Tag Archives: TCGplayer

First Look – TCGplayer Adds Buylisting

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Do any of you remember what it was like buying from TCGplayer before TCGplayer Direct? How about selling on TCGplayer before then?

It was a little different, a little weird and a little sub-optimal, though we didn’t know that at the time. All we knew was that when TCGplayer Direct came along, things were going to be different. Now, all of a sudden, when we ordered a whole deck worth of cards or bought a significant number of copies of a card for a spec from multiple sellers, we started getting one package. Sellers would send the cards they wanted to sell in to TCGplayer and TCGplayer would package the cards and send them to buyers, eliminating the need for four sellers to make up four packages to go to one person who would receive those four packages. This is known as “stream-lining” (I mean, I assume, I’ve never taken a Business course in my life) and, like in non-metaphorical streamlining, it reduces drag.

We can agree, then, that TCGplayer has a little bit of experience streamlining the buying and selling process. They have created a marketplace where people who aren’t gigantic stores but rather are individuals trying to get rid of some cardboard can participate. It’s the eBay model but tailored specifically for our specific game. It’s been working pretty well so far. The TCGPlayer marketplace is often a go-to for buying cards, and is often referenced as the going price of a card.

So now that we’re all caught up, do you remember how TCGplayer Direct changed things? Because it’s about to happen again.

The Future

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In the exact same way that TCGplayer Direct changed the way people bought and sold cards on TCGplayer, TCGplayer Direct buylist is going to change the way people, wait for it, buylist. That is, to say, it’s going to change the way some people buylist, or sell their cards to stores. I think there are a lot of advantages to this method, but I also think this is likely to be a supplement for a lot of us rather than a complete sea change to how we do business. This does have one distinct advantage over all of the methods I currently use, and that is convenience.

Current Methods

The first buylisting I ever did involved bidwicket.com. If you’ve never been to bidwicket, it’s a confusing place. Once you figure out how to navigate it, though, it ends up being worth it – at least it used to before there were alternatives. Bidwicket was useful because it had a lot of buylists from vendors accessible. You would type in the name of a card and it would take you to this page.

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You could click the “sell to store” link down where it lists the buylist prices. You filled up a “shopping cart” for each vendor, and when you finished and checked out, you would process the order separately for each vendor. You would mail the cards to the vendor and the vendor would pay you. Usually. That’s another story, and it’s not really bidwicket’s fault. The point is, this worked fine. A lot of the times, the online price was better than the in-person price and I found myself using bidwicket a lot in between Grands Prix. It wasn’t fast or particularly convenient, but at the time, it seemed worthwhile.

Then websites began to take the next step, with MTGPrice and others developing ways to connect sellers to stores that want to buy their cards.

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The big revelation here is allowing you to search both the retail price as well as the buylist price and the website taking you to each dealer’s webpage. These services all work with the goal of not forcing you to go to each dealer’s web site and punch in the card five times. With some offering the ability to fill your cart once and then have that list populated to vendors’ sites, it becomes very easy: you search once, then send them the cards you agreed to sell them (in the order they specify) and you get paid when they get cards. It couldn’t be simpler. Or could it?

While convenient, there are some shortcomings with all these services. Selecting condition is one of them, as are bugs or bad links when trying to tie together so many individual web sites. Some stores only accept NM cards but others grade down for condition but would like to be apprised that they’re getting less-than-NM cards. Another issue is that it’s no fun trying to balance getting less money for the cards and paying more money for shipping because you’re sending out a ton of packages. It’s hard to know how to balance that, and when you’re sending the quantity of cards I was sending, a $12 flat-rate USPS box didn’t always cut it, meaning sometimes it cost $24 to add a new vendor. How many times does that vendor paying a nickel more per card add up to cover the additional shipping? Why do I have to choose which way I’m losing a lot of money in non-free transaction costs? It felt pretty bad.

So what exactly will TCGPlayer offer in this field?

