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How to Manage Your Singles


This week, I am going to shift my attention from singles and prices and move back to the organizational end of your collection, whether for profit or for play. Though the expanse of your collection and size of your storage space may vary, the idea remains fairly constant. I move through far too many cards to consider any sort of computerized option, so I have to manually sort and alphabetize cards to have any semblance of organization. This week, I will talk about exactly what should go in to keeping your collection sorted no matter the size—and I’ll even cover what you, as a player, can do to keep your personal collection from your stock to move.

Now I Know My ABC's
The first step is, of course, to set-sort your collection. This can take anywhere from minutes, for the beginning player, to multiple days, as a vendor. We acquire enough cards on average to keep two to three people busy on a constant basis, but most people will see the light at the end of the tunnel. The key is to keep your cards organized in a fashion that you can quickly reference them for both buy-listing and for deck-building. This means you may need to reference a few lists to see what is standard for organization. Most of the order makes sense, but making sure you label something as a Duel Deck rather than as the usually-referenced name, such as Elves vs. Goblins, first will save you a lot of time as you peruse your collection.

Once you have an established order to how you want your collection to be, find something to create tabs. Your sets can grow and shrink this way as you buy and sell cards from it while still keeping an established order. For tabs, I suggest using old cardboard boxes or envelopes turned sideways, as both are cheap, yet effective ways to keep the cards separated. This may only fill a two-row box or it may span the length of a wall in five rows—either way, you now have a set-sorted collection. If your collection is too large to manage dividing the sets, start by alphabetizing the sets, so your pile should have Alliances, Arabian Nights, Antiquities, Anthologies, Alara Reborn, Apocalypse, Avacyn Restored, Archenemy, and, finally, Alpha. I would give a complete list here, but that would be a fairly boring article. From this point, it is much easier to break each letter down into its individual sets.

The next step is to take each set and begin to alphabetize them separately. This is easiest with a sorting tray or some large space, but if your collection is small enough, you can usually do individual sets in a smaller area. I only keep the cards that have any value, so the rest are moved right to bulk, making my set sorting easier, but you can do every card if you are looking to be a collector or a player and less of a financier. Once you have the sets broken down, it is fairly easy to have a neat set sorted and an alphabetized collection to reference.

Wild Nacatl
The tricky part comes in if you are a player and a financier or if you move large amounts of cards, as I do. First, I will talk about the player aspect: It is, of course, easiest to have your cards broken down into play sets, as you will probably rarely need more than that at a time. To help accommodate this, I would keep a separate box for the cards you know are playable, particularly the commons and uncommons that many times become lost in the shuffle. This allows you access too-hard-to-find cards, even at events, within a manageable box. You never know—you may be the only person at an event when someone needs a last-minute addition, and that will leave you the option to make some value or help out a friend.

Keeping this stock separate also ensures that you will not accidentally sell a play set of something you may need. I would keep up to four of each card separate, and then, if you don’t have copies within your trade stock, you are conscious of the fact that you are dipping into your play stock to move them. This can be difficult to keep up on, but it also will present a larger number of trade opportunities you may have missed out on otherwise—unless you carry a large amount of cards with you.

The next part is more relevant for those of you, who are like I am, who have hundreds of thousands of cards to keep track of. This can seem daunting at first, but once you cut your stock down to the cards that are worth money, you will find most sets have less than a third of the cards that are worth holding on to. Within each set, when you gain enough stock, you can begin to create individual tabs for each card—or at least for each letter. Each of these steps will cut down on the time it takes to find cards within your stock, and they will ease buy-listing to an easy, one-person job.

Wear // Tear
The next step for either a player or for a financier is to have a system with which you fold the old and new stock together. I usually wait until we have at least a five-row box worth of picks—this can vary if you do not acquire as many cards—to begin the process. I then take the cards and begin the same process with the new stock, making it much easier to weave next time you go through the older boxes. I will usually coordinate the combination of stock with buy-listing; this allows me to have two stacks for each set that can easily be weaved as I go through the buy list in order. With as many cards as we have, it is easier. We usually begin the process as soon as we finish the last go-round, but for those who move fewer cards, I would just prioritize an amount of time based on how quickly you acquire cards. This will also keep you aware of what is in your collection, keeping an eye out for cards that have spiked.

Using these easy steps, it is very painless to keep an eye on the growth of your collection, and the steps provide you with a carefree way to find what you need quickly. Beyond the obvious set-sorting and alphabetizing, it is also important to keep your foils separated. I will usually keep these in dividers that prevent them from curling or warping due to weather. In general, the more organized you are, the less likely you are to lose or damage cards, and that holds very true when your collection can free-flow through boxes without being disturbed. Not shuffling through the same cards more than you have to prevents minor wear over time, which can end up making you some extra money in the long run as well.

It may seem tedious at first, but organization is a big key to moving forward—even if your collection is manageable now, if it continues to grow—as most hope it will—it is better to have a handle on the problem before it forms. I wish I had someone to have told me these same tips and tricks years ago, but take it from me: This is one time-consuming effort that may not seem worth it at first, but in the long run, you will be glad you kept a hand on it.

As always, thank you for reading. I will be back next week with more information tied directly to the financial side of Magic. I hope this process can ease your burden as your collection continues to grow with your financial prowess. If you have any specific questions relating to this organization process, please feel free to leave them below. If you have another system that you feel may increase productivity, I would love to hear about that as well. I am looking for any topics people would like to read about over the coming weeks, as I have a few planned, but nothing immediate. What sorts of articles do you prefer? It may be interviews, processing information—such as this week’s article—or something else entirely. Either way, I look forward to your responses and hope to have some great topics for the coming weeks.

Ryan Bushard


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