Hello you sexy traders, I'm Chris Pinotti (AKA Dogon Siereht) and I'm here to talk about what I do on Cardsphere. I hope you find my journey interesting and get some entertainment out of it.
Setting the Stage
I'm a collector and player that leans more toward the collecting side of my personality. I used to do a lot more tournaments back in the nineties, but the competitive side of playing was never my cup of tea. And yes, I am another one of those players that has been around since the mid 90s, but I'm lucky enough to have never sold my collection.
I was tricked into playing Magic: the Gathering by my father. He did stand-up at a local comedy club in my home town, and after the shows we played with the club manager and those comedians who knew how to play. It was a pretty fantastic way to learn; not very serious and fully loaded with jokes and sinister politics. They were usually multi-player games, but with a normal 60 card deck. It was pretty much Commander before Commander existed. This is probably why Commander is my addiction.
I was deeply involved in my addiction up until the Mercadian block. I got hooked on an MMORPG and went off to do that instead of Magic the Gathering. Online gaming, chasing girls, and partying consumed my life. I'd still use my cards playing kitchen table Magic, but I did not buy any new cards for quite a while. That life style kept going until around 2009 when I met my wife and settled down. With this lull of a social life I decided to stare at cardboard again, but this time it was much more of organizing the collection to sell off.
In 2011, I started a new job and was traveling around the country for work, and a lot of these trips were with my boss. We were both familiar with D&D and had many conversations about the subject. One of those conversations turned to Magic: the Gathering and piqued his interest. We ended up running off to a big box retailer, picking up some packs, building out some decks, and slinging some spells. Let’s just say that the addiction returned and I got hooked again.
I started to visit that kitchen table more often, but I had the worst time building decks. I was sitting on hundreds of thousands of cards. A lot of them were sorted, but a lot of them were just in old 3200 count BCW boxes. I resolved to get organized and start collecting again. My father had a great idea back in the day, and tried to get a playset of every card in every set. This would allow him to build any deck, in any format and not worry about needing to get cards. This also became my goal.
I had a ton of stuff from Alpha to Urza’s block, and then Scars block to Theros block, but was missing everything between Mercadian block and Worldwake. That meant spending a lot of cash buying sealed product to open, or hunting for singles. So I headed up to my old LGS and asked them for the most recent printing of Scrye magazine.
Please stop laughing at me… :-)
Yes, it never occurred to me that with the explosion of the internet, all that information would be online instead of in print. Enter the data dump!
My mind was blown with everything I found online. It started on eBay, then off to Amazon, then TCGPlayer, and all the LGS sites online. That lead me to Reddit, and then MTG Salvation, and off to ABU Games. It was a treasure trove of inventory, data, and prices. You could get everything you ever wanted. Also around that time I started to hit trading websites, and found there was a pretty decent trading presence online. I signed up for one, and just let it run. I needed over 25,000 cards for the first phase of my overall goal.
Phase 1: Playset of every Expansion and Core set from The Dark to current Standard
Phase 2: A single set of every supplementary set like Unglued, Starter, or Master
Phase 3: A sealed Booster box of every set released
Phase 4: A single set from what I call ABU/AAL
I was doing a lot of online trading through the traditional trading methods where you have cards they want, and you are trading for cards that you want. It was very formal and you would get the cards you needed only if you had cards they were looking for. I still had some cards that I needed for Phase 1 and Phase 2, but my chances of finding traders to fulfill my trades were slim to none. My issue was that trading got really stale because I could not piece together enough in trades to make it worth the shipping costs. I'd often find traders that had 1 or 2 cards I needed, but I had nothing they were looking for in return.
I was sitting stalled at needing around 700 cards to finish my Phase 1 and Phase 2 goals.
I don’t know if it was luck, or timing, or the length of time having a stale trading environment, but it was a godsend to get trading on Cardsphere. I was VERY skeptical about using the site at first. I had heard about the other trading site that handles trades the way Cardsphere does, and actually received a couple of cards from that other site with those free points I got. I just never liked the idea to be trading for points. I have a pretty good financial background and I just saw these as rewards / bonus points on credit cards. I'm much more of a cash back guy when it comes to credit card rewards. So when I saw that Cardsphere kept everything in a cash balance that I could liquidate for a fee, I was feeling a lot better.
I still had my caution lights on when I started. I always go slow when trying new things, and only updated some cards to see how things went. Let’s just say F**k You Cardsphere. That's right, I curse at you with all your special specials. It was like a whole new world to a trader that only dealt in the traditional trading style of exchanging cards. Since my first exposure to asymmetric peer-to-peer trading, I was hooked.
“You mean I can just send cards without having to match up trade dollars, and barter to make sure a trade is even? And people actually send me cards I need?”
Mind was blown!
I would say it was the first week on the site where I just did not believe my eyes. I could not keep up with sending enough cards to keep my balance above $0 because I was getting so much in return. It was a shit storm of incoming trades. After that first week, I uploaded everything I had and also added everything I was looking for. At first I was pretty timid for adding cards because I did not want to add something that I really didn’t need because I was afraid I was not going to be able to send enough.
