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DJ Johnson – Trading to Your Outs

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Hello again! For those of you who took the time to read my last article and still bothered to click on the link to my second piece, I thank you. I hope I was able to share enough information to make it worth your while. If you’re just jumping on this article series (if you can call it a “series”…I don’t even have a cool name for it), you can read my last piece here.

Last time, I mentioned that I would be discussing your “outs” to make the most out of every card you own. To some of us MTG financiers (someone really needs to come up with a better name for those of us who dabble in the MTG finance market), the things I’m about to list are common knowledge, but I hope that everyone reading this learns something. Either way, I’d greatly appreciate any constructive criticism or feedback on my writing to help me improve the reading experience for you.

Somewhere in your Magic lifetime, a friend may have walked up to you after you scooped up your cards in the face of overwhelming odds and told you that you still had “outs.” This means that, no matter how small a chance, there was a sequence of events that could have followed that ended with you pulling an amazing comeback and taking the game for yourself. Barring situations where you concede to save time on the round clock, it’s generally correct to play the game until your possible outs approach as close to zero as possible.

This philosophy of playing to your “outs” applies to the financial world of Magic as well. If you picked up Master of Waves at $12 in the middle of its massive spike before the Pro Tour, then you were probably happy when it proceeded to climb as high as $25. However, if you didn’t get rid of them immediately, then you were gradually less happy as it progressively dropped back down to $12 where it is now. If you have all of the knowledge in the world of when a card will spike in price, that doesn’t help you at all unless you can actively get rid of it (unless your goal is to just get cards cheaply for decks, making Magic less expensive to play competitively). Let’s discuss a few “outs” you can use to get value out of your cards when they hit that sweet spot on the top of the price graph.

1. Trading:

This is the most obvious method. Trading off cards that have spiked (i.e. Hero’s Downfall) to Standard FNM players for sleepers looking to spike soon (i.e.Inkmoth Nexus and Birthing Pod. How are these not $10 yet?) is a good way to continuously increase the invisible value of your binder and make connections with your local community. The downside is that you don’t see any actual cash return by solely doing this. As much as we wish they did, Magic cards don’t pay the rent, or help towards gas and hotel costs when traveling to events. However, trading is a good way to get full retail value for cards, considering most people trade at TCG average or SCG.

If you plan on trading a lot, it’s important to remember to see as many binders as possible. I know that I am personally guilty of only going to a very small LGS because it’s five minutes away from where I live. After a while, trading can get quite stale. Take advantage of opportunities to broaden your connections, and you’ll meet many new players who need your cards!

1.5. Pucatrade:

Pucatrade.com is a website that just recently came out of beta and is now in revised (ha). You put up a list of cards you have for trade and send them to people who have that card on their want list. When the recipient confirms he or she got the card, you receive the cards’ value in “PucaPoints.” Once you’ve accumulated some points, you put cards on your own want list, and people can send you those cards in exchange for your PucaPoints. Unfortunately, there are some features that are behind a paywall, so if you’re looking for things like foil cards, e-mail notifications, or an advanced search feature, there’s a subscription fee involved.

Personally, I’ve had great success using the site to trade off cards that are hard to move in my local area (getting $72 in trade for a Rishadan Port and $90 for a Polluted Delta seems fine, especially when there is nobody else in my local area who plays Legacy). I can save these points to get other cards for speculating or foils for my EDH decks. It’s also a good way for players who don’t have high-dollar cards to slowly trade smaller cards into bigger ones little by little. If you don’t care about special features and just want to trade, the site is free to use, so I highly recommend trying it out regardless of if you can afford the paid benefits. Just take Nick Becvar ‘s word for it, he’s certainly using it to his advantage to speculate on targets such as Forced Fruition, foil Griselbrand, and foil ZEN basics.

bevcarpuca

Also, if you’re not following Becvar on Twitter, you should be. He’s often ahead of the curve on price spikes, and is good at pointing out cards with stupidly low spreads (the difference between the highest buy price and the average sell price). You can find him @Becvar, because he’s probably the only person in the world with that last name [Ed. Note: except possibly for his dad].

