Tag Archives: collection buying

Finance 101: Region Locked

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So how about that Steam sale, huh? I’m actually just an extreme casual when it comes to games that aren’t MagicFire Emblem, League of Legends, or Pokémon, and this is the first time I’ve actually been bothered to download a game on Steam. I’m a fan of tactics and turn-based strategy at heart, so my friend convinced me to download XCOM: Enemy Unknown for $7.50 to relive some of my favorite single-player gaming over the past few years.

If you’ve been around the videogaming world for at least a little while (99 percent of you reading this, probably), then you’ve heard of the term “region locking” before. For those of you who keep to the card and board games, imagine you couldn’t use any of your Japanese foils in your Legacy deck. No Italian Legends cards, and no French copies of Delay.  Bear with me; I know I write an article about Magic finance and not videogaming, but I’m going somewhere with this.

xcomregionlock

(Thankfully, this is just a random screenshot I found. My XCOM was downloaded with no problems.)

While we don’t have this specific problem as Magic players, it would certainly be frustrating to be restricted from content that you bought, traded for, or were gifted due to a  company’s desire to prevent imports or force certain purchasing channels. In fact, you might feel similarly to someone who owns some Legacy staples, yet lives in an area where it’s nearly impossible to get rid of them at full value, when you were told something like, “Legacy cards will always get you a premium if you’re trying to trade into Standard or Modern.”

Cartel Finance

Recently, my fellow MTGPrice writers Jim Casale, Jeremy Aaranson, Travis Allen, and I (and soon to include our friend Sigmund Ausfresser) started up a video podcast on a whim. One of the topics that we touched on this past week was how much our experiences differ depending on where you’re located in the U.S. (or outside it entirely).

While I’ve always advocated “buy cards from other players at buylist values when they need to sell,” that logic is not always feasible for people like Jim, who is “region locked” in his MTG finance efforts (see? I made the segue work) by living within driving distance of Cool Stuff, Inc. When the players near Jim need to sell cards, they’re flanked by multiple LGSs that are ready to compete with each other and pay competitive buylist prices. If I had to relocate down to the land of terrible one-liners and Florida Man, there’s no question that my number of collections bought and singles sold would drastically decrease.

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Since I live in upstate New York and five hours away from NYC, the area is devoid of any human interaction  large-scale LGS like ChannelFireball or SCG. The closest huge competitive buylist I have to compete with is either down in NYC, or Face to Face Games in Canada (the downside of this is that we get maybe one SCG Open every three years, but hey, give and take). Players could also drive 45 minutes to Syracuse and sell cards to one of the several card stores in the city, but the number of cards they’re willing to buy and amount of cash offered are both on the short side.

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I mentioned earlier that you might be in a situation where you have Legacy staples, but are unable to trade them. Jim picked up two dual lands a couple of years ago, supposedly the “impossible to lose” investment in Magic. Unfortunately, crocodiles don’t play Legacy, so Jim ended up selling the duals to a store instead of being able to trade or sell them to a  player for a premium toward Standard or Modern staples. That’s a story that initially confused someone like me, who has almost never left the northeastern part of the United States: “Inability to trade Legacy staples? That’s just unheard of! We have one of the more vibrant Legacy player bases in the U.S!”

Before you trade those shock lands for that Lion’s Eye Diamond just because it’s on the Reserved List, know the routes for moving the LED if the Legacy scene around you is nonexistent.

Story Time

This doesn’t hold true for just Legacy, though. Let’s say this new MTG financier Jason is trying to make a bit of extra cash while having fun speculating and trading. He doesn’t have a store on TCGplayer or eBay, he just buys and sells locally, trying to trade up and sustain his hobby. Almost everyone at his LGS is a Standard or Commander player, because there’s a very limited number of people who can afford a Modern deck in his area. FNM is always Standard or Draft, and there are a couple of Commander pods that meet up twice a week.

Jason is trying to get into MTG finance a bit more heavily. He follows people on Twitter, listens to podcasts, and reads articles. He sees a lot of people agreeing that Modern Masters 2015 staples are a pretty smart pickup right now (hint-hint: they are). Jason starts targeting the scattered Modern pieces out of his friends’ binders, trading away the dirt cheap Battle for Zendikar rares and mythics. He picks up a couple of Cryptic Commands at $25 in trade, Spellskite at $23, and Remand at $5.

