Hello, readers! I’m new to the team here at Quiet Speculation, so I’m going to give you a quick intro on myself, and then describe my MTG finance philosophy on buying and selling.
First: Me. In addition to holding an accounting degree, I worked after college for a large card shop with a huge warehouse, and that’s where I got immersed in Magic. I learned the vendor side before the player side, so that gives me a much different perspective. I always thought Sol Ring was the best card in Magic because EDH players needed to have one in every single deck. Turns out I wasn’t wrong – Sol Ring is busted – but I soon realized that it is not played in other formats that are just as popular. See, I learn quick! I then decided I needed to quit having fun and pursue my career as a tax accountant, which I have been doing for five years.
As a mere child, I bought and sold Pokémon cards to pay for my egregious trips to Cici’s Pizza Buffet. I always used a BOGO coupon, even at the buffet. Why pay full price? My family wasn’t broke, but I wanted to make my own profit. Thus, the accountant and MTG finance expert was born.
My edge with buying/selling cards is in small margins with high turnover. If a card’s TCGplayer market value is $12 and the lowest on eBay is $10, mine is listed on eBay for $8 to $9. (I prefer selling on eBay because they have the lowest fees and the greatest liability protection, and I like their interface the best.) In other words, I’m looking to turn and burn within 24 to 48 hours usually, depending on the demand. I would never sell such a card unless I bought it at at most $6, thus my spread is 20 percent. This profit is pennies on the dollar after fees and shipping. Trust me, I am aware.
But wait, how do I know what’s in demand and what isn’t? What’s the new hotness? The first place to look at demand isn’t decklists, it’s eBay completed sales. Compare how many have sold within a month at X price. Any spikes? Multiple quantities? There’s lots of good data here for your spreadsheets, people. eBay is a good metric because it’s very open source.
|SCG||TCG LOWEST||TCG buy list||TCG spread||Ebay BIN|
|Liliana of the Veil (INN)||119.99||85.08||68.57||0.19||88.98|
|Lion’s Eye Diamond||249.99||224.99||101.17||0.55||230.00|
|Steam Vents (RTR)||18.79||15.51||11.45||0.26||15.49|
Above are a few cards with examples of recent pricing across various platforms. Note the following:
- Normal vendors pay 40 percent of a card’s value in cash (sometimes 50 percent if it’s hot like hotcakes).
- An average spread is 40 percent.
- Nobody in MTG finance buys staples like these from Star City Games.
Most of the cards I picked above are high in demand, but the numbers speak volumes. Liliana has a very low spread, so something is going to change in the future – either the buy price will go down or the price of the card will go up. This indicates a card we should buy.
Lion’s Eye Diamond just had an increase in price, and the buylist isn’t following yet. This indicates a card we should be selling.
Goblin Chainwhirler is in Standard, which I’m not a fan of, but look at its eBay completed sales: there are a ton of these! This card moves really fast. If you can flip these for profit, this is a great card to look at.
Steam Vents: a great card primed for an increase in price, but the supply on these is through the roof. Every trade binder has a set of these, but no one wants to trade them away. What does that mean to you? Evaluate your buy or sell based on demand.
As for stocking one’s collection and sale inventory, I like to buy complete collections. I can’t stress this part of my philosophy enough. It doesn’t have to be a large collection to sell the cards that are liquid and hold the rest waiting for a price spike. It doesn’t have to be a competitive Modern deck; it can be a complete set of Khans of Tarkir or Dominaria.
Watch Craigslist and eBay like it’s a full-time job. Watch for a store closing that maybe needs to liquidate its sealed product. As long as you are buying it at a discount (such that you know you can sell your purchase for at least 10 to 30 percent more than what you bought it for), jump on it. Yes, it’s hard work and time consuming, but that’s how you profit.
A few more buying tips for eBay: don’t be afraid to offer lower on eBay. Maybe you will win. Use late night auctions to buy cards, not Buy It Now.
The nice thing is that backpack businesses don’t have rent, employees or other business costs. Don’t be afraid to put the seller’s cards into a TCGplayer spreadsheet and cross-reference it with buylists. If the player is too lazy to do it, you must. It’s no big deal to me – as a tax accountant, I love spreadsheets!
If I can’t find any collections to my liking, I will trade down a piece of power or a dual land. Because these cards are very in demand with a low supply, sometimes you can trade them for 110 or 120 percent of their retail value, and you can trade them for cards that are very liquid and much easier to move.
I’m not saying an Underground Sea is difficult to move at $700, but sometimes I would rather have 47 or 50 Flooded Strands to liquidate. Maybe the buylist is higher on Flooded Strand and the spread is lower. Maybe you think duals will go down because Legacy is losing its playerbase and has no Wizards of the Coast support. Maybe you’re trying to invest in more Modern and less Legacy. Flooded Strands are everywhere, Underground Sea is a dual land on the Reserved List. In genreal, everyone is always looking to trade up – well, on occasion, I’m the opposite.
How is your MTG finance philosophy similar? How is it different? Leave your thoughts below.