Misprints, Signatures, and Crimps

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It’s been a while since I purchased an assortment of cards with the intent of selling them individually and grind a profit. It’s also been a while since I dealt in foreign cards. And I’ve never dealt in printing errors and crimps before.

Yet in a world where everyone is staying home most of the time, I saw a recent eBay listing from Card Kingdom that tempted me to roll the dice.

I tweeted this link to the masses, half expecting someone else to jump on the deal. It was Michael Caffrey’s tweet that finally convinced me to pull the trigger.

I had the time to piece this lot out. Being stuck at home, even a modest profit would still be worthwhile. Besides, the Old School player in me noticed that crimped Flying Men. Card Kingdom’s asking price was $275; I offered $252.52 and they accepted minutes before the offer expired. After tax, my cost was $270.20, not accounting for eBay bucks.

The Contents

A few days later the cards arrived. Within this lot was an assortment of crimped, misprint, signed, foreign, and damaged cards—some were even foil! It was a really cool collection and for just a brief moment, I considered keeping the lot for use in Commander. But I reminded myself that this was a quest for profit, so I started sorting out the cards.

The eBay listing contains photos of all the cards in this lot. Here are a few highlights:

Now I was faced with a couple key questions. First, where could I sell such an interesting assortment of cards? And second, how much should I ask for? It was time for some education!

What Exactly is a Crimped Card Worth?

When I started posting these cards for sale, fellow Quiet Speculation contributor Malcolm Moss (TPBlaster in Discord) told me about the misprint Facebook groups where I could post these. There are groups for minor and major misprints, as well as a group for signed cards. I clicked to join all three and was quickly granted access.

I posted pictures of my wares and started getting PMs within minutes. The crimps were especially popular, and I was surprised that even cards with only modest playability still had demand! The other thing that surprised me was the nearly-zero overlap in what buyers wanted. It may have been luck or just plain coincidence. But it seemed like every new PM inquired about a different card, enabling me to sell more than I anticipated.

This makes it sound like selling crimps and misprints is easy, and that’s only partially true. Finding interested buyers in quality crimps and misprints is easy. Providing prices without leaving a ton of money on the table is a whole different ballgame. This is where I required the most education because I had never dealt in these cards before. You can’t just search for “crimped Rattlechains” on eBay and browse completed listings for pricing. These are often one-in-a-million cards, and pricing really depends on what someone is willing to pay.

Luckily, one of the interested parties on Facebook provided me with some coaching. He instructed me that any playable (the term is used loosely here) misprint or crimped card should go for at least a few bucks, and as much as $10. If anyone offered less, they were looking for a steal. I applied this rule of thumb, but I didn’t receive many offers that were blatantly poor. In the one or two cases where offers were low, I provided a counter-offer and we found a middle ground.

Selling the Signed Cards

Similar to the crimped and misprint cards, selling the signed cards wasn’t very difficult but pricing was a challenge. Again, I was amazed at the diversity in what folks were inquiring about; it seemed like every PM I received was about a new card, enabling me to sell through this lot fairly quickly.

Pricing, however, was once again a challenge. I could readily look up what a Ertai, Wizard Adept sells for. But does a signed copy merit any premium? I know a couple artists’ signatures fetch a premium, but what about some of these modern-day Magic artists? Are their signatures worth any premium? How about the “shadow signatures” on a couple of these cards?

These were all questions I set out to answer.

In the end, I came up with a simple rule of thumb. Assuming the signature wasn’t particularly rare (more on this in a moment), I took the base value of the card and added a couple bucks for the signature. I figured a small premium was merited here—otherwise, someone wouldn’t be messaging me to make a purchase. This approach held up well, and most interested parties were reasonable in their offers.

In fact, in most cases I didn’t even provide specific pricing. If someone messaged me expressing interest in a card and asking for my price, I would reply with the card’s price on TCGplayer, and ask them to make an offer that made it worth shipping. Usually, this resulted in a $2-$3 premium, and I happily accepted. I had many cards to move, and negotiating over every dollar was not something that interested me.

