Tag Archives: Selling

PROTRADER: What You Can and Can’t Get on PucaTrade

I get just about all of my cards on PucaTrade these days. The service isn’t perfect, but it has powered up my collection and helped me get rid of tons of hard-to-move-but-technically-valuable stuff. I am unequivocally a fan, and think that PucaTrade rightfully plays a significant role in today’s MTG finance landscape.

One of the biggest criticisms of PucaTrade I see  is that it is difficult to get desirable cards, especially without paying out a bonus. While this is true to an extent, I have personally received a number of cards that I would not have sent out without receiving a bonus myself. It does happen, and I’ll be sharing some of those nice pickups with you in a bit, but first let’s go over the currency.

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ProTrader: Magic doesn’t have to be expensive.

Finance 101: Emotions and Goal Setting

When my coworker Sigmund Ausfresser posted his article for the week on Monday, I almost had a heart attack because I thought he managed to grab my idea before I was able to put it up for my own deadline later in the week. Thankfully after reading through it, I learned that his content was mostly different than what I plan to write about this week. Instead of struggling to pick out a specific format I want to sell out of, I (and I can only assume many other Magic enthusiasts out there) have previously been emotionally conflicted with selling out of cards for a myriad of other reasons.

One of the more frequent mistakes I made as a budding Magic financier several years ago was letting my emotions and desire to show off my “victory” in my trade binder before I had actually made any money in reality. I remember one of the first singles purchases I ever made online with value in mind was pre-ordering two sets of Inkmoth Nexus for $20 each through eBay, on the night that the card was spoiled. My rationale for making the purchase was definitely flawed at the time because of my semi-casual bias towards infect, and my desire to make some sort of infect deck work in standard. I thought that it would be in every single Standard deck ever, and I knew I would be able to flip the second playset that I had purchased with ease at my local card shop that I had recently started attending in the previous months.

By the time the set was released and my cards were shipped to me, Inkmoth had made it to approximately $10 a piece. My years of calculation and planning had finally come to fruition. The first bud of a future Magic finance empire had finally begun. I would take the world by sto- …..

Except, there was one problem. I never actually ended up selling those Inkmoths. Well, I shouldn’t say that was the problem specifically. You don’t need to sell cards to achieve a goal, and I didn’t even sell cards back then: partially because I didn’t know how, and partially because I actually played Magic. However, I didn’t trade the playset of Inkmoths away either. I let them sit in my trade binder for weeks, even during the several requests of “Would you trade your extra set away?” that I was approached with during the first few weeks of the set’s release. Eventually, the hype over the new infect land had faded, the the price moved to reflect that.

Why? Well, I was proud. Those Inkmoths represented a story to me, even though my initial reason for buying them was “I think this card will be worth more by the time it arrives in my hand, and I will be able to get more trade value out of it if I buy now.” They were a reason for my 17 year old self to humblebrag to the other guys at my shop, and a constant reminder to myself that I had made a smart buy every time I flipped to that page in my binder.

The lesson here, if it’s not too visible already, is to remove emotional attachment from your cards when you’re planning on buying them for strictly financial purposes. As Magic players, we tend to have a tough time with this because the cards are tangible, and we can see our rewards in front of us while using cognitive dissonance to shove aside the failures and bad thoughts. We got into this game on an emotional level, and can have trouble separating business and pleasure when it comes to what we’re willing to sell, whether it’s in our personal collection or investment portfolio.

Personally, I’ve been very loose with my goals when it comes to how much money I want to make through my various streams of revenue in Magic. As a broad goal, I would love to just be able to pay for my graduate school degree, and maintain a sizable collection to use as inventory at the same time. Interestingly enough, players who need to liquidate their collection for unexpected life expensive and are selling at a discount are much better at this aspect of goal setting than I am. Some people need to sell specific decks to pay for rent, to buy a car, or help afford a trip to their next Grand Prix. Due to the fact that I’ve been very poor with goal setting and not having any immediate bills to pay, I’ve grown apathetic in how many cards I currently have listed on TCGplayer, my Facebook posts in the buy/sell/trade groups, and buylisting as a whole. With no immediate need to acquire funds, I’ve gotten really lazy when it comes to selling cards.

Goals in Goal Setting:


If you were forced to go to some sort of goal setting orientation at a job, school, or something else, you’ve probably heard of SMART as an acronym for determining goals that you can stick with, instead of just saying something vague like “I want to sell Magic cards and make money” as a goal.

You’re going to want a particular exit price in mind when you buy cards with the intent to sell. If I buy 5,000 copies of Seance, I need to be immediately ready to sell them (emotionally and physically) if I pick $.50 as my buylisting sell point. I don’t recommend picking a spec and saying to yourself “I’ll sell this when it goes up.” When I bought into He Who Shall Not Be Named, I chose $6-7 as my price point that I would sell out at, after buying in at $3. It can help to write down your projected sell point on the sleeve of the card so that you don’t forget in the long term.

