October Rotation Price Targets

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By Cliff Daigle

Theros is coming.

It’s going to be released the first week in October, and that’s when ‘rotation’ happens. All of Innistrad block (Innistrad, Dark Ascension, and Avacyn Restored) and Magic 2013 will not be allowed in Standard decks anymore.

Traditionally, this means that their prices fall, and indeed, a lot of those cards are starting to creep lower.

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Today, I want to go over the cards that are going to get taken out of Standard decks and you should snap them up at their lowest prices. I can’t say for sure what those prices will be, but whatever they end up at, get them at rotation. When their price goes back up in a year or so from casual appeal, you’ll be thanking me.

I’m also going to make a prediction for what their prices will be in October 2013, and again in October 2014. My only caveat is that if something gets reprinted or banned, the price will do something really weird and that prediction will be irrelevant.

 

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Magic 2013

The M10-M13 checklands (Sunpetal Grove, etc.): These are very common after four core set printings and yet they are still a decent price, because they are very good in casual decks, even as a one-of. These do not see much Modern play, so once their price drops low, they will creep back up around Christmas, I’d say, when the new Commander decks come out and people are building a lot of new EDH decks.
Price at Rotation: $2 each
Price in a year: $5 each

Thundermaw Hellkite: Dragon decks are fun and easy to build. This particular dragon is a powerhouse, being five hasty power for five mana. It’s also worth mentioning that this on turn five is one of the best followups to Kaalia of the Vast on turn four, because he clears the path for her attack. Doesn’t see much Modern play, but sees lots of casual use. I’m in.
Price at Rotation: $7
Price in a year: $12

Rhox Faithmender: Doubling lifegain effects is something casual players love to do. He hasn’t been paired with Thragtusk in a while, but his appeal outside Standard is very high.
Price at Rotation: $1 or less
Price in a year: $3

Sublime Archangel: Angels are a serious thing for casual players. This one is cheap and can hit very hard. She fits into a lot of different decks: Tribal, Exalted, or even ones with themes like “beautiful women on the card” and if you think I’m kidding about those sorts of decks, remember there’s an Elvish Ranger who wants a word. As for Sublime, she will hit a floor at rotation and tick slowly up for years.
Price at Rotation: $6
Price in a year: $10

Omniscience: This is popular in Legacy Show and Tell, often used to cast an Emrakul for free, getting an extra turn and the win pretty often. EDH players go just as crazy for this card. I don’t expect the price to fall far on this card, but I’ll be ready if it does. Of all the cards on this list, if any get banned, this one is the most likely.
Price at Rotation: $8
Price in a year: $20

Vampire Nocturnus: In Magic 2010, with all the cheap vampires and fetch lands from Zendikar, Nocturnus was the top of the curve and a $20 card despite being the prerelease foil. He’s seen zero Standard play this time around, because the cheap vampires all need red mana and his triple black is just too much. One of the spoiled legends in the new commander set is a Vampire, though, so there’s room for that tribe.
Price at Rotation: $4
Price in a year: $7

Elderscale Wurm: Big and has a unique effect. You can think of him as a green Platinum Angel that attacks very well. He’s nearly bulk now, and I’ll be happy to scoop some up.
Price at Rotation: under $1
Price in a year: $3

Rancor: Another casual all-star, this was a $2 card even after duel deck and Archenemy printings. Pick up as many of these as you can as throw-ins when you’re trading in October–they will be $2 again before long.
Price at Rotation: $1
Price in a year: $3

Thragtusk: The value you get from this one card is still quite impressive. It’s in Cubes and EDH decks and not Modern at all, so when he rotates, get these cheap.
Price at Rotation: $3
Price in a year: $6

Reliquary Tower: One of the lands that every EDH deck should consider playing. I like to have these in my binder for when someone tells me they are building a new casual deck. Foils especially, but regular ones will be a good pickup too.
Price at Rotation: 25 cents
Price in a year: $1

 

Innistrad

Mikaeus, the Lunarch: Yes, he was in FTV:Legends. His effect is very good for one big creature or powering up a casual token army. He’s not used in Standard anymore though, so his price might not change at all.
Price at Rotation: $2
Price in a year: $3

Garruk Relentless: If he drops to $5 or lower, I’ll get all I can. He’s too good for that price. Other such examples: Nissa Revane and Sarkhan Vol. Planeswalkers will always have a certain appeal.
Price at Rotation: $5
Price in a year: $10


Enemy checklands
(Sulfur Falls and the like): Just like their M10 counterparts, these are great and easy mana fixing for casual decks. The bonus here is that these are rarer than the ally-colored ones that have been printed four times, so grab all you can when they bottom out. It’ll be easy money before long.
Price at Rotation: $3 each
Price in a year: $8 each

