Category Archives: Common Cents

Common Cents by Aaron Dettmann

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How better pricing information provides an advantage

Knowledge is power, as Sir Francis Bacon once said; in the world of magic finance, that means knowledge is money. Obtaining better information than most of the market means that you can take advantage of price discrepancies between stores, and utilize that knowledge to your advantage when trading, buying, and selling cards. One source that provides great information is this very website, MTGPrice.com; whether it be giving you more accurate pricing information than other individual card store websites, or providing ProTrader Daily Market Updates which clue you in on which cards are spiking in price so you can buy in before everyone sells out.

This week we’ll look at the importance of accurate pricing sources, and next week I’ll finish off this two-part series by discussing the ProTrader Daily Market Updates.

One experience I personally had with highly variable pricing between a store’s website and the actual worth of a card was with the card Emrakul, the Aeons Torn foil. Multiple people have asked how much I valued mine while trading, and I had always replied $50, since I had looked up the price on Starcitygames.com (SCG), and that was the relative price guide we were using. However, about a month ago I looked up the price again and realized SCG had that price posted while they were out of stock on the item. Curious as to what price eBay was selling them for, I looked over there and was surprised to discover that the cheapest listing was priced at $75. This difference in price was especially astounding because eBay usually has much cheaper prices than SCG. What’s more, the price has risen even more since then. As of this writing (March 27th), virtually all the stores are sold out of the foil Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. Out of all the stores that MTGPrice.com provides pricing data for, the only places that have copies of that card in stock are TCGplayer and eBay. There are a mere three copies of a foil Emrakul, the Aeons Torn on TCGplayer ranging in price from $89-$100, and a lone, single copy on eBay priced at $90 (SCG is still out of stock, but has risen their price up to $60).

Now, I feel very lucky that none of my trading partners took me up on my $50 offer for my card; I was using poor pricing info, which caused me to undervalue my card. The lesson here is to be wary of prices when a store is out of stock of an item. Many stores don’t update their prices when they don’t have any copies of that card to sell. Using the Fair Trade Price found on MTGprice avoids this problem, since they compile their price using many different stores and only use prices from stores that have the item in stock.

Next week, I’ll conclude this two-part series, and discuss how ProTrader Daily Market Updates can let you know which cards are rising in price before all the stores adjust their prices accordingly.

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.

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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:

 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.

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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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Common Cents

This past weekend saw a plethora of Standard tournaments spanning multiple countries. The United States held a 774 player SCG tournament, while Verona and Rio both hosted a Grand Prix.

Let’s take a look at a few of the cards that were highlights at these tournaments.

Prime Speaker Zegana. (c) 2013 Wizards of the Coast.
Prime Speaker Zegana. (c) 2013 Wizards of the Coast.

The breakout card at SCG Indianapolis was Prime Speaker Zegana. Two Bant decks that made the top four each ran three copies of the card. Immediately upon the success of this card, Starcity more than doubled their price of this card; before the tournament they were selling Prime Speaker Zegana for $6.99, and currently Zegana is on their site for $14.99. However, other stores have taken much less extreme measures. Most places have only modestly increased the price of this card by one to two dollars, and you can easily grab these up from multiple places for around $8. This, then, prompts the question of which price more accurately foretells the cards’ future.

Working in Zegana’s favor is the fact that it’s at Mythic rarity, which often have sudden and sustained price increases. Additionally, Zegana had multiple high place finishes in a tournament. However, I think the lower price will be the more accurate one for the following reasons.

  • It is directly competing with the spot Sphinx’s Revelation fills in the Bant deck.
  • Multiple pro players at GP: Verona called Sphinx’s Revelation the most powerful card in Standard.
  • While Zegana performed well at the SCG event, at the more competitive Grand Prix events it was a no-show, and did not make any top 8 appearances.

