Back to Basics

Greetings and welcome back! Before I get started on today’s topic, I’m going to address a few comments I saw on Reddit concerning my last article. A small portion of the comments asked me to be more specific with the picks I shotgunned. I chose cards that I felt were underpriced, were readily available, or otherwise weren’t getting a lot of attention. What I should have stressed with those picks was that there is no timeline on how or when I think those cards are going up. All are playable and should rise over time. A crystal ball I am not. So let me be proactive and ask you, the reader, to please respond in the comments in how I can better serve you with my articles. I really want to foster communication and cooperation. More importantly, I want you to be critical in your decisions and rely on your own logic salted with my advice.

The ABC’s of Picking and Buying a Spec

First and foremost, there are no specs without information. So before any of you decide you want to get into finance, you need to look at how and where you are getting your info. If you are reading articles on this site, you are well ahead of your peers. I first started becoming familiar with Magic finance when I started reading Brian Grewe and Kelly Reid. What I found most appealing was that they provided well-written articles and had great personalities. While I encourage you to start your search through our articles, it is not a bad idea to look at what other writers have to say. A lot of educated people are getting into finance and they often have good advice to impart.

I like using forums and social media because it sometimes makes looking for picks easy. Forums on Quiet Speculation (QS) or Reditt are useful, but I urge caution when acting on cards you see there .You definitely want to do your own research before sinking cash or cards into picks. Remember the saying, “If its on the internet it must be true.” Well, imagine putting your faith in someone else’s spec and hoping they put the same amount of effort into it that you would have. On that same note, I like to look at #mtgfinance on Twitter and the accompanying writers who contribute to see what trends they notice.

Looking at other people’s picks is nice, but I really enjoy doing the research myself. Usually when my wife and I sit down to watch TV or a movie, I will pull out my laptop and start looking at cards just for the fun of it. I usually start by looking at Magic: The Gathering Online (MTGO) results here. Wizards of the Coast (WOTC) publishes decks that do 3-1 or better in many of the online events (these can be found by following any of the links on the right of the linked page). I like to look at the different formats and find cards that are new or just emerging as new “tech.” Outside of access to a professional team, this can be one of the best ways to find cards that everyone will be talking about the week of the big event. On a side note, don’t be fooled by cards that are heavily favored against a certain meta. Budget decks usually thrive on MTGO, so players are willing to test subpar lists just to run good hate.

The fun part about surfing through daily results is that it usually starts me surfing around for card prices to see if there are any good opportunities. Insider access at QS will get you unfettered access to the buyers and sellers on mtg.gg, but if you don’t want to pay, I like the resources at mtgprice.com. This site lets you search for any card and generates a list of all the shops that deals with it. It provides current selling and buying prices and a nifty graph that shows the price history. No reason to buy into a card that looks like it has been stagnant for a couple weeks now! Not wanting to limit myself, I will usually swing by Bidwicket and TCGplayer (TCG) as well. Bidwicket and MTG Price are nice because they both show buy and sell prices but also because they feature sites that are not always listed on TCG. Most big names like Card Kingdom and Star City Games (SCG) aren’t listed on those sites, so it’s nice to just swing by and look at what the “big” guys are charging. True story time: a couple months ago, I was looking at foil [card]Gavony Township[/card]s on TCG and eBay. They were ranging around $10 per copy and I was debating on pulling the trigger because there weren’t too many copies. I decided to buy in for a playset on TCG and then on a whim went to SCG and lo and behold they have three in stock at $5.99 each. Sure enough, I filled my cart, but it taught me that major retailers aren’t always the most expensive.

I do want to mention that looking at live coverage can be helpful but with the caveat that sites are moving away from honoring orders placed on those weekends. So it is less likely that [card]Huntmaster of the Fells[/card] or [card]Master of Waves[/card] will pay your rent unless you’re on it well in advance. I think the only way to benefit from those cards is trading at local events or buying out your game stores before they notice the upward movement.

PayPal, Not the Post Office, is Your Friend

I believe that if you are taking the time to read my articles you are probably a low- to mid-level speculator, so the following advice should be the most applicable to you. The quickest and easiest way for me to out cards is on either eBay, TCG, or Facebook. All have their pros and cons that far more eloquent writers have gone into; instead, allow me to briefly discuss shipping.

When I first started selling on eBay, my biggest headache was shipping costs. There is a very fine line on whether or not to include tracking and then how much to charge for shipping. The motivation to include tracking on eBay was that sellers had virtually no protection if your buyer claimed you had not shipped. After moving to TCG, the situation was somewhat better because you (the seller) are protected to some degree for dollar amounts under $20. The point of this is that if you are a seller on the above sites or you trade cards on Facebook or any web forum, I want to make sure you are paying as little as possible to do so.

All you need is access to a computer and printer and you can save as much as $1 for every card you send out. Start by using your PayPal to create a shipping label through the United States Postal Service. I wasn’t able to find a good link to paste in here without it routing you to my PayPal, but when you log in, enter “ship now,” and the first result will allow you to create labels. I have been buying and selling for a while now so I have a large amount of toploaders and penny sleeves stocked up, but you can find toploaders here and penny sleeves here. Based on volume, you are looking at adding $.10 to .20 per package for both. I lucked out at the dollar store near me and found padded envelopes for $.20 a piece. Not counting your time or the costs of paper and ink, it should run you $.40 in supplies and $1.98 for shipping to send any padded envelope with tracking in the continental US—for a grand total of $2.38. What works the best is that you just slap the label on your envelope, put the envelope in the mail, and forget about it.

While this article wasn’t heavy with picks, I hope I have shed some light on my thought process. I would love to hear from you guys on Twitter at @spellbombftw, Facebook (Justin Waller), or in the comments below. Thank you as always for your time and I look forward to writing the next article.

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