Welcome to the third and final part of my series on how to sell your Magic collection. If you missed either of my first two articles, which cover the basics of collection-selling as well as how to pick the valuable cards out of your bulk, you can find the links below.
Today's article is a big one. I've been listing, selling, and shipping cards online for over a decade now, and I'm going to be sharing as much of that knowledge as I can with you. Whether you're looking to sell your collection or you're simply hoping to level up your MTG flipping game, this is a must-read.
Before we start listing the cards in our collection, however, we're going to have to sort them again. That's right, it's time for—
Now that the true bulk has either been packed away in your closet or sold on Facebook or eBay, you're probably staring down at least one massive box containing the rest of your collection—hundreds of 25-cent uncommons, bulk rares, half-finished Standard decks, Modern staples, promos, foils, and everything else of value that builds up over time.
Our goal now is to sort this stuff into four different piles:
In order to make these piles, we're going to have to come up with a couple of value thresholds to use as guidelines during our sort. If a card is below a certain dollar figure, for example, you'll know to stick it in the buylist pile. Conversely, if a card is above a certain dollar figure, you should sort into the super expensive pile. That way, we aren't making a ton of individual decisions as we sort and we can complete the task quickly and efficiently.
I personally use $2 as my low-end cutoff, but I'll occasionally go down as far as $1 if I have several playsets of a card that is usually purchased in four-ofs. I'll happily sell a playset of something for $4 total, but I really don't want to ship off a ton of $1 cards as singletons, even with TCGplayer kicking in that extra fee for shipping and supplies. Alternately, you can use a threshold closer to $3-$4 if you really don't want to mess with a ton of low-value cards. Remember: your advantages for selling on TCGplayer vs. using a buylist increase with the value of the card you're selling.
For the super expensive cards, my threshold is usually in the $150-$200 range. Everything less than $150, and I'm probably just going to list on TCGplayer without images and call it a day. That means that the bulk of your collection—cards worth between $2 and $150—is probably going to end up in the "just list it on TCGplayer" pile.
It's also worth noting that not all expensive cards are created equally. Super expensive Modern staples are usually bought by players who want them for decks, and there's less of a gap between a NM and an SP copy for cards like this. On the other hand, a tiny ding or scuff could mean major differences in the value of a piece of the Power 9 or other staple from Legends or Antiquities. Because of this, I'm more likely to simply list the Modern stuff while placing any expensive Reserved List cards in the super expensive pile, where I spend more time going over each and every card.
As for the oddball cards, just use this pile whenever you can't easily look up the price of a card. Signed stuff, artist proofs, misprints, etc.—we'll get to this stuff later.
Ready to sort? Good. I suggest using the TCGplayer mobile app for determining the initial value of your cards. It uses your phone camera to scan each card, and a price will pop up on the screen. If a card scans lower than your buylist threshold, chuck it in your buylist pile. I don't recommend listing your cards for sale on the app—the desktop interface is easier and more robust—but definitely use the app as a way to look up the rough value of your cards.
If you've never used the TCGplayer mobile app before, there will be something of a learning curve. I use the app a lot, and it can be frustrating to look up hundreds of cards this way. The app will go through periods of time where it scans cards immediately, and others where you just kind of have to wave a card at it several times and restart your list just to get it to register. Even still, the app is way faster than the old method of typing every card into a search field.
If you're having loads of trouble with it, make sure you're following the instructions by placing each card on a white background (such as a large piece of blank paper) and ensuring that your lighting is high and even. Even small changes to your environment can help it out a lot.
Now that we have our four big piles, let's deal with our least lucrative stack first. Not only will this pile have most of the cards we plucked from our bulk, but it probably as hundreds of bulk rares and random foils as well. It's time to pull up a buylist or two and get selling!
Whenever I buylist cheap cards like this, I tend to have two buylists up at the same time, and I check both for the higher price. There are also some occasions where the better buylist is only interested in a few copies of a particular card, so I'll need to ship the extras to the other store. You're also going to find some cards that neither buylist is willing to take right now (or rares that they're only paying $0.01 for) despite the fact that you know they have some value. Put these cards in a third pile for long-term storage.
