If you’ve seen any of my recent posts you know that I just finished building a new deck. I still need to do some tweaking here and there to really tune it, but so far I like the way it handles. The topic of today’s post isn’t the deck though, it’s the cards in the deck. I have been in this game for a long time. As such I have a rather extensive collection ranging from the current set M13 all the way back to Revised. There are many gaps in my collection, most notably the period from around Kamigawa block when I stopped buying cards all-together, and Rise of the Eldrazi when I got back into it. I’ve done a decent job of filling in stuff in the Alara and Zendikar blocks, but there will always be cards “missing” from my collection… particularly since my eyes are now focused on Commander almost exclusively. When I’m building a new deck, I rarely shy away from cards that I don’t already have when “card searching” but when I am going through and “culling the pile” to get my numbers down to the appropriate deck size, sometimes those cards that I don’t have get rejected simply because I have a card that serves a similar function, but when I really need a particular card that I don’t have, where do I go to get it?
Many times if I need a card or two for a deck I will visit a local collectors show that I’ve mentioned before, Frank & Son’s Collectible Show in Walnut, CA which was recently featured on Storage Wars when Daryl found some Magic cards and needed somewhere to sell them. This show happens twice a week and houses a large variety of vendors, and several options of who to buy from, sell to, or trade with to pick up Magic singles and sealed products. They generally have comparative prices to the current secondary market, and the presence of multiple dealers means that they have to compete with each other, so in some cases you can get cards for cheaper than the secondary market. I also sell cards here (usually for trade value towards other cards) but it is like dealing with any “store” in that they typically buy for 1/2 market value.
When I have a large number of cards to buy, or can wait an extended time to receive the cards I need, then I turn to the internet. I like two stores in particular, www.coolstuffinc.com and www.cardkingdom.com. CSI tends to have slightly higher prices but also has a customer loyalty system (I currently get 8% off singles and 2.5% off everything else) and they provide free shipping for orders over $100. They also carry many other collectible games as well as board games, so if I only need $60 worth of cards, I can toss in a $40 board game to hit the free shipping mark. Card Kingdom tends to have better prices, but a relatively small collection relative to CSI. They also provide free shipping, but not until you get to $250. That said they ship much faster than CSI (probably as they are in Seattle vs. CSI being in Florida (I’m in California.)
Like the vendors at F&S, both of these stores offer to buy cards, and also like those vendors, they typically buy at 1/2 market value. There is a difference however. Online stores will generally buy a much larger selection of cards than a vendor in person. Additionally, most stores offer a bump in value if you get store credit instead of cash. Most of the live vendors won’t do this unless you haggle a bit with them. Both CSI and CK provide a 20% bump in value if you get store credit. CSI seems to pay a bit more in some cases, but their buy list is a text list that you have to scroll through. CK has a search feature that makes finding out if you have cards they want a breeze. CK also tends to buy a lot more of the lower end singles than CSI at slightly higher than bulk prices. However, CSI offers to buy bulk cards where CK doesn’t seem to. As an example, I just sold three thousand basic land cards to CSI for $10 per thousand. That’s not bad for stuff I just had sitting around on a shelf.
To further mitigate the costs of this expensive hobby, if I have a particularly valuable card that I want to get rid of, it is often worth it to sell it on eBay. Yes, there are fees and hassles associated with doing this, but you often still come out ahead when compared to dealing with vendors whether they are online or physical. Another thing that I like to sell on eBay is bulk cards. Yes, CSI will buy bulk common and uncommon cards, but at a range of $4-$6 per 1000, and you have to have newer sets separated from older sets. I recently sold thirty-two-hundred common and uncommon cards on eBay for $40 plus shipping. That’s over $10 per thousand, and even with eBay and Paypal fees, it is still more than the highest end $6 per thousand that CSI pays.
The final option to acquiring cards that I need is trading. I don’t get out to the LGS that much, so my trading is limited to my small play group (somewhat stagnant) and the internet. Recently I found a site called www.pucatrade.com that is an “automated” online trading system. Essentially I put in my “haves” and “wants” and Puca Ttrade lets me know who to send my “haves” to. Once they receive my cards I get Puca Points for the values of those cards. (A Puca Point is roughly $0.01 as near as I can tell) When I have enough Puca Points for a card on my “want” list, then they tell someone who has that card on their “have” list to send it to me. When they do then I lose that many Puca Points and they gain it. For an introverted person like me, the ability to anonymously trade and know that I’m getting fair values for all of my cards, and paying fair values for all the cards I get is awesome. Now, all that praise aside, I still haven’t actually done a trade via Puca Trade as of yet, I just found it last week after all, but I look forward to getting into it.
I know how this post comes off, just as an advertisement for all of my favorite sites. That isn’t what it is supposed to be. This post is supposed to be an informative post about the many options that we Magic players have in buying, trading, and selling our cards. It is inevitable that some stores and sites get a little plug in this type of post, but just so you know, I am not affiliated with any of these sites, nor am I getting any form of reimbursement from any of them.