Be firm, and stick to the decision you made a year ago, if and when the card actually reaches that price point that you picked when you purchased it. If you bought into Snapcaster Mage at $35 in late 2014 and decided you would sell at $60, then you need to be steadfast and hold yourself to that number, or else you risk the demand for the card declining over the next several weeks and days. (Yes, I get that Snappy peaked at $80 or something ridiculous, but it’s one of the exceptions to the rule)

Screenshot 2015-11-25 at 7.21.39 PM

Going back to the “paying for a college degree with Magic cards” goal a few paragraphs ago, I’ll use myself as an example for how a more specific goal would help encourage me to list more cards at a time and keep a more constant flow of income happening, instead of just relying on the local players who irregularly ask me to piece together decklists for them.

If I pick a more specific, measurable, and achievable number for a month’s worth of TCGplayer sales, I’ll be able to constantly keep track of where I am in my goal, instead of just guessing on the vagueness of an unclear finish line. To start us off, I’m going to try and have 150 TCGplayer orders in the month of December. If I really work towards it and start listing a larger portion of my collection, this is almost certainly a realistic number for me to achieve, as it boils down to 5 orders a day. Depending on where we end up at the closing of 2015, we can increase or decrease that number based on how close my estimate is to my real potential.

End Step

Having a personal goal to stick to that’s specific, measurable, achievable, and time-bound should help to increase my personal productivity, and remove some of the emotions from the equation to help me focus entirely on the business aspect of Magic. Even now, there’s still a lingering emotional satisfaction when I buy a collection, sort everything out, and have the pile of all of the relevant and listable stuff on my desk. Sometimes it takes me much longer than it should to actually incorporate those new assets into my existing inventory, simply because the cards are tangible in front of me, and the changes in numbers for my bank account are much less so. Here’s to hoping that I manage to fix this personal problem, and help you set some goals in Magic finance as well.

PROTRADER: Don’t Get Too Comfortable With Your Preferred Out

For some reason, Khans of Tarkir didn’t grab my attention. I immediately knew the set was objectively good, with all kinds of possible decks from two to five colors. Yet, when the format was all said and done, I drafted it about a dozen times total, which is quite low for me.

I had attributed this not to a lack of interest in the set, but to the fact that my wife had our first kid shortly before Khans of Tarkir‘s release. The thing is, though, that my son is way more of a handful than he was last year, and yet today, all I want to do is draft Battle for Zendikar. Considering how good Khans was, that must mean Battle is even better.

Cream of the Crop

What’s really been drawing me in is the set’s difficulty. The format is very complex, with synergy playing a much more important role than in usual sets. A blue card that is excellent in black-blue may just be straight unplayable in white-blue. Figuring out this stuff is a joy, and after nearly 20 Limited events, I’m still trying to determine the proper balance between synergy and power.

What’s surprising is that I’m not even winning very much, yet I’m still interested in the format—usually, the formats I end up playing the most are the ones where I win the most matches. In this case, it’s the learning curve and the joy of discovery keeping me coming back, which is a huge endorsement for the design of the set. I’m hoping that more match wins will start coming eventually.

The need to reconsider many standard drafting practices is comparable to another issue I ran into recently: the need to reconsider one’s various outs for cards.

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ProTrader: Magic doesn’t have to be expensive.

Conditional Value

“I just want the cheapest copy you have. It’s for personal play, and I’m just trying to build the deck on a budget.”

–Probably one of my local customers

Man, I misuse quotations a lot. You wouldn’t know this if I didn’t tell you, but I didn’t actually  document that quote from some local guy I know. I mean, people have said similar stuff to me over the years, but I probably shouldn’t use actual quotation marks for it.

Anyway, what have we got to write about this week? Fetches? Boring. From the Vault: Lack of Linvala I really don’t care. I’d rather continue on my track as a brilliant comedy writer who basically wrote A Modest Proposal in MTG finance form (it’s right freaking here, for those who haven’t read it). As much as I’d love to continue writing satire and reading the comments, I do kind of get paid to provide useful and actionable financial information about our lovable little economy. I’m hopping back to more of a Finance 101 topic this week, where we’ll go over card conditions and why you shouldn’t write off buying and selling slightly played (SP), moderately played (MP), and heavily played (HP) cards.

Tell Me More

Let’s go back to that opening made-up quote. This more often applies to Legacy, Modern, or EDH than Standard, where the prices on dual lands, fetches, and older staples are symbolic of there not being enough to go around. Not all of the original dual lands have withstood the past twenty years of wear, and the ones that have been used as sandpaper have a price tag to show it. As a result of this, players on a budget who just care about the end result of finishing their decks are more often than not willing to sacrifice card condition to complete that goal.

Take a look at this Tundra, for example: it was one of the first dual lands I ever picked up, and I paid approximately 50 percent of retail for it, because it looks like someone smoked a cigarette directly onto the card for two days straight. (Seriously. The pictures below don’t capture just how yellow the card is.)

smoke tundra 2 smoke

“Yes, DJ. Used merchandise sells for cheaper than brand new stuff. That’s obvious. Why are you telling me this?”

Well, Mr. Stereotypical Devil’s Advocate Who So Many MTG Financiers Invoke in Their Articles, I’ll tell you a few things that you can use to take advantage of in the field of less-than-NM cards.


