Tag Archives: buylist

Money Ramp with Zack Alvarado

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Trade Habits: Prerelease Buylists

Beck // Call. (c) 2013 Wizards of the Coast.

Though it seemed as if Gatecrash’s prerelease was no more than a few weeks ago, this weekend signaled the launch of Dragon’s Maze prerelease events nationwide. As always, vendors and local gaming stores alike had their hands full while organizing and running these events. A lot of coverage around last weekend’s prerelease consisted of favorite draft picks, and set-constructed evaluations. I’ll spare you the common banter that’s excessively splashed about in the wake of a new set release and get down to the point I care about most: makin’ that cash money via proper trade habit; particularly, arranging profitable buylists as an event organizer.

Preparing for a prerelease, from the perspective of an event organizer, can be stressful; perhaps even overwhelming at times. There are many variables that need to be calculated and allocated properly for an event to run smoothly: availability of products, seating limitations, competent judges, timing between flights, adequate air circulation, etc. So, those are the basic components of running a successful event – but what about a profitable one?

Besides the obvious profits drawn from sales of food, drink, accessories, and entry fees, what are good ways for event organizers to profit during prerelease events? The answer is painfully apparent for those of you who haven’t guessed already: create a buylist for the new set. Consider every large TCG superstore – like CFB, SCG, T&T, ABU – do they not buy new set cards at their prerelease events? Yes, yes they do! However, some of these vendors do not post buylists online prior to set release; I assume this is done to avoid clutter of their postal operations and to allow their employees maximum focus while gearing up for the release.

Creating a buylist that won’t net you investment loss seems like a simple task, perhaps. I assure you, there is a considerable amount of complexity when deciding what types of offers one should make when designing a buylist. Understand that pre-order prices are speculative and predominately based on consumer demand/impulse, rather than on market saturation, competitive application and non-fiscal consumer availability (barter/trade). There has been no amount of competitive play with these cards to solidify their price tags. Many of these cards will flat-line in price after 2-3 weeks after set release. For instance, look at Duskmantle Seer from Gatecrash – his preorder price on SCG was $19.99 on Feb 1st, but dropped to $5.99 on March 1st – the card lost 70% value in only a month. Even if you had bought the card for $10.00 (50% of the pre-order price), you would still lose $4.00 (-40% ROI) for every copy that you were unable to sell within 4 weeks.

Duskmantle Seer as of May 1st, 2013.
Duskmantle Seer as of May 1st, 2013.

To avoid losses of 40%, one really needs to do their homework. I have a general system for buying cards, it goes as follows:

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Cash Value Payout Calculation
$5-10 50% $ x 0.50 = Payout
$11-15 55% $ x 0.55 = Payout
$16-20 60% $ x 0.60 = Payout
$21-25 65% $ x 0.65 = Payout
$30+ 70% $ x 0.70 = Payout


My system is solid and brings me great turnaround sales every week. However, these are cards that have been played, battle tested so to speak, and because of this their values are respectably steady. When gearing your buylists for prereleases, always remember that most cards flat-line and lose about 20-30% on average in value. Unless you can resell the stock you acquire within 2 weeks of release, make sure to accurately inventory the cards you purchase and set limits for each. Avoid 99% of commons and uncommons, go for the throat first and worry about the scraps later; chasing rares and mythics is where the money is.

Always take the time to familiarize yourself with new cards by looking at the set spoilers online. Do your best to identify the cards that will see play within multiple formats, or redefine a single format – acquire as many of these cards as possible! As for the remaining cards in the set, aim for a playset or two of each. So, now you know what you’re hunting for; it’s time to arrange the pricing. As I said before, the system of buying that I provided does work well, but not with prerelease singles. My rule of thumb is to offer 50% presale price for any card at prerelease. If I speculate that the card is going to rise, I may offer upwards of 70% for certain cards such as Voice of Resurgence. Some losses are hard to foresee (Duskmantle Seer), but limiting the amount you buy of ‘iffy’ cards can really pay off in the long run. I get all of my pricing information from MTGprice.com – as it averages the market cost across multiple vendors to provide the most accurate price. Below is a copy of my buylist for Dragon’s Maze. Feel free to print it out as a cheat sheet/quick reference when buying cards at your LGS, or from friends!