The Basics

BuylistThe premise is simple. Much like an account for selling cards on TCGPlayer, there is a level associated with your account for selling cards to TCGPlayer, and as you complete orders and send the cards in you move up. Top stores in the TCGPlayer Direct program will have the opportunity to be part of the buylist program, and it will essentially create a marketplace for buylists similar to what is currently available. Searching for a card will bring up the marketplace with the current highest offers by stores buying the card.

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There are a few key notes here.

  • Stores pay the fee associated with buying the cards from you. Money is deposited directly to you when the order clears.
  • Because the stores buying from you are part of TCGPlayer Direct, you only ship once. No matter how many stores you’re actually selling to, you only ship to TCGPlayer. One package, one tracking, one insurance – you don’t have to ship to multiple stores.
  • However, by that same token, “stores involved in TCGPlayer Direct” is not everyone. There are plenty of stores with great buylist prices that you’ll find going through MTGPrice or the dealers’ own sites – Card Kingdom and a few others come to mind – that you won’t find on TCGPlayer.

Takeaways

I have monkeyed with TCGplayer Direct for a few days and I think it has a few very distinct advantages over both in-person buylisting that doesn’t let you sell cheap cards or large quantities, and online buylist aggregates which all come with their own set of challenges.

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TCGplayer Direct is very simple. Sellers will go to the TCGplayer website. Players used to selling cards on TCGplayer will recognize the seller portal but now there is a new option – buylist. You type in the name of a card, search for it, and it will bring up a list of the vendors buying the card for each condition and for foil and non-foil. You will populate the appropriate field corresponding to the number of copies for each condition and edition you are selling and then you submit the offer. It will tell you how much money is coming to you based on the combination of dealers buying that many copies.

If three dealers are paying between $3 and $5 on Night of Souls’ Betrayal and that’s acceptable to you and those two dealers are buying 10 copies total and you want to send that many, put “10” in the field for NM non-foil and submit. You’ll be offered the total of what each dealer is paying for each copy. You’re still splitting 10 copies over multiple dealers only now you aren’t sending in multiple orders. You will drop all 10 copies in the same envelope and send them in to TCGplayer. TCGplayer will verify the order is complete, the conditions are correct and will pay you and give the cards to the dealers.

If that sounds complicated, it doesn’t need to be because all you need to know is that you will type in a card, select as many copies as you want to send in and then mail them to TCGplayer and TCGplayer will take care of the rest. Sending one package is incredibly convenient and you will have access to a much larger number of dealers than you ever did with another service. This saves money on shipping costs and packaging, which is not only valuable in itself but also saves you a lot of time on the front end.

If you aren’t happy getting $3 for your copies, the list will tell you who is paying the most and how many copies that dealer is buying. Just submit that many copies and get the best price, or submit the max number of copies being asked for and take a combination of all prices. You don’t sacrifice any degree of control over the amount of money you get versus other systems and you get additional convenience in the form of only sending one package.

Ultimately, I think this is likely to be a supplement to how I buylist. I still plan to use a combination of the different tools available along with TCGplayer Direct or at least verify that I’m getting the best prices and not losing too much to shipping fees (buyers, not sellers pay all of the fees associated with TCGplayer Direct buylisting so shipping is your only expense as a seller) and I’ll be happy to switch over entirely if TCGPlayer Direct buylisting turns out as good as it looks like it could be.

It will only get better for people as more dealers add TCGplayer Direct as an avenue to get more cards sent to them and more dealers means more competition which means higher prices for players selling to them.  Having monkeyed around with the site a bit, I found it easy-to-use and very similar to other TCGplayer services and I’m excited to see how many dealers add their buylists in the coming weeks. This has the potential to completely change the way I buylist and I don’t see a ton of downsides. All of my criticisms of it were pretty minor (you have to click the search icon instead of clicking on the card name to get the page to come up) but we’ll have to see how the first few weeks go before we can make final pronouncements. As far as a first look at the site goes, I’m hopeful and I think this could be big news for the community, finance or otherwise.