Geist of St. Traft: I doubt he will go much below $15, because he is used often in Modern and in Legacy. That said, once he rotates, his price will creep upwards. Get in if you can, but I can see people taking their Standard Hexproof deck and turning it into one for Modern.
Price at Rotation: $15
Price in a year: $25

Kessig Wolf Run, Gavony Township: These are the two best utility lands for their colors. They are powerful in different ways but they are easy to add in, because most decks will be able to use such an effect.
Price at Rotation: $1 or less
Price in a year: $2

 

Dark Ascension

Increasing Devotion: Token decks are always going to be a popular way to play. This is one of the best cards for such decks, and let’s not overlook that they make Human tokens, one of the few cards that makes this relevant creature type. Pick this up cheap and sock it away for a year.
Price at Rotation: 25 cents or less
Price in a year: $2

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben: This little lady does it all. She slows spells, she attacks and blocks well, and has a low mana cost. She’s also popular in certain Legacy and Modern decks, so her price might not fall very far.
Price at Rotation: $3
Price in a year: $8

Geralf’s Messenger: A restrictive mana cost and being terrible at blocking mean he won’t see Modern or Legacy play. It’ll be casual or bust for this.
Price at Rotation: $2
Price in a year: $5

Gravecrawler: Zombies are a great tribe and this is a flavor winner. Gravecrawler enables all sorts of combos in all sorts of formats. Keep in mind he’s a buy-a-box foil.
Price at Rotation: $3
Price in a year: $6

Mikaeus, the Unhallowed: Another Zombie whose price is all due to his casual appeal. I’m hoping his price drops to $3 or less, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he stays where he is.
Price at Rotation: $4
Price in a year: $7

Drogskol Reaver: Here’s a card that will be close to bulk at rotation. It’s too good in assorted EDH decks to stay that low.
Price at Rotation: 25 cents or less
Price in a year: $1.50

Huntmaster of the Fells: Much is going to depend on price memory for this card. When people think about how much they spent on it in its heyday, they will be reluctant to let it go at the new low price it will get to. It’s a fringe player in Modern currently, but if it dips very low, I’ll pick them up.
Price at Rotation: $5
Price in a year: $10

 

Vault of the Archangel: An outstanding effect on a land, and very popular with the casual crowd Grab them and put them away for a while.
Price at Rotation: $1
Price in a year: $4

Sorin, Lord of Innistrad: Again, cheap planeswalkers are something to speculate on. It takes one being truly bad to stay at a low price forever. Even Chandra Ablaze is up to $8, and Sorin is much, much better. Remember that he has a Duel Deck foil nudging his price downwards.
Price at Rotation: $8
Price in a year: $20

 

Avacyn Restored

Avacyn, Angel of Hope: Look at this price. Nearly $20 right now, and that is ONLY due to casual appeal. She’s never been played in Standard or Modern or any Constructed format, but this speaks to the power of the casual crowd. Not just EDH, but every deck wants an effect like this. I do not expect her price to go down at all.
Price at Rotation: $20
Price in a year: $25-$30

 

Cathar’s Crusade: Parallel Lives never had a chance to be cheap, the ship has sailed on making good money off of that. This card offers a different kind of power, and will be available at bulk rates. Get a stack of these, they will be buylisted for $1 within a year.
Price at Rotation: 50 cents
Price in a year: $2

Entreat the Angels: This is a great effect, and when it gets cheap, you should trade for these. Remember, we love Angels and we love tokens!
Price at Rotation: $4
Price in a year: $10

Terminus: I cannot overstate how good this card is in EDH. With every set, there’s new, powerful creatures that resist destruction. This is one of the best spells to cast and its price will be at an all-time low.
Price at Rotation: $2
Price in a year: $7

Deadeye Navigator: Nearly bulk now, he’s too good to stay that low forever.
Price at Rotation: 25 cents or less
Price in a year: $1

Tamiyo, the Moon Sage: Planeswalker, cheap, powerful. You know the drill by now. But in case you’re not aware, there’s nothing a blue player loves more than to bring spells back to hand after casting them.
Price at Rotation: $7
Price in a year: $20

Temporal Mastery: I’m aware that Time Warp is cheaper and more consistent. But it remains a fact that there’s a lot of players who love to take extra turns. Pick these up and help those players realize their dreams.
Price at Rotation: $2
Price in a year: $5

Zealous Conscripts: I still can’t believe this is a card. It’s a combo with Kiki-Jiki, and it will be nearly bulk at rotation. It’ll be good for a long time after that.
Price at Rotation: $1
Price in a year: $3

Craterhoof Behemoth: I sold out on these when they had their spike at the beginning of the year and I’ll be glad to pick them up on the cheap when they bottom out. The effect is too strong and too popular to remain inexpensive.
Price at Rotation: $3
Price in a year: $5

