Conjured Currency #47: I Bought a Collection—Now What?

Welcome back, everyone. I hope you all managed to make a bit of money off of [card]Golgari Grave-troll[/card], [card]Worldgorger Dragon[/card], and the other cards that jumped all over the place last weekend. While I did write about the Modern changes to the banned and restricted list last week and what they meant, articles like that one aren’t my favorite ones to write. Similar to how I dislike writing articles about speculation, I prefer the things I write to be timeless, and still be relevant for the months and years to come. As such, you may have noticed that my favorite topic is definitely the specifics of what to do with specific parts of the collections you buy. I’ve discussed price negotiations, what to do with the bulk commons and uncommons, the expensive staples, and everything in between. However, I don’t think I’ve ever made a step-by-step guide that details my exact process while going through a collection. I’m going to rectify that with this week’s article, with a lot of pictures for examples of what I’m talking about. I’m hoping that this can be an article I can link to newer MTG financiers every time I get asked about how they should go through a collection.

The pictures you’re about to see are approximately three different “collections” that I purchased in the span of a few days, that I decided to sort all at once for simplicity’s (and for this article’s) sake. The first collection was pretty much entirely commons and uncommons, with a few rares scattered throughout. The other two were lots of singles that I either pulled out of binders of friends and bought at buylist prices, or found on Facebook through one of the Magic trading groups and bought at a bulk rate after a bit of negotiation. I didn’t get the idea to start recording my process until I was partially finished sorting, but let’s go over what we have here.

So, You Just Bought a Collection

You grabbed a binder or two from a friend who was quitting the game, in addition to some boxes of commons and uncommons that haven’t been touched in ages. Now what? You know you got a pretty good deal just based on the binder, but we want to maximize value while minimizing time and effort.

That stain is so annoying..

That stain is so annoying..

Ironically, I bought this as a blank playmat a while ago from a collection, at an extremely discounted price. After getting frustrated due to not having a consistent sorting system, I took a sharpie to it and now have a rough guideline when hastily going through thousands and thousands of cards. Most of the sections are pretty self-explanatory, but I did leave enough room for two miscellaneous categories should I need them to change from collection to collection. For me, only cards that are worth at least $3 TCG mid get to make it into my binder. I have separate boxes for cards that are approximately $1 and $2 respectively, and the “unknown” category usually gets filled with alters, foreign foils, or even just “normal” cards that I don’t know the exact value of at the time.

Phase 1 Complete.

Phase 1 Complete.

Unfortunately, I didn’t decide to record my progress until I was partially done sorting the collections, and I missed a few opportunities to take pictues of what kinds of cards go into each category. So far, I’ve separated:

  • The nice, expensive stuff that’s going into my trade/TCGplayer binders. I try to keep an organized set of binders, and clean them out to reorganize every couple of months. It’s extremely annoying to have a set of [card]Polukranos, the World Eater[/card], but have to dig through eight pages of green cards just to find the damn things. Remember to keep your pages tidy and transactions will go smoother.

Binder stuff

  • The bulk rares. These will be alphabetized and color sorted into long boxes, for casual players to pick through. Due to the fact that I sell bulk rares for a quarter each, I tend to be aggressive with what I consider a bulk rare. For more information on bulk rares, I feel like I wrote a solid piece about them here.
  • The $1 and $2 rares. [card]Hive Mind[/card] isn’t a bulk rare, but it’s not attractive enough for me to take up space in a binder. Of course, everyone can set their own metrics on what deserves to be in their own binders, and many of you will probably want to keep your $1 or $2 cards in your binders because you’ll have room for them, and it’ll be easier to carry around. However, if you notice that your collection is growing to the point where you need to pull things out, try and start with the lower value stuff.
$1 stuff

