An interesting discussion with a fellow QS Insider in the Discord recently led me to wonder…why do we choose to buylist cards? By selling to a vendor who, by design, will sell the card for more money, aren’t we moving cards in suboptimal ways? While we can’t all demand retail prices, there usually is some spread within which one could operate, right?
Take Fiery Confluence, for example. I chose to buylist a couple of these Commander 2015 cards to Card Kingdom for $17 apiece. But copies were selling in the $25 range on eBay and TCGplayer—why didn’t I go that route?
The argument could be made that I’m operating recklessly by not maximizing the value out of my specs. But this week I want to share a few reasons why I think that, despite not getting every last penny out of my cards, buylisting to online vendors can still be optimal. After all, you can optimize for money but that could be at the sacrifice of time, risk, and a good night’s sleep. Allow me to explain.
For starters, let’s get one thing straight: selling a card on eBay for $25 does not mean you net $25, or anything remotely close. After eBay and PayPal fees you’re looking at around $21.48 net. Next, you have to ship the card. I would ship this card in a plain white envelope with a non-machinable stamp (the post office I used once demanded the non-machinable stamp), so that’s another $0.71. Add in a couple pennies for the envelope, tape, and toploader, and my net proceeds from the sale is around $20.75.
Now let’s do some math on the buylist side. If I sell my card to Card Kingdom for $17 I have the option of requesting the 30% trade-in bonus, which is what I did. That means I’ll get $22.10 in trade credit by selling them my Fiery Confluence. Hey, that’s more than the cash I would have gotten selling for $25 on eBay!
Of course, I still have to pay that pesky shipping cost when selling to a buylist like Card Kingdom’s, so it’s not a true one-to-one exchange. But when selling to Card Kingdom, I always ship more than just a couple cards. I always have some nickels and dimes on hand that I can sell to pad the order.
In addition, I keep a few cards in mind that I know they have overpaid on in the past, and I check to see if I can be opportunistic and get that sale. This approach effectively reduces my shipping cost per card, making the credit option even more attractive. When the numbers are this close, the sacrificed value in buylisting versus selling on eBay is negligible.
The Store Credit Fallacy
Cash is king—you’ll hear me use this phrase time and again. Of course I’d prefer $22 in cash over $22 in Card Kingdom credit. Card Kingdom’s prices are all retail whereas my cash can purchase cards from other individuals at a discounted rate. But is it so bad ordering cards from Card Kingdom with store credit? Not necessarily.
With some credit, I recently acquired a "VG" Kabira Takedown // Kabira Plateau, which I equate to Moderately Played, for $74.99. Why was this my target? Well, with the recent surge in dual land demand, TCGplayer pricing has become very much in-line with Card Kingdom’s pricing. For example, the cheapest Moderately Played Kabira Takedown // Kabira Plateau from a seller with 99% positive feedback or better is $66.86 shipped.
This is technically almost $9 cheaper, I’ll admit, but there are two additional factors that need to be accounted for.
First, I live in Ohio. That means I have to pay sales tax. That $66.86 Kabira Takedown // Kabira Plateau may cost $67.16 to the average QS Insider. But for me, it’s $71.37. Aren’t I lucky?
Second, you have to consider the condition factor. I know when I buy from Card Kingdom I can expect a certain quality in card condition. While nobody’s perfect, my confidence level is very high that my VG Kabira Takedown // Kabira Plateau from Card Kingdom will arrive on the better side of Moderately Played. But because the cheaper Kabira Takedown // Kabira Plateau on TCGplayer isn’t sold via TCG Direct, I don’t have the same level of confidence in condition. The same goes for reliability and shipping speed: Card Kingdom’s orders are always prompt, shipped with tracking, and well packaged. That’s not always the case with sellers on TCGplayer.
So while I had to outlay $3.62 more for my Kabira Takedown // Kabira Plateau, I consider that the cost for high quality and great customer service, and I’m not too ashamed to pay it. Plus some of this amount is offset by the extra buck or two I got in store credit by buylisting the card rather than selling on eBay.
And this example involved a dual land, one of the hottest commodities on the open market. I have found numerous opportunities to convert Card Kingdom and ABU Games trade credit into cards that I can sell for more than what I paid. (Recently it’s been Alpha commons and uncommons). It’s not a guarantee, but with enough patience the opportunities do arise and can be exploited. This turns the store credit into more cash than would have been obtained by selling the initial card on eBay in the first place!
Avoiding the Race to the Bottom
Sometimes I worry that market trends aren’t moving very favorably for a given card. This may be due to an artificial spike that I see regressing over time. Other times, it may have to do with actual metagame shifts. And in rare occasions, a rules change can change the utility of a card. That’s exactly what happened with Fiery Confluence. The new planeswalker rule being introduced with Dominaria makes Fiery Confluence less powerful. So while it’s exciting to see the card spike, I think we’re due for a pullback in the coming months.