Gisela, Blade of Goldnight: Anything that doubles damage is going to have a high casual appeal. Her ability to halve damage makes things like Pyrohemia amazingly good in EDH. Amusingly, there is exactly one creature that can block her, kill her and live: Withengar Unbound.
Price at Rotation: $3
Price in a year: $10

Sigarda, Host of Herons: A fringe player in Standard for her term, she doesn’t see any play in the Eternal formats. She’s powerful as a Cube or EDH card, especially as a General heading up a Selesnya deck.
Price at Rotation: $2
Price in a year: $6

Bruna, Light of Alabaster: There’s a chance that she gets a lot better with the enchantments coming in Theros block. She is, by far, the best general for an enchantment deck because of her built-in recursion. Others like Uril, the Miststalker or Krond the Dawn-Clad have to work much harder to bring back their Auras.
Price at Rotation: $2
Price in a year: $5

Alchemist’s Refuge: Yes, it requires two colors and three lands, but the effect is undeniably powerful. Something like this is always going to have appeal, no matter the color requirements. Winding Canyons is the nearest example we have.
Price at Rotation: $1
Price in a year: $2

Cavern of Souls: I don’t think this will take much of a hit at rotation. It sees enough Modern/Legacy play to keep its price, and as someone with four tribal EDH decks, I know I’ll be wanting them to get cheap.
Price at Rotation: $15
Price in a year: $20

 

 

Slayers’ Stronghold: Just like the refuge above, it’s worth stretching your mana a little to get an effect this good. Vigilance, power boost, and most importantly, haste on a land. Hall of the Bandit Lord is our comparison, and some decks will want both of these lands.
Price at Rotation: $1
Price in a year: $3

As always, find me on Twitter @WordOfCommander and tell me why I’m so very right or wrong.

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City of Traders: Innistrad Rotation

By Travis Allen

As we approach Theros spoilers (Wizard’s PAX party is this coming weekend, where last year we saw the return of the shocks and Dreadbore, among others), it’s a good time to pay attention to what is on the way out. Rotation will not only be the starter pistol for Ravnica rares to take off on price surges, but is also a chance to grab up Innistrad cards for what may be the lowest they will be in years. I’m going to browse all of Innistrad block and M13 for anything that jumps out at me.

Sanguine Bond Jan 2012 - Aug 2013
Sanguine Bond. Jan 2012 – Aug 2013.

Army of the Damned – This is a casual card that is absolutely dripping with flavor. It’s highly unlikely to do much in any real format, but ongoing casual and EDH demand may cause a rise here down the road. I don’t see it spiking in two months, but this may pull a Sanguine Bond and quietly end up at $7 or $8.

Avacyn, Angel of Hope – Knight Exemplar is a $3 card despite having been printed three times and seeing zero competitive play. Indestructible is a casual fan favorite. That same demographic of players also love Angels. That is why Avacyn is currently nearly $15. She will be over $20 within probably a few months, and should live between $20 and $30 for years. This isn’t exactly a spec target, but if you wanted any, now would be the time to acquire. Foils are nearly $50, and will only stand to gain as well.

Bonfire of the Damned – I don’t like Bonfire long term. It’s seen virtually no play elsewhere, and isn’t particularly cool. I’m not sure the card will ever be worth more than it is right now.

Bruna, Light of Alabaster – While having done nothing in Standard, it’s still an angel that plays well with Auras. This card is barely $1, and it would basically be impossible to lose money on her. Not many angels are less than $1. She also has the marginal chance of showing up in Modern if any auras make her particularly vicious. Exalted with Sovereigns of Alara used to be a thing, and Eldrazi Conscription still exists.

Descendants’ Path – While nothing ever came of this in Standard, it has a non-zero chance to break into Modern at some point. Casting free spells is awesome, especially if they have “Eldrazi” written on them somewhere. Imagine when they return if we get a Llanowar Elf that is colorless, taps for colorless, and is an Eldrazi?

Even if it isn’t an eldritch horror that breaks it, it’s not hard to imagine humans or, hell, even Minotaurs doing it. At 50 cents, Descendants’ Path seems very safe, even if it may not pop for a while.

Garruk Relentless – Few Planeswalkers are worth less than $6, which is right around where Garruk is today. Garruk is also the only transforming Planeswalker that exists and will likely stay that way for years. Additionally, he’s a strong card that even shows up in Modern from time to time. I expect foils of this guy to be particularly fertile ground, as I’ve seen a lot of people collecting foil flip cards for the sole reason that they’re foil flip cards.

Geist of St. Traft – The ghost is a massive force in Modern and Legacy.  I can’t see this card’s floor being any less than $15, if it even gets that low. Get in now if you need them, and if they fall two or three dollars, be happy with that rather than having not bought them and seeing them jump by $15.