$1 stuff

$2 stuff

$2 stuff

  • The common and uncommon “picks.” From [card]Dispatch[/card], to [card]Stinkweed Imp[/card], to [card]Unmake[/card], and even the [card]Golgari Rot Farm[/card]s, I tend to be extremely thorough with my picks. That stack with [card]Wretch Mind[/card] at the top will be broken down alphabetically, and sorted into boxes that will eventually be buylisted to sites such as Card Kingdom, Troll and Toad, or ABUgames. Even if the card doesn’t have a buylist price, I tend to pull it if it sees play in any sort of casual or competitive deck. I even pick all of the [card]Murderous Cut[/card]s, just in case I get asked for them at an event. Being “that guy” who has the niche pickups will get you places.
  • The stack with the Innistrad flip card would be where all of the tokens go. While I enjoy picking out emblems, vampires, krakens, and other “rare” tokens that can be buylisted. I’ve yet to find a suitable bulk outlet for the rest of the bulk tokens. For now, I just color sort them and throw them into labeled boxes that I keep at home. If anyone knows of a great buylist for mass amounts of tokens, feel free to let me know!
  • Foil bulk rares get their own box, which usually gets buylisted off at a Grand Prix if I can find a vendor paying $.35 or higher per foil rare. Still, I tend to color sort them out of habit. EDH and Cube players love sifting through the box to find random foils that I only charge $1 for.
blurry foils

Blurry foils

  • Do you see that stack of sleeves? I’ve gotten in the habit of sleeving every single card I own that’s worth at least $1, and then labeling it with any condition issues, language variety, or foiling. If you have extra sleeves lying around, I highly recommend sleeving every card that goes into your binder to prevent as much damage as possible to the cards.

Now we’re getting to my favorite part of collections. It’s not about finding the [card]Vampiric Tutor[/card] in the haystack, it’s about the solid, consistent return that bulk commons and uncommons bring. Due to the fact that I buy them for $4 per thousand from competitive spikes and retiring players, I can’t lose out. The standard buylist that many in-person stores will offer is $5, so anything I find in the bulk is just icing on the cake.

I actually prefer them unsorted, because they're more fun for casual players to go through

I actually prefer them unsorted, because they’re more fun for casual players to go through.

Basic lands get their own sections

Basic lands get their own sections.

I also remove every basic land from the bulk, and sort them by land type. Basic lands aren’t exciting to find when you’re a casual player looking for sweet creatures and spells, so I find it easier to sell the basics separately. This is easier for me because I have a display case and physical store location, but you can also just give them to newer players to help ease them into the game. Interestingly enough, most stores will pay higher for basic lands than common and uncommon bulk. Your LGS needs them to run drafts with, and we all know how often players leave the event without putting back their basic lands.

Still not as much mana as Sliver Queen+Mana Echoes..

Still not as much mana as Sliver Queen + Mana Echoes…

Where were we? Oh right, bulk commons and uncommons. If you buy the 800-count white longboxes from BCW supplies, you should be able to fit around 1100 cards in each box. The fastest and easiest way to guesstimate 1000 cards is to use an unsleeved card as a measuring tool.

---------- From left to right, this is 200 cards exactly --

From left to right, this is 200 cards exactly.

I fill up these boxes with approximately 1000 cards each, and then label them “RA” for random. This is only because I still have a few boxes left that were entirely color sorted when I received them, and labeled them “W,’ “U,” etc. I try to keep any foreign cards or moderately played cards out of the boxes, to keep them looking pristine. Casual players don’t want cards that they can’t read.

Random boxes


Once they’re all packaged up, I list them on Craigslist and put them in the store for $6 a box. Let me tell you, casual players freak out about getting 1000 cards for six dollars. If a booster pack gives you 15 cards for four dollars, this is a billion times better! I’ve been selling these like this for at least two years now, and have yet to find the bottom of this wellspring of casual players who just want to put together unsleeved Wurm decks and jam against their friends.

Here's my ad that I just relisted a few days ago.

Here’s my ad that I just relisted a few days ago.

With that all set, you should now have the entire collection assimilated into your own, and ready to sell in an efficient manner! Although good collections can be hard to find, they’re easily the most profitable aspect of Magic finance that provides the biggest percentage profits. Good luck hunting, and let me know about any other interesting tips on dissecting a collection!


About the Author
@Rose0fthorns     -     Email     -     Articles Douglas Johnson is a 20-year-old MTG player who goes to college courtesy of a scholarship from Gamers Helping Gamers. He is currently found writing a weekly finance column at, and you can always feel free to contact him on Twitter, Facebook, or Reddit.

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