woensdag 9 april 2014

Are you in it for the Money... or for the Sport?

It has been a while since I`ve sat behind my computer and typed down a big rambling piece of my own opinions, but today, as I sit here watching my newest `arm decoration` heal, I have been thinking about some things, and heck, decided to throw myself at the keyboard for a just such a thing.

In the past, I`ve talked about how I went about trading my cards around the globe, specifically those of the collectible card game kind, in an effort to build my own collections to completion, usually in one of the following ways:

* Trade cards for other cards
* Trade in excess cards for store credits
* Sell of those heaps of commons to fund one or two new boosters with the few pennies you get from them.

But they all bottle down to the same fact: it is a lot of needed cardboard in order to be able to add one or two cards to your own collection.

You always need to calculate your trading in your own disadvantage.

This in my opinion has to do with the first part of the title.  There are a lot of people in the cardhobby in the hopes of making a nice pocket dime or even a living from it, and in my book, that is their fullest right.  Humanity does it with about everything else, so heck, why not with this...

Myself, I tend to hover a bit between the two.  

I tend to buy cheap booster boxes if I got some hobby funds left, and then hope for the best, trying to end up at the end of the year with
1. some new cards in my private collection of Saint Seiya cards and
2. break about even on the costs over a year.

Now I must admit, after keeping track of the numbers for 2.5 years now, you can perfectly turn even in a yeartime span.  The first year I `lost` 7 euros total, including paying entry fees to Magic tournaments (even including a Grand Prix), last year I went `over` the expenses for about 13 euros, and this year I`m slightly under 0 again at the moment, but that is including the start of collecting all those Japanese Saint Seiya older trading cards.

In the world of cards, people often get delussional if they see a few cards go online for thousands of dollars, just last week a 2001 ice hockey rookie card was on ebay and was bid on to a staggering 23.320 dollars.  And wasn`t sold in the end because the reserve price was at 47.000...

This is really, really the exception to the norm!  I think my `most expensive` card I traded off last year was a 30 euro Carddass Saint Seiya Omega series 3 Pallas.  I never even pulled a Magic card more expensive.  But I probably have send around 500 cards worth like 0.5 euro around the globe in exchange for other cards.  It won`t pay the bills as it is only about nominal values, but at least I didn`t have to actually pay `real money` in order to obtain my own cards.

You see, the chances of pulling those all winners, I`m paying a house with them cards are fairly nihil.  In `geeky` cardgames, like the ones the people that read this blog probably collect, you`re talking `niche` series like Captain America, Naruto, etc in regular cards, and even a very rare chase card in those are usually in the target audience of `low to mid value` as it is labelled so often in various magzines.

That means, if you have enough very rare chase and parrallel cards, AND you can actually get someone to buy them from you, you`d probably end up paying back the value of your booster box. But since we usually buy more then one box from a series, it is also often pretty rare you don`t make some loss on it.

So you have to start strolling forums, or do some, to quote Qi Gon Jinn, `agressive negotiations`, to get a buyer or trader for the lesser rare, but unique cards.  Usually the sets of which you get 1 card in a booster.

And then your still left with a heap of `Base Set` cards, that you can get mighty offers for like 5 dollars for a set of 100 cards.

In collectible card games, it all plays a bit different.  You usually have to be ready to `sell` on the flux, when deck X or Y is the hot topic, and this usually lasts right until the next big tournament where a card loses value of the previous big boy.  Think Boros Reckoner from the past Magic block, it fluctuated harder then a damaged Starfleet Flux Capacitator during a battle with Klingons.

Do you keep those high end cards to strengthen your own deck, or do you trade them off when they are hot?  It isn`t an easy decision to make, and myself I usally did trade them if I could get cards for me from them, but didn`t sell them as they where a better chance for higher tournament rankings.

Which reminds me I really should start competing again!

On the other hand, you`re stuck with crap rares, and bucketloads of common cards, that will never see the light of day on a playing table, and only diminish further and further if newer sets come along.  Those are often the cards I send in for store credit, as being common, there are rarely collectors still looking for them anyways.  Or toss them at a yardsale for a few euros for full shoeboxes.

Now, how come it are sport cards then that carry that value?  Because american football, basketball, and baseball to name a few are immensely popular in the states, so signed cards, rookie cards etc reach a far bigger target audience then NS (Non-Sports) trading cards or collectible card games.  I tend to think, and observe, that -of course there are ALWAYS exceptions- while trading card jackpots (that is, the high end, big money cards like people like to call them) are usually around 100 - 150 dollars.  Popular collectible card games like Magic, Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon have some high enders that can rake you in for 300 dollars. I`m not discussing sports cards, as I know next to nothing about those.

As you see, considering those are rather really hard to find cards for those jackpots, that is by no means a sum that will feed your family or pay your bills.

So I`m in it for the sports.

It`s a sport to pull that zipper...

Sports as in the thrill of seeking, finding, and agreeing hopefully on an exchange of cards, and of course in order to do that, one often must make an offer the other party is getting better from.  There are two ways and as such two positions you can be in when trading cards.

