We've all been there.
Maybe it happened after a particularly brutal MagicFest where you went 0-2 drop, punted a few drafts, and ended up in an hour-long line for a lukewarm foil-wrapped hamburger. Maybe it happened after you'd just spent the entire evening staring blankly across the Commander table at your LGC while your friends all comboed off, one at a time, having fun without you. Maybe it happened as you watched your bills add up while your beloved Modern collection languished on the shelf, waiting for the end of the pandemic. Or maybe it happened because you got sick of WotC messing up Standard while continuing to churn out premium releases designed to elicit a FOMO reaction among the player base.
Whatever your breaking point was, we've all hit it. We've all slumped back in our chairs at one time or another, let out an anguished sigh, and thought, "maybe I'll sell my Magic collection."
Of course, most of us power through this momentary feeling of despair by eating dinner, drinking some tea, or getting a good night's sleep. Often, the problems that vex us the most will appear a lot more manageable after some self-care or a sufficiently long nap. There are other times when it makes sense to step away from the game for a few months—or even longer—as a way to preserve your mental health. But even after you've done all this, you might still look at your massive stack of binders and five-rows and say, "yeah, I think I'm done with all this. It's time to move on from this chapter of my life."
If that's where you're at right now, I don't have any tea for you, but I do have plenty of advice for how to sell your Magic collection. I'll be covering part one this week, and part two is coming next Wednesday. Bookmark this page and settle in. We've got a lot of ground to cover.
Before we get into the mechanics of actually selling your Magic collection, I think it's prudent start with a more basic question.
Why do you want to sell out?
The answer to this question is important. Many people come to regret selling their collection, and I'd like to help you try to avoid that possibility. I certainly wish that I hadn't moved on from the vast majority of my cards during the summer after high school, a decision that led to me frantically re-purchasing most of them during my first year of college. One of my friends sold his collection to me in 2012, and then he had to pay six times as much for his fetchlands when he bought back in a few years later. I can't tell you how many people I know regret selling their Revised dual lands for $20 each and have subsequently been priced out of owning them ever again.
Of course, there are plenty of good reasons to sell your collection, too. If your Magic cards have been sitting in a drawer for several years and you don't really engage with the game anymore, it makes sense to pass the cards along to someone who can use them. Magic cards are also worth quite a bit, and you might need access to that money for any number of reasons. With the way the global economy is heading right now, a lot of us are struggling in ways that we weren't several years ago. Some people also sell out because they need a lump sum of cash for the down-payment on a house or because they have a baby on the way. I know folks who have sold their collection to buy a car, folks who have sold their collection to fund a vacation, and folks who have sold their collection to ensure they had a few grand in the bank as a rainy-day fund.
In my experience, people who regret selling their Magic collection do so for one of two main reasons. The first reason is, they regret the fact that their cards went way up in value after they sold out and wish they'd waited to sell in order to make more money. The second reason is, they decide to re-engage with the game later on in their lives and are upset because buying back in is a lot more difficult now.
It's hard to mitigate the first problem. I certainly regret selling my complete International Collectors Edition many years before it spiked in value, but I've also sold many copies of Tarmogoyf for $200-$300 that I could only get about $35 for now. I also have plenty of cards that I regret holding onto, like Gaddock Teeg and my full collection of Eventide filter lands. These days, it seems as if Reserved List cards are the only truly safe long-term holds—and even that will change if WotC eventually bows to community pressure and releases Secret Lair: Black Lotus & Pals or whatever.
Here's the truth: no matter when you sell your collection, you will miss on some cards and hit on others. You'll regret your losses, and you'll forget your wins. This is human nature—we always dwell on the decisions we got wrong without giving ourselves enough credit for the things we got right. You can try to mitigate this problem by trying to time the market properly on certain parts of your collection, but ultimately you will simply have to make peace with the fact that you're going to get some things wrong and lose some money. If that sounds too stressful for you, you might not be ready to sell your collection yet.
The best way to avoid the other pillar of regret? Don't sell your collection in haste, especially not as a reaction to some bad decision that WotC makes or in fear that the game is "dying." I strongly dislike the precedent that the Walking Dead Secret Lair sets—more on that later on—but if you sell your collection in response to that story or any other random item in the daily news cycle that makes you panic because "you have to get out before Magic dies!!!," you're probably going to regret your decision the next time a sweet new set comes along and Magic isn't dead yet. If you're going to sell, do it because you're done, not because you think the game is done.
