Conjured Currency #40: Lessons from Grand Prix New Jersey

Grand Prix New Jersey has come and gone, and it was certainly an event to remember. With 4,003 people playing in the main event, Magic players have proven once again that Legacy is not a dead format. MTG even finally managed to beat Farm Simulator 2015 on Twitch, reaching over 15,000 viewers at its peak. But I’m not here to tell you which deck won, how many copies of [card]Treasure Cruise[/card] were in the top eight, or how many copies of [card]Forked Bolt[/card] you should be selling at $4 right now (hint: all of them). That information is just a Google search away. Today, I’m going to explain to you my methodology while buying/selling/trading, my first-hand experience with the vendors on site, and why you should tie a balloon to your backpack the next time you walk into a convention center containing 5,000 people. Let’s get to it.

Wheeling and Dealing

After suffering through the six-hour drive from Upstate New York, I arrived at the Expo Center at approximately 11:00 a.m. After saying hello to a few friends, my first order of business was to stop by every on-site vendor, pick up a copy of their printed-out buylists (if they had one), and quickly skim through the binders. Some vendors have multiple binders off to the side where they mass price random EDH/casual stuff that doesn’t deserve to be in the high-end display case. This is a great place to pick up things that have crept up recently (I found a foil [card]Kuldotha Forgemaster[/card] for $5), or grab the weird foils you’ve been missing for EDH.

Anyway, step two is to bunker down with your multiple sheets of homework, grab a pen, and circle/star/whatever you need to do to mark off prices for cards that look acceptable. I managed to throw all of mine away in my infinite wisdom, but I think you get the picture without having to actually have a picture. Circle the boxes that say, “[card]Voice of Resurgence[/card]: $12,” and stay away from the boxes that say “[card]Polukranos, the World Eater[/card]: $4.” Once that’s done, dig through your binders for the cards, and separate them by store. You save a ton of time (both yours, the vendors, and the people that would’ve been waiting in line while you sat at the table) by doing this.

“But DJ, what about the stores that don’t have printed out buylists?” Honestly, I usually stay away from the stores that don’t have a physical copy. You only have so much time in a weekend, and I’m not going to sit down at the table just to say “no” to 80 percent of the cards and prices they name. There are certain exceptions to this rule, though; LegitMTG at Grand Prix Philadelphia had a promise to honor every single other paper buylist on site unless their prices were “unreasonably high,” and I was perfectly happy to just give them everything. Some promise to match their online buylist in person, and others are well known to buy specific types of cards (like bulk) for a high price. Still, a few quick questions should determine whether you want to sit down at their table or not.

Individual Vendor Review

My first stop of the weekend was CoolStuffInc. The name might sound familiar to you, because you’ve probably heard Marcel telling you to show your support to them. I’ve always had an amazing experience with unloading casual gems to CoolStuff, and Jersey was no exception. They took stuff like [card]Fabled Hero[/card] at quarters, [card]Essence Warden[/card]s for $.50, [card]Rancor[/card]s for $.75, and all of my Ravnica bounce lands for $.10. It doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up over time. The dealer that handled my buy was very friendly, and we talked a bit about the weird cards that I was selling (also getting $.50 for [card]Congregation at Dawn[/card] that I used in the stupid [card]Skill Borrower[/card] deck was great). He was also happy to pick through several thousand bulk rares and pull out the cards that he would buy for higher than bulk, keeping my cards in order when I told him they were alphabetized. Overall, I highly recommend CoolStuffInc when getting rid of the casual gems and near-bulk cards that I talk about all the time in this column. Very personable, great prices on a specific niche of the market, and a fast transaction. 10/10, highly recommend.

After CoolStuff, I noticed that GamingEtc was having a deal on Monster binders. These binders normally go for between $30 and 35 on most retail sites, and many vendors on location were unloading them for $25. GamingEtc took it one step further, and created a bunch that had their logo on them, dropping the price on these to $20. I’m perfectly fine being a walking label if it means I can get supplies for cheaper (even if you for some reason hate GamingEtc, three minutes and a roll of duct tape can solve your internal crisis), so I had my target. At the same time, the store was offering $.50 cash for any NM bulk mythic, with a 25 percent trade-in bonus. I counted out all of my [card]Malignus[/card]es, [card]Tree of Redemption[/card]s, and [card]Champion of Stray Souls[/card]s, and dumped them all on the table (metaphorically), walking away with five new binders and a small wad of cash. Considering I buy bulk mythics for $.25 a piece, it was a great way to stock up on supplies for very little buy-in.

binders2

Next up was a certain famous (or infamous, depending on your past experiences) store that has built quite the reputation throughout the community, StrikeZoneOnline. The abridged version of my experiences with this vendor have always been, “Don’t mail cards to them, but always stop by and sell things to them in person.” This past weekend, I managed to sell a [card]Sublime Archangel[/card] to them for $7, original [card]Grim Lavamancer[/card]s for $5, and a few other nice deals that were oddly close to retail. Normally, I ask them to skim through my binder for odd foils. I remember buylisting a foil [card]Sorin Markov[/card] for practically retail, and was hoping the same would happen this weekend. Unfortunately, I was told that, “If it’s not on our paper buylist, we don’t want it at all this weekend.” That also meant that they wouldn’t honor their online buylist, which I was really hoping would be the case. I guess they wanted to save their cash to grab up dual lands and Legacy staples, but it left me not being able to execute my plan of action. My recommendation going forward is to still stay away from mailing cards (they’re much harsher grading when you’re not sitting across the table from them), and only plan on selling cards that are on their list when you pick it up.

