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Greetings! This is a continuation of my article from last week, A Simple Guide to Buying Magic Collections!
So, now that we've talked about some general rules for purchasing collections, here are four I purchased this month with a story and some numbers. A few notes on the monetary side of things. In all cases the rares, foils and other most valuable cards have been put through the Ion Scanner to make my life easier and give you an initial estimation of value. Getting the last bit of worth from everything else takes time so the ultimate value will end up a bit higher.
The First is the Worst
I found an ad listed on Facebook Marketplace and the description was limited on details. There was one picture of just a binder and a couple of deck boxes with the claim that "The cards in the binder alone were worth far more than asking price." One other significant detail, they lived two hours away. Normally, I never travel more than about an hour away without more information but they stated very clearly that they were done playing Magic, so I was interested. But still, two hours there, two hours back, just a massive amount of driving time, gas, etc.
However, it seems that I was destined to purchase these cards. We needed to drive for a flight and, well, this place was on the way! I checked if the cards were still available and to get an address; they had dropped their asking price!
I was greeted at the door by the seller's wife as the seller was occupied with their children. Next thing I know, here's FedEx with a package; and then the dog runs out of the house and starts jumping on me. Extremely chaotic! Even though I'm a cat guy, I don't mind dogs. I started looking through two deck boxes. These were former commander decks with 100 sleeves but not 100 sleeved cards in each box. Additionally, we had to make it to the airport on time so I could not spend too long scrutinizing this collection.
Lots of bulk rares, bulk EDH staples and very little value dotted the pages of the binder with lots of empty sleeves. Running out of time, and halfway through the binder, I asked if there was any chance they were flexible on price.
Spoiler Alert, the Answer is "No."
They shrugged and wouldn't budge as they had already lowered their price. I continued looking. Finally, on the last two pages of the binder, a few Khans fetch lands and a Force of Vigor. Begrudgingly, I made the purchase. At the time I felt that this low-value collection would be fodder for this article, but not very profitable. I was wrong.
Ion Scanner to the Rescue!
When I got to the car I looked again; there was a fair bit more value than I had seen at first. I drove the rest of the way so I put the collection out of my mind. When I finally had time to sit down I was then seeing what I had missed. My guess is the chaos and confusion, plus the urgency of the situation made me a little blind. Thankfully, the Ion Scanner doesn't get confused, doesn't get sad, it doesn't laugh at my jokes, it just scans cards. This was by far the collection I felt the worst about buying and was the absolute smallest in terms of collection size at under 400. Let it be known that the seller knew someone was getting a good deal, and, they did not care because they were done playing Magic.
Purchase Price: $80 Total Buylst: $339.21
Second is the Best
This was another Facebook Marketplace ad. No pictures but they were extremely local so the opportunity cost was zero. They showed me some nice-looking deck boxes and a few small boxes of cards. Turns out prior to moving into the area they played but their new job was more demanding and almost two entire years had passed. I looked through some modest commander decks and then one box of commons, tokens, and basic lands. Nothing so far. I asked them why they were selling; they were ready to move again. I looked through two pre-made decks that were 100% stock while they mentioned that someone else had inquired about their collection. Due to how far away that buyer was they demanded pictures of "everything." This seller obliged them but then got an offer significantly lower than their asking price and finally, that buyer did not show. At this point, I told the seller that, so far, I had seen nothing of significant value and I agreed with the other buyer. Putting the boxes down I thought I would not be purchasing a collection today.
I made a judgment call based on the deck boxes, dice bags, and dice and just made the same offer as the other buyer. As mentioned in my previous article, I seldom buy without looking everything over but the seller's ask was just too much. They told me they did not want the hassle of driving out to meet another person who might not show so they accepted the offer; I now own (more) cool dice and dice bags.
But What About the Other Boxes?
Firstly, the Vehicle Rush Challenger Deck turned out to be a LOT cooler. It had been heavily improved with multiple copies of rares and mythic rares including four Heart of Kiran and a couple of rare lands. While Heart is solidly bulk now, it was a cool and desirable card during the Kaladesh block and maybe one day could regain some value. With zero expectations I went through the last box and, well, pretty much all the rares and value was right here. I scored a Zacama, Primal Calamity, and some other very decent rares. Not bad at all. Without the Zacama it would have still been a win, but with it, this collection turned out to be my favorite purchase. Quick, easy, and, percentage-wise, awesome!
Purchase Price: $20 Total Buylist: $79.39
A Once in a Lifetime Collection
This ad I found off Craigslist. I know, who uses Craigslist anymore? In the early 2000s, it was absolutely incredible for acquiring cards but it's pretty barren now. However, it has gifted me a LARGE number of stories from my card buying travels. These sellers were playing online now and this was the last of their collection. The first things that caught my eye were the HOT NEON pink and green binders with copyright date 1990. Dear readers, you won't believe what I found in these binders!
Alphabetized sets of Revised, Fallen Empires, Ice Age, Homelands, Chronicles, and 4th Edition….
