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Insider: Running the Numbers on Online Marketplaces

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Today's article is aimed at those who are looking to get into selling cards online using a marketplace. I'll be comparing the fee structures of several different services to see which offers the best percent return.

First I want to cover my list of fees (across all the platforms).

Fees
Regular TCGplayer 10.25%
Paypal/Credit Card Percent 2.50%
Paypal/Credit Card Base Fee $0.30
Singles Fee 10.25%
TCG Direct Fee 2.50%
TCGplayer Pro Sync Singles 7.75%
TCGplayer Pro Fee 2.50%
PWE Shipping Cost $0.52
Tracked Package $2.80
Crystal Commerce (CC) Fees
Monthly $99.00
Amazon/eBay Sales 1.50%
TCG Sales 2.50%
eBay Fees (Fixed Price) 12.00%
Amazon Fixed Fee $0.99
Amazon Rate 15.00%

One aspect I was unable to account for here is the flat Crystal Commerce fee of $99 per month. This gets dispersed as a cost for every sale, based on the number of sales you have per month. So for those who use the Crystal Commerce system, you'll also want to factor that into your equations. This fee is obviously quite onerous for smaller-scale operations, but if you have a significant number of sales per month, it likely gets diluted down to a much more business-friendly cost per transaction.

Now for the numbers comparing what you actually make on each order after fees and shipping costs. Note that the values in the table below simply refer to how much you get from the sale itself. To find your true profit, you have to subtract out what you actually paid for the card.

I highlighted the $50 mark to emphasize where TCGplayer requires you to switch to tracked shipping. If you're using another service, you could choose not to, taking on more risk and increasing your return. This might make some of the non-TCGplayer options more attractive, but your customers may not be thrilled that they spent that much money and didn't get a tracking number.