 

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Customer Service in #MTGFINANCE

Written By:

Douglas Johnson @Rose0fthorns
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Let’s say for the sake of argument that you’re new to the whole financial side of Magic. You’ve traded a bit at your local store, you’ve overheard discussions about how X card is worth X price now, and you’ve bought cards on TCGplayer or SCG before. Now you want to become financially savvy, and make the most out of how to sell your cards at their peaks while buying cards at their lows. There’s a whole pile of articles out there to help you do that. One of the more recently published comprehensive guides to selling a card was written by our own Travis Allen, and is a great place to start.

Unfortunately, the card you sold doesn’t just magically disappear and transform into those crisp dollar bills we all know and love. It’s not like all of your cards are double-faced, where the other side holds real (your country here) currency. You have to ship the card to another human being (or store, but for the sake of this article we’re assuming that you will be selling to other people). A person that has hopes, dreams, and emotions. Just like you.

Instead of focusing on bulk today, I’m going to try and go over one of the oft-forgotten aspects of this whole #MTGFINANCE thing; customer service. We’re going to look at some common mishaps and situations that sometimes occur when a buyer purchases a card from a seller, and then talk about some solutions and practices that each party can remember to help approach a resolution. I’ve been on both sides of these situations, and can understand how frustrating it can be.

Situation 1: Cards Lost in the Mail

This is one of the more common things that will cause a buyer and seller to interact with each other when working through a platform like TCGplayer, eBay, or Pucatrade. These websites generally allow the seller 6-8 business days before the buyer can take action, to account for sometimes slow service by the USPS. Sometimes time passes, and the card still hasn’t shown up. So what do you do as a buyer? What do you do as a seller?

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You might already be thinking that almost every situation where this has happened can be preemptively solved by shipping with tracking, and you’re not wrong. Shipping securely in a bubble mailer with a PayPal shipping label for $2.45 is a (relatively) cheap way to increase the probability that the package will reach its’ destination. Unfortunately, that’s not always economically viable for either party. If I buy an Overgrown Tomb from a local player at $4 and then ship it to someone over Facebook for $7, there’s literally zero point in me putting tracking on that card alone unless I pass those shipping costs onto the buyer. In that case, the buyer will gladly purchase the shockland from some other venue where he/she can avoid paying close to 30% more.

My personal rule is that I provide free tracked shipping for any order totaling $25 or more. My margins are safe enough at that point to make it worth tracking, and it encourages the buyer to purchase more cards to hit that number. For orders totaling $24 and under, I ship in a PWE (Plain white envelope) with a stamp. There are a bunch of other articles out there on how to ship a Magic card safely and securely, so we won’t spend anymore time on that here.

As a Buyer

If you’re purchasing cards from TCGplayer or eBay, remember that the expectation is on the seller to get you those cards in that 6-8 business day window. If you order cards on a Saturday and they’re shipped out Monday morning, it’s not the fault of the buyer if those cards don’t arrive in time for your Friday Night Magic (unless you specifically agreed to and paid extra for expedited shipping, but TCGplayer doesn’t allow this). Give yourself that window of at least a week and a half for the cards to arrive, or be ready to pay the extra shipping cost.

Okay, so now it’s been 9 business days and your Grafdigger’s Cage that was shipped in a PWE still didn’t come in the mail. You’re not happy. I get that. However, it’s not exactly going to reflect well on you if you use the TCGplayer/eBay/Puca messaging system to immediately berate the buyer and demand a refund, or by leaving scathing feedback. Our USPS system is far from perfect, and sometimes stuff gets lost. This is the part where you politely message the seller, and let them know about the situation. Your card(s) didn’t show up, and you waited the appropriate amount of time. If the seller knows what they’re doing and takes the actions that I’ve detailed in the next few paragraphs, they’ll make it right with you because they don’t want to lose your trust (and your future dollars) as a seller.

As a Seller

We all dread this email (or Twitter/Facebook) message. Some variant of “My cards still haven’t shown up yet..” While the dollar value isn’t going to be too high if you’re using tracked for high-end orders, it’s still annoying to think that you might have put the wrong address on the PWE when mailing out those orders. So what do you do?