Zack’s Dragon’s Maze Buylist
Aetherling  $   3.00
Advent of the Wurm  $   3.00
Beck // Call  $   1.50
Blood Baron of Vizkopa  $   5.50
Blood Scrivener  $   4.00
Boros Battleshaper  $   0.50
Breaking // Entering  $   1.50
Catch // Release  $   0.50
Council of the Absolute  $   3.50
Deadbridge Chant  $   1.50
Dragonshift  $   0.50
Emmara Tandris  $   0.50
Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch  $   1.50
Flesh // Blood  $   1.00
Gaze of Granite  $   1.50
Lavinia of the Tenth  $   1.50
Legion’s Initiative  $   5.50
Master of Cruelties  $   3.50
Maze’s End  $   0.75
Melek, Izzet Paragon  $   0.75
Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker  $   0.50
Notion Thief  $   2.50
Obzedat’s Aid  $   1.50
Plasm Capture  $   2.50
Pontiff of Blight  $   0.50
Possibility Storm  $   0.50
Progenitor Mimic  $   2.50
Putrefy  $   0.50
Pyrewild Shaman  $   1.00
Ready // Willing  $   0.50
Reap Intellect  $   1.50
Render Silent  $   1.50
Renegade Krasis  $   0.50
Renounce the Guilds  $   0.75
Ral Zarek  $ 15.00
Ruric Thar  $   2.00
Savageborn Hydra  $   3.00
Scion of Vitu-Ghazi  $   0.50
Sin Collector  $   0.25
Sire of Insanity  $   2.00
Skylasher  $   1.50
Tajic, Blade of the Legion  $   1.50
Trait Doctoring  $   0.50
Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts  $   1.00
Varolz, the Scar-Striped  $   3.00
Voice of Resurgence  $ 14.00
Vorel of the Hull Clade  $   1.00
Warleader’s Helix  $   0.50
Zhur-Taa Ancient  $   0.50

I hope this list helps you throughout the week, and especially on Friday when Dragon’s Maze releases.

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Weekly Finance Tip:
[Beck/Call is one of DM’s biggest sleepers. I hope you held onto your Modern elves as I advised last month!]

Until next time,

Zack R. Alvarado
zackalvarado@gmail.com
Twitter: Rh1zzualo

Track your collection's value over time, see which cards moved the most, track wishlists, tradelists and more. Sign up at MTGPrice.com - it's free!

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Thursday: Common Cents with Aaron Dettmann

Bazaar Trader. (c) 2013 Wizards of the Coast.
Bazaar Trader. (c) 2013 Wizards of the Coast.

Many people are leery of buylisting their cards and selling them to stores and card dealers. Players are worried that they’re getting ripped off and not getting full market value for their cards; however, this is not always the case. There are numerous factors and situations many people fail to think about that can make buylisting your cards a great, profitable transaction.

Here are some reasons why it’s often best to sell your MTG cards to stores’ buylists.

One factor some people fail to consider when trying to sell their cards on eBay or TCGplayer is their fees. eBay charges a 9% total value fee in addition to PayPal charges of 2.9%+$0.30 per transaction. For comparison, TCGplayer charges 11%+$0.50 for a sale. In addition to those fees, you still have to mail out the item; even the cheapest mailing method of a regular envelope still costs $0.46 for the stamp, plus another $0.10 for the protective plastic top loader. Here’s a graph illustrating how much you pay in fees and shipping charges if you sell on these websites:

 Graph comparing Ebay and TCG plus shipping fees Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Transaction cost (y-axis) and selling price (x-axis)

The horizontal (X) axis is how much the item sold for, and the vertical (Y) axis is the cost of the fees and shipping charges. For example, if you sold an item for $10, TCG’s transaction costs would come to $2.16, whereas eBay’s fees + shipping would cost you $2.05. The marked point on the graph is the spot where both websites charge the same amount of fees for the item sold; any item sold for $21.72 would cost you fees plus shipping of $3.45 at both websites. As is evident from the graph, eBay has lower fees relative to TCG on items cheaper than $21.72, whereas TCG has lower fees relative to eBay on items more expensive than that.

