Grinding Station

“Twenty-five cents? What? HotSauce has this on their buylist at twenty. seven. cents.

– Me about to receive thirty-four cents



Buzzy Wednesday, my busily bustling ~*~*MTG Financiers!*~*~

If you’re a regular Table-ite, do you follow me on Twitter?

Some folks read me for the humor, so they might really love my “nihilist Garfield” character-slash-true-form on Twitter, Tumblr, and weirdly enough, ello. (Read that last account from the bottom up if you wanna prove you’re not some punk Monday-lover. It’s my favorite thing I’ve ever written.)

Have you noticed my film criticism essays? They’re the latest addition to my footer. The visuals are optimized for desktop, but you can enjoy the content on any device and see a whole different side to my writing.

Most importantly, I really hope you’ve all taken a look at my Patreon campaign. I put every bit as much effort into writing it up as I put into these articles — it’s actually the reason *sweat-drop emoji* why I missed a post two weeks ago — and I really, truly need your help if I’m going to be able to keep committing as much time and serious mental energy to Bargaining Table as I’ve been doing for the last two and a half months.

Oh, and hey! If you join Square’s free, new Cash app with my referral link — and it’s a way faster service than Venmo or PayPal — we’ll both receive $5 within seconds of your first Send Payment to anyone. You can also take advantage of my Lyft link, which gets you $20 worth of free rides instantly (without nearly the ethical baggage of patronizing those creeps over at Uber).

Phew! Now that my sales pitches are done with, here comes the sales pitch.


Destroy the Evidence

This works on so many levels.


What the hell was all that?

~*~*~* Value.*~*~*~

Previously, on Bargaining Table — a whopping three weeks ago, because of my goldlust (and WotC’s) — I left you all salivating for a salacious salsa of salience and salvation with a peremptorily pared paragraph of perilously paired parentheticals, preciously presaging the present present I present: a presentation predicated on perennial, predatory prescience. Par for the course, perfection.

By which I mean to say: just as I did above this subheading, in today’s pretend-profitable preface, I previously proceeded to prime you for my big, bold blockbuster on bulk and buylisting with…an indulgently long joke that underscores the premise (ugh, I’m stuck) of patiently maximizing the value-efficiency of really small units.

Incidentally, today’s intro also emphasizes the importance of what you know by now is one of my favorite themes to harp on like a parent (ugh): grounded, friendly, mindful communication. That’s part (wat) and parcel (watever) of maintaining productive (p)relationships, especially if you want to go as HAM as I do when it comes to haggling really awesome, really patient people down to the last non-Bit, actual-metal coin.

So without further dew, let’s dive right into the Deep Dream I’ve been so delighted to discuss with you — a pragmatic appraisal of praxis appropriate to a proper, practically omnipresent ~*MTG Finance*~ problem.



Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker

Rare photo: my black metal career.


“Why do you want all that shit?”

– Person watching you double your money


You’ve seen it before. Definitely at a dealer booth, which you understand: those people sell singles. They move product. Online, you assume.

But maybe you’ve seen it in the loose, player-designated trading area too. Those tables over there where there aren’t any side events. Some person — I mean, their binder looks pretty nice, but they’re just like, a person — diligently stacking hundreds and hundreds of random cards on the table.

Hell. You might’ve been watching me.

I am asked so many versions of this question that I wish I could sell them all to somebody for ten cents apiece. “Why do you trade for that stuff?” “What do you do with all that bulk shit?” “Why would you give him a dual land for these?” “Do you need a box?”

Yes, I do need a box. Because trading for bulk, especially bulk rares, is where I get a substantial chunk of my value. As I typically answer a soon-to-be blank-faced asker: Bulk rares are essentially money.

But first, for the potentially (p)uninitiated among us: what is bulk? (Baby, don’t hurt me.)


Undercity Informer

See I’m like, your spy friend


What I’m talking about are cards so cheap that they don’t even really have a dollar value on their own. These are cards you don’t see on any vendor’s buylist — or at least, at the moment, on the buylists of any vendors you have access to.

If you’ve never dealt with selling stuff like that off to a store, dealer, or booth before, you might think of bulk rares simply as “crap rares” — or even “dollar rares,” as many Local Gaming Stores will just stick them in a box and let folks pick out whatever they want for a buck apiece.

