Help me sell my Magic: The Gathering cards
February 17, 2008 9:59 AM   Subscribe

What's the best way to sell a bunch of old Magic: The Gathering cards?

I've got a few thousand M:tG cards, mostly from 3rd (revised) edition and the expansions Legends through Weatherlight. I think they're probably worth some money if I can sell them right. What's the best way to get rid of them and turn a profit?

Listing them individually on a site like ebay would mean looking up the value for each card (ugh!), and it seems like I would get nickel and dimed to death doing that. On the other hand, it seems like people who sell big lots of cards hardly get anything at all for them. Is there a good way to do this? Is there even a market for these anymore?
posted by Who_Am_I to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (23 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Sell them to a games shop in your town. They've no doubt dealt with this sort of situation before.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:11 AM on February 17, 2008

The market supports what the market supports. My bf is selling his collection of cards from childhood on e-Bay. Lot and lots of Star Wars cards, and smaller lots of oddities like Gong Show, Laugh In, Man from Uncle, and Monster Face cards. We did some preliminary research, and in the end just decided to put them in lots. Yes... selling them individually might have garnered more cash... but the fees and time just weren't worth it. And surprisingly, it's not the Star Wars cards bringing in the big bucks.

The best thing to do is to search the completed sales and see what the going rate is. This will give you an idea if there is a market at all. Selling them all together is probably too much, but you might find lots of around 100 more manageable. Oh, and we've started every lot at 99 cents. If they have value, you'll get more people interested, and the auctions get bid up. If not, then you've saved yourself some money on the initial listing.
posted by kimdog at 10:14 AM on February 17, 2008

[Disclaimer: I know eBay but I don't know MtG]

Generally, you get more money for selling individually rather than large batches. However, for an item such as this, there is a point where the postage plus eBay fees could overwhelm the value of an individual card. So I'd make the batches big enough that it you should still have a few dollars left over after expenses. This can also get the person who desperately wants card A bidding against the person who desperately wants card B.

On the other hand, it's worth thinking about the value of your time too. e.g. Even if it was "worth" selling each individually, your dollars-per-hour might end being ridiculously low.

Perhaps there's a MtG-related web site that has a trading section where you could just post the whole list in a classified ad. That would probably get you the best offers for the most sought-after cards. Then you could list all the rest in a few big batches on eBay.
posted by winston at 10:17 AM on February 17, 2008

Listing them individually on a site like ebay would mean looking up the value for each card

You must have some sense of the cards you think are valuable. You should crosscheck those with previous auctions.

it seems like I would get nickel and dimed to death doing that

Which is why you should probably only list cards individually if you think they are sought after.

people who sell big lots of cards hardly get anything at all for them

This is probably an indicator that people simple don't want thousands of 10+ year old game cards.

Is there a good way to do this?

Sort your cards into groups based on their collectibility. Dump all the pedestrian cards into a big lot, and sell the rest individually. Yes, this will require some work on your part.

Alternatively take your cards to a local game shop and trade them for cash or store credit.
posted by wfrgms at 10:18 AM on February 17, 2008

Anecdotally, I sold a few thousand cards from the same general sets (4th through somewhere around Weatherlight) on Ebay last summer and it pretty much sucked. I tried to pick out the most valuable of them and sell them individually, but the time involved there got ridiculous very quickly. After a few auctions that never made my rather-conservative reserve, I finally sold the remainder of the lot for like $40 just out of spite. I'd say definitely head to a local shop; the ebay market is saturated and just not that lucrative, in my experience.
posted by Rallon at 10:20 AM on February 17, 2008

Card Kingdom will probably help with pricing on a lot of stuff. They also have a buy list, which may help simplify things, but I'm not sure they'll be buying stuff from those sets. Still, you never know, it's worth checking.
posted by baphomet at 10:22 AM on February 17, 2008

If you're willing to take some time and do some research, it's worthwhile to sell the most valuable on eBay... you'll make a lot more money than a games store will give you. (You can also use eBay to get an idea of the going rate). Of course, this is a huge logistical headache, so it's only worth it for a card that's going to pull in at least $50. Do not sell to international buyers -- very easy to get ripped off this way, there's no practical verifiable chain of delivery so you have no recourse if a buyer claims card never arrived (this happened to me with a $100 card sent to Italy).

Sell the rest to a games store.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 10:24 AM on February 17, 2008

Also, as others have mentioned, listing individual cards is not going to be worth it unless they happen to be quite valuable. Keep in mind that the sets you're looking to sell aren't highly sought, with the exception of some things from Legends. You can sell batches a few ways:
1) Pull the rares/valuables and sell them as a lot, then sell the commons/uncommons as a lot
2) Sell them by block, list the rares that will be included
3) Break them up into a few manageable-sized lots and sell them "as is"- i.e. "500 random MTG cards from these sets: ..."

