Marcus King
View from the Game Store is a bi-weekly column by Marcus King, Director of Retail Operations at Troll and Toad in London, Kentucky.  This week, King reveals how his buying and stocking of CCGs has changed because of a big change in sales of Wizards of the Coast’s Magic: The Gathering.

I've been a Magic dealer since the very early days of the game.  I bought, sold and cracked boxes of Magic for singles since the days of Unlimited and Arabian Nights.  I've been through the fiasco of Fallen Empires and other horrible sets.  But, way more often than not the WotC/Hasbro Magic R&D team puts out a great product very regularly.  So, it is with some surprise that I note in the past two years a very different pattern for my sales of Magic cards.

Years ago, I stocked two cases of every set of Magic that was available.  Each week, I would order from my distributor to a level that would return my stock level to 12 boxes on each set they had.  I would even chase older sets and price the boosters according to my cost.  Just 24 months ago I still had Tempest, Urza's Saga and even The Dark boosters in stock.  But, then I began to notice a trend.

See, for years I have tracked my sales of Magic by categories thus: 

Sealed Magic (sealed boxes), Loose Magic (packs and decks), Singles.

And, for years my sales were 20%, 50%, 30%.

But, the numbers began to skew at some point, and as far as I can tell it was the spring of 2013 when I noticed it.  Sealed boxes dropped to about 18% and then 15%, loose packs dropped to about 40%, then 30%, and my singles jumped.  A lot.  Like, almost doubled.

What has caused this?  Was this just limited to my experience?  Was this a more widespread phenomenon? I checked with other retailers, talked to convention dealers, spoke to players and have come to the conclusion that although my numbers are just my numbers, everyone who kept close track was experiencing something similar.  Singles sales were up.  Way up.  And, sealed sales were down.

Yes, I still have a couple players who buy a case per release.  And, yes, we sell a sealed box or two per day.  But, our singles sales seemed to have only one limiting factor: how many we had in stock.  So, I decided to begin seeing what the ceiling was.  How many singles would we have to stock before we would see a point of diminishing returns?

About 15 months ago I began buying singles more aggressively, and opening more boxes for singles.  We went from six binders and one box of loose singles, and one display case of singles, to 12 binders, two boxes and two display cases.

And, what we have found thus far is this: we can't find the ceiling.  If we stock 300% more singles, we get 300% more sales (as long as it is the right singles).  If a card is hot, we will sell out.  If a card is popular, it is hard to keep any in stock at all.  Staple cards for all formats sell and sell, and are hard to keep in stock.

During this time we have opened three times the number of boxes we previously opened.  And, sales followed.  The hurdles were what to do with all the chaff, the cards nobody really played.  But, we found we could make repacks of 100 cards of a given color with rares for a good price for us, so we learned to sell the overstock at near cost, while selling the good cards and popular cards at market value, or above!  In-demand commons going for $1 to $3, those foil planeswalkers often covering the cost of a couple boxes.  And, we also heard one complaint from our customers during this time, the same complaint, repeatedly: "You don't have enough singles."

Is that a bubble in the market?  I don't know, but I am cautious.  I remember what happened when we had several powerful, popular sets in a row, and Kamigawa came along, and nobody wanted it.  Players lost interest, and the market tumbled (at least for my stores).

Currently, I stock Magic and other CCGs in a fashion that allows me to turn about 50% of my inventory of sealed product per week. 

  • 12 sealed boxes of the latest product, with one open box out for booster sales.
  • 12 Fatpacks of the latest product, when available.
  • 3 sealed boxes of all Standard product, with one open box out for booster sales
  • 3 Fatpacks of any set still available.
  • Binders of singles for all sets in Standard.
  • 1 display case of Singles for Standard.
  • 1 Display case of Singles for non standard cards. 

And I do something similar for Dragon Ball Z, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Force of Will, Pokemon and a couple other card games, always trying to keep about two weeks worth of product in stock, and restocking weekly to the same inventory level.

For as long as my distributors have product.  Because when you run your inventory with two weeks of inventory in stock, you are depending on the distributors to do their job.  And, at least in this retailer’s mind, that means keeping inventory in stock in their warehouse, so I (we retailers) can order it, and get it on time.

Most of the time, the distributors do great.  And, I hope that is a trend that continues, too.

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The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of