I understand complete answers might not be public, but is there any public information on how major sites (like StarCityGames, TCGPlayer, Abu, etc), price their cards?

In particular, since the prices fluctuate often and there are a huge number of cards, I assume there is some automation, so I'm interested in any algorithms they might be using. I'm looking for references or insider perspective, not just speculation.

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    I don't know, but if I had to guess, I'd say that it's probably based on supply and demand (or projected supply and demand). – murgatroid99 Feb 1 '15 at 20:07
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    :( like I said, looking for references or insider perspective. No speculation, please. – Liz Young Feb 1 '15 at 20:52
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    @TanDollars: LGS is more usually understood as Local Game Store, as far as I know – RemcoGerlich Feb 1 '15 at 21:29
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    For what it's worth, if you're curious about the topic in general, not just the details of those sites' pricing, you might want to search for "dynamic pricing" (or "dynamic pricing algorithms"). – Cascabel Feb 1 '15 at 21:39
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    This question would receive a better answer on economics.stackexchange.com. But it is technically on topic here as well. – Rainbolt Feb 2 '15 at 14:19

I think is highly unlikely that you'll get an "insider" answer here. Your main question is:

"Is there any public information on how major sites price their cards?"

And an straight forward answer would be: No. Wizards of the Cost does not set prices on ANY card, it all comes down to how much people pay, supply and demand. Whenever a new set releases, I'd say there is some sort of standard pricing depending on the card rarity. This is why, very close to the release, you see most Planeswalkers cost around $20, and then those with a high demand go to around $40-$50 pretty quickly. It is with time and use of the cards, demand or performance of different decks, that prices settle at some point. For a while at least. It is easy to predict, for example, that the fetchlands that are now in standard are going to see their prices go through the roof once Khans rotates out of the format.

As for automation, TCG has a price aggregator (think on how pricegrabber.com works), and they get information from different sources. They are not actually pricing anything, just showing you lowest prices. Most of this information (think of services that provide them) are public (for a price). So, technically, you can study the behavior on the price of different cards and kind of "predict" prices of similar, future cards, with some margin of error. At the end, the price of a card depends on perception of the value it can have on a given deck. And this is pretty hard to put on code.

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  • I think everyone knows Wizards doesn't set the prices; that's why the OP is asking how the stores set them. – Cascabel Feb 6 '15 at 18:30
  • yeah, Wizards isn't really relevant here. I appreciate your attempt at an answer, but as specified speculation isn't an appropriate answer. There are thousands and thousands of Magic cards, and the biggest online stores sell most of them. These cards also vary in price quite a bit, presumably too much overhead for a person or group to price using their personal judgment – Liz Young Feb 7 '15 at 20:42

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