Magic trading and finance is full of buzzwords, but the one you absolutely need to know is "Spread."
The spread is the difference between what dealers will sell the card to you for (aka, its retail price) and what dealers will buy the card from you for (the buylist price). It can be expressed as either a dollar number or a percentage. Here's an example.
Card A can be bought for $9.57 at TCGMid price. A dealer will pay you $8.00 for your copy. The spread is $1.57 in difference, or a 16% spread. You can calculate the spread by this simple math: [retail price] minus [buylist price] and then divide by [retail price].
The spread is the most direct measure of how popular a card is on the market. That's because if a dealer knows that a card will easily sell, he or she can pay more for buylist copies because there's a ready market. On the other hand, most cards have a high spread because few people want them.
You can calculate the spread manually or you can load up Trader Tools, which will do it for you. You can look up any card in Magic and find out how popular it is.
Here are some other quick ways to use the Spread:
- Most dealers price their cards to have a 40% spread (whether they know they're doing it or not). Cards with a spread lower than 40% are worth paying attention to.
- Cards with a low spread are often good to hold onto because they are primed to rise in value.
- You can trade a $10 card for someone else's $10 card and it looks fair on paper - but if your card has a lower spread (higher buylist price) you've still made a trade that benefits you.
- You can sort sets in Trader Tools to find cards with the lowest spread.
- Sometimes, a card has a negative spread and that's exciting because it's free money! You can buy that card from one store and sell it to another's buylist. This is where paying attention to the dollar value of a card's spread is essential so you are focusing on big dollar sales. This is a form of arbitrage.