This task here is pretty straightforward. Follow the instructions on each buylist—I recommend Card Kingdom and ABU games, but if you have another preferred buylist, you can use that instead. You'll probably have a large pile going to one store, a smaller pile going to the other, and a pretty sizable pile of leftovers. Send off your buylists, and stick the leftovers in a box in your closet. Six months or a year from now, do the same thing all over again with your leftovers. Chances are, the prices on those cards was low simply because both stores had too many copies in stock already, and you'll be able to get better prices for them then.
After that, go get a drink or fire up the grill. You should celebrate—you're done with bulk!
Now that we've finished our cheap cards, it's time to move on to the good stuff. At this point, you should have a pretty good idea of whether you'll be listing a hundred cards on TCGplayer or several thousand. That means it's finally time to buy our shipping supplies! Here's what I recommend:
If you already have a printer, you can buy label sheets and use an MS Office template to print them, but if you have a larger collection, I highly recommend buying a used thermal label printer on eBay. You can pick up a Dymo 4XL for about $200 shipped, or similar 4x6 label printers like the ZP505 (the printer I use, because it was cheaper, though it's a little harder to configure) for closer to $150.
4x6 thermal labels are super cheap on both eBay and Amazon, and the whole thing is totally ink-free. These things hold their value perfectly, and they're quite easy to ship, so you can just buy a 4XL for $200 now, ship out all your cards, and sell it for $200 in six months. You'll really only be out the cost of the labels, shipping the printer off, and miscellaneous eBay fees. That's almost certainly going to be both cheaper and easier than messing around with inkjet cartridges, label templates, and all the nonsense that inevitably comes up when using a standard printer. And if you have the room, I'd recommend keeping the label print around after that. You can buy all of your postage online from now on and save a ton of money in the long-term.
Now that we've got our stack of cards that are going up for sale on TCGplayer, it's time to sort and grade them. I personally sort by color first, and then by set, because that's the easiest way for me to find what I need when I'm pulling orders later on. You can use whatever method you prefer, since it's really just about your ability to find the correct cards when you need them.
This is also the time to grade your cards. TCGplayer has five grading categories: Near Mint, Lightly Played, Moderately Played, Heavily Played, and Damaged. I'm going to run over my personal grading scale, which is likely to prove somewhat controversial, but I want to note that I only have two pieces of negative feedback on my TCGplayer account, which has thousands of sales. Only one of these pieces of negative feedback was due to a grading issue on my part, and it happened back in 2017.
Here's what I do:
At this point, you're going to want to start putting your sorted and graded cards into penny sleeves. I tend to stack multiples of the same card in the same condition in the same penny sleeve, and then I use a sharpie to label all the penny sleeves that are lower than NM. For example, if I'm selling two NM and three LP copies of Omnath, Locus of Mana, I'll sort them into two penny sleeves: one unlabeled, and one labeled LP. This keeps me from making a mistake when I'm shipping the card later on. You don't want to accidentally ship your NM copies to someone who ordered LP copies, especially because then you won't have NM copies to send off to the person who buys those later on.
Now that your cards are sorted and graded, it's time to list them on TCGplayer. If you've never used the platform before, you're going to be slightly gated in volume at first, because TCGplayer doesn't want you to sell hundreds of cards without proving you're reputable and competent first. You'll be able to pass through the gates fairly rapidly, but at Level 1 you can only have a hundred cards listed at any given time—something to keep in mind as we proceed.
You should also set your shipping policies at this point if you haven't done so first. At a certain point it doesn't matter all that much how you calculate shipping—the money all goes to the same place in the end—but if you have cheaper prices and higher shipping rates, you'll probably end up with more multi-card sales than if you have more expensive card prices and low/no shipping costs. With lower shipping rates and higher per-card sales, you'll make a little bit more money when you do get multi-card orders. I personally sell with free shipping, but setting a flat $0.99 rate is also a reasonable choice. You'll be able to gain a little more granularity over this process as you progress through the seller gates as well.
When you pull up your TCGplayer seller profile and go to add inventory, you end up with a screen that looks like this one, for a non-foil copy of Scalding Tarn from original Zendikar:
What do we make of this? Well, the cheapest NM copy of Scalding Tarn on TCGplayer right now is $60.70 (including shipping) while the cheapest LP copy is $56.07. You can calculate those numbers automatically by hitting the "match" button next to TCG Lowest Listing.
If you want to have the lowest price on TCGplayer and (hopefully) sell your card quickly, you can literally just take a penny off that price, add your total quantity of copies for sale to the "total qty" box, and hit "save" on the bottom of the page. Boom—done. This is what I do with cards that I have 1-2 copies of, and it's super quick and easy. Most of these cards sell within weeks, or even days.