These fees eat into a huge portion of the expected profit from a card. I routinely see cards listed on eBay and TCG where the person would receive about the same or even more money if they just sold the card to a buylist from a store. For example, as you can view on mtgprice.com, Venser, Shaper Savant is selling on eBay for $15, and yet ChannelFireball has been buying them for over a month at $12. The fees for that transaction on eBay end up being $2.65, so you end up receiving $12.35 – essentially the same price you would receive from selling to a buylist, not to mention the 30% bonus if you choose to get paid in store credit! Also, the buylist has the added benefit that you don’t have to wait around for someone to buy your item. I can see from the price history of the card for March that people have sold copies of Venser, Shaper Savant for $12-$13, with a few even as low as $9.39 on eBay; if they had all sold to ChannelFireball, they would have made more money than they did on eBay.

It is also often worthwhile to sell your $1-$5 cards grouped all together to a buylist. If you want another way to look at the fees, you can view them as how much of a percent you’re paying on the item you sold:

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 Graph comparing Ebay and TCG plus shipping fees as percentage of selling price
Percent of fees paid relative to selling price

This graph illustrates the percentage of fees paid relative to the item’s selling price. The X-axis is again how much the item sold for, and the Y-axis is percentage of the fees you paid relative to the cost of the item.

The most important thing to note is the inverse relationship between the fee percentage and your item value; as an item increases in value, the percent of fees relative to the item you pay decreases. This relationship is most relevant in items $20 and less; the percentage changes very quickly, especially for extremely low priced items. Yes, eBay is better than TCG for selling lower priced items, but if you think you want to sell a one dollar item there, think again – you’d have to pay fees and shipping costs of 98% of what you sold the item for! If you sold that item on TCG, you’d actually be losing money! Fees for selling a two dollar item on eBay would be at 55%, eating up over half of what you sold the card at. Even for a five dollar sale on eBay, fees and shipping still consume 29% of the sale price, leaving you with only $3.54 net income. As the item increases in value, the percentage of fees paid eventually levels off at around 12%-13% for both sites.

The moral of this story is that small value cards are often worth grouping together and selling to a buylist. Forgo the extra costs so the fees don’t eat you alive.

Thragtusk as of Mar 21, 2013
Thragtusk as of Mar 21, 2013

Another excellent opportunity to sell cards to a buylist arises when you know the price of a card is going to drop, and stores have not yet updated their buylist prices. For example, when the contents of the Gatecrash Event Deck were released, I knew the price of Thragtusk would plummet due to yet another reprinting. For over a week after that information had been released, Starcitygames was still buying Thragtusk at their old buylist price of $15. Fast forward a couple of months and sure enough, the price dropped, and now you can rebuy them for as little as $10. The lesson here is if you think the price of a card is going to go down, it’s often best to sell them right away even if it’s slightly under the market value, rather than trying to eke out every last cent of value out of the card and get stuck with it.

One last tidbit of advice: before you hit that confirm button to sell to an online buylist, visit your local store or dealer to see if they are willing to beat any of the prices; it’s a win-win situation. The store gets some cards they need, and you get a little bit more money for the cards you were willing to sell. I like to set the guideline at either getting an extra $0.25 or 10%, whichever is more, but you can decide for yourself whatever arbitrary criteria you want to follow.

I hope this guide helps you decide the merits of selling your cards to a buylist.

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