Gisela, Blade of Goldnight – This card is $5 and has not seen a lick of play in Standard. Like Bruna, being an angel is enough to be worth money, and will assuredly tick up in price steadily for a while after falling out of Standard.

Griselbrand – $10 and the reanimator/breacher of choice in every format that type of degeneracy is permitted. Like many others on this list, he is at his floor until he gets Griselbanned.

Havengul Lich – I got in on this guy way back when and he’s done nothing but take up space since, but I’m still a firm believer. Havengul Lich has a powerful, unique ability that would be the engine of a combo deck. He’s a popular creature type, he’s in great combo colors, and he’s a mythic from a middle set that was fairly unpopular. I don’t see how this guy ISN’T over $10 at some point in the future. How far that future is, though, I am unsure of.

Innistrad lands – I’m mentioning these to tell you that they are not pickups. They are completely irrelevant in every format except for Standard, and you won’t need them until they’re legal there again. If you can get a good price for yours now I’d ditch them. Other than that, stick the 40 in a plastic sleeve somewhere to dig out again in 4 years.

Huntmaster of the Fells – This is another card that has so far been very relevant in Standard, but I dislike long term. He sees a little bit of play in Modern Jund, but I don’t believe that this is the four drop Jund wants. Sure, he does some things, but I can’t imagine this is the highest impact 4-drop Jund could be running. I may be proven wrong here, but I’m ok with the chance of that.

Liliana of the Veil – I’m reasonably confident this card isn’t going much lower. Liliana has seen play in Standard, but she has seen far more action in Modern and Legacy (T1 dark ritual lol) in the last two years, and typically as a 4-of. Jace has shown us what the ceiling looks like for Planeswalkers, and it’s a lot higher than $40. I’m not saying she’ll hit $150, but I could see her cresting $60 or $70 without a reprint. I’m putting my money where my mouth is on this one; I have a few spare that I pulled off my sale list because I believe she has room to grow.

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Liliana of the Veil. Jan 2012 - Aug 2013
Liliana of the Veil. Jan 2012 – Aug 2013

Mikaeus, the Unhallowed – When was the last time you saw a black EDH deck that didn’t run Mikaeus? He’s also an immediate win off of Tooth and Nail with Triskelion, if that ever becomes a Thing. He’s not necessarily a spec target, but a “if you need any grab them.”

Omniscience – I’m a big fan of this card, and not just because I’ve had tournament success with it. It’s a huge splashy card that casual players are drawn to, and it’s obscenely powerful to cheat into play. Resolving this is frequently going to be a win in Modern and Legacy, and being a critical combo piece, will likely be a 4-of. We’ve got a core set Mythic that has eternal demand, casual demand, and EDH demand. Looks like a winner to me.

Past in Flames – Its $1. If you don’t have 4, grab 4.

Primal Surge – At under $1, this is another one that seems safe. You can sock this away in a box with your Havengul Liches and not feel bad having spent $10 on a bunch. Either casual play drives it up to a few bucks each in a year, or some funky Modern combo appears that involves you dumping your entire deck into play using this card. Either way, it’s low risk and low opportunity cost.

Restoration Angel – I did a double take when I saw this was down to $5. Wasn’t this card like 20 bucks recently? While not particularly relevant in Legacy, she’s good beats in Modern, and again, an angel. Not only is she also a natural combo piece for Kiki-Jiki, but the right 3-drop with a fantastic ETB could really do work with her.

Sigarda, Host of Herons – See Bruna and Gisela.

Snapcaster Mage – Believe it or not, I’m not too bullish on this guy. $20 is a hefty tag for a rare in one of the most opened sets in Magic history. He’ll be leaving Standard and has seen very little action in Legacy. He’s obviously good for sure, and has seen a lot of play in Modern, but when that’s the only format he’s really doing work in, how much can he be worth? I wouldn’t sell your set, but I’m not sure I’d be in a rush to snap (heh) him up either. If he dips and then starts to rise again, it will be a slow rise, so you won’t miss a good buy-in window.

Temporal Mastery – This card does say Time Walk, right? Temporal Mastery sees some amount of play in Legacy, but has yet to break into Modern. I don’t think the support for this exists there yet, but I believe it will at some point, and when it does, this will be a 4-of. I wouldn’t call it a spec target, because it could take quite some time to get there, but if you’ve already got them, I don’t think I’d be looking to get rid of them.

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben – Thalia is doing a ton of work in Modern and Legacy right now as an absolute nightmare for control/combo decks that doubles as a reasonable threat. $3 for her seems pretty low to me. $7-$8 feels a lot more appropriate. It may not happen overnight, but I like her a lot over the next year.