If you have 4-5+ copies of a card, however, you might want to page over to the actual sales page for the card and see if the cheapest listing for the card is a single-quantity listing or not. In this case, the $60.70 Tarn is just a single copy from a store called Huzzah Hobbies HQ. The cheapest price for a store that has a full playset in stock? $62.99 from Stronghold Gaming. In this particular case, I might price my Tarns at $62.98 if I had four or more of them, since a buyer might prioritize getting them all from the same dealer, especially if some of the cheaper sellers are doing wonky things with their shipping costs. I won't do this for every card that I have playsets of, but I will for competitive staples.
This sales method will probably result in a lot of sales, very quickly. You can increase your prices a bit if you want to slow them down somewhat, or you can list your collection in smaller chunks if you don't want to be overwhelmed with dozens of sales per day. Either way, your collection will start flying off the digital shelves faster than you think!
You have 48 hours after selling a card to get it in the mail, so you should be ready to start shipping just as soon as you're done with your initial listing burst.
Here's how I do it:
All of your orders with fewer than 6 cards and less than $15-$20 in total value go inside a single top-loader in a plain white envelope. I have an MS Office label template open with my return address on it, and I simply copy the outgoing address from TCGplayer, increase the font size, and stick the label on the front of my envelope. It's incredibly easy.
I also recommend sealing the top of the top-loader before you ship, especially if it's one of the slightly thicker ones. I cut a little square from the back of my label sticker and tape that over the top. That way the top is sealed, but the card won't be stuck on the tape. I also try to make a little dog-ear at the end of the tape, so it's easy for the buyer to peel the piece of tape off the top-loader and remove the card without having to use scissors or a knife.
After that, I tape the top-loader inside the envelope, seal it up, and stick another little piece of tape over the back for good measure. Then I weigh it to make sure it's not over an ounce, stick a Forever stamp on there, and boom—ready to go. Once you get good at this, you can pull and ship an order in 2-3 minutes flat.
The larger and more expensive orders need to be sent via USPS First-Class parcel, which requires tracking and a padded envelope. In this case, I prep the cards first, get them snug in their well-sealed top-loader, and tape them inside the sealed padded envelope. USPS First-Class Parcel rates operate in 4-ounce tiers, so everything 4oz and under is the same price, then the next tier is 4-8, the tier after that is 8-12, and the tier after that is 12-16. Anything over a pound has to be sent via USPS Priority Mail instead. The good news about Magic cards is that you will rarely end up with a parcel over 4oz, so you're always paying the lowest First-Class Parcel rate.
Don't buy your shipping at the post office, though. You should use the website PirateShip.com, which has a negotiated bulk corporate shipping rate with the USPS that it passes along to you at no extra charge. It's kind of like Stamps.com but without a subscription fee, and postage on PirateShip.com is roughly 30-40% less than you'd pay at the USPS counter. Honestly, if you have a home label printer (hint hint), you should never be using the USPS counter for anything ever again. I do all my personal shipping on PirateShip or eBay, which has a similar discounted negotiated rate.
PirateShip is easy to use, and you can set up a bunch of pre-sets to make everything flow smoothly. I have "MTG Single" set as one of my shipping pre-sets, which defaults to a rigid First-Class USPS parcel with tracking at a 3oz weight. That way, I can just copy the buyers' address from TCGplayer and generate a label in seconds. PirateShip spits back a tracking number that you can put right back into TCGplayer, and it'll output a shipping label that your home label printer should be able to print without issue. The cost for shipping these parcels is usually between $2.78 and $3.31, though rates will be going up soon. Even after that, USPS will still be the cheapest and best way to ship these cards. Just slap that label on your padded envelope and you're good to go.
Since you already have your Forever stamps and you're buying your First-Class Parcel labels online, you should not have to wait in line at the post office at any point. You can either bring your letters and parcels to the post office and stick them in the appropriate mail slots, or you can arrange for your letter carrier to pick them up as part of their daily route. The USPS has an app (yes, really) that lets you schedule next-day pickups for free. This is how I do almost all my shipping, and it means that I can sell whatever I want without ever having to leave my house!
