Insight into Cardmarket: Interview with Our Co-Founder (1)


With this column we want to give our users an exclusive peek behind the scenes at Cardmarket. Last year, one of our founders did a series of video interviews, talking about a variety of topics: growth, high-end trades, and how Cardmarket started out. Here's what Matthias Knelangen had to say.

taiga & matze
Taiga of Senshiworld interviewing Matthias Knelangen

[Below you can find the video of the interview, conducted in German, and further down we have reproduced all of Matthias's answers in text form, translated into English.]

On Experiencing a Growth Spurt

Recently, we have experienced a very strong boom, like the industry in general. Such was the case with Magic last year, at the end of 2020. The demand for Pokémon was very high. That's also been generally noticeable all over the TCG scene. The demand was very high in the first two months of this year [2021]. And that's a little bit related to Corona, the general situation, and also to monetary policy. There was a lot of aid and a lot of money, which is very cheap right now. So people are investing in assets, any assets. In gold, real estate, and also trading cards. If gold, real estate, and bitcoin are already done, then you have to buy trading cards, and accordingly, the interest is huge.

Especially since this has also arrived on social media, with streamers on Twitch and YouTube. A lot of advertising is done there, sometimes with a lot of effort. The very, very old product that you can only order for enormous sums of money … those also being opened and shown there keeps interest high.

And since we as a marketplace grow or fall largely one-to-one with the market, we have of course experienced this boom directly. We have reached or even surpassed the technical limits of our platform and had to readjust very strongly to be able to meet the great demand at all. So it's super interesting. People want to get their hands on really old cards. I think many are now digging out stuff from the basement again.

And they learn, "Wow, I saw you can sell your Charizard for so much!" or, "Did you see all the old Magic cards are so expensive now? I still have that Draco from back then. I'll go see if I can find that one!" It's worth it, of course. If you say, "So, I still know this card from the past and now it says that it's worth €500," I would also look in the basement to see if I can find it.

Accordingly, there are currently quite interesting and also very high-priced transactions.

charizard black lotus

On High-End Trades

I can also contribute as an interesting fact—the day after tomorrow, I will personally assist a trade that is happening live, and the two people who are involved in it sold and bought via Cardmarket. I know both of them personally and the handover takes place in person here in Berlin, because what was sold is a BGS9-graded Black Lotus from Beta. Here we are already far over €100,000 as far as the price is concerned. You don't send such a card via mail. Of course, it is handed over personally. I not only provide the marketplace but will also be physically present. And while I don't hand over the card, I'll be present at the handover to ensure that it's all done properly.

Right now, the money is with us, interestingly enough. We keep it in our trustee system. And instead of it [the product] being shipped and the buyer confirming the arrival at some point, it's just delivered. And we take care of it directly, which is quite justifiable for such a high-priced transaction. Because, in case of doubt, we are always responsible for the correct handling and have to do research at the post office or rely on statements from the buyer and seller. And at some point, the value is so high that it is worthwhile to really keep an eye on it personally.

On Starting Cardmarket

We started in 2007 and the idea itself was not mine, but my business partner's at that time, Luis. We know each other from France, where we were both studying. We both are engineers. At the time, Luis had traded a bit with cards privately. He was often in Spain, France, and Germany for professional reasons, and had found that cards could be sold at different prices in different countries. Today, you would call this arbitrage.

He is a computer scientist and thought, "That's all quite impractical here, only with eBay and cardshark (which still existed back then). If there was something better, I could trade cards better." Then he said, "I'm a computer scientist, I'll just do it myself!"

And that's how he started. I wasn't even there when the idea came up. But shortly before the idea was implemented and ready to go live, I was at his house for a completely different reason and saw all the cards lying around. Back then, he had already bought a lot of cards to get started. I was like, "Hey, I know that! I also played Magic when I was twelve or something. Wow! What are you doing?"

He said, "Yeah, I'm doing this kind of online marketplace now and it's going to be crazy!"

Back then, I was doing my doctorate in physics, and had a lot of time on my hands because the machine for my experiments was broken. So I said, "I'll join you, I want to help you."

And then we started. It probably looked like you would imagine a start-up to be in the past. Luis sat on his bed in his room and was programming on a laptop, and I sat on the floor sorting cards. And then we began sending out the cards. We started, which is also unusual today, without any debt financing. We had virtually only our respective savings from university, which were almost nonexistent, so we just had our time as a resource, put it to good use and got started. It's also funny how we brought the initial card offer onto the website. We did it back then by going to FUNtainment here in Berlin on Revaler Straße and bought two Future Sight booster boxes, which we then ripped, and typed in the individual cards. That was brand-new back then.

future sight tarmogoyf

One of my fond memories is: Our first sale was Tarmogoyf for €1.30. It's still very funny when you hear that today. We had other mixed cards, and that's how we started. I remember the first month, where we had a total income of €30. It was insane that we made some money at all!

So that was the underlying idea. It was very interesting because both Luis and I weren't that deeply involved in the scene when we launched. And nobody knew us. Usually, someone who came up with a project like this, a marketplace, would have been involved in the scene, might have been a trader, a famous tournament player, or just someone who is deeply rooted in the scene—neither of us were.

And then we went to the yearly game fair in Essen and set up a booth to introduce ourselves. And nobody knew us!

On Meeting Mark Rosewater

The craziest things happened to us! That year, the Magic Invitational was held at the game fair. I'm not sure if most people know what the Magic Invitational is. It doesn't exist anymore. It was a tournament where only twenty players were allowed to take part, pros or famous personalities, and the winner gets their own Magic card. Kai Budde won, got Voidmage Prodigy, Tiago Chan won, got this Snapcaster Mage. When Bob Maher won, he got Dark Confidant, which is called Bob today because it's Bob Maher's Invitational card.

So these people were all there, and I didn't know anybody. Then someone came to my booth and said, "You do Magic, don't you?", and I said, "Yes, we are Cardmarket. We're making this website, you can trade with us."

He went, "Well, that's interesting, and do you also have Future Sight cards?"

And I said, "Yes, we also have Future Sight, which is pretty cool."

"And how do you like that set?" he asked.

And I'm like, "I like it."

Then he says, "Yeah, that's cool … I created this set," and ran off.

And I'm like, "Who was that?!"

1 Commentaire

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eriCCCC(21.05.2022 14:27)

A-w-e-s-o-m-e ;)