If we jump inside our time machine and skip a few months into the future, Jason’s trades have theoretically paid off. His Cryptics are $35, Spellskites are $30, and Remands are $8. But (you probably see where I’m going with this) who is he going to trade or sell them to? If his entire playgroup focuses on Standard and Limited, Jason has to either start using eBay, TCGplayer, or PucaTrade, or convince everyone to play Modern after all of the cards they need are more expensive. Granted, a lot of you reading this probably think, “Well, Puca/TCG/eBay is simple and effective,” and I would agree with you. However, not everyone is looking to constantly send cards through the mail, and there are still players who don’t trust PucaTrade due to bad personal experiences from trades in the past.

I sort of went in a different direction than I was planning when I laid out this whole “region locking” theme for the article, but I’m hoping that I still managed to explain my point. The tips that are given out every week in the constant stream of MTG finance news are not universal, and should be adapted depending on what your playgroup and LGS focus on. Legacy still has a bastion of players in the Northeast of the United States, but it’s a waste trying to trade a Wasteland where Jim lives. If you drive a few hours to buy a solid collection of EDH staples when your LGS is firmly steadfast in 60-card territory, it might be time to adapt and learn how to use internet outlets like Puca, TCGplayer, or eBay instead of letting the stuff rot in your binder. Even if you personally are “region locked” from collection buying because you have to compete with several other stores or local names, there are multiple different strategies to either compete or coexist with them.

End Step

  • Sell Painful Truths for $8 to $10 a playset on Facebook. This is a perfect example of a bulk rare that I’m happy to take the 1000-percent increase on, then ride away into the sunset with my Subway meal paid for by each playset that I sell.
  • Stoneforge Mystic continues to rise in anticipation of an unbanning. Do what I did and sell your copies into the hype on TCGplayer. Don’t do what I did, and don’t accidentally list two of your SP copies for $14 instead of $24, because then they’ll sell instantly and you’ll realize your mistake too late.
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PROTRADER: Sorting the Massive Collection

I’m opening this half-written article as I sit in the airport on Thursday, annoyed that I wasn’t able to publish this today as originally scheduled. The reasons were beyond my control, but that doesn’t make missing deadline feel any better.

On the plus side, at least I have some real-world finance advice to offer as a result, thought it can be boiled down pretty simply: don’t get robbed on vacation.

I took this last week to go on a short vacation with friends to watch the Saints-Panthers football game in New Orleans (game was great). Unfortunately, on one of the first nights of the trip, I was accosted in the street by what I assumed was an intoxicated woman, who I pushed past as politely as I could. Unfortunately, things became more clear about 60 seconds later when I reached for my wallet and found it gone.

Getting robbed sucks, but I bear some responsibility. I didn’t move my wallet to my front pocket, I didn’t assume I was always at risk, even from what seemed like an innocent (if drunk) Bourbon Street-goer. I didn’t leave my extra cards behind at the room. All in all, the mistake cost me a few hundred dollars, and the time I spent dealing with the fallout (and getting my passport overnighted to Louisiana) cost me the time allotted to write this article.

Learn from my mistake, and the next time you’re on vacation, be a little smarter than I was.

Back to the Collection

So with that out of the way: Hey everyone, welcome to the second part of this series! I was happy to see how well the first article was received, and I’m excited to follow up on that this week.

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Uncommonly Valuable

When you’re sitting there, sifting through those bulk collections that I know (almost) all of you are buying throughout the year, one of the key types of cards that you should be looking for are uncommons. Yes, commons are important too in these bulk searches for treasure, however the uncommons are going to be what surprises you most in terms of value when you go to cash out your findings to the highest paying buylist.

My goal today is twofold. First, I’m going to quickly review what the most valuable uncommons are that you should be looking for when sifting through the bulk of bought collections. Most of these cards will be obvious, but I’m betting that some of them might be a surprise.

Then, I’m going to take this a step further and point out which foils you should also be looking for. Foils, as you’ll find, are quite an interesting market, and the amount of a play a foil receives in Modern, Commander, Legacy, or even Vintage could drastically alter the price. Many of the uncommon foils that I’ve found are actually are individual buylist line items despite their rare use, and you want to make sure that they aren’t being accidentally thrown in with the rest of bulk foils. Albeit, not that many collections will have a large amount of foils, especially foils that are from older sets, however foil picking shouldn’t be discounted either. Now is as good a time as ever for checking to see which uncommon foils are demanding the highest buylist and eBay prices in the market.

With that out of the way, let’s review the nonfoil uncommons that are valuable to see if there might be any surprises in there.

