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ABUGames Credit Arbitrage: An Update

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I would have expected the ABUGames credit game would be old news by now, with opportunities long gone. But it seems like at least once a month, someone on the Quiet Speculation Insider Discord is inquiring about cards to buy with trade credit. I know that I, personally, have been grinding this avenue exceptionally hard lately as a way of exiting unplayable Alpha and Beta cards and buying liquid Legacy and Modern staples.

Because this topic is so relevant, garners the interest of many Insiders, and is still my number one strategy for making money in Magic right now, I’m going to revisit the subject again this week. But before closing the window and moving onto the next article, I will emphasize that the theme may be similar, but the specifics are different. What used to work from an ABUGames credit arbitrage standpoint six months ago no longer works.

Therefore, if you have any plans to flip cards to ABUGames for store credit, to be used to buy cards to sell for cash, then stick with this week’s column. The specific ideas here can be directly applied to help you make and save money on Magic immediately.

Now, how’s that for a hook?

Evolving Environment

After grinding the ABUGames trade credit strategy for over a year (90 buylists since they updated their site in March ’18), I would have expected the low-hanging fruit to have disappeared by now. After all, many of the unplayable Alpha, Beta, and Unlimited cards I’ve been shipping them has caused them to reduce their trade credit offers on those very cards.

For example, I used to buy HP Unlimited Two-Headed Giant of Foriys from TCGPlayer for around $36-$38. Then I would promptly ship them to ABUGames for $80 in-store credit—any time you can double your cash into credit, you’re leaving enough margin to turn a profit (remember, ABU credit is worth about 60% cash). After doing this multiple times, ABUGames finally dropped their trade credit offer on HP copies of this card from $80 to $56, closing the window of opportunity.


The other side of the equation also continues to evolve. I used to pick up every Mox Diamond and Mana Crypt that ABUGames listed because their price was attractive relative to the value of their store credit. One could acquire these and sell them for 70% of ABU’s price, meaning copies purchased with store credit could be flipped for a 20% margin, before shipping costs. This window closed quickly, however, and ABUGames caught on by increasing their prices on these two cards. Now the opportunity isn’t nearly as attractive.


Much like a game of whack-a-mole, every time an opportunity closes, another window opens up. And this is precisely why I continue to work the ABUGames trade credit grind week after week, month after month. One day this may become tiring or unproductive. Until then, I expect to be working this avenue to increase the value of my collection little by little.

The Newest Opportunities

While some people like to keep secret their approaches to MTG finance, I am fully transparent. That’s why I’m going to next write about the exact deals I’m finding, where I’m finding them, and how I’m utilizing them to cash out via ABUGames’ store credit.

First, I’ll share my buying ideas. Even though ABUGames continues to drop their buy prices on many Old School cards, some still remain elevated. For example, consider Unlimited Forcefield.


This past week, Card Kingdom reduced their prices on many Unlimited and Beta cards (presumably Alpha as well). As a result of this adjustment, they marked down their HP Unlimited Forcefields to $140. After tax, this amounts to around $150. ABUGames offers $320 in store credit for these—more than double the $150 cost. Perfect!

Here’s another example: Unlimited Scrubland. Card Kingdom dropped their price on this one too. However, you’ll never see them have “Good” copies in stock. The reason: they only charge $160 for these copies, whereas ABUGames offers $348 in store credit on their buylist. Yet another opportunity to double cash into credit on ABU’s site. Even the Very Good copies are worth considering—they are $240 on Card Kingdom’s site, and can be flipped to ABUGames for $475 in-store credit. While not a double, this is still a worthwhile strategy if you can acquire the Scrublands with store credit.

A third Card Kingdom example is Unlimited Raging River. Card Kingdom’s “Good” and “Very Good” prices make for arbitrage: $34 and $50.99, respectively. ABUGames pays $80 and $104 in store credit for HP and Played copies. Both of these cases can mean a double-up, and when using Card Kingdom store credit to make the acquisition, the deal is even more attractive!

If Card Kingdom isn’t your preferred site, then consider browsing TCGPlayer stock for other opportunities. Every time they offer sales or larger cashback bonuses, it’s your chance to run the arbitrage method. One specific example is Arabian Nights City of Brass. There’s a “Damaged” copy in stock sold by Channel Fireball (this usually means HP) for $189.99. Combine this with a 7% cashback offer, and your net buy price could be around $177. ABUGames pays $333.60 in credit for HP copies of the card—it’s not quite a double, but it’s pretty close!

New Ways to Exit ABU Credit

Now we have multiple ways (and there are many more) to acquire ABUGames store credit for $0.50 on the dollar. Great, now what?

