Last week, we wrapped up the basics of floor trading—everything from binder organization to judging your trade partner. Now that we have the essentials covered, we can move into the more complicated aspects of the trade game. This week, I will be covering how to accommodate your trade partner’s price preferences while at the same time coming out ahead. In today’s day and age of cell phones and laptops, it can be difficult to make any value on a trade with the old methods, so naturally, as a floor trader, you must learn to evolve.
There are a multitude of different websites and secondary resources for price-checking. Given that, how do you gain value from someone ready and willing to use them? The key is to do your homework in advance. Know your prices. I have preached this countless times, and today we take this one step further. When researching your prices, compare sites. This doesn’t mean you have to look up every card on ten different sites, but having an idea of how each site sets up its price structure is a huge boon on the trade floor. The main list of retailers and other websites I research my cards on are:
- Black Lotus Project
Though there are a plethora of other sites you can use. I have found these five to cover almost every angle you will run into on the trade floor. Each has its own price scheme, which, if used properly, can garnish you incremental gains.
The first website to cover is Black Lotus Project. BLP uses Magic Online Trading League (MOTL) information to give an accurate representation of a card’s price curve in recent history. With daily updates, BLP is a great resource that I rarely, if ever, hear other traders mention when attempting to assess value. This, however, does not mean it is not used, so be prepared to work that price index. The main thing to remember when dealing with BLP is that the prices of cards will typically run a closer parallel to eBay than to any online retailer. This knowledge allows you to target certain cards in your trade partner’s binder that you know you can gain value on. Typically, BLP’s prices on staples reflect a similar trend to that of any major retailer, and although they may be slightly lower, they still demand quite a price tag. Midrange and lower-end cards on BLP and likewise eBay, which we can lump into this group, are usually significantly discounted due to their availability. This fact allows us to target those cards in this type of trade; picking up lower-end stock and shoving higher-end staples away can net both value and dealer fodder.
In addition to low-end stock, auction websites such as BLP and eBay are great places to look for both speculative calls and recently inflated cards. If you look at BLP for Through the Breach, for example, you will notice that it still has a price tag of a little over a dollar. This is a significant decrease from the $12 that StarCityGames is currently unloading theirs at and the $15 that CFB is asking. Understanding which cards to stay away from on these sites can be just as important as which ones to target. Seeking out high-dollar mythics can still be a fine trade if you are seeking them for a deck, but typically due to the fact that they are in high demand, their price will not be that much lower than an online retailer based on percentages.
Now, let’s assume your trade partner prefers to use a well-known site such as StarCityGames or ChannelFireball for their prices, which is the most common situation. The key to remember when using these sites is that every card will be full retail no matter what the current playability of that card is. This means that while you can pick up those last few midrange cards for your deck, this is probably not the trader you want to be doing that with. Last week, I gave an example of a trade that involved both Gaddock Teeg and Flagstones of Trokair, which StarCityGames each had at $5. After looking at ChannelFireball, we see that the price points are the same at both of these major retailers, which is fairly common. Though sometimes each major website may be off from the other by a 10% to 20% margin, rarely are they far enough off to be able to set up an individual price scheme, so we lump them together. Comparing the $5 price tag to BLP shows us that there is a 40% discount all the way down to $3 each for both cards. With the cards so much lower on another site, it seems unwise to attempt to pick them up off someone who uses the high-end market website.
Instead of targeting smaller cards, this is where we turn those smaller cards into a larger mythic or chase rare that can later be turned back into fodder. Last week, I outlined a trade with the abovementioned Teegs and Flagstones and acquired a Sword of War and Peace. Many people mentioned how skewed this was in my favor, and while I do agree, that was purposefully executed that way based on the knowledge I had about the website we were using. If for example we had been using eBay or BLP, I would have targeted smaller cards and given better prices on my higher-end cards in order to ensure that the trade, again, went in my favor. The biggest point I can make this week is that you don’t have to rip someone off or bully him into putting away his iPad; instead, use that knowledge. I have been getting a lot of flak for how my trades have been “one-sided” thus far, but I assure you that has nothing to do with the Box to Extended; instead, that is due to my knowledge and countless hours of homework I do before each event.
TCGPlayer is a name I have heard crop up more and more in the past year or so, and rightfully so given their range of prices and information that few other sites can or have combined for you. The hardest trade scheme to master by far is TCGPlayer, due to a couple of things, the first being the volatility of the market. When a card first skyrockets, TCGPlayer is usually the first website to have overinflated prices; this is due to the pricing being based off people’s speculation and hopes rather than solid margins and numbers. This isn’t to say that you cannot master the price scheme, or profit from it; it just takes more work than learning most others. The major way I have found to create value from TCGPlayer traders is in speculative calls. Cards such as Through the Breach have a high price due to this past weekend’s use in both the Cloud Post deck and combo variants of the deck. Unloading these cards on these types of traders can typically net you full retail, if not more in some cases. Currently Through the Breach sits at a median of $12 to $13, which is higher than the StarCityGames asking price. Picking up cards based on TCGPlayer prices can be slightly tougher, as there seems to be a great deal or variance between everything from median rares all the way to top-dollar mythics. These trades typically require a plug-and-chug approach; just do your research before the event to see what seems low and go from there.
This covers the idea behind using smartphones and Web browsers in your favor. With some solid research and patience, you will gather a better understanding of what markets to target and how to judge each player’s ability to use technology. Realizing how to make the best of each trade not only prepares you for the field, it also makes you a better trader in the end.
Before I sign off for this week, I want to cover more in depth what I want out of last week’s art contest. I know I laid down a set of basic rules, but I would like to also include some design ideas to give you all a head start. First, I have been getting a lot of questions asking what type of art, or design, I like. Frankly, that’s fairly irrelevant since I won’t actually have the final say; however, to satisfy curiosity, I prefer dark and gothic-themed artwork. Think Innistrad. As for the prize structure, I haven’t laid everything out yet, but to give you a better idea of what will be up for grabs, I can say expect hard-to-find foil/foreign cards. In addition to the cards, I will be attempting to find some sponsorship backing for additional prize support. Depending on the number of individual entrants, the prize support will go up. If I have not received enough entries before the deadline, I will extend it further into the year. I know everyone is busy with school and work, and I want to give as many people as I can a creative opportunity. Please send all entries to ryanbushard at gmail dot com and include Box to Extended somewhere in the headline. I look forward to seeing what you all can come up with!
Thanks for reading another edition of Box to Extended. I hope this week has brought some new insight on how to take advantage of technology in this ever-evolving trade world. Join me next week as I discuss how to adjust not only to cell phones, but dealer buy lists at major events. I would also like to answer some more questions by you, the readers, so please send me your questions through Twitter or in the comments section below. Until next week, keep your prices checked and your cell phones on!
ryanbushard at gmail dot com