First of all, don’t accuse the buyer of stealing or lying. That’s not going to get you anywhere close to a positive feedback review, and it doesn’t help to resolve the situation. If you do feel like something is sketchy, I would absolutely send a report to the real customer service representatives at TCGplayer or eBay (although I highly doubt eBay will do anything to help the seller). At the very least, the platforms can keep track and see if the buyer forms a pattern of making the same claim to other sellers on a regular basis.

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Secondly, don’t just immediately apologize and refund the order. This is a big mistake that I’ve heard happens a lot. Most players will still want that card instead of just their money back, because then they have to go through the process of finding another copy for the same price. If you do own another copy of that Grafdigger’s Cage, just ship it to the buyer. Double Triple check the address and name on the PWE, and take extra care to make sure that it’s being dropped off at the post office instead of just leaving it in your mailbox and risking it getting stolen.

Situation 2: Condition Disputes

This is the other common issue I’ve run into, as both a buyer and a seller (Not that I run into this often as a TCGplayer seller….). Different people are taught how to grade Magic cards differently, and those opinions can clash when one party receives a card that they believe is in a worse condition than what they ordered. Even some of the superstores like SCG, Channelfireball, and Cardkingdom have different grading scales; I’ve bought cards from SCG at “Moderately Played” and immediately sold them back to Cardkingdom where they were graded as “Slightly Played”.

As a Buyer

This might start to sound repetitive, but the first step is to contact the seller without exploding in a fit of rage. Sometimes there’s a mark on the card that was only visible in a certain light, and sometimes two cards from inventory get swapped on accident so someone gets MP and the other person gets NM. It happens, we’re all human. While not an absolute law, it’s a good rule of thumb to follow that an LP card (in place of NM) gets a 10% partial refund, MP gets 15-20%, and HP is 30-35%. It helps if you have pictures of the card that you received to help make your case, although TCGplayer doesn’t allow buyers and sellers to send images between each other so you’d have to provide email addresses or imgur links.

This is not an excuse to go around and complain to every seller you buy cards from, and think of yourself as a “super harsh grader”, which is something I’ve heard before from a buyer. There are some buyers out there who think they can get 10% off every single purchase just by claiming LP on the cards they buy, expecting a discount. This behavior is absolutely kept track of by TCGplayer and Pucatrade, and crying wolf will leave you helpless when you actually get sent a MP card when you wanted NM.

As a Seller

Grade your cards realistically before listing them. I’ve heard a lot of people say “Oh I’m a conservative grader like SCG” or “I grade dual lands differently because they’ve been around for 20 years, so this one is actually LP ‘for its age'”. No. None of that. @ZachSellsMagic summarized card grading in a single tweet that I’ve since taken and started using in my conversations with sellers who disagree with me when selling me cards. (Also, Zach is absolutely worth a follow on Twitter.)

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Look at the card from multiple angles of light to see if it has any markings that are invisible from only one perspective. Water damage, scratches, and grime are all more elusive forms of wear that go unnoticed without proper grading, and it’s always better to get that customer feedback that says they expected a worse for wear card rather than the dreaded email saying that their NM card was actually LP. Grade what the card actually is, instead of what you wish it was. This is especially true for foils, where a buyer of a NM foil is much more likely to be more critical.

End Step

I spent way more words than I expected to while writing this, but I think that’s fine. If this gets a positive response, I’ll write another one next week where I go over more niche and advanced scenarios involving customer service to ensure that even strangers come back to you for repeat business. I still believe that this is a hugely under-reported aspect of this #MTGFINANCE banner that’s all the rage right now, and some people are going to get in over their heads.

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My TCG store, CardGarden

On a closing note, remember that as a TCGplayer/Pucatrade/eBay salesperson, you are your own Public Relations person. SCG, CFB, CK, ABU… They all have a person specifically trained to deal with situations like the ones stated in the article. When you decide to become an independent seller, all of that burden goes to you and you only. Even if it looses you a few dollars on a transaction when you have to give back 10% to someone who you didn’t think deserved it, that customer service will make them more likely to come back to you again and again.

