Meticulous Record Keeping
Since starting my TCGPlayer store back in 2019, I have been pretty meticulous with my record keeping. I believe there is a lot of value in my sales data and by tracking every sale I can get a good picture of how to move forward with my operation. One of the big challenges with larger amounts of data is how one utilizes it. This is one reason I like to do these articles. It forces me to comb through my data and learn from it. You can learn a good bit about your customer base by taking a 10,000-foot view of your overall yearly sales. However, I will be the first to admit that some data can be subject to one's own confirmation bias, which I will discuss in due time.
Year by Year Comparison
2020 was a banner year for sales. It isn't all that surprising given the fact that here in the US, many people were stuck at home for a good part of it. In addition, there was a period of time in which all the major retailers were closed, thus people who wanted cards flocked to TCGPlayer and orders poured in. This isn't to say I nor anyone else was glad about a pandemic, definitely the opposite, but circumstances still brought card sales to a new high for many of us. That being said, I did not expect 2021 to even come close in overall sales, and yet, as of me writing this, I am within 1% of matching 2020. Both years are a good 40% above 2019. I think overall sales can be misleading though. If one also had a lot of expenditures, the overall profits could be worse. For that reason, I divided my expenditures by sales to get an idea of what sort of inventory costs I had in the past three years.
This is a great trend as it implies my overall Magic expenses are heavily trending downward while sales have trended up. It is important to note that in early 2019 I was buying up a lot of Ultimate Masters reprints that were Commander and Modern staples as speculation targets. The Commander ones like Phyrexian Altar were big winners, but the modern ones like Noble Hierarch, Through the Breach, and Goryo's Vengeance have all lost value. I believe some of that loss is heavily influenced by a lack of in-person modern events, and once those start up again demand will likely drive prices up somewhat.
Whenever I sell a card I include the format it is most likely being purchased for. This allows me to gauge what formats have been most successful to me sales-wise. That said, there is a danger of confirmation bias as I do tend to shift purchases towards the formats that are proving to be bigger sellers, thus potentially skewing the future sales data towards those formats. I have also had to step back from playing the more competitive formats so I shifted my inventory towards Commander, as it is the format I play the most now. My sales percentage by formats were:
Modern - 20%
Standard - 2%
Old School -2%
If I compare those percentages to 2020
Commander - -4%
Modern - + 10%
Standard - -1%
Legacy - + 1%
Pioneer - -7%
Old School - +1%
I was quite surprised to see that Commander sales percentage was down and Modern was actually up significantly. Stores opening up and offering tournaments again could explain the Modern growth. The collapse of Pioneer sales is likely due to waning interest. Many of my sales from 2020 were prior to the lockdowns, while the format itself was still in its infancy, thus interest was high and people were buying lots of staples to establish a card pool.
Looking at the data trends themselves, I will likely avoid buying any more Legacy or Pioneer staples in the near future. They just haven't been selling for me. I only have so much money to sink into inventory. One can only afford a small percentage of "stagnant" inventory, which I define as both cards that aren't selling, and cards I do not want to sell at this time, such as speculation targets.
Another important note is that much of my sales in 2021 were of cards purchased in other years. Normally when I buy a collection, I list the majority of it near TCGPlayer Low to try to recoup my investment. I know the typical profit margin I will make on any given card so I can comfortably say that a lot of this year's sales were of cards purchased in previous years since I only had four collection buys this year.
Future Outlook and Conclusion
Sales for the year were good, though I have burned through a lot of older inventory and have not been able to acquire as much this year. This implies that unless I can get a more steady stream of new inventory, sales may be down for 2022.
Overall, 2021 has been a good year for me. I finally found a job I love, am enjoying a much shorter commute, and get to spend more time with my family. I hope that all of you get to enjoy your holidays and get to relax a bit after what is often a very stressful season in all of our lives. As of my submission of this article, I am $5 shy of matching last year's total sales and I expect I will make and exceed that in the last remaining days of 2021. I look forward to 2022 and the new opportunities it will bring.