Either you have a list of your cards, and someone wants cards from it, putting you in the stronger position to get some benefit in your favour from a trade OR
Your the one that is offering cards to someone that has a card you like, and it is safe to calculate in a loss on your side in value, usually this is around10 to 15 percent.

I have large lists of cards I have for trade, and I always put a legend and a NTV, or Nominal Trade Value, with them.  This is a value averaging somewhere between listed worth like in magazines like Non-Sports Update, and that infamous auctioning site.  This doesn`t mean at all that is the price I`m wanting for them but it does give an idea for working out trades.

Just yesterday, I agreed on a trade through the saint Seiya Card Collector Corner on Facebook with a french guy (well, most on there are french to start with, those things tend to happen in french groups).  He was looking for some cards, from the italian set I have, and I could `supply` him with one of the 1 per 12 packs Gold saints, Aries Mu, as well as a metal rare and a common from the english Knights of the Zodiac ccg edition.  So I dropped him a line, gave him my `want list` (found on this blog under The House of Cards) and said he should just make me an offer.

Those last two, they are worth not much.  Sure, the metal *might* go on ebay for about 5 dollars, but it is a rare occassion those cards pass as Saint Seiya is a really small niche outside Japan.  And I can`t read eBay Japan so I`m not even looking there.  The common one, well, it`s a common and has barely any value.

The Aries Mu however, is one of the better `tokens` I have in my binders.  Considering how hard it is to get your hands on one of the boxes of those cards, and then get more then 3 Gold saints out of it, makes them a chase card indeed.  The boxes tend to be sold by a single seller left on ebay, so once he is out, I`m thinking it is sheer impossible to find some more at the moment, and those boxes go around 40 euros.  Take out three Gold saints, round off and you get a Nominal Trade Value of around 10 to 15 euros for those cards, and usually about a dollar for the Foil character that is in each pack.  So let`s say for easiness sake, if you get to sell ALL 24 foild cards and 2 of the gold saints, you got your booster box back, and the third gold saint will have paid for your shipping costs.  Something I NEVER calculate in my values.  If they are TO exhubirant, I just don`t buy the box lol.

Now, the fellow offered me in exchange 8 cards of the Amada series.  Yes, those series I just recently started to decently collect now that I had found checklists.

Soon to be scratched of my want list

Looking on eBay, there where a total of 12 of those Amada single cards on sale within europe (again, also in France, the promised land for `Zodies` overhere) and they are (okay, where, I snatched them off) all listed at 2.5 euros a piece.

Doing the math, that would mean those 8 cards have an NVT of 20 euros, compared to my 3 cards who would come slightly under that at somewhere between 12 to 15 euros.  So yes, I made a profit in value, but I won`t see any actual money for it though, I just saved 5 euros should I have been able to buy them loose somewhere.  Which doesn`t happen to often at all...

In this example, I was in the `strong` position.

But I could also give a lot of examples I was in the `weak` position, because there is one other factor you just HAVE to consider if you want to go sending your cards along the globe:


Everyone and everyplace has a reputation

You need to make a name for yourself, become known as a reliable fellow that sends his cards well packed, and the cards are what the people asked for, in the condition they expected from the `trade negotiation`.  Just last week, I had to buy a card of Magic Card Market to be able to do my part of a deal over on Trade Cards Online, because I couldn`t find it in my binders, a mistake that sneaked in as tends to happen when you list hundreds of cards, click once to many times on the amount you have.  So instead of starting to mail, appologize etc, I took my mistake like a man, put up the chin and just bought a new card, to complete the parcel.

But for the reputation rater, that one ended a 5 stars out of 5 stars completed trade again.  I have a strong reputation at Trade Cards Online, entering the regions there of the top traders (there are only like 63 people with a higher trading reputation or so left before me out of a few thousand members), got solid ones on eBay and in the saint Seiya groups.  These things matter, as people are then quicker persuaded to do a trade because they know what they will get, they know you won`t try to scam them...

On the other hand of the spectrum, I just started to look around on sites like the french (yeah, France is really the most anime crazed country in Europe) Trading Cards Fan and the american Non-Sopts Update Card Talk.  On those forums, I`m a nobody.  Period.  I never traded there so far, still looking around and dropping in on conversations at times to get my forum nickname `seen` (nobody in their right mind trades with a 0 posts unknown person), looking for some small scale trade arounds like 2 base cards for your 1 base card etc... in order at NSU to be `ready` when Pacific Rim hits and I will have to start hunting for chase cards.

You can link all the reputation sites and comments you`d like from other websites, people tend to go by their own experiences, or at least the name you have on THEIR community, not some obscure other one they probably never even heard of.

So be patient, and in the end you`ll be getting on the right track to become a `succesfull` card trader.  And with that, I mean one that can negotiate without having to sell his house for a card he misses.  If you`re looking for advice though on how to become a trader that can make a lot of money and buy ab house of his profits, I can only say this: look elsewhere ;-)

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