All in all, selling your collection is a decision that should be made carefully, not hastily. Don't sell out because you're mad at something you saw on Twitter—sell because you want to use that time or money for something that will bring more happiness into your life. If you do that, then you probably won't ever truly regret your decision—even if it would have been more financially lucrative to wait. You'll be able to point to your baby's room, or your vacation photo album, or your house, or even just the knowledge that you were able to survive that difficult time in your life, and say "yes, I made the right decision in leaving when I did."
While I understand the appeal of ripping the band-aid off and selling your entire collection at once, I strongly suggest keeping a few cards around as a sentimental reminder of your time in Magic—especially if you've been in this game a long time. A moment will come later in life when you'll be glad you held onto these cards, either as a stepping-stone for getting back into Magic or simply as a reminder of what used to be. Allowing yourself to keep a few cards will also help mitigate the sting of watching all the rest of them walk out your door.
My suggestion? Get an archival-quality binder and a few boxes of really nice sleeves. Anything you have a strong sentimental attachment to gets sleeved up and goes in the binder. Your first Commander? Binder. That Pro Tour stamped rare from your first draft pool? Binder. That set of combo pieces from the best deck you ever played? Binder. The foil that made you scream with joy when you pulled it out of a pack back in 7th grade? Binder. Your five original dual lands? Binder. If you've got a nice cloth binder, that gives you a hard limit on the number of cards you can keep.
Along with the binder, I'd also suggest keeping a couple of decks around if possible. Choose your favorite format, and assemble 2-3 decks that would be fun to play against each other. That way, when you're feeling nostalgic for the game, you can pull those decks out and play a casual match or two with a friend. Don't worry too much about the power level of these decks—just make sure they're fun, and that they represent what you love most about this game. By keeping a few of your favorite cards around, you'll get a nice ping of nostalgia when you unearth them in a decade or two instead of just feeling an ache of regret at the loss of your other cards.
My goal today is to make sure that you're getting the most money for your collection, at least within reason. Obviously, parting out every single penny common or bulk rare isn't going to happen—that's an exercise in diminishing returns. But the rest of your collection? You should absolutely part it out.
Look—if you've got a high paying job and you can shrug off half the potential value in your collection, reach out to your playgroup and see if one of your friends wants to buy your cards. Selling cards one-by-one takes time, and if you are wealthy and time-starved enough to choose not to mess with it, pass that value on to someone else. Give your collection to someone you trust, tell them to pay you what they think is fair, and move on with your life.
In my experience, however, most people overestimate the amount of work it takes to sell a Magic collection and underestimate the amount of money you can get by selling your cards as singles. Yes, the step-by-step process of actually doing this can seem pretty daunting at first, but I'm going to walk you through the whole process later in this article series and make it as easy as possible.
Think of it this way: if your collection is worth $4,000 (after fees and shipping) on TCGplayer, at what point is it better to just sell it to a friend for $2,000 and move on? Well, if you want to make at least $15 an hour with your time, you'd have to spend more than 130 hours parting out your collection before you started to "lose" money. If you simply dedicate one 40-hour work week to the process, you'd be "making" $50 an hour selling your cards online vs. selling them all at once.
Is this equation oversimplified? Yes, but I'm really just using it to make a point. Unless you make a super high hourly rate or you have no free time, you shouldn't even consider selling your collection as one big lump. Sort your cards and sell them individually.
Now that you've chosen to sell your cards as singles, it's time to decide where you want to sell them. There's no shortage of options. By my count, there are at least six:
I've used all six of these platforms over the years, and they all have their uses, but not all of them are great for selling your collection. For our purposes, we can lump them into two distinct categories: selling singles to a dealer (buylists/dealer tables), or selling them to an end user (Facebook Group, TCG, eBay, Local Marketplaces).
