menu

Insider: The Hidden Treasures of Picking Bulk

Are you a Quiet Speculation member?

If not, now is a perfect time to join up! Our powerful tools, breaking-news analysis, and exclusive Discord channel will make sure you stay up to date and ahead of the curve.

I have never quite got the hang of keeping my cards well organized, much to my detriment in the finance game. I’ve definitely made strides over the years, but I just got a blast from the past when I went through an old box of cards that I had written off as bulk years ago. The box contained a lot more than I bargained for in more ways than one.

The box was not the standard cardboard long box of cards you’re picturing, but an old copy paper box overflowing with a tangled mass of what I estimate to be around 6,000 cards, many warped from bearing the load of a shoebox full of cards that also sat in the box. The box was at one time designated as the dumpster of my collection, as I have always been something of a Magic Pack Rat, and would never be one to outright throw away cards.


The box that sat before me was the result of years of accumulation of cards I had deemed near-worthless, mostly the de-rared corpses of Limited decks, many stamped from premier-event drafts. I started putting cards in this box during college and brought it with me through multiple moves, and then it was stored and forgotten. I eventually added some picked bulk to the stack, and actually intended to give it away to friend of a friend who had recently gotten hooked on Magic, but we never linked up and the cards remained sitting in the basement.

At some point I made a concerted effort to go through all of my cards in an attempt to organize them and extract the value from the bulk. The box of cards in question sat at the bottom of the totem pole as the last priority, because they were cards that offered little promise of value for the time I was putting in. But I also knew that they were worth going through because I had some memory and familiarity with the contents, and knew it had a lot of cards from some of the juiciest sets in Modern, and I expected to find a few Lantern of Insight and other cards, which were pure bulk when I last went through it but valuable now.


I eventually brought the cards upstairs to sort and process after I was done with the rest of my cards, but they sat for over a year – until last week, when I finally had enough of them sitting next to my desk and taking up space. Going through the box was not something I was looking forward to, and I saw it as sort of the ultimate Magic chore, which explains why it sat for so long.

Physically, it was challenging, as the cards were very mixed up, not sitting in nice organized rows, but all twisted randomly, so I had to grab big chunks of cards and then set out straightening them. They were a mix of up and down, backwards and forwards, and it would have been very time consuming to put them all in the same direction, but I definitely paid back time by having to constantly flip cards around to see the other side when I was picking them.

I knew that to get full value from the cards I’d have to run them through the Ion Scanner, which squeezed a ton of value from my bulk when I sorted my cards last year, but I also wasn’t ready to tackle that job, so I saw going through the cards as a way to clean up the pile into neat stacks I could put into long boxes, and a rough check to pull out the obvious money cards that would make up most of the value inside.


The first surprise hit me fast, not long into my first day of grinding through the box. I discovered an Ice Age Brainstorm, signed by Christopher Rush, that was the missing fourth copy in my Legacy playset. At one point I used all four copies, but the fourth went missing, and when it failed to turn up I had to relegate the three copies to my cardpool of playables and replace them with normal versions, lest I accidentally give away any information in a tournament with mis-matched copies. I was thrilled to find it, but I felt a different mix of emotions because I was acutely aware that the card was a lot more meaningful now – Christopher Rush passed away last year, so I had found a card that was truly irreplaceable. Between that moment and the small joy of being able to play with my signed set again, it gave meaning to the experience and singlehandedly made going through the cards worth it.

The box was also yielding a surprising amount of fruit, like a pair of Devoted Druids, and other Shadowmoor value like Cursecatcher and Manamorphose.


On the second day of going through the box, I was pleased when I found Reki, the History of Kamigawa, a perfect example of a rare that recently spiked, which was more interesting because I was discovering that the box was something of my own history. Then I found the Scapeshift, a $50 bill staring me right in the face, and I was suddenly eager to find out what else laid in this treasure chest.


I ended up finding plenty of value, like more full sets Devoted Druids, and Expedition Maps, a copy each of Ghostly Prison, Crumbling Ashes, and Lava Spike, and a slew of playable Modern commons. I did end up finding the Lantern of Insights I expected to find, a pair.

I even found this beauty just in time for Unstable:

I also found quite a number of useful tokens, including more than a dozen Faerie Rogue tokens that must have used with Bitterblossom, worth almost $1, and a pair of Player Rewards Spirit tokens worth $7.

The box also contained a ton of Pro Player Cards, which were contained in starter decks, and I hold onto for posterity and because I personally know many of the players. What hit me harder than finding the Brainstorm was finding the card of Gadiel Szleifer, the larger-than-life Magic genius, the news of whose sudden passing at the end of the summer shocked the community of his friends and led to an outpouring of stories about him that made it clear just how important he was to people. There are old sayings about you are the company you keep, and old Magic wisdom about the best way to improve your game is to play with people better than you. He definitely made the people around him better players, but more importantly, better in life. He inspired his friends and onlookers, and I’m keeping the card displayed as a reminder to life life to the fullest.

What’s your story of finding Magic treasure where you least expected it?

–Adam

 

Join the conversation

Want Prices?

Browse thousands of prices with the first and most comprehensive MTG Finance tool around.


Trader Tools lists both buylist and retail prices for every MTG card, going back a decade.