 

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A Break From Bulk for Those Who Can’t be Buylists

Written By:

Douglas Johnson @Rose0fthorns
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We’ve been focusing on bulk, both common and rare, for the past few weeks. If you were comatose and missed one or all of those articles, you can find them each here to catch up;

I’ve got one more article up my sleeve in that little “trilogy” if you want to call it that, but it can wait until next week because this article is unlike most of my others in that its’ time sensitive. We haven’t really talked a lot about Eternal Masters in this column because buying those cards at retail and crossing my fingers isn’t normally how I operate. I’m in a fortunate enough situation that I’m one of the only “buylists” within about an hour drive, so a lot of collections and singles at buylist just come my way due to word of mouth. A lot of my writing has been geared towards helping you be that guy, or how to get around being region locked if you’re forced to compete with a huge store.

This article goes against the grain in that it’s a strategy that I wouldn’t personally use because of how I’m “region locked” out of it, and the margins are too low for me when I have individuals selling me cards at buylist. However if you live in an area where trading as a whole is still alive and well, then you might be able to use these tips to pick up some cards with a low buylist-to-retail spread in trade, or build a deck for cheaper than you might otherwise have to pay for it.

It’s no secret that the difference between the low and mid spread on Eternal Masters rares is pretty thin already, with some rares being available on TCGplayer for 60% of their “median” value. Look at the “featured seller” in the top right of each of the below pictures to see what I mean. This drops even further if you’re a smart consumer and use Facebook/Twitter to purchase your cards at 10-15% less than the available low. Even if we haven’t hit the absolute possible low that the card will ever reach, we’re damn close enough that I feel comfortable in this strategy. That is, if you have a highly active local group of traders who aren’t sharks.

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Maybe you can already see where I’m going with this. If you’re located in an area where trading at TCG median is still relatively common, then it’s possible to buy cards at 60% of the TCG median, then trade them out for cards that have a significantly lower spread between the buylist and retail. Do I know of any such cards? Well, here’s a couple of hitns to get you started.

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There’s a ridiculous spread on certain competitive Slivers right now for whatever reason, at least according to SCG. They’re paying almost retail to fill up on cards that are played in the Modern slivers deck, and you can find these in binders for $4-5 each. Based on our previous discussion, here’s an example arbitrage purchase and follow up trade you can make.

The cheapest available NM Sinkhole on TCGplayer right now is $9. If you go on Facebook/Twitter right now, scour through the various groups/backpack grinders, you can probably find one or several for $8. When those come in the mail, you walk into your LGS and say “I’m looking for Galerider Sliver and Sliver Hive. I have Sinkholes (or whatever EMA card you bought).

If you find someone with Galeriders that you can trade for at $4.50 (their TCG median price as of 6/21/16), then you can get three copies plus a dollar throw-in for your $8 Sinkhole.

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Is this highly specific scenario going to occur every time? No, of course not. In fact, there’s more than a negligible risk involved because we’re waiting on our TCG/Facebook/Twitter seller to ship the card and arrive 3-4 days later, then we’re hoping that SCG’s buy price on these Slivers holds strong over the course of that week. I’m not to worried about that latter fact in this example because Slivers are such a strong casual pickup in the long run, but I think you get what I mean.

The “worst case snenario” here is that you paid $8 for a Sinkhole, which I think is still a pretty fine buy for the long haul if you’re into long term speculation on Eternal Masters singles. It’s certainly not a foolproof arbitrage strategy and it’s not even something I’ve tested personally, but it’s an idea for those of you who still have a lively trading scene at your LGS or PPTQ. Personally I have to pay state sales tax on anything I purchase from TCGplayer, so any small spec target I buy from there is automatically slightly less attractive.

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This happened with Moat over the weekend. A single party purchased all available copies on SCG and TCGplayer, then posted a video to Facebook that said something along the lines of “I just bought all the Moats on SCG and TCG. I’m going to wait 30 minutes before buying all of the ones on eBay as well. If you want to get Moats anywhere else, now is your chance.”

While most individuals in this community use the term “buyout” incorrectly, this would be one of the few examples where the word rings true. It’s highly unlikely that the card will fall to its’ previous low of $350, but there will be at least a few people who decide that $700 is a little high for a card in their Commander deck, so be looking for those to hit the market on TCGplayer or eBay. There’s also the option of grabbing Italian copies for significantly cheaper, considering the Master Buyoutmancer didn’t touch the foreign copies.