You can mix and match tactics depending on how much time you're willing to put into it. Whatever you do, though, I highly recommend selling your land as a separate lot (just throw all 5 colors in together, count em up, and list em). Some people just need a shit ton of land, especially since 60 is the new standard deck size.
posted by baphomet at 10:28 AM on February 17, 2008

You might want to tone down your expectations, as well. Over time, I believe M:tG has become less of a collector's game. Most tournaments are what are called "Type 2" tournaments, which allow the most recent edition of the base game plus the cards from the last cycle of expansions. The days of someone paying $100 for a Mox Pearl are probably gone--there have just been too many different cards made for even rare ones to maintain their value.
posted by sonic meat machine at 10:30 AM on February 17, 2008

Sorry to triple post but I keep forgetting things to add...w/r/t selling them at a shop, they may give you a better price on some stuff but keep in mind that most shops will give you a significantly better rate on store credit than they will in cash. A friend sold some old cards to a shop and they were gonna give him about 1/3 of their store credit offering in cash...he just said screw it and bought a box of boosters with it. If you're interested in getting the kind of stuff gaming shops sell that's a great arrangement, but if not you may want to consider other options.
posted by baphomet at 10:33 AM on February 17, 2008

Sell them on a lot. Like this:

1st lot=One REALLY coveted card...several other not so coveted cards. List them all, but make sure you have the coveted card in the auction title.

2nd lot=do this for as many REALLY coveted cards you have.

After you run out of the REALLY coveted cards...sell a lot of the not-so-popular cards in one lot. They should all draw the same price if you do it that way.

Selling to a gameshop means they are going to lowball you...give you just a little of the money, and make those cards up 100% (at the least) to reflect market value.

If I were you, I'd much rather give my cards to a real player, than a business...and get more money too.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:34 AM on February 17, 2008

wfrgms' advice is probably best. You should have some sense of what cards are valuable, check what those are worth and list those worth more than $x. Sell the rest in a lot.

One possible way of speeding this up is to take the group of cards you think may be worth something and run them by someone who's still a very active player. They could almost certainly tell you what cards have demand and what cards don't. They may be able to even tell you about older cards that have become valuable today that weren't valuable when you played because they've become useful in some new deck.

Finally, you should make sure you're familiar with a card grading scale and be as accurate as you can in your descriptions. Here's one sample grading scale.
posted by christonabike at 10:42 AM on February 17, 2008

I did the same thing a few years ago...made about $500, so I'd say it was worth it. Although sometimes I wish I still had them.

Here's what I did: Went to StarCityGames and checked out their Buy List. I made a list of all the cards I had, sent that to them to make sure everything was ok, mailed them the cards, and received a check not too long afterwards. Very minimal hassle, certainly much less than eBay. I'd recommend them any day.
posted by casaubon at 10:44 AM on February 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

The steps I went through to sell off my collection:

1) Ebay individual sets (x4) of cards that were worth more than about $10 bucks. You know which ones they are, and if not, just go to cardkingdom and sort by price for each set. This will get the most bang for the buck for the cream of the crop cards you have. Don't worry about shipping, since a bubble mailer + a hard card holder runs less than a dollar, and the buyer will pay that. Just be honest about your actual costs for shipping. As a buyer, I bought more than one set of 4 cards for just a dollar since I needed them. Total cost $3-4 after shipping, but it was way easier than trying to trade for them.

2) Sell the rest to a dealer at a pre-release tournament. I've seen them "pay by the inch" for commons, so don't expect much.

Magic cards are a very skewed market, there are a few pieces of cardboard gold, and lots and lots of cardboard junk. Just skim off the gold and get rid of that. Then decide what to do with the piles of paper you have left. Other things I've seen done at that point are just going to the local card shop and giving them away. This works especially well if you have lots of kids playing at that shop, since they are likely cards they've never seen, and they have much more use for "casual" cards (due to multiplayer, and general scrubbiness).
posted by cschneid at 10:52 AM on February 17, 2008

And don't listen to the people saying cards are worthless now-a-days. The legends time frame had some gems, and the example sonic meat machine gave about a mox pearl is just patently false. I just checked ebay and there are multiple mox pearls going for ~$300. And that's the crappiest of the moxes. Spend the few minutes to pull the gold out and sell it, you'll see the money you get out go up 2-3 times.
posted by cschneid at 10:54 AM on February 17, 2008

I sold my MTG:cards before I got married (7 years ago, my collection was mostly from the period yours are), and I really regret it. If you're interested in selling them, please send me a message either to my email in my profile, or through mefi mail of a ballpark price. I may be interested in buying these.
posted by JonnyRotten at 2:23 PM on February 17, 2008

One idea might be to divide them by expansion set and sell them as lots that way, with an idea of what the notable cards are in the lots. While the big cards are still going for big prices, I don't think there are many cards after Legends/Revised that are worth much.