2. eBay and TCG Player:

I’m going to lump both of these outlets together because they are very similar. I have personally sold very little on eBay but am max level on TCG Player. Both websites provide a solid way to turn your collection into cash (well, money directly deposited into your bank account, but you get the point). From here on out, when I refer to eBay, I am talking about BIN (Buy it Now) listings and not auctions. Here are some benefits and downsides to each site, so you can figure out which works best for you.

  • Cost to list: eBay’s listings are free initially, but cost an insertion fee once you pass 50 listings in a month. Listing a card on TCG Player is free no matter what. If you plan on selling more than 50 items in a month, but don’t want to set up an official eBay store, then TCG Player might be better for you. You don’t want to eat the costs for putting up items that may not even sell, and that will happen on eBay.

  • Fees: TCG Player’s fee for selling a card is 11% + $.50 per order, not taking shipping into account. eBay’s fees are 12.9% of your sale (10% goes to eBay, 2.9% goes to PayPal), also not including shipping. Given these fees, it is more cost-efficient to sell cheaper cards on eBay, and more expensive cards on TCG Player. I believe that the tipping point for being better to sell on TCG Player is approximately $26.00 for a listing (my math skills are really bad, and that may or may not be correct. Feel free to correct me).

  • Time to list: Multiple friends of mine who sell on eBay (including Brainstorm Brewery’s own Jason Alt, @JasonEAlt on Twitter. If you’re not following him, you have me honestly astounded) have informed me that it takes much longer to list cards on eBay. One of the reasons is that eBay will no longer accept stock pictures of cards from Gatherer, so you would have to take the picture yourself and upload it. Doing that for every listing takes much more time. As financiers, we all know: time is money.

  • Extra options: eBay gives you the option to pay $50 and become an “eBay store”, which grants access to lower fees and more free listings. This is obviously a benefit if you would have otherwise spent over $50 in fees while selling on eBay.

  • Navigation: The storefront on TCG Player is extremely easy to navigate and is very user-friendly. For example: when listing a card, TCG Player will bring up the current lowest price + shipping per card, per listing. This is very helpful when trying to match the lowest price to ensure your card sells quickly.

In the end, it’s up to you to take these pros and cons and figure out which of these sites is right for you. The nice thing is that neither service requires you to take much time out of your day. Just a few clicks on a computer or phone, and a few minutes to package and ship.

To me, it appears that TCG Player is a better out if you want to get rid of higher-valued cards at a slower pace, especially if you don’t have much time. eBay looks to be your better option if you plan on doing a much higher volume of sales and have more time on your hands to spend listing items.

3. Social Media

Most of you reading this article (if I have a readerbase large enough that the word “most” can mean two or three, I’ll be overjoyed) probably have a Facebook, or some other form of social media. Making an Excel spreadsheet of the cards you have for sale and slapping it onto the page of your local Facebook MTG group can net you a surprising number of sales (don’t have a local Facebook MTG group? Make one. It’s an excellent way to keep in touch with everyone you regularly play or trade with, and allows you to contact all of them at once).

You can list cards for the TCG low, or a certain percentage under the average, and still make more money then listing on eBay or TCG, because you won’t have to deal with fees, shipping, or supplies like toploaders, sleeves, printer ink, and envelopes. This is personally my favorite way to sell cards. You can almost always meet face-to-face to check condition of cards, you build a reputation as an honest seller, and both parties have the opportunity to negotiate. If my Hero’s Downfalls aren’t selling on TCGplayer at $13.00, and I list them on my spreadsheet that I’m selling them at $11, I’ll probably take $10 if someone asks, considering the highest buylist price right now is $8.00.

3.5. Craigslist:

Craigslist doesn’t have to be the land of $300 shoeboxes of Ice Age commons. In addition to Facebook, posting reasonably-priced singles on Craigslist might bring players out of the woodwork. I’ve also heard that this is a good place to unload bulk commons and uncommons for anywhere from $8-$10 per thousand, where most retail stores will only give you $5 per thousand. This also beats dragging massive amounts of bulk to larger events, or eating shipping costs by sending it to stores in the mail.

4. Sell for your LGS:

This option will be feasible for fewer readers then the previous three, but I feel the need to mention it because it is a huge boon to the community if you can pull it off. I have lived in two cities in the past three years where the LGS was unable to sell MTG singles. While you do need a larger collection to attempt this, it’s an option to offer a deal with your LGS owner: if they can provide you with the space to sell cards, then they can take a cut of your profits. Even if they don’t have a spare glass display case, you can generally find those on Craigslist for only a couple hundred dollars, a cost you might be able to split with the LGS.

