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Breaking Down a Collection


In the past, I have written a number of articles covering everything from picking collections to buy-listing the good and disposing of the bad. What I seem to have failed to discuss up until now is exactly where you should be looking to unload each portion of the collection. This week, I am going to cover about half of this process and discuss a little more in depth each step I use and then finish the process in a later article, probably within the next few weeks.

As you probably have learned by now, the first step to picking a collection once you have acquired one is to portion out the higher-dollar items. I use to primarily do buy-listing, so I would pick anything that would reasonably sell to a dealer—usually stuff worth a dollar or more—and leave the rest of the picks to be dealt with later en masse. I will go more in to exactly what I do with the remainder of these picks in the next article, but this week, I want to concentrate on the larger cards and the bulk you are left with.

Vexing Devil
The higher-dollar cards become more a matter of time and experience when you are looking to expedite the process. Knowing what types of cards sell best and where can only take you so far, and you may find that certain cards sell extremely fast for you at margins you like. Some of my favorite cards this past year were Parallel Lives and Vexing Devil, two mostly casual targets. Year by year, you may find shifts in each market, but as of now, over this past year, this is what I have seen.

Competitive Standard Cards – These move best to player-driven sites such as TCGplayer or article-driven sites’ buy lists. I have seen a shift lately as rotation approaches where buy lists have dipped down, but some of the other sites have held steady with retail numbers. When I list these cards, I will usually have a number of buy lists open as well as player-style sites, as occasionally, even the weaker sites will have a few gems. This is by far the most rapidly-shifting category of cards, which makes sense, as it is directed by a precise metagame that is ever-changing. A card that may have seen a ton of play even a few weeks ago may be nearly half the price now, and the opposite holds true as well. I have to leave you with some work at home, but if you do not currently have a variety of sites you visit, it may be worth broadening your scope.

Casual Staples – Though these cards seem to have a fairly stable price, barring reprints, it does not seem to reflect that on player-driven sites. Auction sites such as eBay can also be hit-or-miss but still worth checking in on. I find myself taking advantage of buy lists for most of my casual cards, usually netting between 60% and 85% of retail. Auction sites will occasionally hit a home run on some of these cards, such as on certain foil commanders and other oddities within the casual realm. I will usually skip the player-driven sites; at times, I have watched the price dip lower than buy lists. There is not enough of a margin to make any money after shipping costs, but if you find enough items from the same person to mitigate shipping costs, you may be able to make a few dollars here and there.

Rest in Peace
Better Than Bulk – This category includes cards such as Rest in Peace that usually ride between $2 and $4 retail. I find that, after shipping costs, it is typically not worth listing these cards on player-driven sites unless you have a large enough stock to encourage multiple-item orders. If you are listing at home, you may find that local shops will actually pay you fairly well in store credit. Most online buy lists will only pay 30% to 50% of these cards’ values, and some local stores will take them at 50% to 60% credit if they are running low. If you do not have a local store that pays well, buy lists may be your only option, and I find that shopping these types of cards around makes a huge difference. Most stores will not pay well on lower-end cards, but if they are low on stock or a recent deck depletes their inventory, you may be able to snag a deal here and there.

Eternal Staples – I have found this category to have an interesting trend in the past year as Modern cemented itself as a legitimate format. In addition to the sudden price spikes here and there, Eternal staples also seem to list particularly well on certain buy lists. The exception to this rule comes when you come fresh off a large Eternal event. Riding the wave of the slowly-shifting metagame can net you a great deal. Most Standard cards take a significant amount of play to begin a forward growth, as opposed to Eternal staples that see less and less large-scale play since the Sunday change to StarCityGames events. If a new deck hits or an old favorite begins seeing play again, expect the cards within those decks to suddenly spike in sales, if not in price.

Lion's Eye Diamond
There are some cards in each of these categories that you will find cross over, but those change season to season and are something you pick up as you do this long enough. For the most part, this gives you a general idea of where you should be looking and how to divide your picks when looking to sell them.

I also want to cover bulk in this article even though I know I have covered the subject before. Once you have pulled all of your bulk, you may decide it is worth your time to divide it into categories to send to CoolStuffInc.com. As far as I know, they pay the highest on divided bulk by a large margin. The sections go as follows:

  • 1,000 basic lands – $10
  • 1,000 bulk uncommons (Shards of Alara and newer) – $10
  • 1,000 bulk uncommons (Eventide and older) – $15

Sell your cards to CoolStuffInc today!

Common and uncommon lots combined fetch around the standard $5 per thousand, but if you are willing to sort your bulk or don’t pick up large numbers of collections and want to get the most out of each one, this may be a good option for you. Even after shipping costs, it can come to over double the regular rate if you ship enough.

If you are not willing to take the time to pick your bulk and separate the categories, you may be best off finding a local store that will take it from you for lots or resale. If you have no local options, a number of stores will take it at events if they are driving and you contact them in advance. This is a more annoying way to move it since you have to bring it to an event, but if you don’t move large quantities, this may be your only out. Lots can also be assembled on sites such as Amazon if you have a seller’s account or on eBay if you research and understand the market.

In the next few weeks, I will discuss exactly what your outs are on many of the barely-better-than-bulk cards we have left behind in this article. I also want to cover some of the more casual long-term picks coming from Magic 2014 Core Set as well as the upcoming From the Vault: Twenty and the other late summer releases. As always, thank you for reading, and tune in next week for more up-to-date financial information from yours truly. If you have any comments or questions about this week’s article or any content you would like to see in the future, leave them below.

Ryan Bushard


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