Quitting: What Not to Sell

Written by Corbin Hosler on . Posted in Finance, Magic Culture

Quitting: What Not to Sell

Corbin Hosler

Corbin Hosler is a journalist living in the hotbed of Magic that is Oklahoma. He started playing in Shadowmoor and chased the Pro Tour dream for a few years, culminating in a Star City Games Legacy Open finals appearance in 2011 before deciding to turn to trading and speculation full-time. He writes weekly at QuietSpeculation.com and biweekly for LegitMTG. He also cohosts Brainstorm Brewery, the only financial podcast on the net.

If you’re reading this, consider yourself one of the lucky ones. You’ve never felt what it’s like to have to give up the game you love; to watch someone else coldly take what you worked years to build and carelessly dump it into a box. You’ve never given up a piece of yourself for reasons beyond your control.

Or maybe not.

The point is, people quit all the time. I’ve feel like I have an interesting perspective on it for a few reasons. Like many Magic players, I’ve come to the point of quitting. For me, it was my job as a sports writer after graduation. I cover high schools and University of Oklahoma sports, and it turns out they play all those games on Fridays and Saturdays, meaning I work those days. Not exactly the most conducive to grinding FNMs or road tripping for PTQs.

My story

What did I do? You’ve probably gathered that I haven’t quit since you’re reading this right now.

It wasn’t easy. Being cut off from FNM after years of attending every week was a big shock. I couldn’t play, not to mention I couldn’t trade, which was possibly an even bigger blow to me.

But the worst was the feeling of being cut off. Cut off from friends, this group of people I’d grown used to seeing every week. Coupled with a move to a new city, I effectively disappeared from the Magic scene for a while. I still tried to keep up with the reading, and stayed tuned in enough to keep writing for Quiet Speculation, but I every week I was reading less and less. I was losing the fire.

I won’t say it was easy to find a way back in, but I did find a way. I started going to FNM at 11 p.m, after I got off work, to hang out at my new store. I found out there were drafts on Wednesday nights, which filled some of the void. Most importantly, I got in with the new crowd here, and started attending their testing sessions. I still don’t get to play in PTQs and I rarely make an FNM, but I still feel like I’m able to contribute. Combine that with the occasional GP I’m able to get off work for, and I’m able to do enough to stay connected.

I almost threw in the towel when I realized I would be lucky to make five FNMs a year. It was a claustrophobic feeling, and what I’m able to do now doesn’t replace playing every week. But it is something.

That’s my story of almost quitting. I imagine it isn’t much different than just about anyone else in the game. But it’s only part of why I think I have some insight into the subject.

Getting around

The second reason I’m broaching this subject today involves an interesting intersection of my life. As a journalist, I’m a story collector. When I meet someone, I’m always interested in hearing their story. While you may think most people’s lives are boring on the surface, you learn quickly, doing what I do, that isn’t the case.

Everyone has a story, and everyone’s is unique.

This is where Magic comes in. In particular, what I do in the Magic community. As one of the “Magic finance guys” I interact with a lot of players on a business level. When someone around here wants to buy, sell or trade for a card, they come to me. There are a few reasons for this. Not only do I have access to track down just about any card, I’m also always buying and selling.

That means people come to me when they want to sell their collection, for whatever reason. When they do, I always ask them why. Why are you getting out of the game? Why are you selling all your cards? It is both a curse and a blessing that Magic cards are valuable. The same thing that makes it tough to break into the game makes it easy to get out; there’s always someone willing to pay you for your cards.

I’ve heard a lot of stories from players as they quit, and I’ve heard a lot of stories from players who’ve come back. If you want to quit, I would advise against you making a clean break, but if that’s what you need to do, here’s some advice.

Be Careful What You Sell

Turning your cards into money is great. In the last few months I’ve bought collections from people who have had unexpected expenses come up, from emergency medical bills to becoming a father to paying for a wedding. I myself sold cards to buy an engagement ring.

For your own sake, do NOT sell everything unless you literally have no other choice. Sell your Standard cards. Sell your Modern cards. Sell your casual cards. Sell your bulk. Hell, sell your Legacy staples since they’re just going to print something to make Emrakul, The Aeons Torn anyway. If you’re at this point, I even wrote a primer last time on how to get the most out of your cards when you’re selling (here).