At first I was very anxious about uploading everything I owned to the site because I didn't know who could see what I had. Yeah, I'm paranoid. But now that I've used the site, I'm a lot more comfortable with adding my entire inventory for sending out. The whole concept that the service Cardsphere provides as the broker was just glorious. You as the owner of the card will only see those people that are looking for what you have, and it is up to you if you want to send it out based on the price they are willing to pay. It's great! It gives all the power to the person who owns the card, and it creates a place for people to bid for anyone who is looking for the card.
How I use Cardsphere
For a sense of scale, right now I have 223,179 cards up for trade that totals up to be around $80,000. That's everything I'm willing to send out. Most of my trades are sending out common and uncommon cards. I'm able to, in essence, trade up all the bulk I have for cards that I am really looking for. My costs are pretty high with this type of trading, but knowing that I am getting rid of my bulk for cards that go into my collection is a good trade-off for me.
US Stamp: $0.49
International Stamp: $1.15
Extra oz Stamp: $0.21
Top Loader: $0.0515
Team Bag: $0.0218
Bubble Mailer: $1.3736
4X9 Envelope: $0.0300
3X6 Envelope: $0.0468
Sheet of paper: $0.0022
Return Label: $0.0021
So you can see that on a normal trade under 1oz it will cost me $0.567 per send. That means if I can get trades at $3.00 I can net over $2.00 to my balance. I look at it like I am lowering my overall card count while adding cash to my overall balance where I can get cards I need for my account. So if you think about it this way, I am trading away 100s of commons / uncommons / basic lands away for ABU cards I need for my collection.
Now I might have to send 20 packages
20 * $0.57 = $11.40
But those packages would be at least $3.00
$3.00 * 20 = $60.00
And that adds a pretty nice sum to my total balance
$60.00 - $11.40 = $48.60
I do average around 5 cards per package and found that you need to be under 13 cards to safely send at the $0.57 per package, but for the most part I am just sending out a lot of cards I do not need. On average I send out 10 packages a week.
Now, I am sending out more cards than that, but you can kind of see my rationale with how I am using Cardsphere. It has gotten to the point where I am less afraid to open sealed product. With the Cardsphere service I've been able to move cards that I would have been sold as bulk for pennies in blocks of 1000 cards. I now always have an avenue to get rid of cards “no one wants”.
I do send out higher priced cards, but I am only looking at prices with people offering 80% or higher. Once I do find someone needing a card at those prices, I click on the user’s profile to see what else they want. Since I am already sending out a package to them, I will send them commons / uncommons / basic lands they are looking for at the lower price. But the big thing I like about this feature is that I have the choice to send, and I can choose not to send anything.
The thing I notice more than anything, I really feel that I am sending cards out to people who collect Magic the Gathering cards. There are those hard to find commons and uncommons that no one ever posts in their “Haves” because it's not worth it for anyone to send. I actually seek out some of those traders, and send out large amounts of cards, just because I was one of them! If I am sending cards out to someone who I assume is a collector, and only make $0.02 - $0.09 per card, it's worth it to me. Again, I am sending cards that just take up space in my bulk storage boxes.
I have also been known to send out a common card that is priced out at $0.10 and someone puts a 500% bonus on it to set the price at $0.50 because it is the last card they need for the set. It may be sending for a loss, but again, I was one of those traders at one point in time. The least I can do is help a brother out.
You never really know what people are looking to acquire. I've sent out more basic lands since I started Cardsphere trading than I have in the 20+ years of playing the game. I never knew how particular players are with their basic lands, and how far they will go to get the ones they want. This should show you that everything that comes in those packs are worth something to someone. Tokens -- don’t get me started on tokens!
You can only imagine they type of sorting system I use. I maintain 105 BCW boxes that hold up to 3200 cards. Cards that I use to trade are sorted by Modern or Pre-Modern. Then I sort them by Basic Land / Common / Uncommon / Rare - Mythic. Then by set, color, and then alphabetical. When you're trading in these amounts you need to be able to find every card you have in your inventory. If you can’t you'll spend so much time finding cards that you'll want to stop trading.
I tried using a ton of different applications to manage my inventory outside of any trading site, but the only one that has given me what I need is Excel. I highly recommend learning spreadsheets to maintain your collection as there are so many powerful things you can do with those spreadsheets to use your information exactly the way you want.
Don’t get me wrong -- this isn't a cost-efficient manner to trade, but it solves the issue of what I can do with all the extra bulk I own. I'm able to take $49.00 in stamps and turn that into about $250.00 in Cardsphere balance. I figure I have about 20 years left in cubicle hell, and that should be enough time to turn all my bulk into cards I need. Smells like victory to me!
My goal is not to make money on the site, but to finish my collection. The balance I carry is only for more magic cards, and I live off of my corporate salary. I use Cardsphere to augment my budget already set aside for Magic the Gathering. This is also my hobby, so I never spend more than I can within a year on my hobby. If my children do not like Magic as a game, then the collection will go up on eBay to be sold as a whole when I am nearing death.
I hope this might influence more people to complete their collections, and let them know that there are a lot of us out there. It has been fun for me, and I hope I can send you a card you are looking for someday. I do maintain a blog where I go through how I manage my spreadsheets, my trades, my collection, so look me up if you want to learn more! http://dogonsiereht-mtg.blogspot.com/
Phase 5: Collect all Cardsphere Badges!