A childhood MTG player starts to figure out how much his collection is really worth.
Last year, I was cleaning my room, but didn't know where to put my collection of magic cards. I had the day, so I figured I'd investigate the process of selling them. I wrote a fat report and sent it to my friends, and many months later, I'm making my journey public. Here's what I learned trying to sell them...
I'm up $300 going through just a fraction of the cards, AND it's a super enjoyable walk down memory lane.
I played heavily as a kid. Starting in about 7th grade, my deck building got serious enough that I'd make lists and seek out individual cards - although I'd often just play a land with a note in the case indicating what card it was supposed to be.
I stopped for many years, but then in my 20s, would occasionally draft with friends.
I now only draft, and even that's rare. So I really have no need for all these boxes...
- 1 Fatty Beaster Box
- 2 normal big collection boxes
- 1 shoebox with about 8 constructed decks and a miscellanea of cards leftover from drafts.
- 1 binder with 18 sleeves of 9 cards all that are known rares
- Heavy personal collection from roughly Tempest (late '97) through Odyssey (mid 2001) with peaks at Urza's Saga and Prophecy.
- Several chunks of later sets leftover from the very occasional drafting done from Champions of Kamigawa (2004) --> now
- Inherited collection of relatively unknown value from my older brother and his friends, many of which predate set badges, and are really heavy on Mirage (1996) and some other even older sets like Arabian Nights (1993) and Ice Age (1995).
Some Initial Investigating
First - I figured out check out the value of some of the cards in the rare binder - but I realized it was hard to find the price for some. Many of the older cards don't have any set indicator at all - I didn't know if I had cards from have alpha, beta, revised, unlimited, 4th, or 5th edition? But after some googling - I found this absurdly useful video!
With that information, I started checking ebay. Some were disappointingly valueless, selling for 1 or 2 dollars... obviously not worth much of my time.
Others, though, as it turns out. Are INSANELY valuable. Most notably (at the time of writing):
- Ali from Cairo (arabian nights / ~$180 on ebay)
- Lion's Eye Diamond (mirage / ~$120 on ebay)
- Illusionary Mask (unlimited / ~$75 on ebay)
But who knows if can I actually get that... Am I going to bother selling individual cards on ebay? I'd barely heard of these cards. They're not "shivan dragon" or anything. Am I going to go through every single card, check eba for prices, determine it's worth, etc. etc. etc. It seems an impossible task.
Unsure what to do...
Sell the whole collection to someone who will buy for a few hundred... no fun. Probably under value
Go around to different local shops and let people poke through and make offers on valuable cards... but then I'm in the dark. I have to deal with people...
Go through and find price for all cards, then try to sell the really valuable ones on ebay... But then what about cards in the $10 range? They're valuable, but not worth my time... what to do?
Find this incredible website cardkingdom.com which has a great interface to a fat database of how much they will ACTUALLY PAY for each card.
What's amazing about this site is every time you look up a card, you can just click - add to cart. Then you put in an order, mail them the cards that you put, and they review them and pay you!!
This, it seems like, is the perfect balance. The interface is smooth enough that it's actually worth it to sell off individually the low value cards. You send them all in at once, so it's not like selling an individual $2 card where you lose 50 cents on shipping. And since you're looking up a card's value anyway, hell - if they'll buy it for 8 cents, might as well just add it to the cart!!
Card Kingdom got me very excited. I started going through all the cards and ultimately settled on a sort of flow:
- Take a fat stack of cards.
- Sort by set and by rarity.
- Go through the rares, price them individually. Add all valuable ones to cart.
- Repeat with uncommons
- FILTER for that set looking at all commons that are not foil that they are willing to buy at all. None of the sets have more than 10 of these anyway, so then just burn through all the commons looking for those specific cards. Some are surprisingly lucrative. eg. They buy Boreal Druid (coldsnap) for 26 cents a pop and I had 7 of them (that was an epic draft)!
For the low priced cards
It feels pretty ridiculous adding a lot of cards that sell for 5 -> 10 cents. But with a good flow, each takes so little time and I feel like I'm really maximizing value.
In the mid value range
In the 5 --> 20 dollar range, I'm probably missing out on a good bit of money. It unscientifically feels like about a 40% reduction compared to goin through ebay directly, but it's saving a huge amount of time, and it feels very worth it.
Very valuable cards
I'm holding off on selling these I think to do them individually. At some point, maybe I'll just cave and go with the CardKingdom route.
After 5 hours of ridiculously fun work
- Went through 4 / 18 pages of rare binder
- Went through 1.5 of the normal big boxes
- Went through the miscellaneous shit in the shoe box
(Which DOES NOT include the three super valuable ones noted above, or any others I haven't discovered yet)
That money is for sending in these little boxes (268 cards)
If you're curious about specific card values- check out the spreadsheet - here's the actual list:
I still a whole lot more to get through. The huge ass box, all my favorite decks, and all of the cards in my first two boxes that predate the black/silver/gold schema (I'm doing those at the end because I think I'll save time if I do those all at once).
I'm estimating a total value of about $1600 with this method. This will also leave me with a shiiiit ton of "regular" cards that don't have much value - but could be really fun to play with.
There's also a very high chance (since not all cards are in perfect shape) that the company only pays out 60 - 80% of what they offer.
Update: This turns out to be true (see more at bottom)
- Revised (aka 3rd edition) is much less valuable than I'd hoped :(
- Cards that are actually good retain a lot more value (duh)
- Foils really do hold value. (I sold a 2014 Forest foil for 60 cents - and I'm sure there will be more).
- There were some interesting peculiarities for what sell. eg. They buy remote isle and smoldering crater (which provide mana for blue and red), but they wouldn't buy the equivalent cards in the cycle for the other colors. (polluted mire, etc). Is it because they already have enough? Is it because of the relative mana cost for blue and red decks in Urza's Saga? Weird...
Update: this was true at time I originally wrote the report, but at time of publishing this, they actually do buy polluted mire... which makes me think about the market in general... I guess timing is important. - but not something I think I'll be very good at capitalizing on with my level of commitment.
- I think I'll make this (with maybe more analysis) available online when I'm done and post to the MTG reddit
Update: you're reading this!
- Feel free to forward this along - provided that you let me know what people say about it. I'd love to hear peoples thoughts.
Two Weeks Later
My orders processed. I expected some discounting of the total value based on condition. I had predicted:
There's also a very high chance (since not all cards are in perfect shape) - that the company only pays out 60 - 80% of what they offer.
Expected amount: $314.76 Total actually received based on condition: $221.26
Which means I got 70.3% of their Mint condition offering... It's a great prediction, but kind of a bummer about the value.
I received a manifest listing each of my cards with codes next to them, like:
* NM (Near Mint?) * EX (Excellent?) * VG (Very Good?)
A short while later, I received the money to my paypal account!