What does this potential pullback mean? It means that sellers may be a little more eager to unload copies of the card on the open market. Buying may also slow down. While this may not lead to a huge price drop, it could mean an eBay sale wouldn’t happen above $25 despite the fact that some copies had sold for more in recent weeks. Do I want to take that gamble?
A better example involves crazy spikes in older cards that we’ve seen recently. I have buylisted multiple heavily played and moderately played copies of Urza's Avenger to Card Kingdom over the past few months.
Why? Well, Near Mint copies may fetch a meaningful premium on eBay, but sometimes it can be a bit harder selling HP copies of these old cards on eBay (and trust me, I sold a couple copies on eBay too). I could have waited in hopes of getting that sale, but what if other people started listing HP copies and undercut me on price? Or even if that didn’t happen, how long would it take to get that sale? Since my buy-in was so low, I took the easiest route to profits by shipping to Card Kingdom’s buylist. Let them find a buyer, I didn’t want to bother.
Not to mention that I've lost count of the times I buylisted cards to Card Kingdom thinking their buy price was awfully high, only to see that buy price drop a day after. They manipulate their buylist every day, so when I find a good buy price I jump on it and don't look back!
Speaking of which, there’s one last benefit in buylisting that I wanted to highlight: saving time. When I sell cards on eBay—especially older cards in played condition—I post my listings with pictures of the card. That makes it easier to sell, but it also takes more time to list. TCGplayer enables faster/easier listing, but for multiple reasons I don’t use that platform to sell (that’s an article for another time).
Then there’s the waiting time. As you may imagine, the demand for heavily played garbage rares in Old School is pretty small. You can’t exactly move a Moderately Played Voodoo Doll every day, for example. It could take weeks to move a copy at a good price. Selling multiple copies would probably take a couple months. I’m impatient for profits, so I don’t want to wait that long.
Shipping to a buylist is an easy, instantaneous way to cash out of these slow-moving cards. I have shipped multiple played Voodoo Dolls to Card Kingdom in recent months because their buy price is solid, copies move slowly on eBay, and my buy-in price was low enough that the buylist route still netted me solid gains.
While I could sit around on these Voodoo Dolls and potentially eek out an extra buck or two, I’d prefer liquidity in my portfolio. I have enough Old School cards that I’m sitting on for the long term—quality cards, no less—I don’t need to add stuff like Voodoo Doll to the list. Give me my store credit and I’ll move onto something more liquid.
Wrapping It Up
I started using buylists years ago, and I have always been happy to get the quick-and-easy profits when they’re available. This is my preferred selling approach in many cases, despite the fact it may net me slightly less financial gain. I think the benefits outweigh this small loss: cashing out instantly without waiting for a buyer, getting store credit, and using that credit to move into better liquidity. These are all valuable outputs to buylisting that, in my opinion, outweigh the couple bucks I may be missing out on in the long run.
Recently there’s been an added benefit to buylisting. I’ve been getting store credit to move into Alpha cards that are still underpriced relative to the open market. Just last week I grabbed a VG Alpha Giant Growth from Card Kingdom for around $18. I listed it on eBay for $35 and it sold in less than twelve hours. I also sold an Alpha Mesa Pegasus for $10 when it cost me under $7.
Since I’m having so much success flipping these Alpha cards, I am desperate to find ways to get store credit advantageously so I can pump it into Alpha cards for even more profits. I need to act fast, because eventually vendors like Card Kingdom and ABU Games are sure to catch on and increase their prices further. But in the meantime, I’m happy to help operate in that gap.
So next time you try and sell a card on eBay or TCGplayer, don’t ignore the benefits of the buylist. You may not get quite as much value in dollar terms, but there are other less quantifiable benefits to buylisting that just may make the endeavor worthwhile.
- Dual lands had been at the top of Card Kingdom’s hot list for weeks. But that just changed over the weekend. Now Drop of Honey tops that hot list and the buy price jumped from $330 to $385. This could be a temporary increase until Card Kingdom can restock, but it’s interesting to see the strength in demand for this sideboard Legacy card.
- Speaking of dual lands, some of the lower-end duals continue to creep higher and higher. Card Kingdom has slowly upped their buy price on Kabira Takedown // Kabira Plateau from $50, to $55, to $60, to now $65! They are also paying more for Scrubland than I have ever seen before: $85. Legacy is gaining traction thanks to team tournaments, large-scale events at local shops, and of course the upcoming team Pro Tour. I think we’re due for an ever greater bump so get your duals now if you’re in the market for any.
- I mentioned this in the QS Discord, and others have also pointed it out, but I wanted to reiterate here the recent jump in Card Kingdom’s Power buy prices. They now offer $5160 for Near Mint Black Lotus. That means they’re paying $4128 for EX copies and $3096 for VG copies. This is near retail pricing from just a few months ago. Other Power prices also increased: $1800 for Mox Sapphire, $1620 for Ancestral Recall, and $1500 for Time Walk are most notable. There’s a BGS 9 Time Walk on eBay for $2016 so that $1500 buy price seems very aggressive!