Bargaining Table

“Okay, here’s what I can do. I can give you this finance column for twenty bulk rares. It’s pack-fresh. Only copy in existence. Best rate in the room, guaranteed.”

– Me to Hipsters of the Coast, 2015



Hi folks! Welcome to yet another weekly column about that absurdly overused catch-all term we love to throw around: ~*MTG Finance*~.

Speak it always with little wings.

So. What’s different about this column? Why add one more voice to an already crowded marketplace of articles and premium memberships shouting into the [casthaven]Planar Void[/casthaven] about how to obtain one type of paper with another type of paper?

I’m glad you asked! I’ll be happy to tell you. But before we shake on it, let me introduce myself.



Information Dealer

Hi. I’m Stefano Black. Stefano has an F in the middle, like the actual condition of most Near Mint foils on the Internet. And it kind of rhymes with “yes-and-no,” which is the first of several things I will say when you tell me what your card is worth.

Black is the word before Lotus. Credentials.

I’ve been playing Magic on and off for the better or worse part of 20 years, most recently dragged back to the game from a five-year hiatus for an M13 prerelease. Shortly thereafter I opened a foil Steam Vents and, being either a sucker or a min-maxer, started trading semi-professionally without even knowing that I was.

Since then I’ve built a five-digit personal collection of high-end foils just by trading at events I was playing in anyway, and I’ve sure as hell never had five actual digits to spend. (Not to mention that I assembled and disassembled numerous Standard decks without spending a dime on singles.) Nearly the only thing I own that I bought at retail price is a playset of foil [casthaven]Snapcaster Mage[/casthaven]s, because they cost less at that time than what retailers pay for regular ones now.

Lately I’ve been less semi-, more -professional, supplementing my living with smart buying, selling, and trading. I’ve started building relationships (and making friends!) in the sub-sub-subculture of Magic/CCG vendors and studying a wide range of sourcing avenues, selling platforms, and styles of exchange. I can already travel to almost any well populated event in the US knowing I’ll come back a little richer, and my optimistic goal for year’s end is to never have to work for someone else again unless I really want to. (Which I do, so hire me to work your booth.)



Inner Calm, Outer Strength

My greatest strength as a trader is the same as my greatest strength as player: I know how to talk to people, I genuinely love to do so, and I especially like the feeling of being able to (ethically) profit from that skill. My greatest weakness as a trader is also also my greatest weakness as a player: I tend to overthink the possible lines of play and the opportunity costs of each — except in trading, this sometimes means the other player says “Screw it, take the land and the Goblin Guide.”

One thing we’ll talk a lot about is putting your default settings to work.

I can’t pretend to have an extensive economics education behind me, nor to be the most informed and/or mad-money-havin’-ass ~*~*MTG Financier*~*~ (double the wings for value), and I wouldn’t want to waste anyone’s time trying to. What I do have is a [casthaven]Thirst for Knowledge[/casthaven] that can’t be countered, the people skills to [casthaven]Wheel and Deal[/casthaven] with legendary giants, and a [casthaven]Psionic Gift[/casthaven] for communicating what I learn to resolved credit counters of any level.

Not to mention an affinity for card puns! Greatness, at any cost.

Speaking of confidence…



Promise of Power

Now that you know who I am and trust my every word implicitly forever, how is this column going to differ from the other ones you can read on any number of fine Internets that I read too? If you haven’t already picked up on some of it between the lines, here’s a list of things I try not to take too seriously:

  1. TCG Mid!
  1. Speculating!
  1. Accepted wisdom!
  1. Myself!

Quest for Ancient Secrets

In all seriousness, whether your goal is just to make a great hobby a little cheaper or to open a storefront and make a killing, my goal is to keep the [casthaven]Howling Mine[/casthaven] untapped and ride it right along with you on a [casthaven]Journey of Discovery[/casthaven] — because, unlike the game of Magic, the game of trading and dealing in silly collectible cards is truly one that everyone can win.

Together, we’re going to [casthaven]Explore[/casthaven] the economic principles, psychology, ethics, diversity of marketplaces, and metrics of success that affect your quest for card advantage and/or green mana — with a strong emphasis on the undervalued importance of negotiation and communication skills. Hence…[casthaven]Bargaining Table[/casthaven].

If that doesn’t [casthaven]Stoke the Flames[/casthaven] of your [casthaven]Curiosity[/casthaven], then write in and let me know what else will!

Join me next Wednesday for a conversation about what a piece of printed cardboard is worth, to whom, in what location, when, why, and in what form.



Stefano Black is an NYC-based writer, filmmaker, Timetwister, and cardboard-drug dealer. He can be found on Twitter as @StefanoBlackest, sharing humor, criticism, and Garfield-related poetry, and is available for hire or collection buying. He also unabashedly wants your money.

If you enjoyed this, check out ULTIMATE PRICE: What Is a Card Worth? and the Bargaining Table archive, and offer your playgroup bulk rares for catching up!

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