Oh my, drama in the Magic: The Gathering world! So here’s the deal. The Magic Sock host Ron Vitale was talking about how to make your money go as far as possible during hard economic times. He mentioned that if you’re selling your collection, such as to move exclusively to Magic Online, you would be ill-advised to simply plop down your rares binder to a store or a vendor at a big gaming event as they pay substantially lower amounts than “market value” for cards.
Original comment – at 29 minutes, 55 seconds
I don’t like the choice of “ripped off” as the description for what vendors pay for cards. Certainly they are purchasing them cheaper than they plan to sell those cards for, this is business 101 people! The reason you’re selling your cards for less than you could get on eBay or via CardShark or such is that the vendor is convenient, hand them a pile of cards and they hand you a pile of money. I don’t know who expects a vendor to buy a card at 100% of the market value, how would they make any money off that? Even at 80% there’s not a lot of margin there for holding onto an inventory. So how low do you go? 70%? 60%?
Looking around at other industries that are simlar, say the used video game industry, I expect to get about 40-50% of the price the game is being sold for in the store. Now I’m not much for selling my games to a GameStop, but I know people who are, and they seem to have no problems with the idea. They do not in fact regard their transactions as “rip-offs”.
In the Magic community we’re a little bit different with our wildly divergent prices between cards and constant fluctuations, but I think the general idea is consistent. The only place you can expect to get top dollar for your goods is selling directly to a consumer, and even then you’re not getting “top dollar” as in what a store can command. Why? You’re not a store with a big inventory of product conveniently located near a bunch of players who know and trust you. There’s a well deserved premium to be charged for maintaining a nice inventory and being reputable. This is not in any way unique to Magic or gaming or pretty much any industry.
So, I think Ron’s comments were misinformed. Most stores aren’t “ripping off” people who sell them their cards. In fact, those stores are doing those people a service, saving them days/weeks/months of work posting stuff on eBay, dealing with shipping problems, chargebacks, complains over missing or damaged goods, etc. There is a certain amount of each product’s cost associated with the business needed to get that product to the end consumer, perhaps quite a bit more than you might think. So businesses that buy cards in bulk save you all that trouble, and of course make a profit for their troubles. They’re not running a charity, nor should they be expected to act like they are.
Now, there are the unscrupulous few vendors who do in fact rip off the unwary. The kid with the awesome binder that gets pennies on the dollar at his first big event because he doesn’t even know that there are such things as chase rares. The individual who, desperate for another draft or entry fee sells at a rediculous price just for a few bucks. Unfortunately, although it’s a “I know it when I see it” sort of thing, defining getting “ripped off” is rather difficult. One vendor’s fair price is paying far too much at another. One would expect prices to stabilize based on supply, although the 11 year old with the shock lands he thinks are sucky because they hurt you will be a target for victimization no matter where he goes. So, I suppose it comes down to: know the basic value of your cards or you get what you deserve. Vendors are in business to make money, not educate you on the value of your cards. They don’t have the luxury of giving you the best possible deal they can arrange, that’s your job bucko.
Star City Games, a big company in the Magic space, has The Magic Sock episodes featured on their site. After hearing episode 160 they pulled the show and sent a letter to Ron. He reads it off in the next episode.
Peter Hoffling, President of SCG’s email response: – at 25 mintues, 10 seconds
So, Star City Games is pissed. They acknowledge that Ron’s probably had some negative experiences with event vendors. They also acknowledge that he can say anything he wants on his show. But, Ron slandered them and thus they are pulling the show? I think that’s taking things a bit far. Was Ron’s comment aimed squarely at the heart of Star City Games? No, I think not. Furthermore, Star City Games is happy to have a popular and long running show on their site helping bolster their content, as long as Ron doesn’t say anything bad about vendors in general. It really sounded to me like Peter was looking for an exclusion for Star City Games, “Don’t buy from event vendors, oh except for Star City Games, they’re teh awesome!”. If the Magic Sock is carried on Star City Games, doesn’t that indicate to Ron’s listeners that he trusts Star City Games and sees them as a reputable place to buy and sell to? I think Ron’s comments were “hey, that’s rather upsetting to us, here’s a our point of view, thanks and have a nice day” worthy, not, “you called us names so we’re pulling your show” worthy.
So clearly I believe Ron is mistaken about vendors. Not everyone is going to take the time to sell all their cards themselves and for the rest, vendors offer a great outlet and immediate payout, usually at a fair price. I think Star City Games overreacted by pulling The Magic Sock so fast and, to me, it makes the company look like an angry teen, flexing its newly aquired adolescent muscles. Star City Games has recently started up a lot of new ventures like their standard open events, and although I like seeing more non-WOTC events being run, I don’t like seeing them all being run by one company. Especially not one that seems to be so touchy about something that, to me, was a fairly innocuous statement of one person’s experiences.