Let’s begin with this.
Oh, and don’t forget all the cards, boxes and binders floating around in my car.
Is your collection anything like mine? If I had to guess, I’d say many of us are in the same boat (and I’ve seen some far worse). There’s nothing like hearing about the Sol Ring someone just found under their seat or the Survival of the Fittest that got destroyed under someone’s feet.
Ever wonder why card prices go up over time? Part of it, of course, is increased demand. The Fetchlands, of which I gathered 60 when they were $8-10 (had to get my #humblebrags in), are seeing a big increase in demand right now, and the prices are rising accordingly.
But that’s not the only reason prices go up. The other is issues on the supply side of things. Cards get lost. They get destroyed, they get washed with the clothes or someone has to eat one on a bet. No matter how it’s done, the fact is supply becomes smaller and smaller as more are destroyed.
So what does this have to do with the photos above?
One of the ways cards get “lost” is because they get thrown into boxes and disappear in closets, just like mine. Don’t let the flash from the camera fool you. It’s a dark and dusty corner in the back of the house.
And I bet some of you have the same problem.
Most people take near-pristine care of their valuable cards and their binders. This is where the bulk of the value in your collection comes from, so it makes sense. But it’s not the only place you have value. Your collection of “bulk,” or basically all the commons and uncommons you’ve forgotten about over the years, holds a lot of value. This is one of the reasons why buying and flipping collections is so profitable.
But chances are you’re going to have a really hard time getting any of that “value” out of your collection, if you’ve got it sitting in boxes and closets like I do.
There is a better way.
If you want to get the most of your collection, the first step is most certainly the hardest. You need to go through everything.
When I first started playing, I made a separate box for lands and “notable uncommons.” This included stuff like Rhox War Monk, Woolly Thoctar and Agony Warp. At this point I was just building casual decks, so having these uncommons on hand was nice. While this was good for deckbuilding, it doesn’t exactly cut it for value. The only “system” I had was putting cards from a particular set into a box of the same set, with many exceptions and misplaced cards along the way.
A few years later, once I realized how much potential money I had stashed away, I made the hardest step of all. I went through everything again. I probably have a modest box collection compared to some of you out there, but this was still a big step. As a Magic finance novice, I pulled out everything I thought might be worth money and made a stack of it. Many painstaking hours of checking later I had a pile worth some money, and I either added those cards to my binder or sold them. Then I just threw everything back in the boxes. (Spoiler alert: this was a mistake.)
Of course, times change and so do the cards worth money. Following my own suggestion about how to excel in the “dead zone” of Magic finance, I cleaned out my collection one more time, this go-around with a much better idea of what to pick. I cleaned the boxes dry, and now everything left is true bulk and will likely be sold that way before too long.
If you’re in the situation I was in, I have a few tips for when you take this first step:
- If in doubt, pick it. It’s better to have too many cards to check later than to miss something. Not picking a dozen copies of what turns out to be a $1-$2 card will hurt later.
- Before you start, check out a good buylist to figure out what common and uncommon cards are worth keeping an eye out for.
- Look for tribal anything. Insane prices are attributed to things like Elvish Promenade simply because people love tribal. You’ll find the same for things like Zombies and Slivers.
- Grab every “Lord.” Things like Daru Warchief are worth not-insignificant amounts of money because people love making theme decks, whether it’s tribal or class-based, and pumping all their creatures.
- After you’ve got a pile, use a buylist aggregator like Bidwicket.com or Magictgbuylist.com/ to figure out what’s worth money and what isn’t. You can then either sell online or take the cards to an event to sell.
Keeping it organized
Now you need to take the next step, which is where I failed. Chances are you’re a player of this game, too, and may find yourself in need of cards. If not, feel free to bulk out the rest so it’s not taking up space. But if you want to have access to these cards in the future, you’re going to need to take a difficult next step.
First, sort by set. You can do this while you’re also picking out money cards, but you need a sorting system. I would suggest making a commons pile for every set, as well as an uncommons pile (and rares, if you keep them with everything else). This is going to take a lot of space and time, but I promise this is the hardest part, and you only need to do it once.
Next, tackle it set-by-set and alphabetize. This is going to suck, and it’s not going to be quick. But it’s a heck of a lot better than digging through 1,000 cards a few years down the road to search for a particular card. And remember, if you don’t want to sort by C/U/R, you can just sort by set and alphabetize from there.
Alphabetize by set at whatever level you’re comfortable with. Maybe you have so few cards from some sets you don’t even need to alphabetize; at least put multiples of the same card together. But if you have a ton of cards, at least getting them in A-Z order (even if it’s not perfect) is going to save you a TON of time down the road.
Next, get rid of those stupid boxes I had. Get some good 5,000-count boxes and a divider to place between sets, then put those sets into the box in chronological order.
That’s it. You’re good to go. It’s not going to feel great while you’re doing it, but when you finish and/or when you need to find a card in a year, it’s going to take you seconds instead of hours. It won’t take many instances of this for you to make your time back.
And sorting only gets easier from here. Now when you get new cards into your collection, whether from acquiring older cards or buying new sets, you already have an inventory system set up. And that makes all the difference. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched people with a ton of cards sort them for hours to find the final cards for a deck, and then just dump everything back into boxes when they’re done. That’s setting themselves up for the same painful song and dance a few months down the road.
Don’t be like everyone else. Be the 1 percent here, and do it right. A little sacrifice now will almost always pay off in the end, and managing your Magic collection is no different.
Thanks for reading,
@Chosler88 on Twitter
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