Exactly one week ago I sat down at my computer and wrote an article describing the recent drop in vendor buylists. I guarded against panic, suggesting these were opportunities to reload on inventory. Buy prices tend to move in cycles when it comes to older cards—vendors remain out of stock for a while, they increase their buy prices significantly, restock, and then drop their prices again.
ABUGames was a poster child for this kind of activity. I had seen them do this multiple times with cards from Magic’s earliest sets. But just this past week, they did something unprecedented. Despite keeping their cash buy prices lower than other vendors, they increased their store credit offers astronomically. I mean, just look at these numbers!
Pld UNL Black Lotus: $9025
Pld UNL Mox Sapphire: $2945
Pld LEA Vesuvan Doppelganger: $950
Pld ARN Library of Alexandria: $1044
Pld UNL Chaos Orb: $1045
Pld LEA Wall of Swords: $56.55 (NM is $133.75)
Pld LEA Red Ward: $38
These are just a smattering of numbers I was browsing lately, and my jaw just about hit the floor. My first reaction: let me start shopping for deals so I can put a massive buylist together! But it wasn’t that easy. Also, I am starting to get concerned about these numbers and what ABUGames is doing…
Remember when Pucatrade was a massively popular site and hundreds of players vocalized how awesome it was? I was nearly convinced to sign up on multiple occasions, but I just couldn’t get passed their currency, the pucapoint. Older iterations of the site constantly generated new pucapoints with no system to remove any. The result: bad inflation. The pucapoint’s value relative to the US Dollar dropped badly and it scared some users away from the site.
Since then, Pucatrade has overhauled their system and it looks like they’re turning things around. They’ve created ways to use pucapoints that make them “disappear” from the system, keeping inflation in check. This gives me confidence the new iteration of Pucatrade can be around for the long haul.
Why am I discussing Pucatrade here? Because I’m starting to worry about the value of a dollar of ABUGames trade credit. A couple years ago, ABUGames offered a best-in-class 35 percent trade credit bonus on their buylist. This always motivated me to take store credit so I could take advantage of that sweet bonus. Then ABUGames upped that trade bonus to 50 percent—this was revolutionary at the time! They quickly became one of my favorite vendors to sell to. (Aside: Star City Games followed suit and now offer 50 percent trade-in as well).
Then when ABUGames overhauled their website, they started a new practice where they used variable trade credit multipliers. If a card was really in-demand and they didn’t want to fork over the cash, they could offer a 100 percent trade credit bonus to get copies in without impacting cash flow. This is where my concern started. Wouldn’t such aggressive trade credit numbers lead to inflation, of a sort?
Now the trade bonus is all over the place, and some of the multipliers are through the roof. Did you know that ABUGames offers a 310 percent trade-in bonus on played Unlimited Chaos Orb?
Just do the math: $336.05 cash and $1045 trade credit.
This is kind of ridiculous when you think about it. Compare these numbers to Card Kingdom’s buy price on Chaos Orb. They offer $840 for NM copies so VG copies would be $504. So if you had a copy you wanted to move, what would you do? Well if you wanted cash you certainly wouldn’t go to ABUGames. Thus in instances like these, ABUGames is very likely to maintain their cash levels where they are. That’s fine; I suspect they want this outcome.
But what if you’re looking for trade credit? Well, in that case you’d be a fool not to take that 310 percent trade credit bonus, right? After all, it’s ten times better than Card Kingdom’s 30 percent trade bonus.
But before clicking that checkout button, let’s peruse some of the most desirable cards we may want to trade into at ABUGames. When I saw that I could get over a thousand dollars in trade credit for my Chaos Orb, I started mentally creating a buylist shopping cart that would help me work my way to that next piece of Power! So I immediately went to ABUGames’ Power 9 inventory…
First observation: they’re out of stock of every Unlimited piece of Power except for one: a Near Mint Mox Sapphire that costs $5937.49. Wait, what?! Since when was a NM Sapphire this expensive? I would have been more than happy to cough up $2000 in store credit for a played Time Walk or something, but if they had any stock of those they’d be $3104.99. That’s hardly worth it even with trade credit.
Next I thought about sending in a few more cards and upgrading to Beta Power. In this case, ABUGames has a played Beta Mox Jet for $6209.99, a destroyed Mox Sapphire for $4864.49, and a really HP Time Walk for $4599.99. Out of those, only the Jet would tempt me, but there are no pictures of that one posted yet. Also, I’m not sure how I feel about this one. For example, is a played Beta Mox Jet really worth six Chaos Orbs? I don’t know.
Stepping away from Power, it seems many of ABUGames’s prices are suddenly way too high. It is becoming prohibitively expensive to acquire high-end cards from that site even with store credit. Numbers are getting out of hand when compared to other sites, and it feels like inflation is running away with itself. The value of a dollar at ABUGames is becoming less and less valuable.
I did some more digging, and it turns out I did find some cards potentially worth grabbing with store credit. Not everything is explosively expensive just yet. But let’s play this “movie” all the way through, shall we?
