Life Lessons on Collectibles, Pt. 3 (2012-2022)

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Hi, and welcome back to Life Lessons on Collectibles, a series detailing my personal history collecting and trading cards. Today's is the final installment in this series. If you would like to read the first two parts, you can find them here and here.

I started writing for Quiet Speculation at the very tale end of 2012. A friend of mine and another local player was also a writer and he introduced me to QS and here I am still writing ten years later. This new path caused me to rethink how I spent money on Magic. I had already learned it was smarter to buy singles than boxes, but I had always purchased cards from stores. I began to branch out and look for local collections.

Lesson learned: The best way to build a collection is to buy other collections.

I started playing Legacy back in 2012 when a friend of mine sent me a Dark Confidant as a congratulations card for finding a new job. I fell in love with the format and started picking up all the staples. I got my 40 dual lands buying on eBay, shopping the SCG heavy play section at various GPs, and trading bulk rares to a gentlemen based out of Atlanta. I was blown away that I could trade him all these bad cards for dual lands. However, what I failed to realize was that I was essentially trading my cards at their cash value for his duals at his sell value. I am sure I also gave him cards worth more than bulk without knowing it.

After trading at multiple venues, I finally started investigating bulk rates and realized that I would rather be the one picking up bulk rather than trading it off. I became the "bulk guy" in our area and people come to me when they want to sell off bulk. A large portion of my online store's inventory is cards I picked out of bulk and ones that used to be bulk but rose up in price.

Lesson learned: Trading cards for bulk is a great way to build up a store inventory.

I began my foray into the Legacy format with GW Maverick as Savannah was the cheapest dual land and most of the deck was pretty cheap back then. I loved the deck, but it did feel like an uphill battle against any unfair decks. Once Disciple of Griselbrand was printed, I felt like every opponent was playing either UB Reanimator or Sneak and Show, and I got tired of losing so I joined them. I built UB Reanimator and played that almost exclusively for a good bit.

Then I was introduced to the UW Miracles deck and truly fell in love. The deck just felt like it had a good matchup against every top tier deck and required a good bit of skill to pilot. I was rewarded for practicing a lot, and managed to take down a 40+ person Legacy event with the deck.

I began picking up every other Legacy staple with a goal of being able to build any deck I wanted. This was a pretty aggressive goal and I put a lot of time and effort into trading for these staples. My biggest pickup was an Italian The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale so that I could play the Lands deck if I wanted to. I was really excited to get the last piece of the deck and built it in one night to play against friends the next day. I ended up hating the deck, and took it apart that night.

Lesson learned : Before investing heavily into a deck, make sure you enjoy it.

For about a year of my life, I was playing Magic every night of the week except Mondays. I played Modern, Legacy, Standard, and Commander (then called EDH). I look back on those times with a lot of nostalgia, but even then I knew there was still more to life than Magic. One might even say I was addicted to playing Magic during that time. I would listen to old Pro Tour coverage while at work and be thinking of deck ideas when I should have been paying attention to friends and family.

It's a phenomenal game that I will always love and it has done a lot for me, but I can also say it doesn't hold a candle to spending time with close ones. You won't remember the results from every FNM, but your family will remember all the Fridays you weren't around.

Lesson learned: enjoy your hobbies, but don't get consumed by them.

When TCGPlayer began to allow non brick and mortar stores to sell on their platform I opened up a store. I had a fair number of specs that had gone up considerably in value since I had acquired them, but buylists were often barely above my buy-in price, which meant that my efforts would prove fruitless. This was honestly a game-changer and caused me to start creating my own buylists, posting them in Facebook groups, letting local players know I could offer competitive prices on many cards that would beat all the game stores in the area, though admittedly much of that has to do with how poorly most of our LGS's paid for cards at the time.

I was very successful initially. However, as others in the area began to realize that it was a profitable business, my competition began to heat up, and I found people buying collections posted on local groups in a matter of hours instead of days. I reduced my profit margins by upping my buy prices some, but I built up a spread sheet to help me establish buy prices, and I know what I'll actually get from selling a card after all fees and shipping costs are taken into account. I am very open with potential sellers about this, which has let me build up a small group of people who choose to sell to me over others.

Lesson learned: There is a lot of competition in Magic selling, so establish a system and act with good morals and you'll do fine.

This last lesson is one I had to come to terms with recently. I had seen my sales begin to decline in the past few months, and chalked it up to the typical summer doldrums. However, I had added a fair amount of typically liquid cards back in May, and almost none had sold.

Anyone who sells on TCGPlayer can see their current "Inventory Total," or the number of cards you have listed on the site. It is easy to fall into the belief that having a larger inventory will automatically mean more sales. My inventory size had grown since January, but sales had dropped, which is when I began to run the "Price Differential Report" (which you can find under the Reports Tab) and found that a great deal of my inventory was priced 20%+ higher than the going rate.

Lesson learned: Your actual sellable inventory is heavily tied to your prices. Cards that aren't priced aggressively aren't going to sell, as price is the key decision factor for most people.

Wrap Up

Wrapping up this series is a bit bittersweet. I realize it was only 3 articles, but looking back on so many memories has allowed me to wax nostalgic, which is something I have truly enjoyed doing. Hopefully, that some of my life lessons were helpful to you. I believe the best mistakes to learn from are those made by others, as it saves you the pain of making them yourself. If you have any life lessons related to Magic, please feel free to share them in the comments below.

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