We all have them. The sore thumb of our collections. The unwanted, undervalued cards that are impossible to move. I’m talking, of course, about heavily played and damaged cards.
These can take all sorts of forms: inked cards, signed cards, altered cards, creased cards, water-damaged cards, and good old heavily worn cards from years of sleeveless play. They all have two things in common: they are worth far less than their near-mint counterparts and they are often exceptionally difficult to move. One glance at some of the cheap Alpha/Beta cards on TCGPlayer indicates how hard it can be to move an HP or damaged card.
Take a look at the numbers above: the “Market Price” for Beta Swords to Plowshares is nearing $200, yet copies can still be purchased at half that price…as long as you are okay with “Damaged” or “Heavily Played” copies. This is one of many examples where HP and Damaged cards can’t even sell at half the market price—put simply, no one wants them.
If you’re like me, you have a bunch of these HP cards sitting in your collections. As a collector of Old School cards—classics from the game’s infant years—I have numerous cards that fall into this category. At the time of purchase, they seemed like slam-dunk buys because they enabled me to build fun ‘93/’94 decks on the cheap. But as my decks evolve and cards get bumped out of the deck box and into the trade binder, more and more of these HP cards begin their rotting existence.
Because of these experiences, I’ve come up with a few viable ways of actually moving said played cards. And believe it or not, I’ve even had some level of success! Even better, there are multiple outlets for these heavily played cards. Take advantage of the various outlets and you can magnify chances of getting cash for your clunkers. As long as you’re willing to take fair prices as compared to TCGPlayer’s HP / Damaged copies, you could still be in luck!
Option 1: eBay
TCGPlayer is working on a feature that could end up being a game-changer for selling high-end and heavily played Magic cards. But until this feature is available, eBay remains the best place to sell such cards. Of course the feature I’m describing is the card photo. By allowing sellers on eBay to upload pictures of the actual item for sale, it allows buyers to scrutinize card condition closely before making the decision to buy. No horror stories. No negative surprises. What you see is what you get.
But eBay offers more than just the ability to upload photos. It also allows you to place details about the card condition in multiple places: the title, the “Item condition” field, and the general description field for the item for sale. The example above is a Beta Sol Ring that sold at $80 despite being played and inked—normally something like this would be poison to a collection, but this seller was able to ship their card despite the major defects.
There are a couple Beta Sol Rings on TCGPlayer in the $90 range. Granted it’s $10 more than this one sold for, but with a generic “Heavily Played” description it’s impossible to know what you’ll get. You could contact the seller, but this requires research to locate an email address, not to mention a responsive seller. Similar sites like Card Shark have a field for comments, but it is underutilized. Thus eBay is often a go-to spot for people looking for the cheapest copies of an older card they can find.
Option 2: Buylists
Depending on the defects on the card and the going price, there are two vendors I typically buylist my heavily played cards to. As long as the wear is your typical heavy surface and edge whitening—perhaps with a little bit of creasing—you can access a couple very attractive outs.
First, consider ABU Games’ buylist. They only have two conditions to select from when shipping them cards: Near Mint and Played. They do have a condition guide to showcase what qualifies for each of these, but let’s face it—when you have only two buckets to pick from, the acceptable ranges for each will be very broad.
Consider two cards presented below, both for sale from ABU Games. Both are Savannahs from Unlimited. Both are listed as “Played” with a price tag of $159.99.
See what I mean by broad range? Both of these cards were buylisted to ABU Games for the same amount (assuming they didn’t adjust their pricing in between). Both deemed the same condition. If you had the second Savannah, you’d have to list it as HP on TCGPlayer and you’d likely take forever to sell the card. You may even have to go as far as damaged or you’d risk negative feedback from an upset buyer. It’s much easier to go the ABU Games route in this case.
The other buylist I like to use for really played cards (again, no inking or water damage) is Card Kingdom—but only for narrow cases. Usually I like to sell Card Kingdom played cards that are at least $25 for Near Mint on their buylist.
Why? Because if this is the case, then the downgrade percentage for played conditions is not as severe. When the card is worth over $100 the percentages get even more attractive. Just make sure you don’t ship them ABU cards—played cards from these sets get unique (much lower) downgrade percentages. But on stuff like Arabian Nights and Legends, you’re in the clear.
Did you manage to grab a Drop of Honey from TCGPlayer, only to find out it was more played than you had hoped? According to Card Kingdom’s grading guide, cards that look like the image below qualify as “Good.” With CK currently paying $210 on NM Drops, they’ll pay you $147 on heavily played copies (again, no inking or major damage).
