Unlocked: Why You Should Be Selling More Cards

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.

In MTG Finance and collecting in general, there are really only a handful of meaningful options that one can exercise at any given time:

  • You can buy an item(s).
  • You can trade an item(s) for other item(s).
  • You can hold onto an item(s) you believe will be more valuable at a later date.
  • You can sell an item.

Today's article is about the last action on the list, selling an item, and why the average collector should be more diligent about utilizing this option more often.

But Selling is a Hassle...

Let's cut to the chase. Selling cards is by far the least fun, most difficult, and most tedious of the possible things one can do with one's cards. If you consider the other options – keeping all of one's cards, buying new cards, or trading cards – the prospect of going online and actually selling cards is the one that most feels like work.

Plainly stated, the reason it feels like work is that it is work. With that being said, the work of selling cards isn't actually that difficult, it just takes a little bit of time, energy and effort.

There are plenty of fantastic resources that exists to sell cards in our modern, internet-driven world. eEBay, social media and large online marketplaces are all tools available for turning cards into cash.

The number-one reason I believe that players don't sell as frequently as they should revolves around the inconvenience and investment of time and energy that goes into the process: listing items, processing sales and mailing items.

To be fair, players sell cards all the time. Go to any Grand Prix and observe the endless lines of players at retail booths waiting to sell their cards to vendors. Keep in mind, these players are waiting to sell their cards for roughly half of what they could have gotten if they had done it themselves from home.

If that analogy doesn't make it clear that a relationship between "hassle and convenience" is in play, I don't know what does!

Cash Is So Much More Useful Than Cards

You can't sleeve up $100 dollars bills and play, right? Wrong. Cash is whatever you want it to be whenever you need it to be something (in most cases).

There is clearly a difference between random cards one owns and the cards they have pinpointed as investments. I'd much rather have the Beta Power 9 I bought eight years ago than the money I spent on them in my bank account. Yet for every great investment of funds, there are probably ten cards I own that I missed the window to sell on.

And honestly, most of these missed opportunities have more to do with being lazy and not feeling like listing the card, as opposed to not understanding when was a good time to get out of the card. I think this is especially true of Standard and Modern cards. In a world where reprints influence and dominate what happens in the marketplace, there are not a ton of good reasons to be holding onto these types of cards indefinitely. I'm not advising you to liquidate your entire collection. Obviously, it makes sense to own the cards you frequently, or are likely, to play with.

However, cards that you don't really play with that you are not very likely to play with in the future, really are prime cards to ship out while they still have the semblance of value.

I've been going back through my "cards I want to play" binders for Modern lately and being realistic about whether or not cards I "own" are things that I'd ever play with again. I mean, how likely am I to ever play Elspeth, Knight-Errant ever again? Probably zero percent, since better cards exist now. Why not sell it now while it has some value, as opposed to waiting until it gets reprinted another time and has no value?

Justify the Effort

The biggest way that players justify not spending the time to actually list and sell their own cards directly to the consumer is that it simply takes up too much time. The key is to justify why it is worth time.

Imagine the next time you sell a big stack of cards at a dealer booth. Say you sell about 100 cards and get $250 cash at the booth. Now imagine that, if you had simply spent a couple of hours listing and selling those cards, you would have come away with closer to $500.

Maybe you are a CEO of a Fortune 500 company and your time is worth more than that, but that seems unlikely since you waited in line to sell cards to a dealer. The hourly rate of selling cards online rather than to buylists can be very much worth the effort. The other key is that you can do it in your free time when you'd basically have nothing else to do; it's a great way to turn downtime into additional value.

Personally, I like to sit down and list a few items while I'm on the couch watching Netflix in the evening. I take a playmat and set it on the coffee table and snap a few pictures of the cards I'm looking to sell on my phone. Then I simply upload those pictures to whatever profile I'm selling from. It barely even disrupts my viewing and when done even a couple of times a week creates tons of possible sales.

I also understand that running back and forth to the post office is a hassle. Simply include in your seller profile or description that you take all items to the post office on Tuesdays, and so no matter when the item is purchased that it will ship the following Tuesday. Tuesday morning rolls around and I simply package up everything that sold that week, put it into envelopes, and ship it. Easy earned money.