Order Value Regular Storefront Direct Storefront TCGplayer Pro Amazon (no CC) eBay (no CC) Amazon w/ CC eBay w/ CC
$2.00 $0.93 $0.62 $0.88 $0.19 $0.89 $0.16 $0.86
$3.00 $1.80 $1.46 $1.72 $1.04 $1.75 $1.00 $1.70
$4.00 $2.67 $2.31 $2.57 $1.89 $2.60 $1.83 $2.54
$5.00 $3.54 $3.16 $3.42 $2.74 $3.46 $2.67 $3.38
$6.00 $4.42 $4.01 $4.27 $3.59 $4.31 $3.50 $4.22
$7.00 $5.29 $4.85 $5.11 $4.44 $5.17 $4.34 $5.06
$8.00 $6.16 $5.70 $5.96 $5.29 $6.02 $5.17 $5.90
$9.00 $7.03 $6.55 $6.81 $6.14 $6.88 $6.01 $6.74
$10.00 $7.91 $7.40 $7.66 $6.99 $7.73 $6.84 $7.58
$11.00 $8.78 $8.24 $8.50 $7.84 $8.59 $7.68 $8.42
$12.00 $9.65 $9.09 $9.35 $8.69 $9.44 $8.51 $9.26
$13.00 $10.52 $9.94 $10.20 $9.54 $10.30 $9.35 $10.10
$14.00 $11.40 $10.79 $11.05 $10.39 $11.15 $10.18 $10.94
$15.00 $12.27 $11.63 $11.89 $11.24 $12.01 $11.02 $11.78
$16.00 $13.14 $12.48 $12.74 $12.09 $12.86 $11.85 $12.62
$17.00 $14.01 $13.33 $13.59 $12.94 $13.72 $12.69 $13.46
$18.00 $14.89 $14.18 $14.44 $13.79 $14.57 $13.52 $14.30
$19.00 $15.76 $15.02 $15.28 $14.64 $15.43 $14.36 $15.14
$20.00 $16.63 $15.87 $16.13 $15.49 $16.28 $15.19 $15.98
$21.00 $17.50 $14.17 $16.98 $16.34 $17.14 $16.03 $16.82
$22.00 $18.38 $15.02 $17.83 $17.19 $17.99 $16.86 $17.66
$23.00 $19.25 $15.86 $18.67 $18.04 $18.85 $17.70 $18.50
$24.00 $20.12 $16.71 $19.52 $18.89 $19.70 $18.53 $19.34
$25.00 $20.99 $17.56 $20.37 $19.74 $20.56 $19.37 $20.18
$26.00 $21.87 $18.41 $21.22 $20.59 $21.41 $20.20 $21.02
$27.00 $22.74 $19.25 $22.06 $21.44 $22.27 $21.04 $21.86
$28.00 $23.61 $20.10 $22.91 $22.29 $23.12 $21.87 $22.70
$29.00 $24.48 $20.95 $23.76 $23.14 $23.98 $22.71 $23.54
$30.00 $25.36 $21.80 $24.61 $23.99 $24.83 $23.54 $24.38
$31.00 $26.23 $22.64 $25.45 $24.84 $25.69 $24.38 $25.22
$32.00 $27.10 $23.49 $26.30 $25.69 $26.54 $25.21 $26.06
$33.00 $27.97 $24.34 $27.15 $26.54 $27.40 $26.05 $26.90
$34.00 $28.85 $25.19 $28.00 $27.39 $28.25 $26.88 $27.74
$35.00 $29.72 $26.03 $28.84 $28.24 $29.11 $27.72 $28.58
$36.00 $30.59 $26.88 $29.69 $29.09 $29.96 $28.55 $29.42
$37.00 $31.46 $27.73 $30.54 $29.94 $30.82 $29.39 $30.26
$38.00 $32.34 $28.58 $31.39 $30.79 $31.67 $30.22 $31.10
$39.00 $33.21 $29.42 $32.23 $31.64 $32.53 $31.06 $31.94
$40.00 $34.08 $30.27 $33.08 $32.49 $33.38 $31.89 $32.78
$41.00 $34.95 $31.12 $33.93 $33.34 $34.24 $32.73 $33.62
$42.00 $35.83 $31.97 $34.78 $34.19 $35.09 $33.56 $34.46
$43.00 $36.70 $32.81 $35.62 $35.04 $35.95 $34.40 $35.30
$44.00 $37.57 $33.66 $36.47 $35.89 $36.80 $35.23 $36.14
$45.00 $38.44 $34.51 $37.32 $36.74 $37.66 $36.07 $36.98
$46.00 $39.32 $35.36 $38.17 $37.59 $38.51 $36.90 $37.82
$47.00 $40.19 $36.20 $39.01 $38.44 $39.37 $37.74 $38.66
$48.00 $41.06 $37.05 $39.86 $39.29 $40.22 $38.57 $39.50
$49.00 $41.93 $37.90 $40.71 $40.14 $41.08 $39.41 $40.34
$50.00 $40.53 $38.75 $39.28 $38.71 $39.65 $37.96 $38.90
$51.00 $41.40 $39.59 $40.12 $39.56 $40.51 $38.80 $39.74
$52.00 $42.27 $40.44 $40.97 $40.41 $41.36 $39.63 $40.58
$53.00 $43.14 $41.29 $41.82 $41.26 $42.22 $40.47 $41.42
$54.00 $44.02 $42.14 $42.67 $42.11 $43.07 $41.30 $42.26
$55.00 $44.89 $42.98 $43.51 $42.96 $43.93 $42.14 $43.10
$56.00 $45.76 $43.83 $44.36 $43.81 $44.78 $42.97 $43.94
$57.00 $46.63 $44.68 $45.21 $44.66 $45.64 $43.81 $44.78
$58.00 $47.51 $45.53 $46.06 $45.51 $46.49 $44.64 $45.62
$59.00 $48.38 $46.37 $46.90 $46.36 $47.35 $45.48 $46.46
$60.00 $49.25 $47.22 $47.75 $47.21 $48.20 $46.31 $47.30

Interestingly enough (though not surprising when you actually take the time to add up all the different fees), plain old TCGplayer storefront allows for the most profit per transaction.

TCGDirect

One of the benefits TCGplayer Direct offers is that you can actually sell $2-or-less cards for 50% (and that's it). This can be used to move a bunch of smaller cards where paying fees individually would be unfeasible. You also gain the security that any buyer disputes or lost packages don't affect you (TCGplayer eats it).

However, there is a major downside as well. TCGplayer is extremely picky on card conditions sent back to them via Direct. If the card you send gets graded down, they buy a replacement from another Direct seller—or a regular seller, if no Direct seller has one—and charge you the difference. So if you don't grade well you can lose a lot of money quickly.

The other benefit to TCG Direct is that it opens up using the TCGplayer buylist, which allows you to purchase cards from people at buylist prices. Unfortunately, here again TCGplayer charges you a fee per card (10%). Now, TCG will directly add cards sold to them via your buylist into your store's inventory, where any sales will charge you the usual fees listed above. So you need to account for that in your buylist prices—this is why a lot of store buylists on TCGplayer are below those of major stores.