Dealer tables aren't available to us right now due to COVID-19, but I find them incredibly stressful. You're sitting at a folding table in a crowded room, a line of people building up behind you, engaging in a high-pressure negotiation with someone whose job it is to know more about Magic prices than you. They point at a card and save "five" and you're just supposed to know whether or not that's a good price, but how could you, so your sense of agreeableness kicks in and you just say "sure." Repeat that a few hundred times, and ta-da! —you're walking away dazed, with a stack of cash in your hand and a pit in your stomach.
Look—it's not like these buyers are trying to rip you off, but they're also not always going to give you the best price. Sometimes, they'll offer quite a bit less than the online buylist price for a given card, either because they don't know any better (memorizing price fluctuations for ten thousand cards is hard!) or because they're simply trying to get a good deal for their store. If you do go this route, you should at least have a list in front of you with the online buylist price for every card in your binder.
This isn't to say that dealer tables don't have their uses. I really like using them to sell hot cards, because dealers are often willing to operate on small margins for cards that they know they can turn around to players that day. If a Standard card is spiking due to a tournament that's happening in the room you're in right now, for example, you'll do better selling that card to a dealer ASAP than waiting to go back home and list it online. For selling your collection, however? Skip this process. At least with an online buylist, you can take your time and make the right decision.
As for the end user sales options, I would never try to sell cards individually on either Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. Most of the buyers you get on local marketplaces are only going to be interested in a screaming deal, which negates most of the advantages over using a buylist or online marketplace. And even if you do offer bargain prices, you'll be inundated with messages that go nowhere, dozens of no-shows, and oodles of people asking you to drive for half an hour to meet up with them for a $12 sale. I like selling my bulk commons and uncommons on Facebook Marketplace—more on this later—but if you value your sanity, I'd avoid trying to sell singles locally.
The dedicated Facebook buy & sell groups are a good option if you have any truly rare cards—misprints, $1,000 Reserved List staples, etc. Most of them don't provide a platform for you to sell the bulk of your collection. You'll also need to establish references, and you're at a bit more risk without any real seller protections. I recommend looking into this sales venue if you're selling off any real high-end Vintage cards, but if your collection is mostly just Standard, Modern, and Commander staples? It's not worth the effort to establish yourself there.
In terms of the major online marketplaces, I don't think there's much of a contest between eBay and TCGplayer. Because TCGplayer only handles one thing—trading cards—it's a significantly better marketplace for our purposes. I've sold almost 2,000 things on eBay this year, and I know the ins and outs of eBay selling better than almost anyone, yet I still sell all of my trading cards on TCGplayer.
While eBay fees are roughly 2%-3% cheaper than TCGplayer fees thanks to eBay switching from PayPal to eBay Managed Payments, TCGplayer's seller protections are more robust than eBay's, where sellers basically have no recourse from buyer scams. The biggest difference, however, is that eBay requires you to create individual listings (complete with photographs) for every card you want to sell, while making a listing on TCGplayer is as easy as adding a price and quantity into an HTML bubble. I can list 500 cards on TCGplayer in an evening, while listing that many cards on eBay would take me the better part of a week.
So—is it better to go with the best dealer sales method (buylisting) or the best end user sales method (TCGplayer)? Let's find out.
I'm going to spoil the conclusion in the first paragraph: I use TCGplayer for the vast majority of my individual card sales, and that was true long before I started writing for this website. You certainly don't have to believe me—I am being paid to write for the site that I'm recommending, after all—but I'm going to try to use a bunch of math to show you why I like this platform and I'm not just being a shill.
Let's use three different cards as our case study. At the lowest price point, we've got Thassa's Oracle from Theros Beyond Death. A little higher up the curve, we'll use Seasoned Pyromancer from Modern Horizons. Lastly, we'll look at Lion's Eye Diamond from Mirage. The cards you'll be selling from your collection will probably all fall somewhere in this range, so we can get a sense of how buylists compare to marketplace sales across the financial spectrum.
The lowest TCGplayer price for Thassa's Oracle right now? $3.41 + $0.99 shipping. That puts the effective "TCG low" price at $4.40 right now. Since I usually list my cards for a penny under low if I want them to sell right away, I'm going to say that the sale price for this card on TCGplayer is $4.39. Using this same technique, Seasoned Pyromancer is $23.98, while Lion's Eye Diamond is $330.99.
How do these prices compare to buylists? Let's take a look.
