A Magictation by Mikeal Basile
“Magictating” is defined as getting into the zone with your Magic the Gathering collection–thinking, planning, organizing, reminiscing about past games, and imagining future games. It is a combination of hard thinking about the game and calm meditation, reveling in the joy it brings you.
My major new year’s resolution/collector’s quest was to buy a card a day every single day during the year of 2021. With the first quarter of the new year over I figured it was time for a check-in. So far, so great! I’ve learned an awful lot about purchasing cards. As a player and collector with 25 years of experience, buying cards is nothing new to me. I am a bargain hunter at heart, so much so my wife calls me “penny” when I’m being extra cheap, so this has been a real test of my frugality. I have spent many hours over the years researching prices, waiting for buying opportunities, and trading cards to gain incremental value. I’m no card store owner, and I’m no MTG day trader, so I’m not claiming I have all the answers. If anything, this quest has humbled me many times already. I have learned quite a few new tricks and I’d like to share three big lessons with you from the three months I’ve been at this quest. I’d like to offer my new three major Magic card buying tips that anyone can benefit from. If you’re looking to get the most out of your card buying experience, then please keep reading to find out what makes the most sense in today’s modern market.
RESEARCH CURRENT PRICES
This is the first big rule that I’ve always clung to, and it has always paid off. You need to educate yourself about what the current prices for certain cards are. Thankfully, this is really pretty easy with all the apps, websites, and internet access we now have. Back in the 90’s you had to reference Scry Magazine or Duelist or other printed guides, and those could easily become out of date after a major tournament or development had taken place. It was pretty cool if you had the inside scoop, because I remember picking up some cards for ridiculously good prices when the seller wasn’t up to snuff on the current prices. I managed to pick up a Force of Will once for a Force of Nature trade-in offer. The Force of Nature was popular with the local players, and Force of Will was too much life and too many cards to justify playing. In today’s market it is much more difficult to find deals like these, but they do pop up now and again. I was at a Flea Market a few years ago, and I managed to pick up Alurens, Food Chains, and even a foil Arcbound Ravager for fifty cents each. They were in the unsorted bulk bins, and I pulled them out and stall owner didn’t even bat an eye as I forked over a few hundred in cash for the hundreds of cards I had pulled out. In today’s fast-paced market, I often find myself visiting MTGstocks to see if there’s a current pricing trend for a card or even to see if I’m buying a card at its current peak price. This research assures that you don’t end up over-paying for the cards you want. Also, it helps you realize when someone is offering a deal that needs to be snapped up.
I have over-payed a couple of times, but not by more than a dollar or two, and not more than three times so far this year. The times I ended up over-paying this year were a direct result of me not doing my prior research and hurrying up to buy my card for the day. So, when you are ready to buy a couple cards or maybe even 99 cards, I highly suggest you research the current prices first.
SHARE YOUR STORY
I have found that dealing with people is different from dealing with computers and video games. Games and computers have hard and fast rules, only respond to logical inputs, and often leave me feeling unfulfilled and annoyed. Meanwhile, talking with a fellow player or store owner is usually much more rewarding. Sharing your story about why you’re hunting cards down is often fun for others to hear. I love hearing about what plans people have for particular cards they are buying. These types of human interactions have been woefully absent from far too many of our lives for far too long. It is sad that we haven’t been able to gather for Magic, but half a million deaths is far sadder. I don’t want to be doom and gloom about what’s happened, but it has. Covid has temporarily crushed the gathering aspect, but I stress temporary. It’s sad, and I’m hopeful that our future will be far brighter. We will see a safe return to in-person playing, and we can enjoy our hobby with our fellow humans soon enough. This is a wonderful thought, and sharing our stories about what we bought during our time away from one another will be a way to share some joy with each other.
However, if you have the chance to chat with the dealer you’re working with, then they just might cut you a deal. The ability to haggle is something that not everyone has. I’m not really much of a haggler myself. My father-in-law loves to give salesmen a hard time, whereas I like to give them a good time. I guess I just figure that if we all enjoy one another’s time, then perhaps the seller will offer me their best price. People can buy cards anywhere, but you can’t talk turkey just anywhere. Going to your LGS, chatting about cards, sets, and ideas is great for everyone involved. This often leads to all of us building human capital. We appreciate each other more, and as a result we respect one another a bit more. In mutual respect comes mutual acknowledgement of each other’s needs. We know our store needs to make money, and our store knows we only have so much to spend. When these two things meet in the middle it is a beautiful thing. I’ve even found this helpful when placing orders through online dealers by making contact with my store through email.