What’s going to happen next, is that players with stashes of Old School cards are going to be tempted to trade in their cards for the inflated trade credit numbers. This is an inevitability, and people are already jumping onto this bandwagon.
I left Tom May’s reply in the image because I think it’s quite perceptive. But ABUGames hasn’t jacked up all their prices across the board. There’s probably no reason for them to suddenly charge more for newer cards like Mox Amber. Those probably aren’t moving very quickly.
However as players comb ABU’s website and find all the best deals to apply their credit towards, ABUGames will slowly have to adjust their pricing to accommodate. For example, if I decided to speculate on Mox Amber I could ship ABUGames that Chaos Orb and acquire nearly all of their foil Mox Ambers at $42.69 a pop. That’s about the same price Card Kingdom charges for their foils, so this really is a solid price considering the inflated trade credit I’m using.
But once I do that, ABUGames will have to adjust their foil Mox Amber price upward. Otherwise they won’t have any in stock. If this happens enough times, prices on everything across the board will have to increase as players convert their random Old School cards into massive collections of “Modern or Commander stuff.” As prices rise, ABUGames will continue to offer more trade credit, and a vicious cycle could unfold. The value of ABUGames store credit could tank.
If you have store credit at ABUGames, I’d recommend cashing out now. My prediction above is a bit doom and gloom and by no means a guarantee. For example, ABUGames could be testing out a new business model, and in a week’s time we could see prices change back to where they were before. It’s certainly possible.
But why wait and see? It seems obvious from this vantage point that the value of your trade credit can drop from here. If you’re holding credit to scoop up cards in the face of a buyout, I suppose that can still be a solid strategy. Just don’t expect your credit to stretch as far as it once did.
My other piece of advice: let the arbitrage begin! It’s everywhere now, as long as you’re willing to accept store credit. I listed Red Ward at the beginning of the article on purpose. You could go on TCGplayer right now and buy the five cheapest Alpha Red Wards for $128.63. Then you can turn around and ship them to ABUGames for $190 in store credit! Perhaps even more, since one of those copies is Lightly Played!
Examples like this are everywhere now. It’s to the point where if you want to acquire a card from ABUGames, it is almost reckless to do so with cash. As long as you have some time, you can buy stuff from TCGplayer or eBay, ship to ABUGames for store credit, and use that credit to get what you’re after. In the case of the Red Wards, you can get any singles from ABUGames that you’d like at a 30 percent “discount.”
Buying stuff with cash just feels suboptimal. And that’s my concern: ABUGames is going to build up massive trade credit debt while their incoming cashflow could become choked. Hopefully things don't get to this extreme, but this is the current trajectory we’re on.
Wrapping It Up
Last week I was warning folks not to panic as buy prices dropped. This week I’m telling you about how crazy-high buy prices have gotten. This market is really bizarre sometimes!
Very recently, ABUGames decided they wanted to get more aggressive in acquiring older cards with store credit. So they set ridiculously high trade-in numbers for cards. This has created a ton of arbitrage opportunity, which will in turn lead to a glut of ABUGames store credit. People are going to be accumulating massive amounts of credit, and will need to dump that credit by acquiring the most fairly priced cards they can find on ABU’s site. This will lead to further inflation of pricing on their site, and I could see that going sour pretty quickly.
Hopefully that doesn’t happen—hopefully they adjust their numbers again quickly after seeing how this unfolds, and everything goes back to the way it was before. But until then, I have just two pieces of advice: ride the arbitrage wave that is now open to us, but make sure you don’t hold ABUGames store credit for a long period of time.
I’d recommend spending that store credit immediately, or even ordering what you want first and then submitting your buylist order to cover the cost (ABUGames allows this). This way you’re locking in what you’re after and take on minimal risk of enduring rampant inflation.
Inflation was a problem for Pucatrade back in the day, and I am starting to worry about it with ABUGames. Hopefully I’m wrong, and everything works out perfectly. But it doesn’t hurt to be cautious in the meantime.
- Want some more crazy ABU credit numbers? How about Disrupting Scepter: $950 in trade credit for played Alpha copies! Their Beta and Unlimited numbers aren’t nearly that generous, but maybe that means their sell prices for Beta and Unlimited aren’t too crazy-high? This is worth looking into if you have some trade credit!
- Unlimited dual lands also got crazy bumps at ABUGames. They’re now offering $1187.50 for a played Underground Sea and $2140 for a near mint one! Even Revised numbers seem whacky—$609 for a played Revised Underground Sea?! This is way above market, and you could readily buy them from TCGplayer to ship to ABUGames for arbitrage.
- Here’s one that is sure to get you scratching your head: Alpha Orcish Artillery. I guess its misprinting makes it more desirable, but does that merit a $207.50 credit buy price on played copies?! They’re offering $380 if you can find a near mint copy. This is one where arbitrage isn’t so easy, however. I see only one copy on TCGplayer, it’s moderately played, and listed for $262.82. So maybe this isn’t such a good buy price after all?