Cards of the week:

  • I talked about Chandra, Pyromaster a few weeks ago when she was a cool $10. She’s jumped a few bucks since then, and has been consistently showing up in Top 8s. I wouldn’t be surprised to see hear near $20 in the next three months.
  • Glimpse the Unthinkable is getting chatted up a lot around Twitter/articles lately. The card slowly climbed from $12 to $20 over the last few years purely on casual demand. It wasn’t printed in Modern Masters or the Ravnica block, which were the two most likely places to see Glimpse again. This feels like it may be another Horizon Canopy, or close to it.
  • It took a few extra weeks, but Kor Spiritdancer jumped from $2.50 to $7.50. Keen Sense saw a jump as well, although less pronounced.
Glimpse the Unthinkable. Jan 2012 - Aug 2013
Glimpse the Unthinkable. Jan 2012 – Aug 2013

Trading Online

By Cliff Daigle

Last week I went over some tips for trading with another person. Today I want to give you some alternatives to that sort of trading.

I want to start off with a trade that doesn’t have anything to do with another person: trading cards to a vendor for store credit. This is something that you might hesitate to do, because you won’t get full retail value for your cards. Understand that a vendor lives for their profit margins, so they buy cards for about half what they sell them for. Most vendors offer a bonus if you choose store credit over cash, from ten to thirty percent, depending on the vendor.

You can compare buylists online to find who will give you the most value, and it just so happens that here on MTGPrice you have a tool for that. Just bring up a card’s price, and on the right, you have buttons for ‘buy price’ and ‘sell price’ depending on which you want to do.

Click "Sell Price" to see what price you can sell to stores at.
Click “Sell Price” to see what price you can sell to stores at.

The main reason to use a buylist is when there is a specific card that you just haven’t been able to find anywhere else. Trading is imperfect, and sometimes you just need that last card or two. I have done this to finish foiling out a deck, because I was unable to find someone who had spare foil Ravnica bounce lands. I gave up, and went to a vendor.

In the modern age, we don’t have to rely on in-person trades with individuals or vendors. I want to share with you three different online tools that I’ve used to trade via mail. I’ve traded to Hong Kong and to Europe, and I have yet to have a bad experience.

The first you should know about is the oldest, the Magic Online Trading League (MOTL), and you’ll want to check out the forum. This is a place where people post their have/want lists and you see what matches up with yours. The advantage of this site is that since its been around for quite a while, there’s some very awesome cards available. If you’re into early judge foils and FBB duals, this is the place.

The downside of MOTL is a subtle one in terms of layout and organization. It’s a forum. You post what you have and want, and people reply. It’s very static and there’s no built-in tool for setting up a trade or card valuation. In addition, because of the values of the cards available, it seems to have a higher incident rate when it comes to scammers.

An aside about mail fraud: agreeing to trade by mail and then not doing so is exactly mail fraud. It is easy to prove and prosecute, and the mods will help as much as they can. I’ve done more than 100 online trades and haven’t hit a bad one yet. Inattentive people yes, but not evil.

A newer trade site is PucaTrade.com. Instead of directly trading with another user, you add your list of haves and wants, then you fill the wants of others and earn points, which you then use to obtain your own cards. A point is roughly equal to one cent, so if I send someone a Snapcaster Mage, I’m earning around 2400 points and they are spending that many points.

PucaTrade allows for you to get maximum value for your cards. You get full retail in points, and can do so at the height of the market. If you like to buy low and sell high, you can do very well on PucaTrade. The big drawback is that the process of sending cards is a little more luck than anything else, because it is a race to fulfill orders. I put every shockland up as available, and only one pops up to be sent now and again, because others fill those orders as soon as someone does it. I have seen someone pick up dual lands in PucaTrade and not have to deal with someone who insists on getting extra value for ‘trading down’ their Reserved List card.

The third site I want to mention is my favorite: deckbox.org. It combines a built-in price tool from tcgplayer with chat boxes and a cleaner interface than MOTL and yet is a regular trade. Deckbox gets a lot of their traffic from reddit, and there are some awesome people on reddit who like to trade. Trades haven’t been just cards-for-cards either! I have sent magic novels out and gotten cards for my trouble, and I’ve sent out a stack of cards and gotten a brand new iPad.

As I said, I’m a devotee of Deckbox. I like browsing for foils, I like the chat box they offer instead of PM-style messages back and forth. I like the reddit trade page that refreshes weekly and I appreciate the forums that deckbox has, which has boards for different formats, locations, or styles.

For anyone who wishes to trade online, I would also suggest looking into shipping using Paypal to print out a postage label. Of the 90 trades I’ve done, more than half have been high-value enough that I wanted some form of tracking on them. Using Paypal, a first-class mail parcel in a thick envelope (bubble mailer) is $1.69 in shipping, when going to the USPS counter would cost twice that. Save yourself some money, and go enjoy some trades!

Questions? Leave them below, or tweet them to me @WordOfCommander!