Humans have always told stories, and it is our stories that connect us. I know we don’t all have the gift of gab, but perhaps gifting a little gab about our passion will get us all farther in the end. Wisdom through experience and knowledge through absorption. Talking about what joys we anticipate and what cards bring us fond memories is a great way to begin our face to face transactions. When making offers online it can be easy to eschew our human nature for expedient communication. That is not the way to gain human capital or further your network of friendly Magic players. Tell your story a bit, and you may end up with another good deal to share.
IF IT’S TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE…
I’ll be honest that there are days I can’t get to my LGS to make my purchase. There are days that I don’t find what I need on my LGS’s website, and so I’ve turned to eBay and TCG player to find the cards I want. Now, I remember using eBay when it was normal to buy from non-power sellers. I often bought from other people, because that’s who was selling cards. It would take up to a month to get cards, but they almost always came. I only ever had to file 2 complaints during the first decade I used Ebay. When I began this quest I had made several predictions. One of which was that I would have no mailing or delivery issues. I had high faith in the systems. I was proven wrong. I saw a seller with no reviews, but several cards posted for sale. The cards were all very cheap, and the pictures were all original. They were taken with a cell phone, were blurry, and all had the same hand holding each card that was for sale. This told me this was probably just a regular person trying to sell extra cards for a little extra cash. The cheap prices probably just meant they wanted the money now. So, I took the bait and bought four cards. I waited, and waited, and waited. I kept wondering if it was too good to be true. Could I be getting ripped off? Man, I really wanted to play with those cards. I had to play games without the cards I had planned on having. I had decks ready to go and couldn’t run them because the commander wasn’t here yet. Finally, I contacted the seller and then shortly afterwards filed a claim. It stunk. I felt bad about it, but realized that I shouldn’t be the one who feels bad. I’m not the one scamming someone. I got my money back, eventually, and then set off to re-purchase the cards I had originally bought. Thankfully, I was able to replace all of the cards for even less than I had payed for them initially.
The lesson here is that if it seems too good to be true, then it probably isn’t. A simple lesson, and I had to learn it the hard way. I will say that I’ve never had this problem when I go to my LGS, pick out a card, pay for it, and then sleeve up within a few minutes of arriving home. Heck, my PayPal payment doesn’t even clear before I sleeve up a card from my LGS. The consistency, safety, and convenience of buying in-person should never be under estimated. Once you factor shipping and the hidden time cost of buying online, it can be easy to see the advantages of picking up your cards locally.
In this digital age people often believe that nothing tops the convenience of online ordering. I can actually imagine a world where people pay for MTG PRIME and have cards shipped in one day to their homes. It sounds awful to me. It destroys the very things that keep our gaming traditions and our gaming cultures alive and developing. We don’t evolve when we isolate. Like any species that is isolated we turn to specialization in order to thrive. Yet, when our specialization turns us away from the foundational elements of success, how are we to ever continue to evolve. I would think that de-evolution is the only course that could arise from this state. We could very well become morlocks from H.G. Well’s The Time Machine, only playing Magic on Arena and never gathering again. A simple series of button emoticons will express our only thoughts while playing…yuck! We could allow our gathering skills to atrophy and ultimately disappear. The game would evolve, but the course of its evolution could lead to an elimination of what brings so many of us to Magic. Gathering is key, and when we support our local stores, then we support our own ability to gather.
I have more often played with my friends at a kitchen table or other home furnishing than at my LGS. That doesn’t mean I don’t love going to the store and spending time there. I do. It’s awesome. I just find that the play group I’ve developed over years has been a result of people I’ve met through Magic, and so I know that without those stores that story and that cycle of players and friends developing life-long connections from Magic will cease to exist. As someone that has found amazing friends through Magic, I can say that Magic: the Gathering has made my life better, and that any way to help support this subculture (supporting a local store whenever possible) is more than worth doing. In a world where we vote with our money, I choose to vote locally, and I choose to keep this game alive and running.
Keeping your research current, sharing your stories, and avoiding crazy good deals are the top three tips I have to offer at this time. I’ve learned plenty of other lessons from buying a card every single day, but for now I’ll leave you with these three. These three tips can help anyone out there get the best bang for their buck. I have more tips and tricks to share, but for now I think these three should be enough to keep your collections growing without pillaging your wallets. Until next time, I hope Magic brings you as much joy as it keeps brining to me.