StarCityGames.com gets a lot of flak for having singles that are  often priced slightly higher than the rest of the internet, but I’ve never seen a more strict grading system in action when ordering cards from the company. Last year, I ordered 40 copies of Ghave, Guru of Spores from SCG. Ten of those were NM and 30 were SP, and I paid 50 cents less on each of the SP copies. When the cards arrived, I couldn’t even tell that some of them were SP. I ended up grading around half of them as NM, and sold several on TCGplayer and out of my local display case as NM with no complaints.

If you’re ever looking to go deep on a particular spec target, I highly recommend checking out the SP and MP sections of SCG. My local customers will tell you that I’m a tough grader, and even I had trouble finding marks on the cards that would justifiy them being slightly played. Another side benefit of ordering from SCG will be that you’ll be guaranteed to have your order shipped to you, with no concern over cancellation or shipping worries.

On the Other Hand…

Let’s say you have a card that you graded as NM, and you throw it up on TCGplayer. You sell the card, package it up, ship it out, you know the drill. You’re happy to have a sale. However, you get a message about a week later. The buyer is unhappy with the condition of the card because he found a nick or two that he believes knocks it down to SP. Now they want a refund—either a partial return on their purchase for the condition or a full refund with them shipping the card back to you. Sometimes they’re correct, and sometimes they’re just being too critical of a grader. Neither of those choices are very appealing though, and unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot you can do about it.

However, I’ve never had anyone counterclaim my grading of SP or worse cards. The line in the sand between SP and MP can often be blurry, and I’ve definitely listed some cards on TCGplayer as SP that some people might argue as being MP. Even so, buyers have never messaged me about it. They purchased the card expecting some amount of wear, and were satisfied with their purchase costing less than an otherwise minty version would have run them. If you err on the safe side and list it as SP, you’ll remove most picky graders from the equation and not suffer a huge loss in the process. I’m not suggesting to list this thing…


…as “SP” and cross your fingers hoping that you don’t get hate mail, but you can probably get away with posting it as HP instead of just straight up “damaged.”

A Rough Guideline

If you’re new to Magic or to the seller’s side of the game, I recommend checking out TCGplayer’s condition guide for grading. While I think it might be a little bit too strict on the definition of LP or MP, it certainly gets the job done if you’re trying to successfully sell on TCGplayer or eBay.


Only the NM Shall Pass

When trying to sell off SP and worse cards, it’s important to remember that some businesses don’t allow you to trade or sell them. PucaTrade is a website where a lot of heated discussion over condition takes place. Some users don’t take the time to read the requirements of sending a card, and don’t understand that unless notifying their trade partner beforehand, it is not okay to ship out cards that are SP or worse condition while expecting the full point value.

StrikeZoneOnline is a vendor with a buylist that only accepts NM cards, and grades extremely strictly. If you send cards that are even close to questionable on condition, StrikeZone will send you back the cards that they rejected and remove the cost of shipping from your payment amount. If you’re an inexperienced buylister and ship to them expecting to get a simple “condition discount” like CardKingdom offers, then you’ll end up very disappointed. StrikeZone will almost always pay top dollar on foils if you keep your eye out on their graph line on MTGPrice, but you need to be sure that there’s absolutely no clouding, smudging, or edge wear at all before you send the company cards. Interestingly enough, I’ve found StrikeZone’s grading system to be much more lax in person when I sit down to sell to them at Grands Prix. I don’t know if this is because it’s harder to be strict when you have someone sitting across from you to dispute your grading, but I’ve definitely shipped the company SP cards in person and been paid in full.

Everything Comes Back to Cube/Commander

It seems like every time I write an article, there’s at least some mention of Commander or Cube. These two formats allow for some of the most unique personal expression in Magic, and have some of the more interesting house rules or restrictions when building, so it’s no wonder that financiers can end up finding unique ways to cater to these types of players. I once attended an SCG Open and spectated a draft where a player had a cube composed of entirely HP or worse non-foil cards.

He didn’t want to pay the full price to obtain his otherwise expensive cube, so he decided to make a game out of building the cube itself, while at the same time helping the cube be more affordable. The Jace, the Mind Sculptor in that cube looked like it had been used to paint somebody’s driveway, and certain text boxes weren’t even visible anymore. However, he proudly explained that he had only paid $40 to a vendor that was dying to get rid of it, as he ticked up the loyalty on a card who’s initial loyalty placement in the bottom right had been peeled away at some point.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor

If you’re trying to build a budget cube without dropping the power level to commons and uncommons only, then this might be your way to go. Challenge yourself to only include cards that you find in the parking lot, or something to that effect, and you’ll be done in no time. While I’ve never actually seen someone do the same with a Commander deck, it could certainly be done, and it would be a much cheaper alternative that comes with a story every time you sit down to play it.

End Step (NSFL)

If you’re a fellow Redditor and looking to see some of the most destroyed cards that Magic has to offer, I recommend indulging in MTGgore. While a “flip it or rip it” phase seems to have taken over a little bit, there’s some sort of sick pleasure obtained from looking at picture of a Legacy deck that just went through the wash. It’s like watching a dumpster fire: there’s no value to it, but you just can’t look away.