I know this is a bit of a rant, and is a bit of a thought experiment. But it’s all something that needs to be said: Nobody is shipping a $0.01 card on TCGplayer for a $0.99 shipping charge and profiting. Let’s talk the economic reality of this for a moment.
Let’s say somebody really wants that card that you’re selling for $0.01 for some reason and will pay the $0.99 for shipping. Cool, you just grossed a dollar in revenue! Go you!
But then… TCGplayer and the payment processor takes their cut, which we get to through the following:
( 1 * ( 0.1025 + 0.025 ) ) + 0.30 = ( 1 * 0.105 ) + 0.30 = 0.105 + 0.30 = 0.405
For a total of $0.41 in fees, rounded up, of course. You subtract that from your gross of $1.00 to get $0.59 before you’ve shipped the card. Great, except… A stamp costs $0.66 and it’s the cheapest way to send it.
So now, before even getting into adding a sleeve or protector or printing the packing sheet, you’re at a net of -$0.07. Even if you’re completely set-up buying your packaging in bulk and have a laser printer? You’re still running another $0.08 for at least a semi-rigid card holder; $0.02 to print the packing slip; $0.03 for a team bag; $0.01 for a penny sleeve; $0.01 for some tape; and $0.03 for a #10 envelope. (Roughly $0.18 total to package everything properly at minimum.)
They’re now at -$0.25 to sell that single $0.01 card. Assuming they aren’t just tossing it raw dog into an envelope and calling it a day. Not even counting the time it took them to find the card and do the packaging dance, we’re going to call that their hobby in life.
Increasing the number of cards doesn’t really help either, obviously, as you’re going to run up against the additional ounce charge that’s currently $0.24, at about 5 cards. And especially since after 24 cards, where PWE is no longer a viable option and you jump up into parcels/packages where you’re running roughly $5 between packaging and a USPS Ground Advantage rate at minimum, let alone if you try taking it to the counter and paying retail postage.
So now that we know that bare bones, a viable order has to be at least $1.25 to be properly shipped, before fees, let alone considering the cost basis of a card. What is a reasonable minimum price per item?
Well, let’s start with knowing what our minimum shipping cost will be and what we need to net to break even on that: $0.66 + $0.18 = $0.84.
Running through the math, we come out to $1.29 to get that $0.84 after assessing marketplace and payment processing fees. And we can get there two ways: Increase our shipping charge to $1.40 or alternatively, increase our minimum item cost to $0.30. But we can also be flexible anywhere in the middle of those two. So to be absolutely clear, if we insist on $0.99 shipping, (assuming you want to do free shipping over $5 or something like that,) minimum price per item is $0.30 to net nothing on a single card order and technically have less than nothing to show for your time.
Except: People are less likely to buy a $0.01 card for $0.30, outside of algorithmic blessings, that’d be silly.
On that note though, we can also see every card presently listed for under $0.30 at $0.99 shipping is effectively worthless, if not actively potentially detrimental to their sellers.
Losing Money, to Make Money
Okay then, let’s say you really, really, really dead set on maintaining that $0.99 shipping and you’re okay with losing money sometimes. Let’s look at $0.30 as a center point and calculate out to package tier, at 25 cards, in the order before fees and shipping:
- $0.35/card = $8.75
- $0.30/card = $7.50 … single sale zero point
- $0.25/card = $6.25
Okay, so a $0.25 minimum it is then, since we aren’t fearing small order losses, right? And at only $1.02 in total fees you’re getting $0.0092/card at minimum once you hit package tier. Cool, so now we know our package zero point is likely $0.24/card. And let’s bring that $0.25 back to the above with the single card shipment: It’s still a net of -$0.04 as a single card sale.
So okay, as two $0.25 cards then at $1.49 total shipped, we come out to $1.02 after fees and a theoretical $0.18 to cover the cost of the cards after shipping. Obviously, the more cards while remaining under 25 total, the better. Again, this caps out at $6 for 24 cards before you hit that package tier, and shipping PWE on $5 is pretty much easy mode, even going up to the current maximum $1.78 for non-machinable surcharge and the 3.5oz maximum. You still come out to about $0.10/card before cost basis.
With the above information in place, we pretty much eliminate the low value high volume orders. We all know the horror story of somebody coming through a shop listing all of their bulk at low, loading up their cart with 500+ cards at $0.03 or less. The people doing this are bulk hunters. Basically, they’re selectively buylisting from you through the marketplace. It’s a bit douchebaggy, but you set yourself up to deal with that specific brand of douchery. They win on this by being able to select what they’re buying vs normal buylist which is somewhat of a beggars can’t be choosers scenario in comparison.
The other boogeyman in the room, and the one you’re more likely to face with reasonable pricing, is a high volume of single card orders. And honestly? You will get some, but you won’t get enough to make a difference in . Usually these types are the ones that sort by low with shipping and go with the first gold starred seller. And the occasional $0.20 loss is basically nothing.
Direct sales: If you’re pricing your items appropriately and not trying to undercut everyone like a fiend? You won’t get them for your lower end bulk, period. And you don’t really want to effectively slow burn buylist yourself out through Direct anyway. That’s idiotic, right? If you’re going to do that, just ship it off to us, you’ll at least get your payout faster that way.
- You can indeed charge a balance of reasonable item price and reasonable shipping without skimping on proper shipping and packaging.
- You don’t need to make money on every sale, because the ones you lose money on are so inconsequential that it’s silly to have anxiety over it.
- You don’t need to make every sale to be successful. And trying to do such will just end up burning you.
- Pricing your cards at buylist rates (or lower) in a marketplace and expecting to make money is incredibly stupid. Quit it.
- Everything here will be outdated eventually as all values are variable. Do your own math if you want accuracy.