Selling cards for a high price is great, but so is buying them cheaply, especially when the price is so low that they can be immediately flipped for a profit. It seems that the limiting factor to any Magic finance operation is acquiring cards, not necessarily selling them, which explains why dealers set up booths at events primarily to buy cards, not to sell them. There are even online stores that do nothing but buying, which in turn supply retail stores hungry for more stock.
I’ve been doing some more buying and selling lately, and in my efforts, I’ve been looking for unturned stones that could lead to bargains.
Misspelled eBay Auctions
A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon an old article by Sigmund that mentioned a website called fatfingers.co.uk that searches eBay for misspellings of a keyword. The idea is that misspells are relatively common in listings, and the mistake has the potential to keep cards from showing up on searches for the card. Auctions might garner little attention, and Buy-It-Now listings with a price set in the past could sit out of view after its market price has increased, so there’s a potential for bargains.
When I heard about this trick, I had to try it myself, and because it had spiked that day, I searched for Savannah. I found a lightly-played “Savanah” at the old price of $90, and I instantly became a believer in this technique. My search for other dual lands didn’t yield results, but I traded the Savannah at $140 towards an Ancestral Recall soon after, a nice profit.
Watching eBay Auctions
Another technique to score deals from eBay is to simply watch every Magic-related auction, and prey on any that are selling under market value, for some instant buylist arbitrage, low-priced acquisitions for a store, or just cheap cards for a deck or collection.
Extracting the full value from this technique means sitting with eBay open and catching all of the ending auctions, but much of the work can be done in advance to make it more painless. Take note of all the juiciest auctions, and then come back to them before they end. The process could even be automated with auto-bidding websites that snipe auctions, with a set price at the highest price you want to pay.
Another source of Magic cards from auctions is an unlikely place, Goodwill. They have an online auction house that sells a surprisingly large amount of Magic cards. The catch is that there is very little information given about the cards beyond their weight and some pictures that show little of the contents.
These auctions are akin to storage locker auctions in that they are an educated gamble, and surely volatile in their payouts. There could be some rewards for those with a keen and watchful eye, but in my estimation, most of these auctions seem to sell at high prices, and they have high shipping costs. This leads me to believe that they are closer to lottery tickets, meaning they could occasionally pay out, but realistically they are unprofitable in the long term. I’d be eager to hear if anyone has had success with them.
Storage Locker Auctions
On the topic of storage locker auctions, they could be a nice source of Magic bargains, but I can’t imagine they appear often enough to make them worth pursuing solely for cards. A better idea would be to network with locals who frequent these auctions and tell them to be on the lookout for cards and to contact you if they acquire any.
Thrift Stores/Garage Sales/Estate Sales
Another place where Magic cards show up is in thrift stores, garage sales and estate sales. With some luck, you might come across listings that name Magic and can target them, but otherwise, it’s like searching for a needle in a haystack. Going out searching for cards is going to fail, but you might come across them while looking for deals on other goods. This is another place where the strategy of getting into contact with local estate and garage sale hunters and telling them to buy Magic cards to sell to you would make sense.
Another great way to acquire bargains is to simply go to card stores. Any store that doesn’t price its cards in real-time could have bargains, and in this market with so many cards on the rise, there are more and more opportunities to find mispricings.
For the past few months I have been downsizing my collection by trading up with the goal of acquiring the Power Nine, and last month I heard a local shop had some in stock, so I made it a point to check it out. I didn’t act on the news then because I wasn't interested in buying, but when I acquired some high-end cards as trade leverage, I ventured down to try to work something out. Not only was the Power a bargain, which I eventually bought, but I discovered a ton of other old high-end cards, some really underpriced ones. I compared their stock to buylists on my phone and picked up a nice stack of cards that I could flip for an instant profit.
This week I ventured to a local store I wasn’t familiar with and found deals there too, picking through the showcase and stacks of 50-cent and $1 cards. At this point I plan on hitting every store I can find looking for deals. I know some people travel to stores around the country when travelling to GP or other events and buy stock from stores, and it seem like now is the time do it before the oldest stock of cards inevitably dries up.
Another source of cards is Craigslist, which these days seems to be saturated with people looking to buy cards but not many selling great ones. That said, plenty of nice cards do show up on Craigslist, and there are surely deals out there, it just requires a lot of checking listings. It’s also likely to involve a lot of travel, and wasted time picking through duds, but the opportunities are real.
Another way to get deals on cards is to tap into your network, whether it is friends, family, or most likely, the players you interact with at the card shop and at local events. Everything has a price, and it’s not uncommon to run into people actively selling cards. Often a trade partner will say they are willing to sell, and that could start a conversation that leads you you buying their whole binder at a discount.
It also never hurts to ask. I’ve seen people clear out their binders to people buying “bulk rares,” when clearly some were above bulk. Don’t run afoul of the card shops you’re in if they frown against making buys in the store, but otherwise, it’s a win-win for both parties.
How do you acquire cards cheaply?