Figure 1 – Most Valuable Recent Set Nonfoil Uncommons $2 or More eBay Sorted By Highest Buylist

 

No suprise that Aether Vial, Top, and Duel Deck Demonic Tutor are at the top of the list. Essential staples in their respective formats, they carry the highest eBay price and buylist prices. Arbitrage is particularly close on Aether Vial – I could see this one jumping in price in the near future, especially with the next wave of Modern tournaments coming up early next year.

Shardless Agent, Enlightened Tutor, and Cabal Coffers are all great uncommons with a ton of casual appeal. Shardless Sultai seems to come in and out of favor in Legacy, so there is demand there for the Agent but I think that is mainly coming from casual players. Enlightened Tutor and Cabal Coffers are still $10 even with reprints, which bodes well for their futures. I expect we’ll see reprints of these cards soon enough, but even with a reprint I could see them do a Ghostly Prison and still stubbornly maintain a price above $5 due to the “discovery” effect where newer players who just started playing the game see their power and move to pick them up for Commander.

Mishra’s Bauble still surprises me – where is this played again? If anyone picks up a collection with Coldsnap, look for these guys among the bulk. Sterling Grove is another uncommon that is valuable to vendors especially since the Daxos deck, though lacking green, could sway players to start creating enchantment based decks with green in them since Magic’s history is full of great green cards that support enchantments.

Mother of Runes has a high eBay but low buylist price, which indicates to me that the eBay price is going to start going down. Mom’s should be traded to players looking for them, as buylist is fine for this uncommon but you will get more bang for you buck if you move them over a medium like Pucatrade.

Ancient Ziggurat, Footsteps of the Goryo, and Guttural Response are the final uncommons I would like to mention. These uncommons are surprisingly valuable due casual and Modern appeal. Footseps and Response have their niche in Modern, while Ancient Ziggurat has a huge casual appeal and is an uncommon with only one nonfoil printing.

All in all, I don’t think you guys will find this uncommon list that surprising. Let’s move on to the foils, which are certainly more interesting.

Figure 2 – Most Valuable Recent Set Foil Uncommons $4 or More eBay Sorted by Highest Buylist

 

Right away, I’m sure you noticed that this list is waaaay longer than the previous list. Suffice to say, there are plenty of foil uncommons that have gained value over the years. We see that Goblin Matron is currently commanding the highest buylist price – even with Top being sold at $110 eBay, Matron still eeks it out by a margin of $6. Bare in mind, this is one vendor who is offering the noted buylist price, so for other vendors the buy on Matron could very well be lower. Still though, it shows that the demand for foils is a totally different market than nonfoils since Matron didn’t even show up on the nonfoil list!

So, apparently foil Choke is being sold at $80 on eBay! This is crazy to me, as it is a purely sideboard card that will almost certainly be reprinted at a future date. This indicates to me that unless you’re playing a totally Russian foiled Merfolk, maybe you should consider moving this foil…

Foil prices drastically reduce from there, where most are $30 each or lower on eBay. The obvious outliter here is 9th Ed. Urza’s Mine, but the eBay data is skewed since the buylist is only $25.

Aven Mindcensor is still a sought-after foil, being present in both Legacy and Modern in D&T and Hatebears builds. With only one printing in Future Sight, I don’t see this foil dropping until a reprint in a Modern Masters type set.

     

As we move down the list, we start seeing strange foils such as Boil, Crypt Rats, Serra Advocate, Reprisal, Mistveil Plains, and Breath of Life pop up. Did you guys even know these cards existed? Well, if you have foil copies then someone out there is looking for them, and finding stuff like this in collections is always a treat.

Some interesting eBay foil prices include Izzet Staticaster, Sustainer of the Realm, Blood Artist, and Victimize. All of these on eBay are being sold at a fairly high price for a foil uncommon yet buylists are quite low compared to eBay prices. This tells me that players are seeking them, but stores aren’t – probably because they are very hard to move. Cards like these should probably be sold at eBay or TCG since even after fees you are going to get more for them than you would just outing to a buylist. Something to keep in mind in case you come across a few of these types of uncommon foils.

Final Thoughts

I’ll be using these lists in the future when looking through collections, to try and maximize the amount I can get out of them. I hope you guys find the lists useful as well, since there are plenty of eye popping numbers in the data especially concerning uncommon foils.

Let me know if I missed any uncommons from recent sets, nonfoil or foil, that you have your eyes on for value moving forward. I used the MTGPrice ProTrader data collection methods to aggregate this data, so if you become a ProTrader you too can get easy, current access to this data at your fingertips.

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Dimes Versus Dollars

I have not been on top of my game recently, and I apologize for that. I’ve had a lot more schoolwork and mentoring work on my plate than I expected to over the past month, and the quality of my articles has suffered so that they have not been the fountains of knowledge that they used to be.