Sometimes I like to request trade credit when shipping cards to CK that I know will be graded as “Good” so I can get that 30% trade-in bonus. In the case of Drop of Honey, that would equate to $191.10 in store credit. You can use this credit to pick up other cards…even cards in much nicer condition! This is a great way to rid of your HP cards quickly and without hassle.
Other vendors may also offer attractive buy prices on HP cards, but ABU Games and Card Kingdom are my go-to places. Star City Games tends to drop off drastically with their buy pricing on played older cards. Same with Channel Fireball. Other stores don’t even want these HP cards through mail-in buylisting. It’s probably just as hard for them to move these cards as it is for you, especially if TCGPlayer / Crystal Commerce is their primary outlet.
Option 3: Peer to Peer Selling
The most obvious option is to sell cards directly to other players. Whether selling through Facebook, Twitter, or another peer-to-peer channel, these sites offer ultimate flexibility in providing pictures and details on a card’s condition. If you’ve got something particularly rare, you will likely be able to move your cards on one of these sites as long as you’ve priced competitively. Typically this means 5-10% below TCG Low, but this can vary depending on the card.
You could start with the High End Facebook group if you’re selling cards worth over $50. If not, your best bet is probably Twitter. Try networking with people who have similar interests to develop a reasonable following. Asking for retweets to “signal boost” is also common. This will expand your reach. Casting a wider net means it will be more likely you sell your HP and Damaged cards.
Just make sure you take very good pictures and are 100% transparent on card condition, and you may get lucky. I guarantee there are others out there who don’t care about a card’s condition as long as it’s sleeve-playable.
My only watch-out here is that sometimes it’s difficult to move cards that recently spiked through this channel. There have been a few people trying to sell Drop of Honeys on the High End Facebook group at the new “price.” These sellers quickly get called out for being ridiculous for charging too much. Stick with more stable cards and you won’t have this issue.
Wrapping It Up
Things will definitely change once TCGPlayer adds picture capability for sellers. But until this is available, it can be quite difficult to sell heavily played and damaged cards through normal means. I’ve seen damaged cards ranging from heavy wear to water-damaged and torn. This range of possibilities is so wide that it discourages buyers from pulling the trigger.
But there is demand for these played cards. Many players want to use high-end cards in their decks while remaining on a budget. Older cards especially have huge price differentials between near mint and heavily played copies. But finding these potential buyers can be a challenge, and it’s not uncommon for HP and damaged cards to sit in inventory longer than we’d like.
I provided a few options worth your consideration. eBay is a logical choice because pictures and details can be readily provided. But a couple vendors offer such good buylists on played cards that it may be worth shipping directly to them to circumvent the time-consuming process of taking pictures and listing out condition details. ABU Games and Card Kingdom are my go-to sites for selling played, older cards.
Lastly, if you want to avoid fees and you don’t like pricing offered by major vendors, you can always resort to Facebook and Twitter. A strong network of players who share similar interests will augment the likelihood you sell your HP and damaged cards. There are enough players out there who don’t care how beat their cards are as long as they’re tournament-legal. Sometimes it just takes a little extra effort to find them!
- It would appear that Masterpiece Chromatic Lanterns were largely bought out over the weekend. Members of the QS Discord chat alerted me to this and I managed to grab SCG’s last copy at $59.99. A bit more than I would have liked to pay, but cheaper than any other copies I could find. We’ll have to wait and see what these get restocked at, but I suspect it’ll be at least $10 higher with much more potential for upside in the medium-term timeframe.
- I’ve been watching all week and I haven’t seen Star City Games restock any Revised or Unlimited Underground Seas. They remain “out of stock” with a $399.99 and $699.99 price tag, respectively. I’m not sure what’s going on here. I highly doubt they’re truly sold out, but I don’t know why they’re holding back from listing copies for sale. It made sense last week because they probably had inventory pulled for GP Las Vegas. Maybe they kept inventory out for the Invitational that happened last weekend? Maybe they’re planning to take pictures to add to their site like they did with Power? We’ll have to wait and see!
- After MTG speculators bought out Atraxa, Praetors' Voice, the price quickly jumped from the low teens to $25. Now I see Star City Games has 39 SP copies in stock (but no near mint, which is odd) at $22.99. This tells me the supply/demand profile for this card reached its new equilibrium and the price isn’t likely to move again in the near future.