Insider: 6 Tips for Maximizing Value from Bulk

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I've been asked several times over the past few weeks how I go about selling my bulk Magic cards. What is my strategy? How do I get maximum value? Where do I sell it? Basically, what I do with that inevitable mountain of nonsense Magic cards that take up space and create clutter in the home.

There is a lot of upside to managing and selling those draft scraps and leftovers from opening boxes. On the one hand, the overall value per card is very low, and the process feels tedious. It's not like taking five dual lands to a dealer and walking away with several hundred dollars.

However, there is money to be made. The key is to make it into a routine that takes up as little time and effort as possible. When you are getting less than a cent a card, efficiency is everything.

Today I'd like to walk you through my general strategy for managing and selling bulk Magic cards. It has served me well over the years to make some walking-around cash, and saved me time in the process.

1. Have a Set Space for Your Magic Collection

Are you one of those players who has Magic cards everywhere in their home? I've been there and it is not ideal. Stacks upon stacks of nonsense cards on countertops and shelves. I'm not judging. As I said, been there and done that, but it's kind of embarrassing to have all that clutter lying around the home sometimes.

I hate clutter. I'm a minimalist in a lot of ways. I don't enjoy having lots of extra stuff taking up space in the home. I realized that cards were kind of a problem many years ago and I devised a strategy to get it under control.

First, I set aside a space to store my collection. It is a large wooded cabinet that lives in my room. The cabinet has two large drawers that each hold two binders. It also has two large cabs that hold three 5,000-count long boxes with some extra space on the sides for deckboxes.

The cabinet easily stores 50,000 Magic cards, which feels like an acceptable amount for me. You'll have to use your own judgment to assess how many you want to own at any given time. The key for me is that it stores them and keeps them out of sight, and it feels like a reasonable amount of space for what I want to own.

The cabinet is my actual collection—the cards I intend to own and hold onto. As for bulk, I have a shelf in my closet that holds five 1,000-count white storage boxes. When these become full, I sell them to make room for more bulk.

When I don't have room for more cards in my "collection cabinet," I sell some or move some cards to bulk to make room. When I don't have room for more bulk, I sell bulk. Easy-peasy.

The key here is that I'm organized in a way that allows me to know what I have and get rid of what I don't have space for. It works for me—hopefully, it will work for you too.

2. Not All Bulk Is Created Equal

As a man who has spent a ton of time hanging out and working at game stores, I can assure you that not all bulk is equal—despite the fact that a store pays the same on all of it.

I'm very picky about what I sell as bulk and I tend to hold onto a lot of cards (hence room for 50,000 cards) in the cabinet. If a card has any kind of potential I save it. You don't get a bonus for putting above-average commons or uncommons into your bulk and so I don't sell them as bulk.

I encourage you to be picky. Most players and collectors are not going through hundreds of thousands of cards in a few months. Spend a little bit of time with your bulk to make sure you are not missing anything.

When I take apart my draft decks or crack a box I go through the cards before I put them away. I'll pull out any cards that I think have potential or are already decent, and stick these into one of the boxes in the cabinet.

Most of my actual collection is stored in my four binders. These are the cards that I actually play with and build decks from. I have space to store 50,000 above-average cards and I take full advantage of that.

When I sell bulk, it is the crappiest bulk you've ever seen. It is legit bulk. I've pilfered anything playable or possibly playable from the herd. I recommend you do that as well. You don't get paid extra for above-average bulk.

3. Pull Out Cards with Potential

Step #3 takes some expertise and understanding of how Magic works, but it isn't hard.

Just because a card isn't "good" or "expensive" right now doesn't mean that it never will be. Look at Mishra's Bauble, Countersquall, or Rise // Fall. These were cards that had no value and then suddenly had significant value. If you bulked them out at some point, I assume you were sad when you had to buy them back for more than you got for selling all the bulk in the first place!

Here are the questions to ask:

  1. Is the card unique?
  2. Is the card interesting?
  3. Is the card powerful in the abstract?
  4. Is the card the best version of this effect in this color?

The questions all try to get to the heart of one simple idea: could the stars align so that people would ever actually play with the card?

In the case of a card like Countersquall, the answer is pretty obviously yes. It is a good card? People played it in the past. We can expect that to happen again, eventually, in some format.

Formats change. Cards get reprinted and reintroduced into Standard. If you are in it for the long haul like I am, you want to capitalize on these kinds of margins over time. That's why I don't bulk out these kinds of cards.