Another problem that I’ve been having recently is that I don’t have as strong of a niche as some of my fellow writers on this website. Jason Alt gets to handle a format of otherwise “unplayable ten drops” for people who want to pretend that they still play Magic, and Jim Casale handles the “grinder” aspect of the game to help all of you who actually do play Magic. Sigmund is skilled at tying in “real life” finance and investing to the Magic market, and he’s also got a pretty solid handle on this Old-School Magic thing. I should probably sit down and talk to him about that format one day, but I just keep getting too distracted. “Tell me about the war, Grandpa!” I ask him, but then it’s time for his afternoon nap and I have to wait another day.

Oh, and I try to focus on collection buying and building a personal brand as a vendor. That’s supposed to be my area of expertise, if you can call it that.

The Problem

There’s an inherent problem with collection buying though. Well, not collection buying itself. Buying cards at buylist prices is awesome; writing about it can sometimes be another story, though. While EDH, Standard, Modern, and real-world finance comparisons continue to change and evolve based on the new products and information that Wizards provides us, the rules for collection buying largely stay the same.

I don’t exactly expect WOTC to start selling “collection buying” kits that come with $1000 cash, a buy mat, and business cards, so as an ex-grinder trying to teach the transition toward “friendly local guy or girl who has what you need, whether it be cash or cards,” it can be difficult to come up with new material when there’s not a new breadth of information that applies to us. I’m often at a loss for words on the night of my deadline when all I can think of in terms of helpful advice is, “Wait until people need to sell cards at buylist prices, then buy those cards at buylist prices.”

A Little Help

convo

Thankfully, I have at least a few people out there who haven’t stopped reading my content (yet), and are willing to provide constructive criticism. I was having a conversation with one of my readers earlier this week, and he gave me some excellent advice that I think will help me focus on this specific topic more, and by extension I hope that will be helpful to you. I’ve already written on bulk rares quite a bit in the past, and why they’re one of the safest purchases that you can possibly make in the game, as long as you don’t overpay on them. They’re versatile, easy to convert back into cash, and they allow you to bridge the gap between competitive and casual players very easily.

I hope that with the hint from the title, and my follow up on that paragraph of helpful advice, you can see where I’m going this week. Well, if you follow me on Twitter then that helps too.

Untitled

Three yes votes? Good enough for me—let’s go. While I’ve extensively covered what I have personally nicknamed “true bulk” rares, I’m going to expend on that topic a bit by giving a closer examination to “fake” bulk rares.

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The above is a picture of (mostly) true bulk rares. These will have a TCGplayer mid average price tag of 75 cents or lower, and no buylist will touch them as actual distinct cards. Most stores who buy true bulk rares do so at a rate of 10 cents a piece, although sometimes you’ll get lucky and find a vendor shelling out 12 cents at a Grand Prix. These are the vendors that you’ll likely want to cash out to, and I highly recommend Card Advantage (the United States one anyway) for ousting your bulk rares.

So what’s a fake bulk rare then? Well, they pretend to be higher then bulk, but only if you take a quick glance at the TCGplayer mid or SCG price that so many players know and love. That price will usually waver anywhere from $1 to $2 depending on the site that you use, but the important number that us financiers care about is the always-precious buylist price.

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If you’ve been buying some collections, decks, and lots from players as a result of reading my articles, great! I’ve always advocated waiting until you can find things for buylist prices, as it’s usually the most effective way to flip something relatively quickly for a solid profit. Someone needs to sell an Overgrown Tomb to buy a milkshake or pair of comfortable cargo shorts? Give them $3 or $4, then go throw it up on TCGplayer when you get home.

tomb

When you’re dealing with staples above $4 or $5, it’s much easier to use 50 percent of the average price as an approximate guesstimate line because you have more of a profit margin to work with. It’s fine to pay $60 on a Liliana of the Veil, because you know that the highest buylist price is $65 for you emergency out, and you’ll get $73 or $74 after fees if you throw it up on TCGplayer or eBay. (Hinty hint-hint: you’ll probably get more on Facebook)

lili

What Does This Have to Do with “Fake” Bulk Rares?