Pull out the ones that you know will be attractive (things like dual lands, Legends power rares and uncommons). A number of cards were reprinted a year or so ago in Time Spiral, so they are tournament legal. Maybe check the card list and see if you have any of the notable cards?

Seems like you will sell 95% of these in a large lot (or lots by set) for minimal value, but definitely weed out the 5% that have potential.
posted by yellowbinder at 4:38 PM on February 17, 2008

I sold 6,000 cards on ebay. I sorted them in piles of rares, uncommons and commons. Sold them in packs and it worked out great. It took a bunch of auctions and time, but because of the way I broke it up I think I got the best bang for my buck.

You could also put a few rares in a bunch of commons too.

Good luck!
posted by bleucube at 5:12 PM on February 17, 2008

Well, cschneid, there is one mox pearl that's got bids that's at $190.50. There are 28 that have buy it now prices above $300, but no bids. Remembering of course that the value of the dollar has diminished significantly, the Moxen used to go for much more than this. Of course if you have phenomenally rare cards, they will still sell, but not at the prices quoted back in the nineties... and middling-rare cards, like cards from the Tempest sets (when I played) don't bring much at all.
posted by sonic meat machine at 9:04 PM on February 17, 2008

sonic meat machine, no argument that most cards will sell for little if anything. Just that it's worth pulling the cream of the crop out and ebaying it, then dumping the rest for free to make kids smile. Or selling in bulk for practically nothing.

And you're right, I didn't skim accurately. Looks like only $200 for the pearl. Just saying there is still money out there for the right cards.
posted by cschneid at 9:38 PM on February 17, 2008

The price you get is a function of your expertise, and your time invested. In all cases of selling collectibles (or anything else, really), going to a local store is the zero expertise, zero time option. You might get 10-20% of 'value'. Though it might seem to be, this really isn't a rip off. For the price, you are getting a lot of expertise, offloading a lot of risk, and saving a lot of time.

The next easiest choice would be listing on craigslist in a way that will attract a dealer/collector - to do this, mention several of the best cards, and make it clear that you are a motivated seller. If you are in a busy craigslist area, you are a savvy individual, and you do a bit of research first, this is probably a very efficient option, and you should be able to get ~33% of value. If craigslist isn't an option, consider a single ebay listing that is very elaborate - a detailed listing of each uncommon and rare card in the collection, as well as selected commons if you think they are worth bothering with, and nice close pictures of all cards in the $5 range and up. If you have good feedback, and you work hard at a great listing, this should probably do as well or better than a craigslist add. The other ebay strategies listed above are aiming a little higher still.

You probably can't justify a table at a local convention/tournament, but it is another possibility. It will allow you to charge 75-100% (or even more) of value, but you will have to consider costs because they will be high.

value: My assumption is that value is the current going rate on ebay for cards listed professionally, and essentially one at a time. Local stores will get even higher prices, most of the time.
posted by Chuckles at 11:55 PM on February 17, 2008

Okay, this is what you do:
Heres whats valuable, sell these on ebay: dual lands, force of will, birds of paradise, wrath of god, vampiric tutor:
this list of 24 legends cards.
check ebay for market value and sell accordingly.
Sell the rest of your collection on ebay as "completely collection, num of cards, num of rares, revised-weatherlight" and start the bidding around 20 dollars.
the market for magic cards is really slim except for a few chase magic cards that are very high.
posted by ihope at 1:10 AM on February 18, 2008

I ended up pulling out all my rares and the few other cards that were worth a bit and selling them in two lots, one each to CardKingdom and StarCityGames.
CardKingdom has higher list prices, but they're for mint cards and they take a considerable amount off for wear. They evaluated my cards, adjusted my order total and sent me a check without asking if the adjusted amount was ok, which I thought was kind of odd.
StarCityGames on the other hand had lower list prices, but didn't adjust my order total at all when they evaluated my cards. I feel like I would have got about the same amount from either of them in the end, but I would recommend StarCityGames based on my experience.
I sold the rest (~1500 cards) for $50 to someone who just wanted to make decks and play again.
Thanks to everyone for the input.
posted by Who_Am_I at 5:25 AM on March 27, 2008

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