For what its’ worth, there are two NM copies on TCGplayer for $400 each as I’m finishing up this article. I’m tempted to grab them, but that NY sales tax really bites at that high of a number. I think I’m gonna leave them alone for now, as I don’t want to risk that amount of capital on a card that I’m not confident people are ready to buy into post-spike.

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I’ll see all of you next week, when we return to a new discussion on bulk rares. Thanks for reading!

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Low, Mid, and High: Then vs. Now

Written By:
Douglas Johnson @Rose0fthorns
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Welcome back! I hope everyone enjoyed Grand Prix Charlotte (regardless of the technical difficulties the event experienced) and Grand Prix LA. I personally didn’t play in the main event, instead choosing to hang out in the Command Zone, play two-headed giant Sealed, and draft the day away.  The highlights of my draft were this beauty, which would have 3-0’ed if not for some absolutely terrible whiffs on Pieces of the Puzzle and then flooding out in two games. Oh well.

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I also repeated my “Post pictures of vendor hotlists to Twitter”, but we’re not here to talk about that this week. In fact, we’re going to go off on a whole different topic that completely negates my statement last Thursday saying that we could continue in our Blueprinting adventures. Don’t worry, we’ll still be blueprinting and organizing 400,000 commons and uncommons this summer (yay……..), but I had a conversation with a friend of mine in the car during our 14 hour drive to Charlotte and I figured it would make for a great article.

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It’s really difficult to not know about “TCG mid” is nowadays. Most Android and Apple phone applications pull API from TCGplayer.com to make trading a simple and hopefully painless process for everyone. Some apps will also let you adjust the pricing metric that you use to “TCG low” or “TCG high”, or to manually adjust the price point to a number you and your trade partner agree upon. MTG Familiar is an app I enjoy using that also changes the color of the number to green when it’s been manually adjusted, to help prevent one party from swindling the other with some quick hands. But what is TCG mid, and how is it calculated? What’s the difference between TCG low mid and high, and where does each find its’ niche? Answering these questions is the main goal of this article.

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TCG mid/TCG median

“TCG mid” used to be calculated as a mean average of the current available listings online. If for some reason there were only two listings on TCGplayer for Snapcaster Mage listed at $55 and $65, then the mid price would average out to be $60. That sounds reasonable at first, until we get outliers that skew the mean away from a realistic price point. If some random guy lists his Snapcasters at $85, then the mean is skewed pretty far away from $60. This is especially problematic when we consider new set releases and how long it sometimes takes for stores to reduce their prices, often due to forgetfulness or laziness.

A couple of years ago, TCGplayer changed their “mid” to “median”. Instead of using the mean average of listings, the median number is taken from one single seller directly in the middle of the number line. If there are two dozen sellers of Snapcaster Mage on TCGplayer and only the last five or six sellers forget to update their prices from when Snapcaster was $90, then the median price is safe from being skewed because the seller in the middle won’t be considered an outlier.

Most of you probably use that number to trade Magic cards with each other, and that’s fine. As long as both parties are happy with the trading metric and don’t try to scam the other out of cards, everyone wins. Even if one person is “value trading” because they care more about buylist prices, the other person is still getting a card they want for their deck. If everyone who trades cards uses TCG median, then what’s the point of TCG low and TCG high? What do these numbers mean, and how are they calculated?

TCG Low

If you freqent the Facebook buy/sell/trade groups that I’ve previously suggested in other articles, you’ve probably seen those groups use TCG low as a pricing metric, plus or minus a percentage. There’s no reason for grinders and players to buy cards from each other at full retail when other grinders and players would be more than happy to undercut SCG/Channelfireball and secure the sale, so TCG low is a more commonly used number to start from when conducting sales between two non-store parties.