The last thing I want to touch on here is the gold gem of Card Kingdom’s lot: the Christopher Rush signed Stronghold Mana Leaks.

There were completed listings on eBay for these: a complete set sold not long ago for $84.99. I hoped to get close to $75 for the set, discounting the eBay fee. Unfortunately, one of the cards had some ink on the back; it likely rubbed off from some other signed card while the ink was still wet. This hurts the value of that one copy significantly.

I received a great deal of interest in this playset, but most prospective buyers balked at either the price or the inking on the back of the one copy. Finally, I found an interested buyer who didn’t fret about the inking and knew these had significant value. We ultimately agreed on a price of $68.50 for the playset—a little lower than I had hoped, but enough to help me recoup a good chunk of my costs.

The Foreign and Damaged Lot

I won’t dwell too long here, as others have written about foreign cards already and damaged cards aren’t particularly exciting. My strategy here was to look up the corresponding English printings on eBay or TCGplayer and applied a 10-20% discount. This helped me sell a few of the foreign cards on Twitter (including a foil Portuguese Copy Enchantment to a collector of Portuguese cards). For others, I tapped into eBay and made a sale or two there.

I was pleasantly surprised to get $18 on eBay for the damaged Pact of Negation—the corner crease was extremely small, and I’ll admit I didn’t even realize the card was still worth so much. The same for the foreign Sakashmia's Student…this card needs a reprint badly!

As for the smaller cards not worth the $0.70 stamp, I decided to keep them for personal use. You can’t have too many Brainstorms and Frantic Searches, after all. And the foil, signed Kami of the Crescent Moon looks great in my blue Commander deck.

Wrapping It Up

I’m sure by now readers are eager to hear whether or not I successfully turned a profit from this collection. I’ll be posting the breakdown of my sales in the Insider Discord. But boiling it all down, sales totaled $323.95 after subtracting eBay and PayPal fees. When I remove shipping costs (mostly a bunch of $0.70 stamps), I end up with $303.49, netting me $33.29 in profit.

That said, I still have auctions posted for the remaining misprints and crimps that didn’t sell individually. There are a few Islands that had ink smudged that I posted, and it already has a $5 bid. I posted the misprint lot and crimped lot with starting bids of $5 and $9 respectively—these have watchers, but no bids yet.

I also still have posted the Japanese Phyrexian Metamorph and Spanish Thorn of Amethyst, which I hope will eventually sell. Assuming they do and the auctions also all receive bids, I’d probably net another $20 or so, bringing total profit up to around $50.

Lastly, there were a few other damaged cards I decided to keep for myself, and these have nonzero values. My Commander deck now contains a damaged (sleeve playable) Kira, Great Glass-Spinner, Vendilion Clique, Leyline of Anticipation, and promo textless Negate.

All in all, this was an amazing, educational experience. I learned about crimps and misprints, signed cards, and foreign oddities. The rules of thumb I picked up from this exercise will be valuable should I encounter these in future collections—I hope these tidbits will also help readers if they run into similar cards in a collection.

And if anyone was completely inspired by this article and wants to try this for themselves, Card Kingdom currently has two other lots listed on eBay with a similar assortment: one listing with black cards and one with white cards. Only I advise caution with these—they aren’t priced as attractively. If you do consider making a purchase, I’d recommend offering 20% lower than their listed price in order to try and grind the profit. They may not accept the offer, but I don’t see an easy path to profitability if you pay more.

Arena Article Follow-Up

I wanted to provide a quick update to the Arena article I posted a few weeks ago. After making some additional upgrades to my Mono White list, I actually managed to achieve Mythic rank! For a while I was frustrated by the apparent ceiling my deck had, but the recent metagame shift (and a little luck) seems to open up the opportunity to take Mono White Devotion to the next level.

For those interested, here’s a recent iteration of my list.

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