Selling cards in the retail marketplace is one of the most important ways to make money from investing in Magic. In these articles, when I discuss "selling into a spike," this is exactly what I'm talking about. When I draft some stupid new planeswalker that is selling for $30, I want to get that money and reinvest it into Old School Cards.

Sure, it's nice to try and trade bloated Standard cards for sweet Arabian Nights cards, but realistically, who is going to make this trade with you? It's not like there are tons of random players walking around with Reserved List cards saying, "Will somebody please take these off my hands!? I'm looking for Standard cards that are 100-percent to be worth nothing in three months."

You could sell these cards to dealers and take a small trade bonus and put that credit toward sweet investment cards. If that is the case? Why not just sell them yourself, get a bigger return, and then shop the entire internet for the best price on the card you actually want (rather than paying top dollar from an on-site dealer).

QS is a finance website, so I understand many of the readers are probably pretty adept at doing this. However, if you are not doing this and looking for a way to up your collecting game, I think that being more proactive at actually selling cards at the right times is an absolute must!

How do you streamline your selling processes to minimize time spent? How do you maximize your profits? Share in the comments below.

9 thoughts on “Unlocked: Why You Should Be Selling More Cards

  1. As a collector I want to own a card eventually, so selling a card from my collection means I must re-acquire it in the future. I am aware that I could get value out of cards by selling them at a peak and buying them again when they hit a low, however, the process of buying and selling isn’t easy enough, making this a big hazzle for in most cases a low gain. I rather optimize on buying low and don’t worry about selling and buying again in the future.

    Obviously if someone would offer me significantly more than it would take to rebuy a card I’m selling and rebuying, however there is little chance of that happening.

    1. Hey Pi! Absolutely, agree with you. I don’t know if you had a chance to read it, but a month ago I wrote an article about the difference between cards people acquire to “rent” vs cards they acquire to “own.” I’m certainly not saying that people should just flip everything all the time. What I’m suggesting is that upping one’s game and being more proactive about selling those “rental” cards, more frequently and adeptly is pretty big when it comes to getting maximum value out of a collection. I do a similar thing to you, where I have my “collection,” and it is all of the cards I think I’m likely to realistically play with, and cards that I want to own as long term investments (old school and my Old School and Regular Battle Box). I don’t sell these cards, even if it looks like a good deal, because I don’t want to deal with the hassel of having to reacquire down the road. The overall idea behind the article is that being more proactive about finding ways to get value out of the cards that you are only “renting” will give you more money to work with to acquire better cards, or at least, not lose value on cards that are likely to shed value (standard and modern cards).

  2. I struggle with only listing a few cards on FB groups, I want to list certain groups (ex: cards value $10+, standard) which make up hundreds of cards. This usually takes forever as FB pretty much has no formatting and assigning recent prices can take a bit. This often discourages me from posting often and I also find that I tend to let some posts stay open as there will still be cards I am looking to get rid of.

    I have definitely been striving to get better at distributing my sales throughout the different services available.

    1. Being lazy about upping my FB sell / trade game is something that I’ve been too bad about in the past. Most of my selling is via eBay, but it’s something I’d like to do more of in the future. I have been a lot better about not taking the easy path and selling to vendors at GP. For the convenience of not having to do busy work, there is a lot of value lost. For me, I think the key is making sure to be consistent over time. Even if you only list a few things every day that really stacks up over the course of a year. Rather than listing a zillion things at once and doing nothing for two months, I’m trying to be better about getting a few things done every day. Making time in my schedule to do a few postings while I’m watching netflix or whatever. Either way, best of luck. Hopefully I’ll see you around some of these FB groups in the future!

    2. I’ve really been enjoying online buylists for this reason, you can move any and everything, with the ability to compare prices among many websites, and with no time wasted in lines, and no time waiting for sales, so you can lock in prices. As long as you’re willing to “sell” your cards for cards as opposed to cash, trade-in bonuses means youre taking less of a cut, especially if you’re savvy and use your credit to buy cards underpriced relative to other cards on the website.

  3. Brian great article! Choosing not to do something is choosing to do something, and I shudder thinking back at all the opportunities I had to sell a card at a high value but chose not to and let it dwindle to a fraction of the value.

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.