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EBay vs. TCGPlayer, Round 2

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Finance, Magic Culture

A few months ago, I wrote an article comparing eBay to TCGPlayer in terms of selling quality. I strongly suggest you read that so you have so background in what I’m talking about today. The very short version is we decided that once you started selling cards worth more than a few dollars, TCGPlayer was a better option than Ebay, assuming you didn’t absolutely have to move the cards by a certain date.

Since then, things have changed, and I wanted to readdress the issue.

The only problem is that there’s basically no “issue” anymore. Because eBay changed their procedures to only allow listing of images of a certain resolution, and that resolution happens to be higher than what Gatherer provides, listing cards on eBay became much more difficult. So difficult, in fact, that my podcastmates Jason Alt and Ryan Bushard stopped listing the hundreds of cards per month that they used to on eBay.

While eBay is certainly more difficult to sell on since you can’t use stock images, this isn’t as detrimental if you don’t sell very many items. If you’re just selling a few cards per month and have a preference for eBay, taking a few pictures of your cards probably isn’t such a big deal.

The problem is, most of the benefits from eBay came from doing a larger volume of cards and getting the “Ebay Store” status. But in order to do that, you’re running back into the issue of having to find new images for a ton of cards.

It makes sense, then, that more and more sellers are moving to TCGPlayer. And, luckily, there are some added benefits to sellers on the site that weren’t there the first time we explored this topic.

Since We Last Talked …

In order to give you the most up-to-date and reliable information possible, I interviewed Chedy Hampson, the owner of TCGPlayer. What I learned is that there have been several changes since I first sold on the site a number of months back, and more on the way.

The biggest one is that payments to sellers were sped up. Before sellers had to wait more than a week to get paid, but payments are now processed twice a week. That definitely helps speed things up, and it means you have less money tied up in the system, which means you can get more cards to list.

On that same note, feedback is now a much more streamlined process, coming in faster and more clearly, which allows the page that tracks your sales to be kept better updated.

“It’s still not instant like eBay, but you’re also not begging for your money,” Hampson said. “We’ve been doing a lot of work to speed up the internal stuff. There’s a lot of protection built into the system for sellers and reminders built in to help you ship out packages.”

Remember that the “seller level” on TCGPlayer controls how many items you can have listed at once. One of the new features is that when you list an item as shipped it immediately opens up that slot in your inventory, meaning you can list another item right away instead of waiting for the old transaction to completely clear.

All of these changes make it easier to sell on TCGPlayer than before. And because the fee structure (11 percent plus 50 cents) is already better than basic eBay fees (11.9 percent plus 30 cents), the case for TCGPlayer seems clear-cut.

But there are still a few key differences. The first, obviously, is that you can’t guarantee cards will sell on TCGPlayer like you can on Ebay. Also, because the listing structure on TCGPlayer works like that it becomes a “race to the bottom” for sellers rather than a “race to the top” for buyers like on eBay. This is not necessarily good or bad, it’s simply the way things work.

There are a few ways to improve this. Research has shown that many players are likely to buy an entire deck on TCGPlayer all at once. That means if you list four Lord of Atlantises you want to sell, you may as well go ahead and put those Cursecatchers up as well. If one seller has everything a buyer needs, that buyer is more likely to pay slightly higher prices in order to get everything at once.

So, to summarize what’s new on TCGPlayer since we last talked:

  • Faster, more regular payments.
  • The layout of the selling portal has been cleaned up to help you as a seller stay on top of things.
  • It’s not easier to list new items and advance up the “Seller Level” ladder.

More Improvements to Come?

One of the biggest issues with TCGPlayer remains that selling anything less than a couple of bucks can quickly become not worth your time. For instance, selling a Ghor-Clan Rampager doesn’t work out very well if someone buys one or two and you end up stuck with postage and time spent just to make, literally, cents. It’s also a problem for TCGPlayer, which is unable to even cover credit card fees with its percentage of a small sale like that.

One of the possible changes down the road is the ability to sell cards like this only in playsets or as part of a larger order. It’s one of the many improvements on Hampson’s radar, and the long-time owner said his company is doing its best to make sure everything is on that radar.

“Our endgame is just to build the best damn site possible,” he said. “We don’t beat our chest about everything we do because we’re so busy trying to do good that we don’t always have time to talk about them. But not one single complaint has not been addressed. We haven’t gotten so big we don’t listen.”

There you go. I’m not here to stump for one site or another, but from a numbers and customer service standpoint, I see no reason why, right now, TCGPlayer isn’t the place to be if you want to sell some Magic cards.

Thanks for reading,
Corbin Hosler
@Chosler88 on Twitter

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