Conjured Currency #24: The Art of Negotiation

Welcome back, everyone! As we close the book on M15’s set review, I’d like to address a couple pieces of feedback that I received on these last two articles, and how my opinions might have been influenced since then. I’m certainly not perfect in my card evaluation skills, and that’s one of the reasons I kept away from doing a set review for so long. Let’s take a quick peek at a few potential nitpicks and adjust our strategies from there.

[card]Liliana Vess[/card]: Turns out this card is actually playable in Standard this time around! Granted it’s only as a 1-2 of in the sideboard of mono-black devotion, but that happens to be one of the most powerful decks in the format right now, from what I hear. I predicted that she’d only be $5 come September, but her average on TCGplayer right now is closer to $7. Don’t expect that to drop before rotation, but start grabbing as many as possible in trades if she goes back to $5.

[card]Genesis Hydra[/card]: When writing my review last week, I tried to check that this card had seen no competitive play in week one before writing it off as a casual-only hydra. Somehow I missed that it had been a four-of in the ninth place list at that week’s SCG Open. While a single ninth place finish isn’t a prophecy of being the next [card]Nightveil Spectre[/card], it shows that the card probably isn’t something to write off completely. I’m joining the hype train with the BSB cast’s Ryan Bushard and giving thumbs up if you trade for these at $3 expecting $5 in the future.

Back to Square 1.5

Alright, back to the topic at hand. While I was scrolling through my Google Drive folder of my past articles, I came to a certain realization. While many of my past publications have been along the general line of “Here’s what to do with these cards that you own”, I’ve written very little on the subject of “Here’s how to get a good price on all of these cards that will fill up your entire living room and take control of your life”. Conjured Currency #12 went over how to get singles for inventory at buylist prices, but not entire collections. About a month ago, I discussed where to find piles of bulk treasure troves that you can spend a weekend digging through for picks.

Somewhere in between getting the phone call saying, “I have a collection to sell, are you interested?” and sitting down in front of the TV with 100,000 Magic cards are the processes of negotiation and bartering—ancient arts honed by used-car salesmen around the world. It’s in your best interest to talk the owner of your targeted collection down to a reasonable price that both allows for your profit margins, and for him to not be horribly ripped off. Let’s go over some tips and tricks to ensure both of those things happen, and that your customer recommends you to his friends when they need to cash out of the game.


This is a big issue that I think is appropriate to be addressed first. Before going forward, you need to be comfortable with revealing your entire process to the individual you’re buying from. A common response I often receive when talking about a price is. “Well I could get a lot more if I went and sold this on eBay!” Yes, you could. I’ll tell you that right now. If you took this entire collection and pieced it out, and sold the singles on something like eBay or TCGplayer, you would make a lot more than what I am offering you. However, you still have to wait up to weeks before you receive your money, you have to package and ship each card or playset individually, and still take into account the fees that these websites will take.

“This card is worth $10 on SCG, you’re doubling your money if you pay me $5. Can’t you give me $7?” Break down your outs to that person, and explain that ordinary people can’t charge full retail and make a living. “Sorry man, I don’t have the ability to sell for SCG’s retail prices. If someone wanted those prices, they’d go to SCG. The cards I’m buying from you will likely be buylisted to other websites like SCG, and I’lll probably only make $7 myself from selling that card. I usually sell for around TCG low, and have fees even after that.”

“Why do you want to buy all of these bulk commons and uncommons?” There’s no need to lie to him, tell him you’re Santa Claus and give them away for free, or anything like that. Explain plain and simple: “I’m going to dig through this box while watching Netflix for cards that are worth a dime or quarter each, sell the rest off for a dollar more per thousand than what I paid, and eventually take an entire day to buylist all of the nickels and dimes for a good price all at once.” Trust me, they’re not going think, “Oh, that’s a great idea and amazing use of my time. I should do that myself”. Explaining your process will only make you appear more reputable and knowledgeable, and your customer will feel safer that they’re discussing this matter with someone who knows what they’re doing.