Card Kingdom will give you $2.50 for Thassa's Oracle, $15.50 for Seasoned Pyromancer, and $240 for Lion's Eye Diamond. Star City Games will give you a little less—the same $2.50 for Thassa's Oracle, but just $15 for Seasoned Pyromancer and $200 for Lion's Eye Diamond. Channel Fireball is paying $231 for Lion's Eye Diamond, but just $15 for the seasoned pyromancer and they're not buying Thassa's Oracle at all. ABU Games will give you $2.28 for your thatssa's oracles, $15.53 for your seasoned pyromancers, and $224.60 for your lion's eye diamonds.
At first glance, then, there's still a pretty big delta between the TCGplayer price and the highest buylist price for all three of these cards. Assuming you go with Card Kingdom—usually the best option for buylisting across the board—you're still down $1.90 over TCGplayer on your copy of Thassa's Oracle, $8.48 on your Seasoned Pyromancer, and $90.99 on your Lion's Eye Diamond.
Of course, this large price delta is somewhat misleading. When you sell a card on TCGplayer, you're responsible for paying platform fees as well as for packing and shipping the card. Buylists don't have fees, and you can ship hundreds of cards together, saving a considerable amount of money on stamps, envelopes, and top-loaders. In order to make sure that TCGplayer is actually the right place to sell your cards, we're going to have to do a little more math.
Assuming you're using a standard, non-premium TCGplayer selling account, you're looking at a 10.25% marketplace commission fee. On top of that, each sale has with a 2.5% credit card/PayPal processing fee. You're also going to be hit with a flat $0.30 fee on every transaction. That means that we're going to have to subtract 12.75% + $0.30 to all of the prices we've calculated above for the privilege of selling on TCGplayer.
That still puts us ahead of the buylists, though. On Thassa's Oracle, we lose another $0.86, which means that we're still up by $1.04. We lose another $3.36 on Seasoned Pyromancer, but we're still up by $5.12. We lose a whopping $42.50 to fees on the lion's eye diamond, but we're still up by $56.59 over the highest buylist price.
But even this number isn't final. Now that we've calculated fees, we have to think about shipping and handling costs. I ship all the cards that I sell below $20 in a plain white envelope, but we're still going to have to pay $0.55 for the forever stamp. A box of 500 security envelopes runs you $21.95 on Amazon Prime, so let's call each envelope an additional $0.05. Top loaders are kind of expensive right now due to the COVID-19 production shortage, but you can still get them on eBay for roughly $35 shipped per lot of 200, which comes to $0.18 each. That gives us an additional cost of $0.78 per sub-$20 sale.
For sales over $20, I use a small bubble mailer and First-Class parcel shipping with a tracking number. I'll talk about how to get the lowest parcel rate next week, but for now I can tell you that I estimate roughly $3 for shipping costs as well as roughly ten cents per mailer—again, usually purchased in bulk on eBay—for a total S&H cost of $3.10.
If we subtract these figures to our three TCGplayer sales, our margins get even slimmer. We're down to just $0.26 profit over buylist on Thassa's Oracle, $4.34 on Seasoned Pyromancer, and $53.49 on Lion's Eye Diamond.
As you can see from those figures, the advantages of using a platform like TCGplayer over a buylist increases as the price of your card goes up. The delta between TCGplayer and a buylist is quite small on a card close to the $5 mark, but it's a meaningful amount of money on all your $20-$25 cards. By the time you get up to $300+ cards, the difference is nearly enough to buy a brand-new AAA video game.
Luckily, TCGplayer kicks us back a little on lower value sales. They know how precarious our margins are for cards under $5, so they've added a mandatory $0.78 shipping and handling fee to all buyers for order under $5 from any given seller. (I'll admit, I was surprised to see that their figure matched up exactly with mine, which I calculated separately without remembering what their figure was.) Regardless, that puts our profit over buylist for Thassa's Oracle back up to $1.04, though it might be slightly less if the buyer chooses to buy 2-3 cards from your store instead of paying the fee. Selling multiple cards in the same order is going to reduce your shipping costs anyway, though, meaning that your potential profit over buylist for the thassa's oracle is going to be no better than $1.04 and no worse than $0.65. That may not seem like much, but it adds up quickly when you're listing hundreds, even thousands, of cards from your collection.