Well, your margins are a lot smaller when you’re buying cards that only have a TCGplayer mid of $1 to $2. If you settle into the mindset that true bulk rares are the only actual bulk rares in Magic, then you’ll end up overpaying and losing money when you’re handing out 50 percent of TCGplayer prices when you’re buying Beastcaller Savants. (Disclaimer: CCG House is paying 50 cents cash on Beastcaller Savants, and they want multiple playsets. It’s ridiculous. This is basically unheard of for a card that has otherwise depreciated to the point of being a bulk rare when it’s viewed through the lens of a vendor.)

beastcaller savant

Instead of shelling out 50 cents a piece on these when Ben the Standard player wants to cash out on the remains of a Battle for Zendikar case that he received as a Christmas present, you lump these in with the bulk rares. If you’re feeling like a jolly Santa, you pay 25 cents.

“But DJ! The TCGplayer mid of that card is $1, how can you rip me off and pay 10 percent of the cash value on a card like that?”                  –Ben, who is woefully misinformed about the cash value of his card

This is the part where you get to choose what to do. You have control over this situation; it’s like one of those Choose Your Own Adventure books that I read in fourth grade (and got like six reading points for each book, even though it’s obviously not a “full book” and I only had to read like 30 pages to get to the end). You can choose to A) Educate him by pointing to this article, B) Explain a summarized version of this article to him and let Ben know that he would be hard-pressed to get even 25 cents for the card, even if he were to sell on Facebook, or C) Don’t bother explaining the economics of everything to him if he seems genuinely offended and expecting to get 50 cents, and just let him keep the card.

beastcaller

You’ll notice that I have some other Battle for Zendikar rares in that pile of garbage, like Radiant Flames and Scatter to the Winds. I paid 25 cents each on the Radiant Flames, and 10 cents each on the Scatters. That’s not a brag about how I’m going to make 400-percent profit on each of those cards, because that’s probably not going to happen. Nobody wants to pay the full TCGplayer retail price on a dollar rare like that, unless they’re inside the convention hall on the morning of a tournament and in a desperate situation to find the card.

So Why Should I Acquire “Fake” Bulk?

I’m glad you asked. While these cards are almost impossible to sell for a significant profit margin, trading these off to Standard players who “need a set” or “might play these in the future” is definitely the play. Because they teeter on the edge of fringe playability in one format or another, you’ll have much more success using them to bump the value of larger scale trades when your partner wants to use TCGplayer mid or SCG values. While I don’t think PucaTrade is the worst outlet for fake bulk at it’s crisp and tasty full value of $1 to $2, it’ll be basically impossible to find a trade unless you’re willing to put in a massive amount of time and effort to upload all of your lower value rares, then use a bot or program to help click your trades for you before they’re gone in an instant.

If you happen to be $3 or $4 up on a trade involving Modern and EDH staples and your partner needs to find that amount to cover the difference, grabbing three Scatter to the Winds or Radiant Flames at $1 each can be a quick and easy way to finalize the trade instead of dealing with awkward Modern increments of $5 or $6. Alternatively, you can work up small piles of fake bulk rares into rock-solid casual/EDH cards that can later be sold for a relevant value. One playset of Fathom Feeder for a Blood Artist? Seems fine, especially when our trade partner is a Standard grinder who has no use for a Blood Artist, and might play Esper Dragons in the next couple of months.

Fathom Feeder

Before I make my exit, I want to go over a point that may not have been initially clear. Fake bulk is not always rare, and it’s not always “semi-playable garbage from the most recent Standard sets.” Some fake bulk cards can still have buylist to retail spreads of 90 percent, but manage to hold their demand and retail value exceptionally well. These are usually better known by the term “picks.”

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If you had the option of paying a dime for a Beastcaller Savant or a Pyretic Ritual, where are you throwing your coin? Exactly. Many of these modern, casual, and EDH commons and uncommons share a retail to buylist spread similar to the fake bulk rares that we’ve been learning about, but it’s going to be much easier to find a buyer or trade partner for a playset of Pyretic Rituals, Brainstorms, or a single Alara tri land at $1 per card than you will for a Bring to Light.

If you have the opportunity to pick bulk and end up with a pile like the picture above, I certainly don’t recommend buylisting off those Rituals, Thought Scours, or Delvers at 10 or 25 cents a piece. It’s fine to play the waiting game here until Modern season rolls around, or until a budding Commander fanatic texts you a list of stuff that he needs, but is too cheap for other players at the LGS to have in their binders. If you have it stashed away like my pile above, you’ll be that player’s hero and make a few dollars for nothing.

No “End Step” this week, because I feel like we’ve covered a lot of material already, and all of my other co-writers will have covered the current news to the point where I’d just be beating a dead horse. It feels good to be back and writing about a topic that I think has a shockingly low amount of content, and I enjoy feeling like I’m at least filling some kind of niche in this arsenal of prolific Magic writers. Thanks for reading!

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