If you’re a regular FNM goer, this doesn’t have to be much more effort than you already put into MTG finance. Just restock the case when you stop by as you normally would. Selling cards out of a display case also gives you an opportunity to get cards for buylist prices.

5. Buylists:

I have to admit, I cringe at the word “buylist” sometimes. To a lot of players, buylisting means getting rid of cards at much lower than full value, taking hours to fill an online shopping cart, sort the cards in the correct set order, and then waiting forever to get paid, only for the store to reduce your payment because they felt that the cards were not up to their standards of NM. Sometimes these things can indeed happen.

Buylisting is my least favorite part of making money off of Magic, but sometimes it can be a necessary evil. Buylisting copies of Dark Confidant, Snapcaster Mage, and other liquid staples generally isn’t the correct play, but where else are you going to get someone to pay you the TCG mid price of $.50 for each of your Judge’s Familiars or Selesnya Charms? This is where buylisting comes in handy, especially if you tend to purchase a lot of collections, since you probably have a lot of playable commons and uncommons around.

Since buylisting is so boring and time-consuming (well, at least for me. If you actually enjoy the process, you might be able to market yourself off to lazier financiers such as myself), some noble paragons from the MTG finance heavens have created tools to help us quickly determine which stores have the highest buylist prices. Quiet Speculation’s Trader Tools, a wonderful little program found at mtg.gg, lets you search for the highest buylist price of any card. If you want to see which store is offering that price, though, you’ll have to subscribe to become an Insider at the site, which grants a bunch of other neat features. MTG Price also offers a buylist aggregator on its website, so you can figure out exactly to which store you should send your 10+ copies of Exsanguinate. Each program has some stores that the other doesn’t, so using both can secure you maximum value. In my experience, Card Kingdom, ABU Games, Adventures On, and Troll and Toad consistently have the highest buy prices and process orders quickly.

Now You Know Your Outs

I hope that at least some of this information was new to everyone, because it’s a goal of mine as a writer to make sure that readers walk away with something new every piece. I know that this article could be improved, so please use the comment section below. Have constructive criticism as to outlets left out? Care to critique the content of the article itself? Here’s your chance. I want to learn from my readers as much as you do from me. Also, I’m looking to name my column, and am very open to ideas. Thanks for reading!

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Douglas Johnson

Douglas Johnson

@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.
Douglas Johnson

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About the author

Douglas Johnson

@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.

11 comments

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  1. Jason Alt

    I think each of these points should get its own article in the future.

    1. Douglas Johnson

      On it, coach.

  2. Anonymous

    Pucatrade is a pyramid scheme… You are better off using a site such as MOTL

    1. Jason Alt

      Citation needed

      1. Andrew Colman

        Best reply ever!

      2. Paul Feudo

        Welp I figured out the best way to make comments hilarious. Bold statements with no evidence rock. On a different note, Motl is useful and worth talking about.

    2. Douglas Johnson

      I’m curious as to your reasoning. Explain?

  3. Anonymous

    Troll and Toad does not process orders quickly.

    After recently buylisting a collection through QS Trader Tools (each of the four stores had the highest buylist for particular cards in the collection), all of the stores except for T&T completed my payments in less than a week. T&T took about a month to process my order. I let them know this, but they sent me a PR email saying something about their accounting department blah blah blah. Just a load of crap, since I did some investigation and it turned out that many on Twitter and in the QS forums had been bitching about T&T for quite a while. Never buylisting to them again.

    1. Jason Alt

      I hate to agree, but Troll and Toad has really gone downhill in the last two years. They used to be the first place I took my cards at a GP but now I won’t sell to them in person or to their buylist. Every single person I have talked to that has buylist orders outstanding with them is not getting paid in a timely manner and they have lost a lot of credibility in my eyes.

    2. Douglas Johnson

      I definitely agree now, in light of very recent events. They were good to me for a while, but my next article is already in the works, and it mentions how they’ve gone downhill recently, and I don’t recommend selling to them anymore. My most recent buylist order is also taking forever, so I’m dropping them from my top 4 as well.

  4. Corbin

    Another solid article. Nice work sir!

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