs.

One important lesson to keep in mind here is that this calculation is based on the total transaction. If you were able to sell three $3 cards you would get more than $1.66 on each (they actually total $7, which equates to a 77% return—very respectable). However, the problem here is that you can't really guarantee players will buy multiple cards from you.

I even tested this out by putting up cards in the $2-$3 range that were typically played in playsets like Expedition Map. I had some luck selling multiple copies to players, but just as often I'd have a player buy a single copy, which often netted me less than the buylist price. This dilemma really heightened when I changed to free shipping.


It is important to point out though that one reason to break this rule is if cards are more played. Most buylist prices are dramatically lower for MP and HP cards, and while you need to price below NM/LP on TCGplayer to hope for a sale, you don't have to take nearly as big of a hit as the buylist penalty would be.

Free Shipping

There are pros and cons to free shipping. This is definitely something anyone starting or running an online store should review and determine what is best for them.

Pros

  • You can set more competitive prices. Say you have a card you think you can sell for $6. If you have $2.99 shipping, then in order to have any real chance of selling the card you need to charge $3. If someone bought just that card from you they would pay $3 + $2.99 shipping = $5.99.

This incentivizes players to buy more cards from you, but the problem is that they will all be underpriced. Imagine I had five different $6 cards in my inventory but I priced them all like I did above. One player could buy them all and only pay the $2.99 shipping fee one time and thus get $30 in cards for $17.99. That’s a great deal for them, but you could likely have gotten more money using Trader Tools and shipping the cards off to a buylist.

On a side note,’ if you're buying off TCGplayer, this can be a great way to pick up a bunch of cards and save a lot of money if you find a vendor who has high shipping costs and underprices their inventory because of it.

  • Number of sales go up. I actually can't explain this very well, because in theory you tend to sell more cards per transaction when customers have to pay for shipping. However, I noticed a significant uptick in my sales numbers when I switched over to free shipping, after adjusting my inventory prices to account for the shipping change (which you can see in the next section). So the end cost to the customer was exactly the same if they bought one card and paid for shipping versus the increased card price with free shipping.

Cons

  • Most orders are single cards. Smaller transactions can mean less return/profit.
  • Shipping costs go up as you have to purchase more stamps/envelopes/packaging materials because the number of transactions went up.
  • You have to spend more time packaging cards for shipment.

Sales by Month

I tracked my sales each month and wanted to show you some of the numbers. Some of this information I consider proprietary, but I will be as open as I can.

The number of sales is the actual number of orders I got in a given month. Sales Percent of Year ($) is how much money I made that month when compared to my total yearly income. Sales Percent of Year (Volume) is simply the percentage of transactions that occurred in the month compared to the total number of transactions in the year. I didn't start selling on TCGplayer until March 2017, so the first two months were zeros across the board.

Month Number of Sales Sales % of Year ($) Sales % of Year (Volume)
January 0 0.00% 0.00%
February 0 0.00% 0.00%
March 4 1.35% 2.52%
April 15 12.46% 9.43%
May 12 12.43% 7.55%
June 12 30.64% 7.55%
July 9 6.15% 5.66%
August 6 3.06% 3.77%
September 44 10.40% 27.67%
October 26 7.89% 16.35%
November 14 8.17% 8.81%
December 17 7.46% 10.69%
Total 159 100.00% 100.00%

There are a few important points to keep in mind. TCGplayer limits your inventory when you initially get started. So sales in your first month or two may be less than you hoped for. As you rise in seller levels, your inventory allowed goes up, along with your likelihood of increased sales (as you now have more inventory to sell).

If you hadn't guessed, I switched over to free shipping in September and saw a major rise in my number of transactions. However, if you look at the actual sales as a percentage of yearly income, it wasn't that much higher than other months with fewer transactions. That means I sold many more little things in that month. September was the first month I tried selling cards under $5 with the hope that they would be purchased in multiples.

I should also point out that I don't really deal a lot in Standard cards, so I don't really have any in my inventory. One major reason behind this is that Standard cards as a whole tend to be more volatile. Thus they require a strong understanding and dedication to market movements which, at this time, I don't care to invest the time needed to monitor.

I point this out because I'd expect that stores that do deal a lot with Standard cards would expect to see more transactions right after banning announcements and rotations. For example, when Ixalan came out and Battle for Zendikar and Shadows over Innistrad blocks rotated out this September, I would expect a subsequent spike in the number of transactions in October.

While I don't always know my buyers' intentions behind a card, I still try to assign whether the card is most likely for Commander/casual, Modern, or Legacy. I'll also admit that most of my inventory is for Modern and Commander cards, so I expected the most number of transactions for these formats. As a whole my totals were:

Format Count
Modern 70
Legacy 13
Commander 76

They go pretty much hand in hand with my inventory when segmented by format. I wanted to dig a bit deeper as I was curious if the number of Commander transactions went up after the latest Commander decks were released by Wizards of the Coast on August 25th, 2017. (I expected to see an increase in September, though obviously the change to free shipping could also play a role here).

We do see this trend as the number of transactions in the month of September went up dramatically, representing almost 28% of the total number of transactions on the year. However, the dollar amount of those transactions compared to the rest of the year was pretty ordinary, which means they weren't all that valuable and most were one-ofs (which tends to indicate Commander).

A bit of conflicting data does show, however, that my count for the month of September had 19 Commander cards out of 44 sales, or only around 43%. So honestly the jury is still out on that one. I imagine with a larger inventory and more data points I'll have a clearer picture, when I can compare 2017 and 2018 data around this time next year.

Card Condition

I am a pretty strict grader and I tend to err on the side of cautious when cards aren't obviously NM (in which case I put them up as LP). I only had a single grading discrepancy all year and that occurred on cards in which the damage was only obvious under very good lighting (which unfortunately my office doesn't have except in the mornings).

I'd rather sell a card as LP with a minor loss on potential profit than to have complaints pile up against me, which can harm your feedback rating and scare off potential customers.

Conclusion

The purpose of this article was to provide readers with a window into a TCGplayer store and some of the lessons I've learned along the way. I definitely encourage people to open up their own stores if they have the time to devote to filling out orders, as it is a great way to move cards that might otherwise rot in trade binders.

It's just one more great way to reduce the cost of Magic as a hobby and/or help offset the ridiculous costs of an upcoming wedding and honeymoon.

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, TCGPlayerTagged

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One thought on “Insider: TCGplayer Store – A Year in Review

  1. Thanks for sharing your experiences. Your original article served as a guide for me when I started up my own TCG store. I’ve managed 150 sales since starting in November. Hard to believe I’ve shipped out that much in three months but man does it feel good to offload cards I was never going to use for real money.

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