It's time to get to the really juicy stuff. If you want to list these cards on TCGplayer, there's a little box on the inventory page for each card that will say "Add Listing with Photo." I would do this with all of my expensive listings, as you should be able to charge a little bit more and have an easier time selling your card. In my experience, anyone looking to spend $200+ on a Reserved List staple is going to want to see the card before they buy it, and I'd spend a bit more on, say, an LP Beta Wheel of Fortune that I can examine than one that I'd be buying sight unseen.
These are also the sorts of cards that you might want to sell to friends, on social media, or in a Facebook group. The more expensive a card is, the more you have to spend in commission to sell on TCGplayer, so the more incentivized you become to find a buyer elsewhere. TCGplayer fees are reasonable for a platform of its size, but if you've got a bunch of friends or connections in the Magic community who might be interested in your most expensive cards, it only makes sense to explore those avenues as well.
For the most part, the process for selling your signed and oddball cards is going to be the same as selling your expensive cards. Use the "Add Listing with Photo" button on TCGplayer, and also make sure you write a description of the card as well. It's worth noting that signed cards should never be sold as NM, even if they're flawless other than the signature.
These cards are probably going to take forever to sell, so if you run out of patience at some point you might want to sell some of your weird stuff (as well as your dice, deck boxes, playmats, accessories, etc.) in lots on eBay. This process is pretty much the same as it is with TCGplayer, only photos are mandatory and you have to make each listing individually. You can also ship directly from the eBay seller portal, since their rates are the same as PirateShip.com for USPS First-Class and most Priority mail.
I don't have time to get into the nuances of eBay sales today—that would take another two articles—but the key piece of advice is to look at sold listings for pricing comparisons and sell via Buy It Now, not as an auction. Some things will take a while to sell, but everything always does as long as you've priced it well.
Once you've listed all your cards on TCGplayer, the sales will start flooding in. Eventually, however, the flood will turn into a trickle—and you might still have more than half of your cards left. What now?
One of the problems that happens when you list a bunch of cards at once is that you'll inevitably be listing some of them into sagging markets. If you list a card for $4.99 because the cheapest available copy is $5, and then the next day the price drops to $4.80, and then $4.50, and then $4.30. At that point, your $4.99 card will simply never sell. That's why it's important to reprice your cards every now and again.
This doesn't take long. I usually just go through all my listings, see what the lowest current price is, and then re-price my inventory down a penny below it again. I do this every few months, and it'll usually open those floodgates right back up again. You can reprice more aggressively if you'd prefer, but the important thing is to not let your inventory stagnate forever.
If you get sick of staring at certain cards that don't sell, or if you have to price cards below your buylist threshold, you can de-list those cards and stick them into the box where you put your buylist leavings. You can then simply buylist those cards away the next time you go through that pile of leftovers.
And that's it! At some point, your collection will be down to just a small handful of buylistable cards gathering dust in your closet, as well as your nostalgia binder and decks. It's not a fun process, but it is a worthwhile one—especially when you have all of that extra money to use on something that you want or need more than a pile of old Magic cards.
WotC banned three more cards in Standard this week, their second Standard banning of the season and their fourth Standard banning of 2020. For those of you who are hoping that the number of Standard bannings is going to return to pre-2016 levels, you're probably out of luck. WotC's current MO seems to be "print powerful stuff, ban it later," and I don't see that changing any time soon. As a result, Standard prices should remain somewhat depressed and volatile—when the pandemic isn't already making Standard prices somewhat depressed and volatile, at least.
How big a hit will Omnath, Locus of Creation take as a result of this banning? My guess is that it won't be much, just like with Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath. Omnath is still wreaking havoc in Modern, and it's still a top tier Commander card as well. While I don't have much post-ban sales data to show you yet, and the price will likely drop over the coming weeks as a result of more Zendikar Rising singles hitting the market, I don't expect its value to tank over the coming days.
As for cards that might gain ground now that Omnath, Locus of Creation, Lucky Clover, and Escape to the Wilds are banned, I'd start with Dimir Rogues staples. Agadeem's Awakening and Rankle, Master of Pranks are both up a few bucks in post-banning sales, and power uncommon Drown in the Loch is surging as well. Embercleave is also likely to see at least a small uptick in value, as it is one of the two to three most powerful cards in the format right now.
Regardless, I wouldn't spend too much time focusing on any of these cards right now. With COVID cases rising in the US and a reputable vaccine still months away, I don't see any hope of in-store play resuming until 2021. By that point, who knows what will be good in Standard?