Of course, it doesn’t just apply to rares. “Bulk” comes in many flavors (though English-language only!) and can describe (in English) any type of (English) cards, usually grouped by printed rarity and foil/non-foil finish, that are easier to value in large quantities than in small ones.

Here’s the standard, default range of rates — and notable exceptions — for the most relevant types of bulk:

  • Foil commons/uncommons: $0.03-0.05 each
    • Usually $0.04
    • Occasionally $0.06
    • Occasionally $0.10
  • Rares: $0.10 each
    • Usually must be Near Mint with a gold symbol
    • Occasionally $0.11-13 (or $0.15 for certain ones)
    • Prerelease promos usually have to be included here
    • Some other oversupplied promo foils may be included here
  • Foil rares: $0.15-0.25 each
    • Usually $0.25
    • Occasionally $0.30
  • Mythics: $0.25 or $0.50 each
    • Occasionally $0.60
  • Foil mythics: $0.50 or $1.00 each
    • Occasionally $1.05
  • Straight commons/uncommons: $3-5 per thousand
    • I’ve gotten $6 by having pretty eyelashes and niceness
  • Basic lands: $3-5 per thousand
    • Believe it or not, occasionally $6 even w/o eyelashes
  • Foil basic lands: $0.10-0.25 each
    • There’s nothing funny about this

There are other types of bulk, including tokens at the low end, emblems around the middle, and Zendikar full-art basics at the high end, but the variance and fluctuation in these fringe rates feel too unpredictable to pin down to a small, clear, representative dataset. I can say that I did recently sell some emblems at an event for $0.10 each because only that booth even wanted them — yet, amusingly, one older source I’ve seen estimates the actual rarity of a given emblem as…equivalent to that of a foil mythic or Zendikar Expedition.

As for the “occasional” rates, note that many stores don’t give you a trade-in credit on your bulk unless their rates are on the low end to begin with — and that some of the higher rates ($0.30, $0.60, $1.05) I have only seen in two situations:

  1. A booth gave me a special rate because we’re friendly and they know my process; or
  2. Like one store has that rate listed online, which means you need to be shipping enough quantity to comfortably absorb shipping costs (and many vendors will not honor their exact online pricing at an event booth because of the logistics of transporting tons of bulk back with them).

I mean, unless it’s a typo, Troll & Toad even claims online that they’ll buy pure, silver-symbol’d, nothin’-but-uncommon bulk at $12.50 per thousand. But, um…if anyone anywhere ever has actually sold to them at this rate, then, uh…shoot me an email now.

Trust me man. My shit is pure.

Now! We know what bulk is, and we know what it’s worth. The question persists:

Why the hell do we want this shit?



Sanity Grinding

Pictured: the sorting process.


“I just sold my card for its exact full value after costs and fees!”

– No one


Let’s run through a scenario that’s typical of any GP- or Open-level event.

You have a $10 card. By this you probably mean a card with a TCG Mid of about $9.67 or a StarCityGames price of $9.99 — and as dumb as those metrics are, people use them. So you have a “$10 card.”

Someone rolls up with an empty binder. “I just got cleaned out,” he bemoans. But he does still have this box.

In this box are 100 bulk rares. Being a smart, reasonable ~*~*Financier*~*~, you make an offer: “If you want, I’ll trade you for all of those at the same price the stores give. It’ll sound a little steep, but you can take anything you want from me as long as it adds up. And if you’re a little short, I don’t mind rounding you up.”

Respectful, yet authoritative. Helpful, yet proactive. The stars of the open cosmos weep at your Command.

He’s into it! You add it up, conservatively pricing his rares at ten American cents apiece: “This is a totally standard rate.” It is. It really, really is.

You had a $10 card. It’s gone now. You have a hundred $0.10 cards.

You walk over to a booth, any booth. You give them a hundred rares.

You have ten dollars.


Consuming Aberration

Your the man now doge


Congratulations! You did the impossible: you conquered Everest unaided, you built the perpetual motion machine.

You sold your card for what it’s worth.

See, when you have a “$10 card,” the hell you do. What you have is proof that you don’t have ten dollars.

What can you really have with a $10 card — and when? You have $9.66 (you Price Is Right scumwad) eventually, minus 11%, minus fifty cents; a little sooner, you have $9.49 minus 10% minus thirty cents; even sooner — maybe — you have $8.50 shipped.

No. You have six dollars.


But most importantly, you have time to lose; you have risk.