Now let’s talk about some cards that did well at both Grand Prix tournaments. Human Reanimator, utilizing Angel of Glory’s Rise, made a top 8 in both of the Grand Prix. However, I’m a little wary about investing into Reanimator-type cards, as that strategy is easily hated out if people decide they want to do so. It is difficult for a deck that’s easily hated out to maintain the long term success that will drive an increase in its’ card prices, so therefore I don’t foresee the cost of Angel of Glory’s Rise to go up.

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Angel_of_serenity
Angel of Serenity as of Mar 15, 2013

Angel of Serenity is one card that holds similarities to both Prime Speaker Zegana and to Angel of Glory’s Rise. It is Mythic, just like Zegana, and it also found success in a Reanimator deck this past weekend, just like Angel of Glory’s Rise. Unlike the other two cards, however, Angel of Serenity is one that is primed to rise. Far from being a one-trick pony in Reanimator decks, Angel of Serenity has shown in the past that it can fit into multiple deck archetypes. It has a history of being a powerful card, at one time acting as the top end of control decks in Standard. Now it has found yet another deck to fit into, in the Junk Reanimator decklist, which won GP: Verona, had two decks in the top 8 of GP: Rio, and also made the top 8 of SCG Indianapolis. This deck is also more resilient since the Junk Reanimator decks are less dependent on their graveyard than the Human Reanimator lists. Angel of Serenity has also proven that it can command a high price, fetching as much as $25 back in November. The power level of this card, along with the strong showing of the deck this weekend, combined with the resiliency of the deck, in addition to the past price history of this card, leads me to recommend Angel of Serenity as a card to acquire.

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Common Cents with Aaron Dettmann

A Season for Selling

Second Sunrise. (c) 2013 Wizards of the Coast.
Second Sunrise. (c) 2013 Wizards of the Coast.

Now is the time to sell off all of your Modern cards. Why, you may ask? Two reasons: the Modern PTQ season is near its end, and because Modern Masters will be printed soon.

Most people are aware of the ebb and flow of Standard card prices, rising as States and the Standard PTQ season approaches, and falling as the season finishes. This ebb and flow of prices holds doubly true for Modern, as there are a lot fewer tournaments outside of the PTQs to affect their prices. Virtually every card that has seen play in Modern has gone up in price since the end of summer, many by a significant amount.

Some examples of cards that have doubled or more in prices since the end of summer:

Even the all-star cards you haven’t regularly been hearing about have still gone up in price by a good amount. You would have still made a solid profit if you invested in cards such as: 

My point is that there were very few poor investments when buying Modern cards before the PTQ season started. You could pretty much choose whichever Modern playable cards you wanted to buy, and made a profit on them.

The other reason to sell off your Modern cards now, besides the fact that the PTQ season is nearing its end, is because Modern Masters is soon going to see print. Now, I acknowledge that long term Modern Masters will overall raise the price on Modern cards, as it piques interest in the format. However, some high priced Modern cards will be reprinted in that set, which will increase card availability, decreasing the price on those cards in the short term. Conversely, any cards that aren’t reprinted in that set should see their price remain steady or eventually go up. However, I don’t really feel like playing roulette on guessing which cards will be reprinted, and which ones won’t. Instead, I’ll just trade or sell all of my Modern cards now so I don’t risk them dropping in value if they’re reprinted. And as for the Modern cards I want that aren’t reprinted in Modern Masters, I’ll just trade or buy them back for the same price that I got rid of them (remember, Modern Masters is being released during the slow season for Modern, so there won’t be an immediate frenzied demand for any Modern cards). The net result will be your breaking even on the Modern cards that aren’t reprinted, and saving yourself from losing money on the cards that were reprinted and dropped in price.

Now, with all this being said, in the long term I expect Modern card prices to stay firm or rise yet more, even the ones reprinted in Modern Masters. This is because new players are discovering this game every day, which keeps increasing demand for cards they don’t have. A year from now, I’m confident Modern card prices will be similar to what they are now, or even higher. However, short term, as Modern Masters is released and the Modern PTQ season ends, the reprinted cards will dip in price.

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