The number is generated by checking the lowest NM or LP listing on TCGplayer (without shipping).  The fact that LP (lightly played) is included while MP/HP (moderately/heavily played) are excluded is very important here. If you’re a buyer who wants to pay 70% of TCG low on cards for your buylist and expect NM cards, you might be using the lightly played metric of a card for your NM buylist. Similarly, it’s hard for a seller to generalize and say that they’re selling an MP Underground Sea for a percentage of TCG low, without knowing what the difference between the cheapest MP and cheapest LP listing is.

The second part of that definition is that shipping is excluded in the calculation of TCG low. While that ends up being close to negligible in the Underground Sea case where shipping will be $2-3 for a $250 card, it ends up being extremely relevant when dealing with $3-5 cards like Golgari Grave-Troll.

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Looks like the TCG median of Grave-Troll from the duel deck is around $5. It’s crept up from the $3ish it was a few weeks ago, but it hasn’t spiked to a billion dollars. You want to buy into Modern Dredge with the help of the Facebook groups, so you decide to try and buy a set of Grave-Trolls for 10% less than “TCG low”. Sounds reasonable, right?

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The shipping is almost as much as the card itself! Even if you’re trying to grab LP copies on a budget, the “low” was calculated by looking at the “item price only” filter in the top right of the above picture, instead of “item price + shipping”. Most of the facebook groups that I’m involved with won’t take kindly to what they perceive as your “lowball” offer of close to $3, especially when changing that filter to item price + shipping shows us that the cheapest LP Duel Deck Grave-Troll can’t be purchased for less than $5.25.

If you still want that set of Grave-Trolls, you’ll probably have to offer around $4.50 for each copy and be willing to take LP. That’s pretty interesting, considering how close it is to the median price. It also shows that any copies that have been listed closer to the visible “low” price are being snatched up, and that there’s real demand for the card.

TCG High

Now we get to the final metric, TCG high. As you may have guessed or already known, the “high” is measured by the highest ‘item only’, NM/LP listing for the card on TCGplayer without counting shipping. This number can often vary wildly, for the same reasons I stated that TCGplayer shifted from using a mean to a median calculation for their “average”. When a seller forgets to update their prices or neglects their inventory, we get relic prices from weeks or even months ago.

tcghigh

Here we have the pricing information for Prized Amalgam, a $1 card from Shadows Over Innistrad. Cards from SOI (or whatever the most recent set is) are usually great examples of how skewed the TCG high price can be, simply due to the drastic price decrease most cards experience over a short period of time. Hell, Prized Amalgam only presold at $5 for a couple of minutes before dropping down to the $2 range in the weeks of release. Unfortunately, there’s still one seller who’s either very lazy or extremely hopeful that someone will stumble across his $5 (plus .99 shipping!) copy. I even had to scroll through over a dozen pages of listings just to find their copy, hidden among several foils.

History of TCG High

So… what’s the point of TCG high? Why would anybody use that as a metric for determining the value of their cards when low and median exist as options? Well, I had the same question until I got a phone call a few weeks ago. A player had gotten one of my business cards, and was looking to sell an Arlinn Kord they had opened from a booster pack. They said that they looked up the value of it online, and came to understand that it was worth $35. They would be happy accepting $20 because they knew I had to make money off it, and was wondering if I was available to meet up today. Before you ask, the card was not foil.

After my initial confusion subsided, I quickly looked up the value of Arlinn. Did I miss something over the weekend? Had Arlinn skyrocketed to $35 when I wasn’t paying attention to Standard results? What could they possibly be using to get that number? Then I saw it; TCG high for Arlinn Kord was $35. I explained to the man that the number online was not an accurate representation of the true price point, and spent a few minutes teaching him the same thing I’ve been explaining to you in the past several paragraphs. Thankfully he was receptive and understanding, ending up selling me the Arlinn for $10 when I told him that the median price was $20 and that I would probably sell it for $16.

While that story had a happy ending, I have to imagine that he’s not the only one out there using the high to try and figure out what his cards are worth. Other vendors or traders might not react as rationally to his misconceptions. With no real value being provided by TCGplayer listing the “high” price point, I got curious as to where the origin of the low/mid/high system came from, and used a little bit of #kiblergoogle to determine the source.