City of Traders: Phlipsyde

By Travis Allen

A week or two ago I asked on Twitter if people wanted to hear about flipping collections, and the answer was a resounding “yes.” Today I’ll talk about some of the larger collections I’ve purchased, and then discuss some strategies to keep in mind if you choose to do it yourself.

Collection #1 – This remains the largest collection by volume and retail that I’ve purchased so far. I had picked up a few small collections for between $50 and $300 before this, but this purchase dwarfed those. This list is hardly exhaustive, but it had, if memory serves me: two beta dual lands, ~25 revised duals, a nearly-complete set of Legends, a partial set of Antiquities including a Candelabra of Tawnos, about 10 or 11 full sets including Urza’s block, a full set of Zendikar fetchlands, a handful of Onslaught fetchlands, and boxes and binders alike that were filled with random cards from Beta to Zendikar, which by volume were mostly garbage but certainly had plenty of good cardboard scattered throughout. It took the better part of two weekends to pull everything of value out, and another two or three months to break even on the sales process.

Retail value: ~$13,000
I paid: $3,500

Collection #2 – While this wasn’t as many cards as collection #1, nor was it as varied in its inventory, it was solid value throughout. I actually ended up paying more for this than I did #1, even though it was technically worth less. (They can’t always be home runs.) This seller had done his homework, and actually sent a list of basically every single rare in the collection with their average eBay prices. The reason I paid more for less on this collection is simply that the seller was far more educated about what he had. He recognized he wouldn’t be getting full retail, but expected a reasonable rate of return. Included were: 33 Revised duals, 31 Zendikar fetches, 22 Onslaught fetches, 4 FoW, 4 Thoughtseize, 4 Cryptic Command, 2 JTMS, 5 SFM…the list just goes on with hundreds of $3-$50 cards.

Retail value: ~$9,500
I paid: $5,000

Collection #3 – This is the smallest “large” collection I’ve bought. Unlike the previous two, this is a player that had gotten out of the game recently, so there was a good chunk of Standard cards. In this case, he had everything listed through DeckBox, so I was able to see a complete list of what was coming, as well as their TCG values. He obviously had that information as well, so it was mostly a matter of finding a number that we both agreed on. The most valuable card here was a single Unlimited Underground Sea. Beyond that, there wasn’t anything particularly stellar, just Good Cards. 6 Onslaught fetches, a Taiga, a set of Liliana of the Veil, a few Eldrazi, some Kiki-Jiki, Sphinx’s Revelations, Bonfires, Cavern of Souls, etc.

Retail Value: ~$4,900 TCG Player low
I paid: $2,200

Now that you’re tired of reading about what I’ve done, let’s talk about how to do it yourself.

Where to find collections – There are essentially two types of sellers. The first, and typically most lucrative, is the obvious one: craigslist. I have a tab open to a craigslist search for “Magic” that is always there when I turn on my computer, and I keep an eye on it every day. There is going to be a lot of chaff on craigslist, so patience is required. There was over a year between my purchases of collection #1 and #2. They simply don’t show up that often, and as time progresses, we are going to see it less and less as those stockpiled Magic cards end up in the hands of people like you and I, who then hoard and distribute cards amongst the community. You will, however, see plenty of this:

craigslist__collection

For the low price of $150, you can have over 1,000 garbage Ice Age, Homelands and Revised commons. Craigslist is really just going to come down to being patient and finding the right lot.

Other options are garage/estate sales, which I’ve found to be pretty unreliable. Typically you’re talking shoeboxes in size. Keep an eye out for these when you’re strolling yard sales with your girlfriend, but don’t expect it to be reliable.

Coworkers/muggle peers are also a potential source. You really want to find people that are about 40-45 years old right now, as that would have made them 20-25 when Alpha came out, which is the perfect age for disposable income on nerd crap like this. You might not want to be asking your three-piece suit boss if they have Magic cards, but I’ll leave the discovery process here up to your discretion.

The second seller is the knowledgeable type. These are people that have been playing somewhat recently, and have decided to get out of the game for whatever reason. They are much better at accurately valuing their collection, so you won’t be getting duals for $5 apiece here. It doesn’t mean you can’t get a good rate, it just means that there is going to be a lot less of a game where you try and feel out the seller’s knowledge and expectations. In my experience, these transactions are faster, more straightforward, and more numbers-oriented. Both of you know the score, and you’re just trying to find a price you’re both comfortable with.

How to Evaluate Inventory – You can typically get a good feel for what is in the collection quickly, so long as it isn’t completely massive. I like to start with the binders, as those are where you’re most likely to find concentrated value. I also like to check out any decks they may have built, and if the boxes of cards are sorted at all, I at least try to look at lands, artifacts, and blue spells. If it’s sorted by set, I’ll look for Urza block, Mirage, any Legends/Antiquities, Mirrodin block, Future Sight block, etc. Be prepared for most large collections to be overwhelmingly Revised/Ice Age/Homelands/Fallen Empires. When flipping through boxes, feel free to just skip over these sections entirely. You should still go through the painstaking process of looking at each card once you get the boxes home, but when deciding whether to buy the cards, don’t waste both their time and yours looking through what may as well be kindling.

