If you’ve found this article, it’s likely because you’re looking to sell some cards. There’s a lot of options out there–local sales, Ebay, live events, online buylists like the one here at ChannelFireball, and more–and each can have their uses. I’m going to cover the pros and cons of each so you can get the most money out of your rare and expensive cards. With so many cards costing so much money–especially cards from the Reserved List–it’s great that Magic cards can fetch a lot of money. I know many of my readers are familiar with my silly content, but I also own a local gaming store in my home of Oklahoma and have been podcasting weekly about how to get the most of your Magic cards for eight years now.
So, what’s the best way to sell your MTG cards?
The Basics of Selling MTG Cards
Let’s start with the best way to tell whether you might have rare and expensive Magic cards worth selling. Outside of some special exceptions like Masterpieces or promos, there are four rarities: common (with a black set symbol on the middle right of the card, as you can see below), uncommon cards with a silver symbol, rare cards with a gold symbol, and mythic rare cards with an orange symbol. Very generally speaking, mythic rares will command the most value, working down the chain to commons and uncommons, which are generally sold at bulk rates of $3-4 per 1,000 cards. But that’s a general guideline – there are cards of every rarity that are worth selling. I’ll make a note that cards from the earliest days of Magic back in 1994-96 didn’t always have rarity symbols, and that mythic rares were introduced in 2008, so before then the highest rarity was the gold-symbol rare cards.
I’m going to cover the different outlets for where to sell Magic cards, but before you get there you need to answer a simple question: why are you selling your cards? The answer will inform how to sell your Magic cards and what works best for you. I don’t mean specifically what is prompting your decision, but rather what you want to get out of selling cards. Is the goal to maximize the amount of money you get from each card? Is it to trade them into other cards you want? Is it to move your MTG collection as quickly and easily as possible?
There’s not “right” answer here. People sell cards for all kinds of reasons, and your individual circumstances should dictate how you go about doing so. In the end, it all most comes down a basic tradeoff: time vs. money.
Yes, we all want to maximize the value of our cards, but remember that your time has value as well. If you want to extract every red cent from your cards, it’s going to take a lot of time and hustle. For those with the spare time to devote to this, that’s great. Other people have either a pressing need or desire to sell, or simply don’t have the time to chase down that last five percent.
With that said, here are the basic ways to sell a card, all of which land in different places on the time-vs-money spectrum.
The Best Ways to Sell Magic Cards
- Locally (trading, selling)
- Buylisting (to a local or online store, or at events)
- Marketplaces (Ebay, TCGplayer, etc)
Trading and Selling Cards Locally
This is how most of us “sold” our first Magic cards, by trading them with friends. The tried-and-true method is still effective today, and it guarantees you get 100% of the value of your card–I trade you my $10 Birds of Paradise and in return you trade me a $10 card in return. More than anything else I’ll cover today, this gets you the most value for your card.
Of course, it comes with a tradeoff–you both need to find someone who wants what you have and has what you want in return. That makes things tricky but by no means impossible–it just takes some work to track down the right person.
Of course, rather than trade you can always just sell a card for cash, provided you don’t break any rules of your local store by doing so–always respect the LGS that gives you a place to play! It’s widely understood that this won’t be at the full market price of the card (after all, otherwise they’d just buy from a store), so you can generally expect to get 70-80% of the value of the card this way.
One of the easiest ways to coordinate trades or sales locally is to do so online. Social media is typically the best vehicle for this–local Facebook groups, group chats, buy/sell groups, all the other social media I’m too old to stay hip on, etc. Again, this takes work to coordinate and you may have to deal with unsavory things like people attempting to defraud you, but for that extra work you’ll get more out of your cards.
Next up, buylisting–when you sell or trade in your cards to a store.
All those difficulties I mentioned with trading are eliminated by buylisting. Stores are much more likely to have the cards you want, and they don’t really care what they get in return from you. The tradeoff, of course, is that you’ll get slightly less.