Your Time Isn’t Free

Here’s another common tactic I’ve heard: “I played a lot during Ravnica block. I’m pretty sure you’ll find at least a half dozen [card]Remand[/card]s in there, so I think you could do better than $5 per thousand. There are definitely some gems in there.” My response? “Great, pull them out. If you can show me that there are [card]Remand[/card]s, [card]Sensei’s Divining Top[/card]s, or [card]Lightning Helix[/card]es in those boxes, pull them and I’ll pay you the appropriate prices for the singles. However, I’m not going to do that for you right here. My time is worth money to me, and it’s going to take me a while to sort through this entire collection. I can’t just search through all of this bulk and pull out the good cards for you, only for you to tell me you decided not to sell it.” Keep your flat rate for unseen cards. Treat everything as a [card]Sanctuary Cat[/card] until you have physical proof otherwise.

One of the best ways to avoid this situation beforehand, is to tell that person in advance to pull out anything that they want to sell separately as a single card. Don’t worry, they’ll have missed some Guildgates and [card]Exsanguinate[/card]s, and probably a bunch of [card]Electrolyze[/card]s.

As a matter of fact, there are quite a few questions you want to ask the seller beforehand, if at all possible.

“Did you separate the rares?”

“I pay a flat rate of $4.00 per thousand on unseen bulk commons and uncommons, and $.10 on bulk rares. Are you willing to accept that rate?”

“Where did you come up with the number for your total price?”

Just in Case

Most of the time, a seller will be vastly overpricing his collection. However, there are those glimmers of hope when you finish up a nice buy, and you hear these magic words: “Hey, something something more cards, something something nearby, something something if you’re interested.” Why, yes, you are interested. You’re very interested and you brought some extra money in your sock (or someplace else safe, because it’s Craigslist. Probably wise to bring a buddy—so you can get murdered together instead of alone).

Sometimes, a seller knows what he has is valuable but doesn’t have an exact number on individual cards. He’s completely willing to let you take the wheel on all of his binders and accept your fair offer because he trusts you. You might be sitting on a couch going through binders and doing quick math in your head for at least an hour. A huge lesson I’ve learned after hours of awkward silences is to not be a robot. Strike up a conversation about how long they’ve been playing, what some of their favorite formats were, or maybe the story behind the deck that you’re currently dismantling. Fewer awkward silences turns the encounter into a more casual conversation, making both parties less on edge.

Be Okay With Walking Away

Unfortunately, some people can’t be reasoned with. They think that if they leave the ad up on Craigslist long enough, a bright-eyed puppy of a new player will show up on their doorstep with $700 in cash to buy their Standard RG Monsters deck and binder of bulk rares that they priced up to be exactly TCGplayer mid (not including sleeves, though). No matter how much you explain the concept of buying a collection, or how thin your profit margins are, they won’t budge. Someone will buy it, they’re sure.

And that’s okay. It sucks to get hyped up thinking you can pull some strings and talk them down only to have the door metaphorically slammed in your face, but it’s much better to tell them, “Good luck, let me know if you decide to lower your price. I’m always available,” than to strong arm yourself into believing you can pull a miracle and flip the collection for that last five-percent profit.

That’s Probably not Everything, but Oh Well

This is the kind of topic that I feel like I could write another 1500 words on, but I’m out of space for today. There are a ton of other nuances to the subject, and I’d be glad to listen to any questions, comments, or additions to the discussion. If you have any stories about your own collection buying adventures, share those too! There’s always something to be learned from each experience.

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, and you can always feel free to contact him on Twitter, Facebook, or Reddit.

3 comments on Conjured Currency #24: The Art of Negotiation

  1. heyj says:

    Good article! Finally something with real value. Those ‘awkward’ silences are the worst, and a great way to mess it all up is to prolong them.

    This is supposed to be fun, and meeting new people, talking about the best game on the planet is FUN. The money messes it up, but what can ya do when Tarmogoyf is $200. Gotta grind to get the cards now…

    1. Douglas Johnson says:

      Thanks for the comment! Glad to hear that I was able to provide some information of value. During my first collection buy, I sat there for almost two hours counting cards and adding numbers on my phone calculator. Was very uncomfortable.

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