What happens when your $10 card gets beat in the meta? What happens when the set it’s in starts being opened more because another card shot up? What happens when its best enabler gets banned? What happens when the perfect removal or hate card gets printed for it? What happens when you find out $10 was a temporary pump-and-dump price some assholes caused and it’s really more like a $7 card?

What happens when you have twelve copies? Twenty? Forty, sixty?

What happens when you have a hundred “$10 cards?”

Annnd…what happens when you have ten thousand $0.10 cards?

I hope you see the beauty of trading for bulk.

Don’t get me wrong: you can turn your cards into exact perceived dollar value in other ways. If you’re trading a $10 card for five $4 cards at today’s $2 buylist rate each, that means you can again turn your $10 card into ten dollars today — but maybe not tomorrow.

(Though maybe more in two days, if you do what I do: spend all weekend trading for value, with the help of those five $4 cards in your binder. We’ll come back to that in Part Deux.)

To make a long article short, every Table needs a floor. By trading (intrinsically unstable) commodities such as Magic singles for large quantities of cards that are the cheapest they can ever possibly be

…you have nothing but updog.



tfw u finaly grok econ

tfw u finaly grok econ


What happens when you find a booth at a GP that’s willing to pay $0.12 for bulk rares, that weekend only?

What happens when you meet a store owner who’s willing to pay $0.13 for bulk rares anytime, as long as you sort them and ship them?

What happens when some buyers get to know you and like you, and you manage to haggle them up to $0.15 on the playable bulk rares?

Is there a ceiling on this?

What happens when you invest some time into circling the GP and asking every single booth for each and every bulk rate — on Friday afternoon, before you do any trading?

What happens when you have enough cash flow that you don’t need to sell off your bulk at the end of an event if the rates aren’t above average?

What happens when you find an online store that offers $0.60 on all the mythics you’ve been trading for at $0.25? $0.30 on all the foil rares you’ve been picking up at $0.15? $1.05 on all the foil mythics you’ve been getting at $0.50?

What happens when your LGS has been making a lot more dollar-rare sales because of some diverse stock you brought them, so they offer you a special rate?

What happens when you meet a dealer who needs tens of thousands of bulk rares now?

What happens when you’ve been stockpiling for weeks at a time?

Is there a ceiling on this?

What happens when you have a few dozen new friends who know they can bring you a box of old garbage and go home with an [casthaven]Underground Sea[/casthaven]?

What happens when their friends ask them how they can afford to build a Legacy deck?

What happens when people would rather deal with you because you’re cool, and you round them up, and you keep an eye out for the cards they need, and you let them bring you the rest next time, and they don’t mind just having credit until you find something fun, and you always try to find a way to give them what they want?

What happens when you’re providing people a useful service?

Is there a ceiling on this?



Thanks for joining us at the Table, dark and devilish ~*~*Financiers!*~*~

In The Cardfather: Part II, we’ll continue to confront the confusion of consolidating, contextualizing, and (conservatively) conquering condensed containers of confoundingly conflated Khans and [casthaven]Condemn[/casthaven]s; [casthaven]Concentrate[/casthaven]s and [casthaven]Conflagrate[/casthaven]s; [casthaven]Contagion[/casthaven]s and [casthaven]Condescend[/casthaven]s; [casthaven]Contemplation[/casthaven]s and [casthaven]Quiet Contemplation[/casthaven]s; [casthaven]Control Magic[/casthaven]s and control magic … and considerable concentrations of Conspiracy … as contrarily conscientiously, consistently conspicuously, and consciously convivially as contemptuous contemporaries continuously conform in considering me: the con artist.

Which is to (kind of [not really]) say, now that we really understand what bulk is and why we want it:

Without a further Dew, next Wednesday we’ll wend our way right back into the Wet’n’Wild West of how to most effectively acquire a lot of it — and most efficiently get rid of the crap.

Until then, there’s no such thing as…

Unstable Hulk

Just pretend it says fucking “bulk.”



Stefano Black is an NYC-based writer, filmmaker, Trepanation fetishist, 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 want more trading advice with a twist, see EXPEDITION MAP: These Damn Lands.

If you enjoyed this critical look at trading, try BLATANT THIEVERY: Community Ethics.

If you can’t get enough ~*zingy*~ prose poetry and Hot Ass Takes, check out the Bargaining Table archive and give your card-sorting Thrulls a pile of foil commons for catching up!

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