Let’s start with buylisting for cash. The concept is simple: a store–either your local store or an online store like ChannelFireball–will have a set amount of cash they’ll give you for your card. In my experience, there’s a lot of variation here. Some stores will have a set percentage amount they’ll pay on cards, while others will vary that amount based on how popular or expensive the card is–You’ll probably get more for a Modern staple, for instance, than for a card about to rotate from Standard. There’s a very large range here, but you can expect anywhere from 30% on the low end to 60% of the card’s retail value on the high end, depending on the card and store you’re looking at. When a card is in high demand (like shocklands and fetchlands), you may get even more.
This is especially true at live events like Magicfests–hot cards at the tournament can fetch up to 70-80% of their retail value as vendors in the room want to stock those cards as quickly as possible so they can flip them to players who need them to play with, which means you want to sell as early in the weekend as possible. For high-demand items, this is one of the best ways to move your cards–it’s quick, easy and the numbers are good. Of course, this means you’ll have to make it to an event in your area, which is far from easy.
Assuming there’s not a Magicfest near you, the next best option is buylisting online. The numbers will often beat your local gaming store, but in exchange it will require more work for you. You’ll need to navigate a website’s online buylist, fill out an order, pack it up safely and in the order the store needs it, and ship it to the store to process.
I spoke to the buylisting department at Channelfireball for some tips on how best to ship cards once you’ve placed an order:
- Ship with the US Postal Service with tracking and insurance in case things go wrong. It’s rare, but it happens.
- The best way to pack your cards is in a durable container like a deck box or bundle box, with padding on the sides so the cards don’t bounce around inside in transit.
- Make sure to unsleeve your cards. Perfect fit sleeves, in particular, can lead to damage being done to the cards when the store has to unsleeve them.
- Include your name, number and order number on the package. Orders with no distinguishable information are a headache for everyone.
- Remember, the buyist price offered is for NM cards. Stores will still buy cards if they’ve got some play, but the price will change. If you want to have your cards graded before the order is processed, make sure to include a note to hold the order. In my experience, stores are very generous about shipping cards back to you if either side is unhappy.
Finally, let’s talk about store credit. Stores will always offer more in credit than in cash (for instance, ChannelFireball is running a 35% bonus on trade-ins right now), and while this may not help if you’re just looking for cash, it’s great when you want to pick up other cards. You can expect anywhere from 50-80% in trade-in credit, and you can hold the credit to use at a later date. If you plan on buying more Magic cards, taking some or all of your payout in store credit can be a huge boon.
Finally, let’s discuss marketplaces. There are plenty out there, from Ebay to TCGplayer and more. All of these offer a place to sell cards directly to other players in exchange for a slice of the transaction. Outside of selling locally, marketplaces are where you’ll get the most out of your cards. It’s also where you’ll do the most work.
Ebay is the most well-known of these options–it’s the only place where you can buy a vintage Pez dispenser at the same time you’re buying a Magic card. The key thing that all marketplaces share is that they are a race to the bottom. That means you’re competing with every other seller, and this creates downward pressure on prices. Your $10 retail Birds of Paradise is more likely to sell at $7-9 (or about 75-85%), and then you’ll pay fees, which total about 13% on Ebay and are similar on other marketplace sites. You’ll also be responsible for the shipping of individual cards and handling any shipping issues that may arise.
The upside of this extra work, of course, is that you’ll end up making about 70% of the card’s retail value in cash, which is hard to beat, especially when you consider that you have access to all the buyers in the world.
There are a lot of options for selling your cards, and the answer to “what’s the best way to sell your cards” depends on how much time you have to put into it. Selling locally or on a marketplace takes days or weeks, while buylisting can be done in a night. If you want to move your entire collection at once or need money quickly, I suggest buylisting either locally or online. If you are looking to extract maximum value and have the time to put into it, you should start with local sales and then move to online marketplaces. And keep it mind it doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing–you can sell some of your best cards individually and then buylist them the rest.
Personally, I almost always buylist cards, taking store credit when I want to pick something up or otherwise taking cash, and it seems I’m not alone in reaching that conclusion. Whatever option is right for you, I have one final piece of advice. If you can, hold onto your favorite card or deck. I’ve heard so many stories from people who sold their cards, came back to the game 5 or 10 years later, and regretted selling off their Slivers deck (it’s always Slivers). It’s true that no one ever truly quits Magic–they just take long breaks. In other words, don’t sell your Merfolk (it’s been 7 years since I wrote that? I’m old).