Note that TCG Direct's replacement fee jumps up at the $20 mark. The fee jumps up again at the $50 mark where you have to pay for tracking and signature confirmation, whereas a regular TCGplayer storefront only requires tracking.

Another benefit you get (though it's extremely difficult to quantify) is that most TCG Direct sellers sell cards for more than regular TCGplayer storefront. Buyers know the cards are meticulously graded and will ship out extremely quickly, and apparently many will pay for that guarantee.

Lastly, TCGplayer eliminates a lot of the work associated with buying and selling cards online. They argue that their flat shipping replacement cost is actually cheaper than doing things yourself. If you're a small-scale operation, however, I would argue the actual effort of finding the card and packaging it isn't very high. In this case it may be cheaper to do it yourself, especially if you buy the packaging supplies in bulk.

Finally, one somewhat onerous issue I've heard people complain about is if a buyer buys cards from multiple TCG Direct sellers, each seller is charged with the "shipping replacement fee" even though TCGplayer sends out only a single envelope. In the end, the actual seller doesn't know how much or from whom the buyer purchased so it's largely an unknown vexation, but it still seems like TCGplayer could look at splitting up the replacement cost when this occurs (which I'm sure would make sellers happy).

Amazon

Amazon also offers a "professional program" with an alternate fee structure. If you are a professional seller on Amazon, instead of paying a $0.99 fee on every single sale, you pay $40 a month. If you have more than 40 sales per month on average, you'd be better off going as a professional seller as your fees per transaction would drop. The $40 monthly fee would then get diluted (on a per-transaction basis) more and more as the number of sales went up.

Amazon also pays directly into your bank account every few days (as opposed to TCGplayer taking upwards of two weeks). If you're doing a lot of selling and need to restock inventory by buying, you'll have access to your money faster. You still have shipping fees with Amazon, but there isn't a payment fee (at least as far as I could find).

Crystal Commerce

As you can see by the numbers, the Crystal Commerce platform ends up costing the most and providing the smallest profits. This shouldn't be surprising, given all the other fees are already necessary and the Crystal Commerce fee is tacked on in addition.

However, that's a somewhat short-sighted view of it, as the value of tracking, maintaining, and organizing a large-scale inventory is no small feat. Still, it's obviously a bad move for small-scale operations as you often lose an additional 6-10% of your profits, plus the monthly cost of Crystal Commerce. So you'd really need to have a decent-sized inventory to justify the added expenditure—especially when TCGplayer allows you to keep inventory decently maintained on the regular storefront option.

I have been told there are additional analytics you get from Crystal Commerce which can allow you to better run your business. I'd argue that any analytics you can get from them could be done yourself (so again it would have to come down to how much effort you want to put in yourself).

Conclusion

In the end if you want to maximize your profit on a per-transaction basis, you're best off sticking with plain old TCGplayer (or, if you want to really maximize profit, Facebook—though that typically requires a lot more effort and it's more difficult to track inventory).

However, there is definitely value to your time and the amount of effort you want to put into it. As you'd expect, the less effort/work you want to do yourself, the more money you lose out on.

I will admit that I've only sold on eBay and TCGplayer storefront. My sales tend to be on average five or less per day, so it doesn't take up too much of my time. Those work best for me, but I'd love to hear from people who sell a lot more and get their feedback.

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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, Online marketplaces, Selling, TCGPlayer

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2 thoughts on “Insider: Running the Numbers on Online Marketplaces

  1. Thanks for putting that out there for everyone. Unfortunately, you missed alot of the key points to each of the marketplaces. Amazon is great for NM cards, and you get a better price, which should be a consideration. On eBay, you get paid shipping on your items and can sell playsets, so you can make a better total price for your cards. TCGPlayer is like a wholesale market. You pay close to the highest fees and get the least amount for your cards. As far as Crystal is concerned, I’ve been associated with them for many years and would not boast about them, however they do allow you access to all 3 marketplaces with the same inventory, and you can modify the marketplace prices to be competitive on each market. The ability to modify any portion or all of my prices in a single event is the reason I can’t let them go, and they do have a $50 fee for sellers who do not meet certain sales numbers, making them no better or worse than any other inventory management solution I have used previously. I rank the sites in this order: eBay #1, Amazon #2, TCG #3

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