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Game Store Life #7: The Era of Premium Products

What kind of store are you? Profit driven? Community based? A combination of both? Is there such a thing? These are the kind of questions you should be asking yourself long before you open, as it will lead to all kinds of things that will need to be done before opening, because trying to do them while opening or even after opening can lead to a lot of issues.

I ask because there are distinct ways to set up for each kind.

A series of recent events have made me ponder this question for my establishments. Flesh and Blood’s newest set (Outsiders) was hard to get at release. One Piece, which dropped 2 weeks ago, I am still waiting on my 3 cases for. My Pokemon order got heavily allocated.  Both MTG and Force of Will had Premium Anniversary products release, well MTG more than just that with the All will Be One Complete Box. And with the Disney Lorcana game coming soon, there are a lot of things going on.

So, what is a Premium product and what is it that you have to worry about?

Good question to myself, let me explain. In a perfect world a premium product is something you know about, as in the Anniversary products. These you can plan on getting not as much and setting the price accordingly. The main issue is when a regular product becomes premium, as in the new Pokemon set. You see Pokemon just started printing their own stuff, before that they contracted it out, not anymore. So, while they were setting up to print the newest set, all the old sets went out of print. So, getting restocks has been impossible.

This has caused all Pokemon sets to become premium in a way. They have also raised prices a bit, by like 10-15%, thus overall prices have gone up, and with the additional scarcity, more. This isn’t the end of the world though, as reprints are likely to come once they get things figured out. But it leads to my opening questions, as profit driven businesses will raise the price to capitalize on the current shortage, where community based may stick close to retail pricing knowing more will come in the future.

With actual Premium products, some stores will sell at release and sit on some product to flip at higher prices later. This again isn’t the worst thing. BUT there are products that will be under printed, with no reprint in sight. These are the things that even customer based stores may look at and think, I can make some actual money here. And if there is one thing I have tried to be clear on, it’s that running a game store doesn’t make a lot of money, unless you put in more work and have no life.

But even profit driven stores can lose their butts on certain products. The key to remember is that if it says it’s collectible, it isn’t. Look at all the late 90s early 2000s stuff to get my point. Also, certain lines are starting to flounder, take Pops for instance. Though still popular in some areas, they are dropping off. It might be due to public loss of interest, but I also know that they have raised prices and shipping has gone up, thus profit margins have shrunk a lot. Add the fact that those that are still collecting them are fanatical about box condition. So, if your mail man slips once, all your new pops go straight into the discount bin.

This brings experience in whatever products you sell to the forefront. One has to have an intimate knowledge of the industry overall to be able to make calls that can make or break them. A safe bet would be to order the standard amount of things that you normally move. Or, if you have done as I said earlier, you are using that stashed away money to gamble with and not the main funds used to run the store.

Knowing things like if reprints are likely, if the product/game is actually good, what the rates are, can lead to good gambles more times than bad ones. The new Disney game is a key example. Right now people are paying $2000 and higher for the promos that came out last year. In some cases $5k if they are slabbed and 9.5 or higher. I am in a lot of groups and such for the game because I think it will be a HUGE seller out of the gates.

Thing is, game stores only have a 2 week lead before the big stores get them. This is Ravensburger’s (RB) first tcg, and basically with the largest IP out there. It will be under printed. My distributors have already said the stuff will be allocated. Even if RB does their research, they still will have no real idea how much to make. But as a store owner do I try to cash in or make a killing? I mean it’s supposed to be a TCG, and if I want it actually played I will have to make it reasonably priced, but at the same time we still don’t even know how it is played.

Most TCGs die within 3 years, I’m sure this one will go at least 5 just from collectors buying it. But with no history from the publisher we have no idea if there will be additional print runs, reprints in future sets or what. Those are both needed if the game is to actually succeed as a game. With so many unknowns it’s hard to determine what one should do. 

I could get in my product, sell half at say $200-$250 a box (retail is $150) and sit on the rest until it hits $300+ a box, then cash out. The $250 might seem like a lot, but some sites are already asking $280 or more for preorders as of this writing. The other side is that a lot of the community right now is borderline delusional about the pricing. They think it will be at retail and that enough will be available, and a lot of new people into the space are listening to those people. I think I know better, but I have been around TCGs since day one and in the business of them for 15+ years.

As a player and advocate for games in general, I hope in a way that they are right and that the product will find its way into the hands of players and those that collect for fun. But the business side of me, with the experience, knows better and is thinking of what to do. I would love to make a little extra money while also promoting a new game, but I have no idea about the publisher and what they are going to do.

In the past only Pokemon and Eye Spy have nurtured a game back to some semblance of a games former glory. And yes Pokemon is huge, but if you were around in the late 90’s you would know how much more huge it was. So, most games that mess up rarely recover.  My hope is that RB knows what it has to do if things start out sloppy.  But we will know soon enough.

Thanks again for wasting your time with me.

Dan Rowland
Top Scrub

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About the author


TCG player and enthusiast who has been slinging cards for 25+ years. He has won some stuff, judged, ran events, owned stores, and and sold online. Wannabe writer as well. Having written for sites such as The Dojo and Starcity for various other games, he now wants to try his hand for Force of Will. Also a hack novelist with one book currently published and seller of fine wares at for all things Force of Will and on Facebook.
Not the best of players, but a head for numbers and a historical buff. Sporting degrees in Business and Writing, he hopes to spread some knowledge with a dose of sarcasm. Enjoy the ramblings of a deficient mind and grab a chuckle while you're there.

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