Here we are. Just a few short days away from the big Magic 30 celebration in Las Vegas. I experienced a moment of excitement when I initially signed up to attend the event. Jumping in the Discord and on Twitter, I “shouted from the rooftops” that I would be attending in the hopes I’d receive a slew of responses. To my surprise, the response I received was anti-climactic. Sadly, only a couple of people even acknowledged the announcement. Engagement regarding the event since then has—at best—only trickled in. This left me wondering whether the event will be all that it’s chalked up to be.
Now that it’s just over the horizon, my anticipation is starting to rebound in a major way. I’m seeing more interaction on Twitter and Discord, and my confidence in a rewarding and entertaining experience has been restored. While my declaration didn’t receive as much engagement as I had hoped, I have seen other Twitter personalities recently announce their participation. I recognize that I’m a very small fish in the Magic community pond, but I still hope to get to meet some of these awesome people!
Since this is a finance column, I want to spend some time highlighting some interesting observations I’ve made (along with the input of others) about the selling opportunities—a major priority for my time in Las Vegas.
Finding the Vendor List
I could be convinced without much effort that the vendor list at Magic 30 may not be Wizards of the Coast’s priority. They’re so focused on the professional-level tournament scheduled to take place, the array of side events, the artists and cosplayers scheduled to be onsite, and the special guests slated to attend in person.
Perhaps that is why finding the actual vendor list—the list of Magic shops that will be on-site buying cards from attendees—has been so elusive. For example, I started with a simple Google search: “Magic 30 Las Vegas Vendors.”
You can see from the purple lettering how much I’ve already surfed around the interwebs looking for this information, to no avail. It seems any search I enter that includes “Magic 30” yields the same hits above. I don’t want to buy tickets and the event details links don’t contain an obvious link to the vendor list. What gives?
I tried adjusting my search for “Magic 30 Las Vegas Exhibitors.” The top hit is some sort of spam website that has nothing to do with the event. The second hit: a Reddit post!
It turns out Reddit is the best source for the information I’m looking for. I clicked the four-day-old link and it brought me right to a Reddit post containing a link to the vendor list!
Breaking Down the Vendor List
Now that I found the vendor list, it’s time to scan it for prospective buyers. In total, I count 29 vendors listed on the site. That sounds like a ton, but how many of these are actually going to be buying Magic cards? Additionally, I’m looking to sell a smattering of Old School cards—that is, primarily cards from Beta, Arabian Nights, Legends, and Antiquities. Not every vendor is going to be paying aggressively for such cards because of their local game scene. It takes a certain kind of player group to move these kinds of cards.
With that backdrop in mind, I glanced at every vendor on the list and counted how many I think might be a buyer of at least some of the cards in my collection.
I can rule out a handful of them off the bat:
- Brain Dead is a creative collective of artists and designers; not likely to be buying
- CGC is a grading service
- Coalesce Apparel + Design is likely to be selling some apparel, I’d guess
- Extra Life is a fundraising program
- Heritage Auctions is a commissioning service to auction high-end cards (not interested)
- Judge Academy is an educational institution to train judges
- RockLove Jewelry will be selling beautiful jewelry (seriously, some of it looks really cool)
- Ryan Pancoast is an illustrator, so I don’t think he’ll be buying
- Ultra PRO sells sleeves, binders, and supplies
Out of the 29 vendors, 9 of them, nearly one-third, won’t really be engaging in singles at all.
That’s OK, there are still twenty other potential vendors to sell to, right? Maybe.
Taking a closer look at the remaining 20 vendors, those who may be buying cards while in Las Vegas, I’m not sure I’ve heard of a good number of them. Granted I’m not the most well-traveled Magic player, but you start to recognize some of the most common vendors at these events. Some of them are certainly on there, including Star City Games, CoolStuffInc, Tales of Adventure, Mana Leak, Pink Bunny Games, Strike Zone, and Card Kingdom.
Others, I think, are smaller-scale shops local to a given region in the United States. I’m not going to call out a vendor in particular—take a look at the list yourself, and you’ll see what I mean.
I fully expect all of these shops to be buying while in Las Vegas, but I don’t know what kind of resources they’ll have on hand to make purchases. I haven’t been to a large event in years, but I remember in 2015 many vendors onsite at Grand Prix Las Vegas ran out of cash before the weekend was out. This event could be even larger and there will be fewer vendors present buying cards.
In the spirit of Las Vegas, I'm betting that most vendors will run out of cash before the weekend is done. Because of this consideration, will these vendors be particularly interested in buying my Alpha Northern Paladin or Beta Lord of the Pit?
Expensive cards like these are awfully niche—they’re valuable because of their rarity and iconic nature, but they don’t fly out of vendors’ binders. I wonder if many vendors in attendance will instead be focusing on more liquid acquisitions, such as Commander staples, Fetch Lands, and Dual Lands. Which do you think is more likely to fly off the shelf?
This may lead to some vendors offering lower numbers than what online shops offer. Others may be inclined to pass on my collection altogether. I guess if Star City Games is there, I’m guaranteed to find at least one prospective buyer. Unfortunately, Star City Games (along with Card Kingdom) don’t pay as aggressively on Old School cards these days. This means I may have to either settle for lower numbers or else find an alternate means of selling cards.
The more I write in this week’s article, the easier it is to become pessimistic about my selling prospects in Las Vegas. Attendance is likely to be unprecedented (despite being capped), the number of large- and mega-cap vendors may be smaller than previous events of this magnitude, and on top of all that the economy is not the healthiest.
These factors all contribute to a buyers’ market. Perhaps it’s not the best event to be a net seller?
I’m not going that far! In fact, I’m still highly optimistic about a successful (and potentially lucrative) event. The sheer size of the event itself tells me how healthy the game of Magic remains. What’s more, vendors are going to restock their inventory in a big way; there will be plenty of buying! While I don’t expect to see many Arabian Nights or Beta cards on vendor hotlists in Las Vegas, I can confidently say my collection will not mirror that of many others. While vendors are staring down at the umpteenth binder containing Fetch Lands and Commander cards, mine will at least stand out for its unique contents.
Will that interest many vendors there? Definitely not. But in previous events, I’ve always managed to find one or two vendors who are interested in picking up Old School staples. Why should this year be any different? If these vendors run out of cash, I’m also open-minded to trade-ins. While I’m cutting down significantly on my collection, I’m certainly not abandoning the game altogether. There will certainly be cards on my want list while I’m cruising all these vendors' booths this weekend.
Wrapping It Up
The name of the game for this weekend will be flexibility, prioritization, and opportunity. As I shop my collection around to the various dealer booths, I will maintain these three ideas in mind:
- I will be flexible in my willingness to trade cards if vendors are out of cash but still offer attractive numbers on my cards.
- I will prioritize what I want to sell, and to which vendor before heading to the event, so that I can hopefully maximize my chances of selling cards for solid numbers and for cash.
- I will keep in mind that it is awfully convenient to sell cards in person for cash—especially when those cards’ values are highly condition-dependent. The ability to sell a card immediately for cash without worrying about shipping it, fearing downgrade penalties, and risking a package getting lost means I should be more willing to accept slightly lower numbers than what I would receive online.
Of course, I’ll do my best to negotiate while on site; when progress is being made, I enjoy the dance. However, I will be especially pragmatic at this event because I recognize the dynamic of the current market environment (recent softness in prices), the magnitude of the event, and the value of convenience.
With this mindset and my game plan going in, I hope to have a successful trip to Las Vegas. If you’re also looking to sell there, first of all, please reach out to me so we can meet up in person while there! Secondly, I hope you can apply some of this same mentality to ensure your own success.