This article is going to focus on understanding and beginning to see the underbelly of the Magic finance world by exploring Magic cards by their buylist price not their trade/sell price.
Making the Transition
It takes time to learn the trade/sell prices of cards. Just when I felt comfortable with the card prices, I learned that the buylist price is the actual price you want to know to be successful in the Magic finance world.
So I had to re-teach myself. Except this time you can’t just use your phone to look up the prices on your way to a tournament. Studying buylists can seem daunting at first, but in time you will master it just as you did the trade/sell prices.
Something that stands out at first when looking at a buylist is what formats the card is seeing play in. If it is only seeing play in Standard and is rotating out in less than a year the card will have a low buylist percentage. Standard cards are already a highly volatile market to be in so vendors are usually going to give you a low percentage on a card that only sees play in Standard.
Modern and Legacy staples usually see higher buylist percentages and therefore usually have a higher buylist percentage than Standard cards. Some cards may still be in Standard but already be Modern staples so they fall into this category.
Lands in general tend to get higher buylist percentages because floor vendors and vendors alike will tell you lands are one of the most liquid assets in the Magic finance world.
Understanding this buylist percentage world makes the “trade up” system make more sense than ever.
Buylists and Hotlists at GPs
At Grand Prix, the buylists are usually higher than any buylist anywhere else.
MTGDeals method of business is unique but extremely successful. MTGDeals will buy a card for $9 cash and sell it for $10 cash. This is not a normal model for vendors but hotlists do exist at almost every booth at GPs now. Understanding and taking advantage of them while at a GP can yield some solid returns.
Instead of just selling cards at a GP to the first open vendor, go around and write down the highest percentages you see via the hotlist boards. Some other vendors besides MTGDeals will also have crazy high percentages on cards they need because they are out of them or need more of them. Once you have that list, go around and ask everyone you can find if they have any of these cards for trade. Trade for just those cards in exchange for any cards you have that are not on any hotlist. Take those $10 cards and sell them for $9 cash, and you’re selling those cards for 90 percent instead of the usual 40-60 percent. It doesn’t take that much time and if you have to sell cards that weekend anyways you will get a lot more cash for very little work. This is something anyone could do. Even normal people who aren’t trying to grow their collection or get better at trading can do this.
Even though that hotlist example works well for some, I am not actually encouraging you to sell any cards with this buylist theory. To grow your collection and create more “power” in trades you are going to want your binder to look more and more like a store. If you don’t have to, try not to sell any cards when you are trying to get the ball rolling.
Writing Down and Keeping Track of Your Trades
Calculating the buylist differences after each trade/each weekend will show you how you actually did from a cash perspective at the end of every trade, every day, or every GP weekend.
Challenging yourself, setting new goals, and breaking your own goals is the way to get better. This is true for most things in life. Don’t worry about what other people are trading for or trading away. Don’t get caught in the hype or the fear or the conversations about speculation. Don’t worry about the new hot cards; just trade the over-hyped stocks away and wait for the dust to settle.
Keep learning and challenging yourself. You will find an area of the finance world that most traders have overlooked. You will find a niche and fill it. Set goals, try to reach and break them, keep track of results, and break your own personal records/personal bests.
Lots of Small Cards Usually Don’t Add Up To One Big Card (on a buylist)
This is why the “trade up” mentality exists for so many good traders. A lot of examples of buylist differences exist when you take a bunch of small cards and trade them into one big card. That big card is often worth more on a buylist than all the small cards put together and is easier and quicker to sell if you need to.
A simple guideline to follow to break everything we have talked about so far down into two sentences:
WHEN TRADING UP USE SELL PRICES (use the simple trade-up mentality to boost buylist values and move your collection into fewer but bigger pieces)
WHEN TRADING DOWN USE BUYLIST PRICES (use your big cards as power in a trade to convince others to trade away their small cards at close to or exactly buylist prices)
If you have lots of small stuff, spend a weekend focusing on trading all that stuff up. Then at a different event call yourself a floor vendor and melt all that big stuff back down into small stuff at 50-70 percent and repeat. This is a simple way to build up your collection without ever buying collections or bulking out and then having to find a buyer and repeat.
Next Week: Everything for Trade All the Time
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.