I try to monitor pricing trends closely when it comes to the cards in my collection. This is especially important when values are volatile and the market is adjusting to rising or falling demand. As I’ve written in the past, I tend to use Card Kingdom’s buylist, sell prices, and inventory as my guide for predicting trends. If Card Kingdom sells out of a card, they’ll up their buy price, and this usually correlates to a general increase in market price.
This obsession I have with Card Kingdom’s prices can be a double-edged sword. It’s obviously helpful to know what my cards are worth and what direction their prices are heading. But there’s a tortuous component to the perpetual monitoring of trends. Beyond the time sink this activity entails, I also experience a roller coaster of emotions each time I see a change. I’ve been trying hard to keep certain mantras in mind to calm my nerves.
If this sounds melodramatic, allow me to explain further.
A Tale of Two Cards
Because card prices are so dynamic, it is nearly impossible to identify the best time to sell a card—particularly to Card Kingdom. This is even more relevant as a card climbs to new all-time highs, and there is no price memory to help inform a “good price”. Sell too soon, and you miss out on further gains. Hold a card too long, and you may end up getting less for the card after a sudden price adjustment lower.
I’ll illustrate this point with two personal examples.
A year or so ago I picked up a lightly played Acid Rain, a Reserved List card with niche utility (mostly out of the sideboard) and not much else to boast.
Like most Reserved List cards, this one had thinning inventory and I was starting to feel the sense of FOMO kicking in. While I didn’t have any immediate uses for the card, I appreciate the artwork and the card’s color-shifting of Tsunami. I found a copy near the “old price” (I want to say it cost me about $50-$60) and I snatched it up.
The card sat in my collection for months as it slowly ticked higher in price. It seemed like each time I browsed Card Kingdom’s Legends buy prices, Acid Rain was slightly higher. When its buy price hit $100 I thought to myself, “Surely this is it. The peak.” But I still cherished the card’s flavor and artwork enough to hold onto it. I’m fortunate I did, because the card kept climbing and now buylists for $195! At this price point, I couldn’t justify holding the card anymore (especially in a market environment where card prices have gone a little soft). I was rewarded for holding tight to the card.
On the other hand, let’s talk briefly about that Alpha Nether Shadow that has plagued me of late. If you missed my previous article, I sold this card on eBay for about $800 only to have it returned to me because the buyer claimed it was clipped Beta and not genuinely Alpha. Upon further inspection and after checking with an Alpha expert, I concluded the card is in fact from Alpha.
Anyways, a few months ago I was very close to selling the card to Card Kingdom’s buylist—they were paying $1200 for near mint copies, so I expected to get $720 for my copy if it was to be graded very good. A very nice exit point for the card. But I was still attached to it and I noticed how Alpha rares had been disappearing from the market, so I hung onto it. Then Card Kingdom restocked a copy of the card, and they dropped their buy price to $1000. Then they dropped it to $950. Then $900. Now a very good copy of the card would fetch me $540, which is $180 less than before!
In this case, I was punished for waiting (and even more so for trying to sell it on eBay first). Patience was the wrong choice, and I should have acted more opportunistically by realizing Card Kingdom’s buy price was temporarily too high.
But How Can You Tell?!
This is the ultimate question. How can you tell that a card’s buy price, particularly on Card Kingdom’s site (though this also works for ABUGames on a slower time scale), is a little too aggressive? I don’t have the ultimate answer because I don’t know the algorithms these large vendors use to price their cards. But I do have a couple of ideas.
First and foremost, we need to put the emotions of the situation aside. Trying to sell a card at the absolute peak is akin to trying to time the stock market—it just doesn’t work. As long as you’re happy with the price you’re getting on a card, you should sell with confidence. Always remember that missed gains are not the same as a loss, and should not be interpreted as such. I know this is easier said than done, but it’s a fundamental mindset one should keep when dealing in any sort of asset trading/investing.