...missing all the valuable cards. Flipping through the binders I hunted for any notable cards. What caught my attention, in particular, was that cards like Deflection, a highly desirable card during Ice Age, Brainstorm and Dark Ritual were all here which lead me to believe they had sold off the value recently. Also, I was sure to point out that metal ring binders have a tendency to damage cards and this was no exception. I showed them several cards that were dented badly; pay close attention any time you see metal ring binders!
Next, I tackled the deck boxes and right away found something odd; almost 100% of these cards were in penny sleeves. Here I did spend considerable time going through several thousand cards because of the large number of older cards that were present in the binders, the general strangeness of the thousands of penny-sleeved cards, and the asking price. Unfortunately, there were very few rares, not nearly enough foils, and after going through many boxes of cards I reached a conclusion; these were draft decks stripped of rares and foils, accumulated over many years of play. Each roughly 40 card chunk included basic lands which made up one-third of the total collection. During the time I spent hunting through the cards I talked to the sellers and I feel that we made a connection while recounting our favorite sets, cards, and even Magic rules that have come and gone.
Finally, I went through the box of Japanese War of the Spark because I was hoping to find the Holy Grail of the set: the Alternate Art Liliana, Dreadhorde General. While there were a few alternate art planeswalkers, a nice surprise, there was no Liliana. A Japanese God-Eternal Bontu was the only thing of note and it was the only mythic rare in the entire collection.
Finally finished I asked if they were flexible on price considering the condition of the cards, the fact that this was basically a bulk lot and there were massive piles of basic lands/tokens - what I call an "inorganic" collection. They agreed with me and accepted my offer.
Let me describe how long it takes to remove just under two thousand penny sleeves; five-ever, which is one longer than forever. Factoring out the basic lands, it turns out it was only around 2000 total cards including the binders. I believe the full value in this collection will not be recovered immediately and will rely on holding the 94', 95' cards, most of which are in absolutely minty condition. These vintage cards are not counted in the buylist value below. In terms of immediate value, well, there is a little but not much!
Purchase Price: $40 Total Buylist: $44.39
The Buckeye State
This was a word-of-mouth collection I purchased from someone I game with online. Lately, a lot of people I know have jumped onto the Arena train and, of course, I let them know "I'm the guy." It turns out that one of them had stopped playing in paper almost a year ago just after spending a ton of money buying into the Modern format. They had good, Modern, cards but wanted a lot. Additionally, they had brought their cards to a local shop and did not like the shop's offer. I talked to them, with some supporting evidence, to show them that once their cards rotated out of standard a chunk of value would be gone and the shop was just trying to make a fair profit based on that; they still did not want to sell. Months later I asked if they still had their cards and if they were still interested in selling. Running some numbers, many of formerly valuable cards were losing some value and many more had plummeted. It seemed like they were coming to the conclusion that even though they overpaid in the past, it was a sunk cost.
This was by far the largest collection in card count, absolute value, and also price of the four. Overall, I'm not a huge fan of investing in Modern cards; they are a few reprints away from becoming bulk rares. On top of that, I am a player and collector first and second, with seller at a distant third. Additionally, these cards would be shipped to me sight unseen so there was no telling what the general card condition was. Further, I'm fairly paranoid about fakes; while I knew and trusted the seller, I didn't trust whoever sold him his cards. The shipment arrived in a huge box, take a look!
Unfortunately, shippers are very rough with packages, and the seller did not pack the collection well at all; another potential pitfall when purchasing collections. As I scooped out pile after pile of cards I noticed many were played, chipped, or damaged in some way. After sorting the mess, the overall card condition was much the same; many of these cards had significant play wear. A significant number of them felt either incredibly waxy or too glossy and I was nervous as I compared cards. In a playset, three cards looked identical but the fourth would be a different saturation and feel. Very sus. I did a closer examination with a loupe and every card passed the Green Dot test. Some of these cards failed the light test, but, some bulk commons from the same set, from this same collection, did as well. Can someone at Wizards please improve QC?
Purchase Price: $430 Total Buylist:$1,639.58
Dealing with Tough Sellers
My top advice for how to deal with sellers who give you a hard time is, don't. There is no end to the number of card collections available for purchase. You have eBay, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and simple word of mouth; players are transitioning through the Magic player lifecycle all the time. The biggest problem for buyers is thinking they are stuck with sellers who are trapped by sentimental value and the sunk cost fallacy. Both of these issues are not rational and cannot be reasoned through. Players who are finished playing Magic do not have the same hangups and see cards as just pieces of cardboard which, ultimately, is what they are. There are two more collections I can look at and purchase this week alone; I feel absolutely no pressure to do so unless it's on my terms.
Other Value From Buying Collections
Not only do I get to expand my overall collection, make a profit, chat with fellow Magic players both past and present, but I also get to go through cards; thousands and thousands of cards! During this sort, I pulled dozens of cards I need for Commander decks, gifts, cube projects and also found some miscut cards! Just wading through set after set is some of the best inspiration for deck design or other Magic projects and this is my personal favorite thing about collection buying.
I hope you enjoyed this primer on what I believe makes this process easy, high value, and ultimately fun too!