Over the past month, I’ve submitted seven separate buylist orders to ABUGames, netting me about $3400 in-store credit. Granted, that $3400 in credit is somewhat inflated, and probably equates about $2400 of cash value. But still, this is a significant increase in activity for me versus the rest of the year.
It used to be that ABUGames’ buy prices on older cards had settled down, their asking prices became overinflated, and cards with attractive prices were perpetually out of stock. Something clearly has changed: I found new ways of leveraging ABUGames’ buylist to spin some arbitrage once again.
If you read on, and you’re willing to be patient and persistent, you can tap into this same opportunity…at least until it disappears.
What to Sell Them
The key to this arbitrage is finding cards that are well-priced on other platforms/sites and selling them to ABUGames for a bump in trade credit. As a rule of thumb, I try to acquire cards for this purpose at a cost of about 60% or less than what ABUGames offers in trade credit. So for example, if I want to flip ABUGames a played Beta Icy Manipulator, I strive to pay less than 60% of $152 ($91.20), which is what ABUGames pays in credit for the card.
Clearly, the hunt for such deals is nontrivial. It takes time and effort. But if you’re willing to do the work, I’m willing to share some of my recent ideas.
First, ABUGames pays best in class for near mint and played Alpha, Beta, and Unlimited cards. They pay so well, in fact, that I was able to acquire a few Alpha commons from Star City Games at 50-60% of ABUGames credit numbers. This includes Frozen Shade, Flashfires, and Regeneration.
Why is ABUGames paying so aggressively on these cards in particular? Beats me. I just know that Star City Games’ “PL” condition often (not always) synced up with ABUGames “NM” condition. The few Alpha “PL” Flashfires I bought for $18 (remember that 10% SCG Premium discount!) could be flipped to ABUGames for $40.85 in store credit. I don’t ask why, I just leverage the opportunity.
I know Alpha cards tend to be thinly stocked. If you’re having trouble finding deals there, I’d recommend exploring played Unlimited rares. They are more plentiful, and can still yield some arbitrage. For instance, I recently purchased a heavily played Unlimited Roc of Kher Ridges and moderately played Unlimited Verduran Enchantress for $4.79 and $10.64, respectively, from TCGplayer. I plan on shipping them both to ABUGames for $7.06 and $19.00 in store credit. The value isn’t quite as strong as my Star City Games Alpha purchase, but it’s solid.
One other strategy I still tap into time and again is buying Alpha and Beta cards from ABUGames’ eBay page and selling back to them for trade credit. This doesn’t always work, especially since now they don’t accept best offers on their listings. But every once in a while you may get lucky, catch a listing without any bids, and can flip them back for a modest gain in credit. You won’t get a 50-60% rate this way, but even 70% discount to ABUGames trade credit can still yield some attractive buys (more on this later).
Lastly, I have also found that ABUGames offers good trade credit value on certain unexciting Reserved List cards. You’re not going to score hugely here, but the small values do add up if you have some Reserved List chaff lying around. For instance, I sent them a Bosium Strip for $4.28 in credit and a played Exorcist for $5.79. I know these are both Reserved List cards and, for this reason, are likely to climb in price gradually over time. But I wanted to activate some value out of my collection for a purchase from ABUGames, and these cards closed the gap nicely.
What to Buy from Them
Hopefully by now, I convinced you that ABUGames pays attractively well on certain, older cards. But you may be wondering what could possibly be worth acquiring from that site—aren’t all their prices overinflated?
They do tend to charge way too much on many hot cards. For example, their near mint price of $729.15 on Mox Diamond seems laughable. And while months ago, played Serra’s Sanctum was a solid pickup from ABUGames at $120.89, their new price of $206.45 is too high to be profitable.
Fortunately, there are pockets of value if you scour their website frequently. Now it’s true that the cards I discuss below are typically out of stock on ABUGames’ site. But if you visit their inventory often enough, you just may catch a restock. You could also try setting up email alerts—this strategy did actually work for me, once.
What did it work on? Judge Promo Demonic Tutor! They restocked three near mint copies of the card and I woke up one morning and saw the email notification. I immediately navigated to ABUGames.com and sure enough, the copies were still there, listed at an attractive price of $127.09! Even if I had to pay that in all cash, this would have been an excellent price compared to TCGPlayer:
But the fact that I could buy these with ABUGames store credit, valued at roughly 70% of the cash price (I didn’t have any arbitrage cards handy), means I paid an effective price of about $90 per copy! I hope to sell these quickly at around $130 each, clearing $40 in profit per copy—not bad for a few minutes of effort setting up an email alert!
Another group of cards I jumped on recently was CE/IE Power 9. These aren’t restocked very often, but I kept checking their site multiple times a day and sure enough, I caught a restock last week. They had put five or six new pieces of CE Power into their inventory. When I saw that, I immediately placed the following order:
Admittedly, these cards are not as great a deal as the Demonic Tutors. But unlike the tutors, these cards I actually want for my collection! As before, I factor in a discount when I calculate how much I effectively paid for these cards. By my estimation, I paid roughly $380 for the Ruby, $350 for the Pearl, and $400 for the Jet. As long as these aren’t too beat up in condition, these are all fantastic prices—CE/IE Power is especially desirable within the Old School community right now. They are fantastic budget alternatives to the real, tournament-legal thing.
If Power is too pricy for you, I’d recommend browsing ABUGames’ other CE/IE cards. They have attractive prices on some (not all) played Dual Lands as well as Wheel of Fortune.
Speaking of Wheel of Fortune, that’s the last card I’ll mention.
Specifically, I found that ABUGames had decent prices on played FBB copies of Wheel of Fortune. I recently picked up a heavily played FBB Italian Wheel for $175.15, which I was able to sell for north of $200. I even grabbed a near mint French FBB Wheel from their site, even though their near mint price of $322.39 wasn’t nearly as good. I just felt like nice FBB Wheels are solid to hold onto given how desirable it is in the EDH community (and the cheapest copies on TCGplayer start at around $290).
Wrapping It Up
I’ve written about ABUGames arbitrage multiple times in the past. They have such a convoluted trade credit system that it’s impossible for them to keep up on appropriate market prices across every card they list on their site. Market fluctuations are too volatile. This inefficiency means opportunity for you.
Again, I must emphasize that the value I’ve been grinding with this strategy has come at a cost: my time. It takes real effort to browse site inventories, compare their prices with ABUGames’, and finding those arbitrage opportunities. But if you’re willing to put in the work (it’s on the magnitude of minutes, not hours), you can also take advantage. Remember, the goal here doesn’t have to be making $100’s or $1000’s in profit. It can be as simple as finding a card you need for a deck and leveraging ABUGames credit arbitrage to make that card a little cheaper.
For example, my most recent purchase from ABUGames was a heavily played Arabian Nights City of Brass. I wanted a copy for play, but this card has been rapidly rising in price and I was afraid it would escape my reach. But then I noticed ABUGames stock a copy for around $290. This isn’t a very good price, but I was fortunate enough to have had some Star City Games Alpha cards coming in the mail for arbitrage. My net cost for the card will likely end up in the $180 range, which is well worth it (TCG low is $245)!
As long as you temper your expectations, accept you won’t make bank every time, and keep your objectives realistic, leveraging ABUGames trade credit arbitrage can be a great way of making your Magic: the Gathering hobby just a little bit cheaper.