Cash is king. It's a classic phrase used in analyzing portfolios or discussing business strategy, and it’s one I try to adhere to when dealing in MTG finance. It can mean multiple things: keeping cash available for opportunistic buys, leveraging cash to make a favorable trade with someone, or taking cash over credit when dealing with vendor buylists.
When my cash levels get precariously low, I tend to favor cash over credit. However, if my cash balance is healthy enough, I always prefer credit. Why? I've touched on this in the past, so I won’t delve too deeply again. But the bottom line is this: nearly all stores have at least some cards that are priced competitively versus the market. This enables you to convert that juicy trade credit bonus into additional cash in your pocket, as long as you’re able to do a little more work.
The question then becomes, what are the right cards to target with trade credit? Finding cards on a store’s site that are priced competitively can take a lot of time. Worry not, faithful readers! I have done some of this research already and I’m happy to share my thoughts.
Just keep in mind that highlighting these opportunities may mean the opportunities won’t last very long. If that is the case, I’d encourage you to use the strategies described by the examples, rather than focusing on the examples themselves; it’s the strategy that can be reapplied in the future. Teach a man to fish, etc., etc.
Let’s start with the 800-pound gorilla, ABUGames. I refer to this store as the big gorilla because they offer the largest credit bonuses on their cards. In many cases, you’ll get a trade-in bonus of 100% or more. However with all that inflated credit, it can be very difficult to cash out. Their sell prices on some of the most liquid targets are egregiously high. $1049.99 for a near mint Revised Underground Sea? No way, no how.
Fortunately there are some decent targets. There are very few chances to get a card from ABUGames below market price, but if you’re netting 100% credit bonus, I’d argue it’s perfectly reasonable to aim for something only 10-20% above TCG low. That still means a reasonable conversion from credit to cash.
My favorite target right now is Jace, the Mind Sculptor–only their Worldwake near mint pricing is too high. Any other nonfoils they get in stock are worth picking up, and played copies are even closer to market pricing. They are charging $89.99 for played Masters 25 and Eternal Masters copies, while TCG low is in the high $80’s.
This is a phenomenal way to cash out of credit when you’re getting $83 in trade credit on slightly played Beta Web, for example. Star City Games had over a dozen of those for $29.99 in their recent sale. Imagine spending $35 plus shipping for a Jace, the Mind Sculptor—that’s what I essentially did.
Sadly, Jaces are all sold out now. If ABUGames ever restocks Manamorphose, that’s another good credit pick-up. In absence of those, consider Zendikar fetch lands—but try to focus on slightly played and played copies. That’s where you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck.
You may consider slightly played Commander foils. I haven’t shopped for those myself, but sometimes a random foil will disappear from TCGplayer, and you may have a chance to get some from ABUGames before people catch on.
Lastly, if ABUGames ever restocks the more desirable World Championship Deck cards, jump on them. Some of their prices are below Card Kingdom’s buylist—they just never have any in stock!
One nice thing about Card Kingdom is that their prices are often very reasonable as compared to ABUGames. Keeping credit handy at Card Kingdom is a great way to jump on a buyout-in-progress. For example, if you think the recent spike in Primordial Sage is real, then spending some credit on Card Kingdom’s $1.29 copies seems like a slam dunk. You could check MTG Stocks every day to see what’s on the move, and buy opportunistically from Card Kingdom.
My favorite play with Card Kingdom, however, is something I’ve written about in the past: their Alpha/Beta/Unlimited “good” condition cards. These are often priced lower than any other online store. For example, I recently got a couple of good Beta basic lands from Card Kingdom. I paid $7.60 for Forest and $7.20 for Plains. This is right in-line with TCG low pricing for heavily played copies.
A more interesting card would be the good Beta Armageddon they have in stock for $400. This matches the lowest price on eBay and TCGplayer. Perhaps this isn’t a card to flip for profit, but if you’re in the market for such a card, it could be a great out for trade credit. And of course, if Card Kingdom can ever keep good Unlimited duals or Power in stock, you could find yourself an excellent deal.
Last but not least, you can consider the store-to-store arbitrage angle. Some good condition cards from Card Kingdom can be flipped readily to ABUGames for even more trade credit. The step up has to be large enough to be worthwhile, but there are some instances where this is the case. Just go down Card Kingdom’s Alpha, Beta, and Unlimited stock focusing on good condition cards and compare them against ABUGames’s played and heavily played buy prices. You’ll find some instances where the step up is worthwhile—it just takes some patience!
