AN INTERVIEW WITH A TRADER – PART ONE

I mentioned my Girlfriend in the last article, I love her to bits. She’s the Twin to my Exarch, the Liliana to my degenerate MTG fantasies Lingering Souls and the <insert witty related MTG pun>. Part of the reason for this is that we trust one another and we can be honest. Though if we ever talk about “that Magic game” I seem to bend the truth a little on the finance side.

Typical questions I dodge are:

  • How much do you think you’ve spent on Magic since you’ve started?
  • Is your collection worth much?
  • Were you checking out that other woman?

So I told her how much I could sell my beloved Tarmogoyfs for and she didn’t believe me. I went on to talk about the intricate details of MTG Finance, value trading, speculating….she was riveted (nawt).

So people can make money from this?” Why yes they can, they’re known as Traders. Which got me thinking what would it actually be like to be a Trader? Ever wondered the same?

Well we’re lucky enough to have a little chat with founder of Union County Games – Lewis McLeod, so we can find out a little more…

(Editor – Due to the interview length we’ve split the article into two parts)


Tell us a little about yourself – family, real life job and other hobbies.

I’m Lewis McLeod, 27 from Exeter, Devon. I’m a Pension Regulator Auditor for Friends Life (which is super boring) but I used to be a Football Coach for Exeter City FC and their kids programmes. That’s what I trained as at Uni but quickly fell out of love with it. I’ve got a little boy aged 1 who’s growing up fast! Hoping he’s the next great England captain ;).

Cheers pal, so on to the obligatory MTG stuff, when did you start playing MTG, any notable achievements?

I started playing MTG casually when Urza’s Legacy came out. I think I was around 9ish. My first booster had a foil Might of Oaks in it and I was hooked! It was worth $26 according to Inquest Magazine! That’s a lot of money for a 9 year old. I started playing bigger events when I got to 11. The South West of England had a lot of good players at the time so it was fairly easy to find people to go to events with. Our local Plymouth monthlies were getting 60+ players as well which helped!

Cracking Mug Shot!
Cracking Mug Shot!

So apart from representing Wales as the first captain of the World Magic Cup I think my biggest achievement is my Top 8 at GP Paris in 2011 (editor, check out the link, he’s up there with Kai Budde!). It was the one where that Player of the Year playoff happened so everyone remembers that weekend. Hoping to get a bigger achievement in a few weeks at Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar :J.

The first competitive deck was Counter Rebels so I’ve got a soft spot for that format. Now I look back, it was complete garbage! Though any form of Rebels was the best deck, Lin Sivvi was busted (you had mirrors every round). Sadly, I really liked the last format with Pack Rat, Master of Waves and Sphinx’s Rev but that’s mainly because I did quite well in it. I think the last format was pretty interesting. It was super deep so I guess that one has to be up there too.

Speaking of going super deep, what was the drive to set yourself up as a trader?

Being able to offer TCG Mid prices to UK players was the main reason. I found myself in need of certain cards for events but really didn’t want to pay massive prices or use MKM (Magic Kard Market). Every time I use MKM my cards get sent to me in a paper envelope with just a sleeve as protection!! That’s not really good enough and I figured I could do better, both with prices offered and in the way our cards get sent. So far, so good!

Nearly everyone I asked wants to know about how you set up your business, what initial challenges did you have?

The main one was initial start-up costs. It shocked me how much non-singles product (accessories) costs and how much I needed so I could support everyone’s needs at events. Before I started taking this seriously I was vending events with just singles and people would ask me for sleeves etc. all the time, so I got in on them but the costs were pretty insane.

People forget things like business email and bank account as well. They all cost money (more than you would think) and that was a bit of a wakeup call as well. When I got hit with those I knew I was really in deep and would have to take it seriously instead of treating it like a project.

Those Nezumi drive a hard bargain.
Those Nezumi drive a hard bargain.

So once your up and running how did you start increasing your stock?

I was lucky enough to live near an Independent Tournament Organiser with big ideas for the region. He needed a dealer and offered it to me before I was really considering doing it. I was lucky enough to have the sort of collection to jump straight into it at the time and I never looked back. I think the main thing with increasing stock is to have a lot of contacts that trust you. Apart from buying stock from wholesalers, collections are the main way to increase stock.

Any insider tips on buying?

As a company we get to have certain accounts with wholesalers. This enables us to offer pre-sales (which we don’t currently do) and get our stock out on the site on release day. Away from the wholesalers, being the local trader for the South West and vending a lot of events really helps us restock. People love the 20% extra on trade in we offer and the Buy Hotlist is a pretty big incentive to sell format staples. We offer special prices on certain cards we are short of.

Whilst we’re on this do you look at investments or strictly buy in bulk?

My days of speculating are pretty much over. I used to be pretty good at it but now I have a business based on sales, I want to get rid of everything I buy. We buy a lot of bulk as it’s the best way to fill holes in your inventory. No one wants to go out of their way to find random bulk rares in folders. It’s easier finding them in piles you’ve been sold in bulk.

Ok, so I’ve got a load of stock and product, what’s the “day to day” work like?

I’m lucky enough to have a good group of lads who travel to events and help me set up etc. In between rounds they even jump in and help with the store front while I do buy listing and things behind the scenes.  I try to get to events early so I can be set up and ready to go as soon as people get there but sometimes I have trouble leaving my little boy! I’m a sucker for his hugs and kisses in the mornings.

Real Life always gets in the way! So why should people use your store?

I think a shorter list would be ‘why people shouldn’t use our store’. We don’t currently offer postage outside the UK as at first we wanted to keep everything in house but as we expand we will offer our services to the rest of the world. Urm, I think that’s it really. We’re pretty perfect……in all seriousness I was a player traveling around in need of cards at events and paying ‘event tax’ on cards really annoyed me. We keep our prices the same as on the site regardless of where we are vending, and the prices coming from TCG Mid is a fairly big selling point that separates us from almost everyone else in the UK. Whether its Power, Modern or Standard staples you’re after, we’ve got it at TCG Mid.

You mentioned TCG Mid…

It’s the only way to get a true price for singles. The average is what cards are actually selling at. It is fine having your own price set and people quoting those prices but if they aren’t selling on the site it is not a true reflection of the cards worth.

TCG Mid is pretty cool, any other ethos behind your brand.

We want to be as accommodating to everyone’s needs as possible. So I guess the ethos is Friendly and professional, with a bit of fun thrown in.

Lewis soon regretted employing his new staff.
Lewis soon regretted employing his new staff.

People can always have a laugh with us at events regardless of the situations we may be in. I have a lot of people who throw around the banter when I’m trying to grade their cards and that really helps me if I’m honest as the steely professional look isn’t really my thing. Growing up with sports and my family has taught me not to take things too seriously. Help who needs to be helped and try to not create conflicts. It’s treated me well so far in life!


Thanks for reading Team, we’ll have Part Two uploaded later this week where you can find out about:

  • Speculating
  • Awkward Customers
  • Reader Questions
  • My degenerate Liliana MTG related fantasies.

In the meantime check out Union County Games (he’s not joking they do use TCG Mid!) and we’ll be back in a couple of days.

Much love.

Chris.


 

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Well look no further.

Check out http://mtg4lifeapp.com/for the first and only FULLY CUSTOMISABLE Magic The Gathering PREMIUM scoreboard app.


 

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