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Box to Extended – Making Your Margins


Last week, we discussed the importance of the Internet for social networking. While we are on the topic of the Internet craze, I thought this would be a good week to discuss the margins between retail websites and buy-price-derived sites such as TCGPlayer. I have already discussed the process for using each site for its individual strengths and weaknesses a few weeks ago. This week will instead concentrate on how to determine a real-world value for cards that have high margin differentials between multiple sites.

First and foremost, let’s look at a card that has very little differential: Illusionary Mask. Why Mask, you ask? Well, besides the fact that it rhymes, it is also the latest pickup in the Box to Extended quest this past weekend at a PTQ in Niles, Illinois. I managed to get the trade on camera again, since I got such a great response last time, so first, let’s look at the tale of the tape.

As you can see, we have a value difference between what these cards are on the table and what they may be valued on each website. Let’s start by evaluating the cards we traded for. For these examples, we will be using the StarCityGames price and the TCGPlayer mid-price in order to compare. From there, I will also list the high and low to gather an idea of the spread.

StarCityGames TCG Mid Range Our Price
Curse of Death's Hold 0.99 0.70 0.33–1.04 1
Stony Silence 1.99 1.41 0.88–2.99 1
Sever the Bloodline 0.99 0.65 0.25–1.49 1
Essence of the Wild 2.49 2.29 1.40–5.14 2
Angelic Overseer 4.99 4.51 3.66–7.99 4
Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon 9.99 9.32 6.50–10.98 4
Illusionary Mask 99.99 105.42 88.99–131.98 80

As we can see, with these cards, the average price between the two sites is within a reasonable range and doesn’t show much variance. However, notice that the average price of Illusionary Mask is the only card higher on TCGPlayer than SCG. This becomes a common occurrence when you look at a large number of high-dollar cards. Overall, what we can see from this sample is that when you are looking at under ten cards, you should have a rate of 10% to 25% decrease from SCG to TCGPlayer. Looking for cards that break this cycle can create great profit ratios if you know how to obtain them at one price and out them at another.

Let’s inspect a card that breaks this cycle: Kessig Wolf Run.

Kessig Wolf Run

SCG: $7.99

TCG: $5.63

Range: $4.50–$8.39

It should be mentioned that although you can obtain this card at the $5-to-$6 range from TCG, be careful due to stock numbers. Although SCG does out them at $7.99, a further examination will show that they have over two hundred in stock, meaning it is likely that the price may lower soon due to an increased supply. Looking for factors such as this can give you the true story behind a card’s future value, allowing you to make the most informed decisions. Currently, I would pick up any Wolf Runs I can for under $5, but would stay away from the ones over $7.

The true key to making value between the two different price sources lies not in the numbers themselves, but in the trends and stock. As I mentioned with Kessig Wolf Run, looking for high stock numbers is a good indicator that the demand is lower than the current supply, which in turn leads into the lower TCGPlayer price, as that is what people are actually willing to pay on average. Another key factor to look for is the low price on TCGPlayer. Although this price can be skewed, it is a much more accurate representation of what people are willing to reduce their price to in order to move such a card. In cases like Sever the Bloodline, we see what appears to be just above a bulk price. Given the lack of current play this card is seeing, we can assess that this price is again derived from an overwhelming supply and not enough demand. Does this mean that it is a failed card destined for the bulk box? It may be too early to tell, given the popularity of cards like Dismember and Doom Blade, but I would have to recommend that you hold on to your copies for now. I currently have about fifty in reserve that aren’t going to be in my trade binder while I wait for the appropriate metagame. I feel that anytime you can pick them up for $0.50 to $1.00 in trade, it is not a bad call. As with cards like Sever, I feel that anytime a card is nearly at bulk pricing anyway, it is best to hold out until the card sees a visible rise. Worst-case scenario, the rise never happens, and in the end, you are down an almost insignificant amount compared to the possible profit you could see.

In the above trade for the Illusionary Mask and others, here is what we parted with to make the deal happen:

Although we parted with a few high-dollar cards from the binder, anytime you can place a high-dollar Legacy/Vintage collector’s item in your binder for near or greater value, you should do so, but that generally goes without saying. Looking for traders who are willing to part with their older cards for Standard and Modern cards can generally only come out in your favor; when you out the card, you can demand a premium from the right person.

Earlier this week I found just such a person, someone who is looking to leave Standard behind for Legacy and Vintage. In turn, he is willing to devalue his cards in order to obtain older, harder-to-find staples. A great way to create these scenarios comes, of course, with traveling. At larger events, you are far more likely to find people who are willing to part with their high-end Legacy staples because they are far easier to come by. Then, in turn, you take those same cards you obtained for equal or lesser value and bring them back to your local players, who will pay a premium due to low local supply. Using your ability to travel can net you huge profits all around and should be a major factor in creating opportunities to make major events. Here is the trade we completed for the Illusionary Mask, with a few other random, lesser-value cards to even the values.

Technical Difficulties - Unfortunately as of publication Ryan was still having issues with getting this video uploaded and working. We hope to have it rectified and will update with the video once we do.

As you can see, it is easy to obtain and ask for greater value when dealing with players who cannot find these cards anywhere else. Creating a network of local players for whom you collect specific hard-to-find cards is a necessity for any serious floor trader. Having a solid list of what each player is seeking as well as the prices he is willing to pay or trade for can give you focus at major events and allow you to create scenarios where you can win on both the ins and outs.

Well, that’s enough on the trade floor for this week; as promised, I have some winners to announce from the comments contest over the past few weeks, with explanations for why I choose each. First, we will start with the older article, where I asked what you thought of the video trades, which I plan to use more often. Paul Dubose gave some great insight into embedding the videos for viewing within the articles themselves. I am still looking into this and will, I hope, have this in order for the next video. Next, I asked for a solid way to spend the $200 we have obtained this far in the quest. Robert Chesley provided some solid ideas on speculating into the future of Standard as well some other ideas such as purchasing the Vampires precon on the cheap. I like his idea of Modern and Standard speculation, given the potential of a lot of cards in the future grave-themed sets, and will certainly be using a solid portion of the money toward that. In addition, a few people mentioned purchasing a box of Korean INN, and that seems like a great way to work foreign cards into the trade concept and something I feel would be a great asset for everyone who reads these articles. Much of the business I do within my personal collection is in foreign and foil cards, so I feel I can teach a lot about a market few have tapped. If the winners would contact me through the comments or Twitter, I will give them their appropriate places within the drawing.

Well, that’s all I have for this week. Join me next week as we delve deeper into the online crutch that so many people use when trading. In today’s age of smartphones and iPads, one of the most important things you can learn is how to use this knowledge to your advantage. Next week, I will be going further into the belly of the beast, discussing trends and how to stay one step ahead of the market while at the same time being able to use smartphone technology against the user.

Ryan Bushard


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