Admittedly, I don’t sell to Channel Fireball. I’m sure they’re a fine vendor to buylist to, but I find their downgrade on Old School cards is too severe for me to justify the endeavor. That said, if you do have credit, then using that credit to acquire Old School cards can be worth your while. Lately I’ve been using cash to buy their “damaged” cards. Guess what: 90% of the time they’re not really damaged.
Once in a while you do get something creased or inked. But I’ve gotten a number of lower-end “damaged” Unlimited cards from Channel Fireball lately that I would grade moderately played myself. But the proof is in the pudding: when I can ship said “damaged” cards to ABUGames as “played,” I have hard evidence that these cards were graded down from where they should be.
The result: arbitrage! I was getting damaged Unlimited Personal Incarnations for $4.99 minus coupons. Then I would ship them to ABUGames for $13.05 in trade credit.
Even their cash number is more than five bucks—immediate arbitrage! There are multiple instances where Channel Fireball’s damaged cards are below ABUGames’s cash buy prices. I’d focus on the lower-end Unlimited stuff to find such opportunities.
Star City Games
I haven’t buylisted to Star City Games in ages, even though they once were one of my go-to vendors. Nowadays I just don’t see the point as they rarely offer the best numbers.
But if you have some trade credit with Star City Games, you may have some luck cashing it out into their “HP” Old School stuff. I recently picked up an “HP” Elephant Graveyard from Star City Games for below TCG low, though this was during their end-of-year sale so credit wasn’t allowed. If they do another sale and allow trade credit, then this is certainly the way to go.
Keep in mind their “HP” is often moderately played or better. I have yet to receive an “HP” card from Star City Games that I would grade heavily played myself.
Otherwise, I suppose you could target cards being actively bought out. That goes for any store, really. And if you run out of ideas completely, there’s always Jace, the Mind Sculptor—they have some of these in stock as well.
Wrapping It Up
There’s always something to be said for having cash available to purchase Magic cards. So often I see posts on Facebook where people are trying to move cards at attractive prices but are only seeking cash. No matter how you cut it, money does appear to “make the world go ‘round.”
That said, if you can swing it I’d recommend considering trade credit. I’ve written about this in the past, but I wanted to provide some specific, actionable strategies in this week’s article. These are actual cards or categories of cards you can leverage right now to exit store credit profitably. Remember, specific examples listed may not be opportunities in the near future, but the categories of cards are still worth committing to memory.
If you struggle to find anything, my last recommendation would be to consult the Quiet Speculation Insider Discord chat. Someone did that recently, asking folks for ideas of how to best cash out of ABUGames trade credit. They received responses from a few different Insiders who were generous enough to share their ideas.
At the end of the day, we’re all a community working together to try and make this hobby just a little cheaper. I shared my ideas because I’m a content contributor to this site, but I was very impressed with how willing other community members were to help each other out. To me, such a community is just as valuable as the content on this site and I’d encourage you to consider checking it out—you may find it’s worth the investment!
- This week I’m going to share some recent buylist transactions I’ve made personally. Let’s start with a played Ring of Ma'rûf I shipped to ABUGames for $104 in trade credit. This I applied towards a slightly played Worldwake Jace, the Mind Sculptor, which was listed at around $121.
- I also shipped some smaller stuff to ABUGames for credit to work towards their Jaces. Included were a played Antiquities Ivory Tower ($13.60), a slightly played Beta Web ($83), and a played Unlimited Gaea's Liege ($21.60). All in the name of acquiring Jaces, though I also did put in an order for a played Zendikar Marsh Flats, listed at $43.19.
- With Card Kingdom, I recently shipped them some low-end stuff to clear out my bulk boxes. Besides a stack of nickels, I included a played The Dark Maze of Ith lying around ($11.05 in credit) and a very good The Dark Elves of Deep Shadow ($2.73). I used the resulting credit to acquire a good Unlimited Lord of the Pit for $14 and a good Unlimited Roc of Kher Ridges for $12. I can choose to buylist these to ABUGames for a sizable increase in credit if I so desire.