Don’t sell your dual lands unless you have to. If you’re lucky enough to have Power 9, don’t sell it. These cards are most likely to only go up in price as long as Magic exists. It’s a really crappy feeling for those of you who’ve come back in the last five years only to see the dual lands you sold a decade ago for gas money are $100 bills now. In fact, these cards have outpaced the stock market over that time period. Even if you’re out of the game, stashing these away in the back of your closet is simply a prudent financial move.

Also, take the time to sell your cards yourself. It’s really easy to dump your cards onto one dealer’s table and simply be rid of them all, but it’s almost always worth your time to break it down to a few different buyers or to sell your big ticket items to another player, whether in person or through Ebay.
Another thing and this one is important. Don’t Sell Your Merfolk.

Don’t Sell Your Merfolk

Merfolk and I go a long way back. When I was trying to play this game competitively, I made my biggest score with the Fishes, splitting a Legacy Open with the ‘Folk and later using them to Top 32 an SCG Invitational. It’s not a huge accomplishment or anything like that, but it is something I’ve held on to.

Since then, I’ve returned the Merfolk deck I was loaned to its original owner, and I decided that I would one day build the deck for myself. Since I have an aversion to spending cash on cards, that means I’m slowly on my way there through trading. I have a full Modern build put together and I’m on my way to a Legacy version.

The day might come I have to sell all of my Magic cards. Despite our best plans, life has a funny way of happening, and I don’t know what might come up down the road.

But I’ll never sell my Merfolk.

This is the single best piece of advice I have. I literally cannot count the times I’ve talked to someone who’s recently come back into the game and has nothing. They have such fond memories of their favorite deck “from back in the day,” even though it’s probably terrible by today’s standards. But it’s precisely those memories that brought them back to Magic in the first place, and no matter what they may go on to build or accomplish in their second (or third or more) stint, it won’t replace that first love for their own personal Merfolk.

You’ll Be Back

I’m sure most of you go back to “Terminator” when you read this, but my first thought was actually about the end of Chronicles of Narnia 2 (obviously I’m a huge nerd), where the music playing over the film’s final scene puts it best — “You’ll come back, when they call you… no need to say goodbye.”

Magic will always call you, and it’s only a matter of time until you give in. If you’ve played this game for any length of time, it’s impossible to get away forever. Look at someone like Brian Kibler or Jon Finkel. They left the game and were successful elsewhere, but found a way to come back. Poker players like David Williams have done the same.

With that in mind, here’s a short list of things you’re going to want to hold onto, even if you have to quit. It’s a mixture of quality-of-life items and some practical ones to save money for your inevitable return.

Binders

Sure, your binder may be empty now after you unload all your rares from it, but when you come back you’re going to need one again. Good ones run upwards of $20 today, and will probably be even more expensive when you come back. I have a ton of extra binders I’ve gotten from people selling me collections, and they just rot away in a box in my home. You might as well let them rot away in a box in yours to save yourself some cash down the road.

Deckboxes/Sleeves/Dice

Along the same lines, these are something you’ll eventually need again, even if you have no use for them now. A pack of sleeves may not seem very important when you’re up in the middle of the night with your baby son, but trust me; you’re going to wish you had them when that kid is spilling his drink on your cards when you teach him to play years down the road.

Novelty items

The most obvious case here is that of the full-art lands, either of the Un-set or Zendikar variety. I expect many more people playing today are more likely to have a stack of Zendikar lands floating around than Un lands. You can take a quarter apiece on them from a dealer now, or you can stash them away for later. Look at it this way: Even if you never play again and won’t get to use them, it’s still a sound financial investment for the next five years.

This extends to some other ancillary products as well. Sealed products like Duel Decks or From the Vaults have done extraordinarily well in the last few years, and I don’t see why this trend wouldn’t continue. Something as mundane as Poison Counters or full-art cards are also worth keeping stashed away.

What if I’m Wrong?

Maybe you’re the exception. You’re forced to quit, and you never come back. After all, whatever is happening in your life to make you leave is a big deal, and you’re probably never playing a children’s card game again anyway.

Well, the worst-case scenario is your left with a box hidden away in your garage for your wife or children to expose and use to laugh at you in a decade. And if listening to my advice will help your family create a memory like that, I’m happy to help.

Thanks for reading,
Corbin Hosler
@Chosler88 on Twitter

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