by Doc – Owner, Founder, First Person to Apply Economics Degree to Secondhand Pirated Amiibo Card Etsy Sales
I’ve been watching the Etsy amiibo card market like a hawk for years – so much so that I’ve created resources for new amiibo card sellers in the menu above, even though it’s a tiny content niche.
The primary goal of my observations is examining the prices of amiibo cards. Obviously, we’re talking about secondhand, unofficial amiibo cards obtainable through Etsy. Nintendo-made Animal Crossing ones don’t apply.
If you’re selling amiibo cards, this article is for you. You’re probably wanting to know when to adjust your inventories and pricing so that you can prepare for new customers. Here’s a few points to know.
1. Amiibo Cards have Minimal Costs (except for shipping)
The biggest expenses when making amiibo cards are your labor and your NTAG215 chips. These expenses also tend to be very fixed. Beyond that, all expenses are variable and can be changed. You can lower costs by switching from cardstock to coins. You can lower costs by going with less-intense prints on your cards. You can even lower costs by limiting shipping to your home country. If you’re cutting costs, you’ll find that you basically can’t do so without either extending shipping times or by cutting the quality of your product.
So on the bright side, you have very solid control over your financials. Unfortunately, any time shipping is in high demand (such as during a COVID lockdown), those financials are going to be ever tighter.
2. Supply and Demand is Determined by Compatibility…
Please tell me you understand classical Supply and Demand economics. The more common something is, the less people are willing to pay for it. The more useful something is, the more people are willing to pay for it. There, I just saved you the last four years of my life earning a Bachelor’s in Economics.
Amiibo card supply is, in practice, infinite. China is putting out NTAG215 chips like nobody’s business, and has been doing so for years. Their prices have been pretty stable (about $0.30/chip unless you buy in massive bulk), and thus there’s no concern for supply. There’s a handful of full-time amiibo card manufacturers on Etsy that are taking up most of the market, so any time someone wants a new card there’s going to be little difficulty in finding someone to make it.
Demand, however, is the hard part. People don’t always want amiibo. The amiibo collectors don’t give a rip about secondhand unofficial amiibo cards, they only want the real thing. So what is it that drives people to Etsy cards?
Usefulness. If someone isn’t wanting to collect amiibo cards, then they’re wanting them for their amiibo compatibility. This is why you see sellers trying to sell entire sets of Smash Bros amiibo cards – they know that amiibo trainers don’t want to pay a thousand dollars for amiibo, and just want to train the amiibo itself.
3. …and Demand for Compatibility is produced by New Games or Amiibo Functionality
When Animal Crossing: New Horizons came out, the Etsy amiibo card market exploded. People were unable to go buy the physical amiibo in stores, but they needed to use amiibo for their new Animal Crossing game. They turned to the secondhand market.
The same thing happens when new Smash Bros amiibo come out. When the Joker amiibo released, demand for Joker amiibo cards was massive. Amiibo card sellers who had previously only been selling Animal Crossing cards suddenly had a new market on their hands. They moved into the Smash Bros amiibo card markets to cover the segments of the amiibo population who wouldn’t buy the figure, but still wanted to train.
Similar things happen every time new amiibo or amiibo compatibility hits the market. If a game comes out that has a use for amiibo, then those amiibo cards will be in demand for as long as that game is popular. (Which is why Breath of the Wild amiibo are always on Etsy seller’s front pages). If an old game is updated to include more amiibo compatibility, like Animal Crossing: New Leaf’s Welcome Amiibo update, those amiibo will also be in demand.
The more you can use that amiibo, the more people will want it.
4. Supply and Demand works in reverse of what you’d expect
I did observe something very unusual during the release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Because there was such a massive surge in demand for amiibo cards, more small card sellers entered the market. This actually drove prices down, despite supply being effectively infinite.
At the start of the lockdowns, before the game released, most amiibo cards were about $3-$4 each, depending on the format you bought from. By about two weeks in, you could get them for as low as $1.25 each when buying in bulk.
This demands an answer: Why? If there’s so much demand, and supply was already infinite, why did prices still drop?
Well, to make a long story short, sellers still had to compete for higher listings on the Etsy store. You can have the best cards in the market, but if nobody sees your shop you’ll never sell anything. So they cut prices in spite of demand to get that higher listing.
There’s a few other reasons, too, like fixed costs being spread over more production, per-unit costs being lower because supplies were being purchased in bulk, and manufacturing processes being expanded to take less time per card, but the increase in sellers was the largest factor.
So when is the best time to sell amiibo cards?
Now. There’s no new games or amiibo coming out right now. There’s no new amiibo coming out for a month. Your profit per card ratios are through the roof, and if you set up shop now you’ll have one month before the next amiibo come out (Banjo, Terry and Byleth, on March 26th). Take the time to work out the kinks in your store and start competing with the big sellers.