As it turns out, that three price point system originates from back when Scrye and Inquest were the premier methods for determining the values of your cards. We were even able to have one of the editors for the old Scrye magazine chime in and provide exact details, which I thought was pretty cool:

SCRYE1

SCRYE2

 

Scry3

scry4

So back in the old days, there was no SCG or TCGplayer to quickly check prices. If a card had a low of $2, a mid of $5, and a high of $7 in Scrye, you were less likely to trust that $5 number because you knew that it varied pretty widely. On the other hand, a spread of $2-$3-$4 was safer and you were confident in the $3 being a middle ground. The high had a relevancy, especially since prices weren’t so quick to change over the course of a single night or weekend. When TCGplayer opened their business as an aggregator of stores that could all grow their storefronts through a more visible marketplace, they ported over the system that Scrye had been using.

Scrye

While that may have worked for several years in the past, I’d like to suggest that TCG high is no longer relevant towards market pricing today and actively misinforms some newer players as to what their cards are worth. In a world where cards can jump from $.25 to $10 overnight, the high metric only serves as a reminder of what a card used to be worth at some point in time. At worst, newer players could stumble across it and believe that their Arlinn Kord is worth twice the retail, or that their Prized Amalgam is worth $5 the true market price.

Removing the High

Thankfully, we also live in an age where I can tweet to the wonderful people at TCGplayer and let them know my feelings on the matter. I really appreciate that they were so receptive to my initial feedback, and that they were able to make a step towards eliminating TCG high from the pricing metric. I’m looking forward to them continuing to remove it from other areas of the site as we move forward, so that archaic sellers from two months ago aren’t cluttering up the real finance data that we all crave.

TCG high

highfixed

You’ll also notice in that image that ‘high’ has been replaced with a different number, labeled “Market Price”. Instead of trying to give a complete description in my own words, I’ll let TCGplayer give you their definition of what this new pricing metric is, then try to elaborate on how it can help you avoid overpaying for something.

market price

So basically, market price will tell you what people have actually been paying for a card instead of what the card is currently being listed at. You might remember a few months ago when I suggested opening a TCGplayer seller account (which I still recommend doing), but for the purposes of checking the “last sold listing” measurement tool to gauge whether there was real demand for a card. Market price will be a less precise, more accessible addition to using that tool. So why add this in? What benefits does it provide that median and low do not?

Well, it should do a decent job of showing the true value of a card immediately after a spike occurs. While there might be one seller of a card for $14 post-buyout, the market price will show what people are really paying for the card. If nobody adds their copies to the market to race to the bottom and the market price remains at the old number for an extended period of time, then its’ pretty clear that the single person who bought out the cards and relisted them for higher won’t be making any money, at least on TCGplayer. Market price will show that players are only paying the old price.

shelld

As evidenced above, Shelldock’s market price hasn’t been running to match the current median price on the card. If we go another couple of days without data to suggest that Shelldock has been purchased consistently at the new price point, we can safely assume that it’ll go back down as more and more people race to the bottom and outnumber the demand sparked by the mill deck at GP Charlotte.

On the other hand, you can use market price as an entertainment tool to look at numbers and think “someone paid that? Really?” steamfl

Another human being paid actual dollar bills for Steamflogger Boss. Really? According to fellow writer Travis Allen, someone actually paid $5.99 when he checked the TCG last sold listing through his seller portal. I guess the demand from speculators is enough to continue pushing the card above $2, where those of us who own zero copies will get to laugh at those who bought out the internet.

End Step

TCG’s pricing system is definitely solid, but it has some nuances that you need to look into before using their metrics as a blanket rule for your buying and selling. If you want to buy at “TCG low”, you need to specify per condition and whether or not shipping costs are taken into account. If you want to trade at “TCG mid”, you need to determine whether or not you’re talking about market price or median price. If you plan on buying collections, you can’t realistically throw out rules such as “50% of TCG mid”, because then you get screwed one way or the other when the spreads vary wildly on different cards. I promise that we’ll get to blueprinting in the next couple of weeks, but this topic was too good to pass up on. Until next time, and thanks for reading!

 

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