This is where I have to leave you for now, but I'll be back next week with instructions on how to sort your collection, how to grade and price your cards, how to handle shipping, what to do with your sub-$2 cards, and more. Don't miss it!
Sigh—okay—we have to talk about the Walking Dead Secret Lair.
For those of you who haven't heard the news, WotC is going to be selling a $50 Secret Lair drop from October 4th through the 12th featuring a series of cards based on characters from AMC's The Walking Dead. This isn't the first time that Magic has had tie-in cards from some other geeky IP—there have been D&D cards, Transformers cards, My Little Pony cards, and even Godzilla cards—but all of those cards were either silver-bordered (My Little Pony, the HASCON promos) or were re-skins of previously released cards (the Godzilla series). These Walking Dead cards aren't just mechanically unique, they're black-bordered. That means they're legal in Vintage, Legacy, and Commander. Wow.
The social media reaction to these cards has been overwhelmingly negative, and I share that sentiment. The Walking Dead is a show with a much darker, crueler, more viscerally violent ethos than most of the existing Magic lore, and it doesn't feel great to know that engaging with that property is now mandatory for anyone who wants to play with or against cards from that Secret Lair, some of which already look like future Commander or Legacy staples. As a trans person who has to avoid engaging with several popular geek properties due to their overt anti-trans bigotry, I shudder to think what will happen when they are inevitably crossed over with my favorite game.
Perhaps even more egregious, however, is that WotC is now printing brand new, mechanically unique black-bordered cards in Secret Lairs. What happens if one of the cards in the Walking Dead Secret Lair ends up becoming a super popular Commander, or even a Legacy staple? Not only have they promised that this drop will never be printed again, but it seems unlikely that their licensing deal will even allow them to print these Walking Dead cards again if they want to.
It's true that WotC can skirt around part of this debacle by printing a mechanically identical card later on, but at that point they'll either have to outright retcon the fact that it's the same card as the Walking Dead version or else allow the potential for eight copies of the card in Legacy, or (more likely) allow Commander players to run a redundant copy of their Commander in their deck.
This seems like an easily-avoidable mess that might cause quite a bit of chaos in the interim. If one of the Walking Dead cards becomes a super popular Commander, I can easily imagine it shooting up to $200+ due to a massive lack of supply. And at that point, is it safe to buy the card because WotC can't reprint it, or are you running the risk of a functionally identical reprint negating your expensive buy? I won't have any idea, and neither will you.
Want to avoid missing out on that potential $200+ card? Well, then you have to buy the Box Set for $49.99 plus shipping, not available in all regions. And you can't wait and see if the cards are actually good or fun before buying in—you have to place your order during the window, or miss out forever. This is a really frustrating model that plays to Hasbro's worst business tendencies, and I really hope this isn't the start of a trend. I'm not going to buy the Walking Dead Secret Lair because I don't want WotC to get the wrong message from this drop, which they absolutely will if it sells well. If you want to buy it, you can—it'll almost certainly hold its value or increase in value over time. Just know that if enough people take the bait, we'll be getting unique black-bordered cards in Secret Lairs for years to come.
What else happened this week? Oh yeah—Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath was banned in Standard. Good riddance. Here's what its price chart looks like right now:
Yeah, that's not exactly the precipitous fall that some of you were probably hoping for. As with oko, thief of crowns last year, a lot of players were holding off on picking up their uro, titan of nature's wraths for Modern last year until after the Standard ban, at which point the price began to quickly rebound. If you want a cheap copy of this card for Commander, you're probably going to have to hold out for the chance that it earns a ban in Modern at some point, too. Otherwise, just wait until the next time there's a market dip. Right now, people are talking about uro, titan of nature's wrath so the price is increasing. In a few months, that won't be nearly as true.
Also up this week due to Modern play? Scourge of the Skyclaves. Here's what that chart looks like:
Scourge of the Skyclaves does indeed work well in Modern Death's Shadow, as I predicted in my set review. As a result, the price is surging. Keep in mind that it's artificially high right now because there aren't that many copies of Zendikar Rising cards on the market yet, but this is a legit Modern staple going forward. Sell into the hype if you want, but be aware that this one is probably going to be playable for years to come.