On large collections (over a few thousand cards,) I’ll bring a small notepad to keep track of what I’m seeing. Once the collection is of sufficient size, you aren’t going to be able to make a reasonable offer off the top of your head, nor will you likely have that much cash in your pocket anyways. Writing down quantity of duals/fetches, a rough idea of how many >$5 cards you saw, etc. will help you remember what you’re dealing with when you get home.

Questions to ask – There are a number of questions you want to ask the seller. Their answers will help you understand what you’re looking at as well as what to expect in negotiations. It also helps to make small talk with people while you’re rifling through their property inside their house. Being personable and friendly will make them much more likely to be flexible on price. As a side note, avoid divulging too many details regarding your experience in purchasing collections. If they get the impression you’ve done this quite a bit, they may perceive you as a bit of a shyster rather than an earnest individual that just wants some Magic cards.

  • “Has anyone else looked at the collection?’’  Here you’re gauging interest. They may lie, so take what they say with a grain of salt. If they tell you they’ve had 8 or 9 emails about it though, they probably aren’t exaggerating by much. It’s not uncommon for lots listed too cheaply to be sold within hours of being listed.
  • “Has anyone bought any singles out of the collection?”  You want to see if someone stripped the good cards and ran. If they say that yes, that someone bought just a few cards, then that is very likely where the duals and forces went.
  • “When did you start playing?”  Get a feel for when the collection may have started. This tells you what to look for. If it’s after 2002 for instance, you know duals are less likely. You want to hear 1993, or sometime after 1996.
  • “When did you stop playing?”  This will tell you the latest set you can expect to find, as well as how aware of Magic pricing they are. If they played up until Alara block, they’re going to be a lot more aware of how much the cards may be worth, while someone that quit during Torment days has had the boxes collecting dust for years and years.
  • “Why did you stop playing?”  This is most salient when they quit recently. If their friends left the game and interested petered out, they likely aren’t in a rush to move the cards. However if something occurred in their life and they need funds quickly, this works in your favor. Someone who really needs $2,000 for car repairs doesn’t have time to shop their collection around. Waving ducats around has a good way of getting things done.

How to decide how much to offer – There are several factors at work when considering what type of numbers to offer.

  • The obvious place to start is how much you peg the collection at. I try to keep my estimate at just the cards I’ve seen. I’ve brought home one in the past where I looked at one 500 card box, saw some good stuff, and made an offer based on that box. When I got home, it turned out that almost every good card was in that single box.
  • The knowledge level of the seller is important. If it’s someone clearing out their attic, chances are they’ll just be happy to have it gone and end up with enough to go buy dinner. If it’s someone like the individual in the second example above, you aren’t getting away at 10% of retail. Lowball too much, and you’ll offend them.
  • Whatever price they listed at will help you understand their expectations. Whoever was selling the cards in that craigslist picture above obviously way overvalues his cards, and even if that whole picture is worth maybe $5, that’s only about 4% of his listed price. There’s no way someone is taking 10% of their listed price. If there isn’t a price listed, that’s good for you. It means they don’t know what’s fair or they’re open to offers.
  • Sellers typically assign value much more evenly across the collection than is accurate. What this means is that many will assume 5,000 Ice Age cards will be worth a lot more than a shoebox full of revised duals. While this is a pain for buying large, low-value collections, it works both ways. If during examination the inventory seems like it’s mostly garbage with just a handful of notable cards, or even just a single outlier (something like a foil MM Brainstorm), tell them that it’s all a little too rich for your blood, but ask if you can buy just a few singles that you’d love to have for yourself. There’s a good chance they’ll be fine with this, and you’ll be shocked how little people assign to individual cards. Think $2 a card. I typically avoid doing this unless the collection really is just nothing but Homelands commons, and they are expecting way more than is reasonable.
  • My goal when buying a collection is 30% of retail. That gives you a very comfortable profit margin for making your money back, as you could sell at 70-80% of market and still do well. 30% is fantastic though, so don’t expect this every time. I’ve gone up to about 60% on smaller buys. Your ceiling here is dictated by what exactly you’re buying. Keep in mind what types of sales you’ll be making to recoup your costs. If it’s just piles and piles of $3-5 cards, you’re going to have to put a lot of envelopes in the mail to make that back. That’s a large investment of time, risk as a seller, and shipping costs. However, if it’s basically just a playset of Onslaught fetches and odds and ends, it’s a lot easier to pay a higher percentage because you can move more money in less transactions, they’ll sell faster, and you can get way closer to retail on a Polluted Delta than you can a foil 7th ed Mana Short.
  • The size of the collection also dictates what percentage you can buy at. Basically, the larger the collection, the less competition you have. If the seller wants $400 for $1,000 worth of cards, there will be plenty of people willing to make that buy. However, someone asking $4,000 for $20,000 worth of cards, while a better price overall, will generate a lot less demand. There simply are not going to be many individuals with the knowledge and capital to make a purchase like that. These very large collections are my favorite. There’s less competition, you can get a great rate, and it’s hard for anyone to turn down a few thousand dollars in cash, regardless of how much their cards are actually worth.
  • When making an offer, especially via email, I typically like to outline some of things I’m taking into consideration. I may explain that a large majority of the cards they own are from a time period that saw huge print runs, and subsequently they’re not even worth the paper they’re printed on. I may note the wear of the cards if that is a factor, or perhaps point out that while they may have seen certain numbers on eBay, there’s a sizeable loss of profit on those numbers when considering eBay fees, PayPal fees, shipping, etc. Overall, people are going to be more receptive to “Here’s the number I can offer, and this is why” compared to “$600 lmk.”
  • I touched on this briefly, but their need for expediency is good news for you. If it’s someone that simply decided they’re done and is in no real rush to sell, it will tough to get a great price. An individual in a situation where they need cash quick is a lot more likely to wheel and deal.
  • When you’re buying someone out entirely, you sometimes get “bonus” stuff. Dice are very common, as are an assortment of deck boxes. I picked up about 40 of those giant oversized cards in a collection at one point. Old Scrye pewter life counters are easily worth over $50. This type of stuff is typically considered throw-in, but enough of it can add some real value to the deal.