Once this mindset is established, the next step is to decipher if a card’s buy price is indeed aggressive. To do this, I leverage the data available to me on other websites. I start with TCGplayer, checking out recently sold listings and current listings. If I can sell a card to Card Kingdom for the same amount it costs me to buy a copy on TCGplayer, then the sale is a no-brainer.
This doesn’t occur so often; in reality, I’m even content to sell a card for 20% below TCGplayer’s price point (for a given condition). For one, there are no fees selling this way. But also, your sale is guaranteed and instantaneous—no need to wait impatiently for that email indicating you’ve made a sale. In cases where data on TCGplayer is spotty, I also research eBay’s completed listings and other buylists to make a similar comparison. Again, if the data looks like selling to Card Kingdom gets me to within 20% of what selling elsewhere would net me, I’m tempted to cash out.
This isn’t just about getting the same amount buylisting versus selling on eBay or TCGplayer. The other reason I make this comparison is because, as Card Kingdom’s buy price approaches market price, there’s a higher chance of them restocking copies and dropping their buy price. As market price and Card Kingdom’s buy price get closer, someone is bound to cash out, even if you decide not to.
In a way, this is almost like a game of chicken: the first person to blink cashes out, sells their copies to Card Kingdom, and they drop their buy price accordingly. An example of this (admittedly on a much smaller scale) is what happened recently with Ruin Crab.
I had about 60 copies of the card that I bought for around $0.25 to $0.50 each when Zendikar Rising first came out. I had a feeling it would be a money uncommon from the set, much like Hedron Crab. I watched Card Kingdom’s buylist closely, and one day they upped their offer to $1 a copy. That was my exit price target, and I shipped them every last copy before anyone else could jump on the opportunity.
After receiving so many copies of the card, Card Kingdom rightfully dropped their buy price. Even now, a couple months later, they are still only offering $0.33 a copy ($0.60 for the showcase variant). Their buy price became so attractive that someone took advantage (in this case it was me), and their buy price hasn’t recovered since.
This underscores the importance of acting quickly when you decide to sell out to a buylist. If a buy price looks too good to be true, it probably is. If you don’t sell the vendor copies, someone else will, and that attractive buy price will correct lower again.
This is why, all things considered, I tend to err on the side of selling. If I’m happy with a buy price, I take my cash and move on even if the card’s price has potential to climb higher. I try to keep an exit price point in my mind for a card I’m looking to sell, and if that price target is met, I ship the card without looking back.
Actually, that’s not completely true. I do look back. I still browse Card Kingdom’s buy prices and I can’t help but notice when a card I ship climbs even higher. But with the mindset I mentioned earlier, I calm my frustrated inner voice and remind myself that nobody ever went bankrupt selling for a profit. I should appreciate the money I made and move on.
Wrapping It Up
It can be rewarding to earn that profit on a Magic card after holding it for a period of time. After some suboptimal experiences with selling on eBay, I prefer selling my cards to buylists more than ever before. The hassle-free, instant sales are hard to pass up, especially when a vendor’s buy price is so close to what I can get on a card after fees anyway.
Since I choose buylists as my primary method of selling, it’s critical I monitor trends, picking my exit points deliberately. This leads to inevitable situations where I cash out of a card only to see its buy price climb farther and farther. It can be frustrating, but this is where I need to keep my emotions in check. If I’m happy with the price I exited at, I must not look at a missed gain as a source of disappointment. Timing the market is a fool’s errand—if you’re only happy cashing out at the peak, you’re going to be a miserable investor.
Believe me: it’s much worse to hold onto a card and watch its buy price drop than it is to sell a card and then watch its buy price climb. In the latter scenario, you still exited at a price you were presumably happy with. With the former, you’re left holding the back wondering why you didn’t make the sale. That happened to me many times before and it’s a much worse feeling.
This is why it’s so important to pick your price points, leverage other sources of pricing data, and make your decision to cash out when it makes sense to you. That’s the best advice I can give, and I hope it stays in the back of your mind as you navigate the dynamic environment that is Card Kingdom’s buylist!