How to Liquidate a Collection

Cliff Daigle • February 28, 2022

About once every two months, one of my Magic friends will approach me about wanting to sell their collection. It’s something most players will do at some point: take some portion of a collection and turn it into cash, either for more cards or for other cash-related reasons. I like to tell the story that my first foray into Magic finance was about 2002, when I sold off a deck I didn’t play anymore to help pay for a new transmission. I weep to think of what I sold back then, and the amounts I got, but it was what I needed.

Since then, I’ve sold off cards for a new mattress, a security deposit, or to pay for a weekend trip to Vegas. It’s not difficult to do, as long as you recognize the steps needed.

What’s your timeframe?

If you’re in a hurry to sell cards because you need the cash quickly, you’re going to get less money for your cards, and that’s an unavoidable point. The fastest way to turn cards to money is by going to a local store (if you have one that buys cards as singles, not everyone does) and taking what they will give you via buylist. If you happen to live near to one of the larger events that are starting to happen again, that’s another option.

It takes longer, but if you can’t go to a store, you can sell your cards via an online buylist to any number of places. Again, if you’re in a hurry, this takes longer if you shop around for the best deals, and you might end up shipping to several places. That increases your fees, something we’d prefer to avoid.

However, if you’re able to take a little longer, there’s more to do and a good amount of money to be made.

Organize the sells and keeps

Go through the cards you want to keep and those you want to sell. Depending on your collection, this may take a while. It’s optional to look up prices as you go through this stage, there’s more than a few apps with scanners that speed it up. You’ll also want to make an electronic list of what you’ve got, and note the condition as well.

The more organized you can be at this stage, the more time you’ll save later on. It may seem slow to stop after every card and note name-set-frame-foiling-condition, and put it into a box of binder in a specific order, but believe me, you’re going to save your future self a lot of time and make them more money.

Set your prices

Now it’s time to research. Start with retail value, and keep in mind that you’re not going to get close to retail. Write down the retail price for the cards, and then research the buylist amounts, writing those down too. Depending on the size of your collection and what you want to sell, you’re going to build a total amount that represents the floor of what you can make and the upper end that you’ll never get to.

This phase may take you some time, considering the number of cards and how exotic they are. Don’t get discouraged though, and take care of all the cards. Eventually, you’ll have a total from buylists and a total retail.

Progress through the ranks

There is one reason why you want to find someone to sell to directly: the lack of fees. TCG, eBay, everyone takes their cut. Cardsphere’s 10% is the lowest around, though. If you can put the word out to your friends that you’re interested in selling, you’ll save a few percent. Take that into consideration when deciding on a price.

The two general standards for ‘how much should I ask for’ are TCG Low -10% and highest buylist +10%. That’s a reasonable price range for your cards, and could end up being a wide set of prices or a very narrow band.

So start with your friends and connections. Feel free to offer a discount that goes up the more that they take off of your hands. You might not like giving the discount, but it saves so much time and effort to sell a larger stack all at once. Selling direct to people saves everyone money, as I said, but if you can’t make that happen, it’s time to move to other methods. This means that you’re going to look at using a TCG account, or eBay, and price your stuff according to the speed you desire: price it lower, it’ll move faster.

If you’re willing to take your time, you’ll be able to squeeze every bit of profit out of your collection.

Consolidating your smaller things into higher value cards represents an excellent way to keep your flexibility. If you're willing to shave a couple of percentage points, you can sell a FEA The Great Henge much faster than you can a box of $5 rares. Buylists and store credit, or using Cardsphere, will let you do that quite easily.

Buying Collections

When you’re making offers on a collection, you hopefully have a complete list of what you’re buying and can place your offer in the sweet spot between the buylist and retail offers. That offers you a chance to gain value in your collection. If someone comes up to you and says that they have X boxes full of good stuff, it’s up to you how much time you’re willing to spend going through the boxes and verifying the value present. If a person is trying to hurry you along, I’m usually not willing to take that risk. All of this is down to your comfort level, though.

Don’t try to shortchange people. Be fair and reasonable and make offers between the buylist and retail prices.