Dark Depths was a bulk rare, until it wasn't—which is why I put an emphasis on "unique" cards. You never know when they will print some enabler.

4. Bulk Rares and Bulk Foils

My cabinet has a dedicated row for bulk rares and another for bulk foils. I use the same rules for bulk rares and foils as regular bulk. If it has potential I don't consider it to be "truly" bulk.

Also, keep in mind that most places typically pay at least $0.10 on foil lands; so I have a row for those as well.

When the row of bulk rares or foils fills up (which is about 1,000 cards), I sell them. First I give them one last run-through to make sure I didn't miss something or that anything has spiked.

Fill up the row and flip, for an easy $100 on rares or $50 on foil commons.

Keep in mind that most places don't offer a trade bonus on bulk cards, which is fine because cash is great. I love topping off the 1,000 bulk foils or rares because it gives me a nice amount of walking-around money to pay for a few nice meals on a tournament weekend after I sell them. It's like you stick a longbox in your backpack and get to eat for free the whole time! Not to mention, you are getting rid of clutter that was stacking up in your collection.

5. Where to Sell My Bulk?

Most of the major online retailers advertise that they buy various bulk Magic items. Typically, the buy price looks something like this:

  • Between $2-3 on bulk commons and uncommons.
  • Between $0.10-$0.15 on bulk rares.
  • Between $0.03-$0.10 on bulk foils.
  • Between $0.25-$0.30 on bulk foil rares.

That is the baseline market price that a person can sell bulk to a retailer for. The market fluctuates but these numbers are pretty par for the course.

Typically, here is how I sell my bulk. When I've got a bunch of junk built up that I want to get rid of, I will call the local game stores in my area and ask if they are buying bulk. I'll tell them that I was looking online and see that a particular store is advertising a set price at which they are buying bulk and ask if they will match.

If they do, or get close enough that it is convenient enough to be worth it, great. If not, I move on to phase two.

I like to sell about 16,000-20,000 cards at a time. It's enough cards that you feel like you've made some walking-around cash ($20-$30). But not so many cards that it's ridiculously inconvenient to transport them. I can easily fit four or five 4,000-count boxes in the back seat of my car.

Also, and perhaps most importantly, it isn't ridiculously inconvenient for the buyer either. Stores are not always thrilled about spending hundreds of dollars on things with super slow return, which take up massive square footage of storage and which require hours upon hours of labor to process. Four or five long boxes is pushing it, but ideal for both sides.

6. Bulking Out at GPs or Opens

Maybe selling it to a LGS is not an option for you. Maybe you don't have one that is buying bulk. Maybe the buyer is giving you the run-around and won't come close to matching Star City Games of Channel Fireball. Don't worry—you've got options.

You can ship your cards to these online retailers but you'll cost yourself an arm and a leg in shipping and end up getting much less in the end. Not ideal.

The best option is to take your cards to the Grand Prix or Open and sell them. However, you run the risk of transporting a ton of cards only to find no one who wants them. Here is the strategy:

Send an email to one of the large retailers who will be on site. Tell them what you have and ask if they will buy it on site. Typically, they say yes (as long as you are sticking within the range of 12-20k cards). Its pretty reasonable for them to make or save room if they know it is coming.

They agree. You bring the cards. Done deal.

Another little pro tip: once you have your cards at the GP, you can actually ask other dealers if they want them for a slightly higher price. You can say, "I brought these to sell to SCG for $30. Do you want them for $32?" Maybe they say yes.

That Extra Bit of Value...

That's my entire bulk strategy in a nutshell. Does selling bulk suck? Yes. It is a pain in the butt. Bulk is heavy. Bulk takes up a ton of space. The good news is that when you sell it, it isn't cluttering up your home anymore! Wowie.

The key is to conserve the better cards and never bulk them out, because you'll regret it if and when they ever spike. Pilfer that bulk before you sell it. Be confident that there is nothing with any potential left when you sell it off. Also, don't be afraid to try and go for a little extra value or convenience when you sell. Try the local stores. If they don't want it, arrange to sell it at a convention or tournament.

I assume that if you have a membership here on QS that you are like me—you want that little extra value. I'm willing to put in that little bit of extra effort and organization because I know in the long run there is some free money to be made. It isn't hard. It doesn't need to take up too much time. If you work smart (not hard), you can turn those unwanted mountains of bulk clutter into crisp green dollar bills.

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