Fortunately finding ways to exit ABUGames store credit is even easier than finding ways to acquire it cheaply! Right now my favorite target is Mox Opal.


Their played copies are the most attractively priced. You can get played Scars of Mirrodin copies for $125 and Modern Masters 2015 copies for $131. TCG low for moderately played copies is in the $95-$100 range, meaning these should sell fairly quickly if priced in the high $80’s. Spending $130 in credit on a card that sells for $88 equates to a 67% cash-out rate of ABU credit. Therefore, credit acquired at $0.50 on the dollar can be converted to cards that sell for $0.67 on the dollar—the difference (17%) is your profit margin before shipping.

ABUGames is always sold out of Mox Opals because people acquire them as soon as they’re listed. But they do restock from time to time. Keep watch and eventually, you’ll get lucky.

One card that’s even more attractive to acquire with ABU credit is Sword of Feast and Famine. The Modern Event Deck copy is listed at around $65 for those in Near Mint condition. The Market price is $60, and you should have little trouble selling this hot card for $50. That’s a 77% conversion of credit to cash, one of the best I’ve found on ABUGames’ site! Even the Mirrodin Besieged copies are worth grabbing for $82 in-store credit, though acquiring played copies for $65 is even more attractive.


Other targets I frequently browse include the following: heavily played and played Dual Lands (namely Scrubland, Savannah, and Tundra, played Force of Wills, played Power Artifacts, played Transmute Artifacts, Giver of Runes, played Chalice of the Voids, Sword of Fire and Ice, and Sword of Light and Shadow. How’s that for actionable?

This list should give you a starting point on how I exit ABUGames store credit most profitably. There are of course other cards to investigate, but hopefully, this list gives you enough of an idea of the types of cards worth looking for. Don’t forget, played copies are the key because ABU’s markdown from near mint to played is often larger than what the market dictates. A large markdown makes perfect sense on Alpha and Beta cards, but Modern players looking for cheap Batterskulls don’t necessarily care if their cards have a little play to them.

Wrapping It Up – and a Word of Caution

One of my favorite ways of leveraging ABUGame’s buylist has nothing to do with arbitrage. Their site is simply a great way of unloading cards that are difficult to sell. After leaving MagicFest Indianapolis a couple weeks ago I was left with a smattering of Alpha and Beta cards that no vendor wanted (at least, not at the numbers I had hoped for). I tried selling them on the Old School Discord, but most were ignored. ABUGames, of course, took them all.

Sometimes I’ll ship failed specs to ABUGames too. When I realized the wait time on some Modern Horizons foils would take longer than I had anticipated, I liquidated to ABUGames. Their trade credit on foil Morophon was was in the $70’s at the time (it has since dropped). They also received my foil Serra the Benevolent. Even though the conversion to credit isn’t ideal in these circumstances, it at least gives you a chance to convert the slow-moving cards into something more liquid.


Before closing, however, there’s one word of caution I need to emphasize. That is around ABU’s grading—recently, they have become very strict with grading. Make sure you examine ABU’s grading guide closely before going down this path. Otherwise, you may be surprised by some downgrades, eroding profits. Sometimes the resulting trade credit from a downgrade is still acceptable; other times, your profits evaporate entirely.

The more buffer you can build into your trades (i.e. the better the return), the less the downgrades will hurt. Remember, if you disagree with a downgrade you can always ask them to ship the card back. Just make sure it’s a card you actually want to keep (or can sell somehow). You wouldn’t want to be left holding a stack of heavily played Unlimited Two-Headed Giant of Foriys because moving them would be a major pain!

As long as you take this pitfall into account, ABUGames remains an excellent avenue to growing value in your collection. By leveraging the targets in this article, you’ll be exactly mimicking my own strategy these past few weeks. As long as the strategy works, I’ll continue the grind into the foreseeable future!

Sigbits

  • Once I saw Forcefield was marked down on Card Kingdom’s site, I immediately grabbed three “Good” copies they had in stock. After doing so, the card showed up on their hotlist with a $170 buy price. Shortly thereafter someone else must have bought copies because their buy price subsequently jumped to $210. Personally I think their markdown on this card was too severe.
  • The same can probably be said for Beta Lightning Bolt. I can’t say with certainty that they dropped their sell price on the card last week, but my hunch is they did. I say this because, out of nowhere, the card is appearing on their hotlist now with a $180 buy price. I suspect they dropped their price and started selling copies quickly, hence the need to restock.
  • Jace, the Mind Sculptor has been on the rise on Card Kingdom’s buylist again. Now they pay $105 for Worldwake They offer only $80 for FtV copies and $85 for Masters 25 copies, but these prices are always fluctuating.

 

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