What to do when you get it all home – This is easily the most fun part; the discovery process. I try not to look at every single card when I’m evaluating the collection just so that there’s an element of surprise when I get home and open it all up. The best way to approach this is to systematically go through and touch every single card so that you don’t miss anything. As you go through, pull out every single card that catches your eye and every single rare you spot. All of them. I can’t stress this enough. Nothing is worse than going through 20,000 cards, getting to the end, realizing you were pulling out cards later on that you weren’t at the start, and having to do it all again. If some of the stuff you pull out isn’t worth the effort of selling it, it’s very easy to dump it back into a card box. Once you get everything out, start by setting aside everything you want to keep for yourself. Then begin looking up prices of everything you aren’t sure is worth selling. Any commons and uncommons that aren’t worth it can go back into the boxes. Set any bulk rares aside. The reason for this is that when it eventually comes time to deal with getting rid of the leftover chaff, having all the rares separated makes it easy for you to figure out how many there are for reselling or bulking out.

Making your money back – My preferred way of accomplishing this is not eBay, but rather going through established communities. I personally use MTGS, Twitter, and another community forum. Others prefer MOTL and various other sites. If your city has a general MTG Facebook page, that’s a great resource as well.

Buylisting the cards is an option. You will definitely get better rates of return on selling directly to individuals, but it takes a hell of a lot more time than just sending a few hundred cards to whatever vendor and getting a check. This decision is personal preference. I haven’t opted for this, but I can see the appeal.

When planning to sell to individuals, I begin by alphabetizing everything I’m selling and then setting them aside in their own box. Don’t mix the cards up into your trade collection; it’s too difficult to keep track of them if you do. Once everything is in order, I like to create a Google spreadsheet document. It’s accessible from any internet connection, has editing capabilities on the fly, you can share the link as read-only to let people browse at their own leisure, and it makes for easy importing into Excel if necessary. As you sell cards, you need to be absolutely diligent in making sure the list online matches what you have on hand. Once you start getting discrepancies, you begin agreeing to sell cards to people that you don’t actually have, and that is not something you want to be doing. Building a positive reputation is hugely important, as it enables people to feel comfortable sending you several hundred dollars at a time for cards that are sight unseen. For this reason, I would recommend picking one website with reference tracking and sticking with that until you build a solid reputation.

Getting rid of the leftovers – Unless you live in Montana or one of those states where the cattle outnumbers the humans, space becomes a concern, especially once you end up with more than a few thousand spare cards. I’ve had success moving smaller batches around 2,000-5,000 cards on craigslist by being very straightforward with the lot. I put right in the listing that there are no duals/forces, and that it’s a kitchen table collection for a kitchen table price. This gets a little harder to do the larger the pile gets though, as disposable income for kitchen table magic is not very large for any one individual. As you can see, I still have yet to solve this problem entirely myself…

boxes

Whew, I had a lot more to say about this than I realized I did. If you decide to tackle this process yourself, I wish you the best of luck. Just don’t do it where I live.

MAGIC: THE GATHERING BLOG, ARTICLES, AND COMMUNITY

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