By Colin Bevis
MEETING THE OGRE
I used the little blue book to record my trades all the way from Zendikar fetches, Shardless BUG and into my first Mox Pearl. I had become a “good” trader but it was still just a fun hobby. For the amount of countless hours I had put into trading my collection still wasn’t that big.
I knew LGS owners and some pros made a living off of Magic, but I had never met or even heard of anyone like the Ogre until I met him at an SCG Dallas 10k event my Junior year of college. First off I had never seen a binder worth as much as the first page of his giant binder. As I watched his first trade I saw countless power, OG Duals and the newest judge foils. I assumed this guy didn’t know what he was doing because no one else had anything close to the value of his stuff. How could he possibly use the “trade up, trade back” philosophy when he already had everything? I thought to myself, “What could this guy possibly be looking for?”
What happened next I can only describe as the most eye opening trading experience I have ever witnessed. To my amazement he started pointing at cards in the other trader’s binder and naming a price. I had all the format staple cards memorized and knew he was naming a number much lower than the usual trade price for the card, BUT the other trader was saying yes almost every time. Confused but completely enthralled I watched as this happened for ten minutes, then the Ogre counted up the stacks of cards in front of him and the two agreed, shock hands, the other guy pulled out a Underground Sea and went on his way with a smile on his face. Shocked I watched as someone who had been patiently waiting and had seen the previous trade sat down and the process began again.
I didn’t know it then, but I had just stumbled across one of the most well known, respected, and loved Magic floor vendors to ever trade Magic cards.
I stopped everything I was doing and sat next to him all day. He asked me if I wanted to trade three times before he realized I wasn’t waiting—I was watching. I stayed out of his way and watched trade after trade. Even though it was happening right in front of me I couldn’t figure it out. Like watching a format you don’t play, it was all a blur to me.
During a few lulls I would ask questions and he would answer a few. He said many things that day that went way over my head, some which took me another year to fully understand and others that I am still working on!
The next few segments of this article highlight some of what we talked about that day that I want you all to start thinking about and what I feel most Magic finance articles purposefully omit.
MEMORIZE BUYLISTS NOT SELL PRICES
As good at trading as I had become, I was limited by the fact that I only had SCG’s sell price memorized. The Ogre always has two or three of the top Buylists memorized.
The sell price is what everyone has agreed on is a way to trade your cards, but it doesn’t mean that every trade is even.
If you trade ten little “two dollar” cards for a twenty dollar fetch land, even though that might have been an “even” trade on SCG or TCG mid, it doesn’t mean it was even in buylist price. Whoever traded for the fetch land actually made a profit in buylist off of that trade. You could go sell that one card for more money than all the little cards combined. This makes sense and would be considered a good trade. This is the basis of the “trade up, trade back” mentality.
The Ogre taught me to memorize the buylist price not the sell price of a card. It was a tough change for me to make and took months to relearn, but it will show you the hidden side to the world of Magic trading.
WAYS TO “SELL” YOUR CARDS
In the case of really expensive cards, even if the buylist is a higher percent it’s still not worth selling. Even though SCG might try to sell a Mox Jet between $1200-1500, they are only going to give you $500-700 cash for the card. Everyone understands this, but with really big cards like OG duals and power even though the percent is higher (50+ percent) the amount of hundreds of dollars they are making off of you can feel like a lot.
Instead of selling big pieces like power and OG duals the Ogre explained a different way to “sell” a piece of power is to actually melt it down into GP Hotlist items. This usually includes the hottest new breakout Standard cards, fetch lands etc. At GPs you can sell these kinds of cards at around 70-90 percent of what the vendors are selling them for. They offer this high of a percentage because they are sold out and know they just need more so they can flip them quickly. No one follows this practice better than MTG Deals, who are the best at buying high and selling low, making a very small amount on each transaction but making a ton of money because of the amount of transactions they do each weekend. Check out their unique take on being a vendor next time you are at a GP.
Even though trading your big cards down into hotlist cards gives you a higher percentage, the best way to “sell” a big card is to turn that big piece like an OG Dual land into bulk rares. If you get 3000 bulk rares for an Underground Sea than you have “sold” that Underground Sea for 300 dollars cash (if you sell those 3000 bulk rares at 10 cents each cash). The buylist for Underground Sea might only be $175-225 so by bulking the card out you have actually sold your Underground Sea for almost or at market price, like you are a store.
WHY DO PEOPLE TRADE AWAY BULK RARES?
- They don’t know this concept or haven’t taken the time to comprehend it.
- If you have 3000 bulk rares and want an Underground Sea you would have to sell your bulk rares and then buy the Underground Sea anyways. By going through a floor vendor you are quickly killing two birds with one stone. The person trading away the bulk rares isn’t losing any money because they were going to have to buy one anyways so it’s a good trade for them. The floor vendor is just “selling” the Underground Sea to the person via the known bulk rare sell price so this becomes a way for a floor vendor to make money without sharking.
THE ONGOING CYCLE
- Buy collections or cards for around 40-60 percent of what a store would sell them for.
- Take those cards and put them into your trade binder.
- Trade them away at 90-100 percent of their sell price via bulk rares or at hotlist buylist prices.
- Take those bulk rares/hotlist cards and sell them.
Repeat steps 1 through 4 over and over again.
That is what I did for a full year after college. It allows you to roughly double your investment each time while finding a way to get return customers because you are helping them get what they need without sharking them.
I will explain this cycle in more detail next week as well as show how I took this idea and went a step further into the world of GP prize ticket trading.
Colin Bevis started playing magic right after the release of Innistrad his freshman year of college. He moved to New York City this fall after traveling the country learning and surviving off of floor trading. He enjoys theatre and film, and now flies out to most U.S. GPs.