After SZO was a store called Card Advantage. After hearing about issues with them not honoring their paper buylist in person, I wanted to see for myself. I pulled my cards from my binders that were on their hot list, and they honored their prices without giving me any trouble. Getting $3 per Thalia was more than what I was trying to get in my display case back home, so their hot list was definitely worth picking up and scrolling through. In addition to having great prices on certain cards, the people behind the booth (@amistod and @zachsellsmagic on Twitter) were very personable and nice to talk to, which wasn’t true with every vendor that I visited over the weekend.

Other Notes

[card]Containment Priest[/card] was impossible to find this weekend, and I watched a few copies sell out of cases for $40 or more. This does not mean that Priest is the [card]True-Name Nemesis[/card] of the set. Priest is not a four-of in its deck—it barely sees main-deck play. These new Commander decks will be printed to death, so wait until Priest is $10 in a couple of weeks, then buy in if you need your copies for Legacy or EDH.

Keep an Eye on Your Stuff!

Yes, this is supposed to go without saying. Yes, it’s a broken record to say, “Don’t let people steal your Magic cards.” However, here’s a story from this weekend. I sat down to trade with a young gentleman (probably younger than myself), and he hands me his binder to flip through. It’s not a bad binder, probably a couple thousand dollars (retail) worth of stuff in it. Before I’m finished, he tells me, “I’ll be right back, I’m gonna go get the rest of my cards.” Before I can even hand him his binder back, he sprints across the hall, awkwardly leaving the binder with me and two people I was sitting with. We are sitting less then 50 feet from the exit to the convention center, and are shell shocked as to what just happened. It takes him almost ten minutes to return with a few more fat pack boxes, and I end up letting him know how lucky he is that neither I nor the people I was sitting with were terrible people. Do not let anyone else watch your collection for you. There are already multiple stories of stolen collections surfacing from this past weekend, and there’s no guarantee that things get returned.

On the Other Hand…

There are some good people in the world. My experience on the New Jersey road system was less than ideal, and I ended up hitting a massive pothole in the middle of the night, and breaking the exhaust pipe on my car. The back half of the pipe dragged on the road the entire way back to the hotel, and it almost certainly wouldn’t have lasted the entire drive back to New York. Thankfully, a good Samaritan decided to help my group and me before we drove back on Sunday morning. Shout out to Bobby for patching my car back together! As much as everyone tends to focus on the negative, there are definitely some amazing people in our community who will stop what they’re doing and help others out.

How Was Your GPNJ?

Did you play in the event? Did you get any good trades or notice any financial trends? I can’t cover the entire weekend in one article, so feel free to fire away any questions about what happened on the floor last weekend, or anything about Grands Prix in general. I’ll reply in the comments section here, on Reddit, or on Twitter. Until next week!

About the Author
@Rose0fthorns     -     Email     -     Articles Douglas Johnson is a 20-year-old MTG player who goes to college courtesy of a scholarship from Gamers Helping Gamers. He is currently found writing a weekly finance column at MTGprice.com, and you can always feel free to contact him on Twitter, Facebook, or Reddit.

4 comments on Conjured Currency #40: Lessons from Grand Prix New Jersey

  1. Bobby Birmingham says:

    Good read, and glad to know you made it back in one piece. Make sure to get that tailpipe put back on or your car will overheat come summer and that will be far worse then getting the tailpipe fixed.

    Also the value I got out of each white commander deck was unreal last weekend. Trading containment priests upward of 50$ and then trading the other 99 cards for 20$ was such value. I wish I had bought more. I left with so many ktk fetches it is actually insane.

  2. travv801 says:

    I played vintage in the main event then went back to working my booth. GPNJ was amazing to say the least.

  3. JMBolivz says:

    Man, I really wish I am able to experience to events like that. I’m currently in the middle east. Our playgroup is nice but over all community is quite small to have any GP nearby.

    Anyway, great article, as someone who is really interested in growing a collection and getting value from cards. This makes a great read and excites me and it makes me aware of what to do if ever I get to attend a GP or a similar big event.

    1. Anonymous says:

      Thanks a bunch! How is Magic marketed over in the middle east? Are there LGS/comic shops? FNMs? I’m a bit ignorant to anything abroad of the US.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.