Value Guide for Relapsed and Former Magic Players.
So, you used to play Magic in the mid to late 90s when Ricky Martin was blaring on the radio and our president got busy with anything that winked at him? Maybe you still have these cards just sitting around in a closet or box somewhere. Are you curious as to what they may or may not be worth?
I want to start off by saying that 98.9% of all Magic cards are practically worthless. Most commons can be had for next to nothing, even “the good ones”. Most rare and uncommon cards aren’t really worth all that much. I always suggest to people to just buy the cards and the decks you want, rather than cracking boosters. Buying boosters is like playing slot machines in Vegas. Yeah, sometimes you hit a good streak, but over the long haul, you’ll just be plopping coins down the rabbit hole never to be seen again. However, that being said, a lot of older cards that you may have lying around could be worth a lot now. Here are some key pointers if you’re looking to cash in on this unlikely hidden treasure trove.
Before I get into my tips on finding cards that are valuable or could be valuable in your collection. I understand that most people who used to play Magic may have bought cards at a higher price then they are now. Also understand there are a lot of factors that go into a Magic card’s price. Most of a card’s value comes in the most obvious sense, how “powerful” or “good” a specific card is. If a card is powerful or useful then it is probably going to be a more expensive or easier to move card. Next is, how many times it has been printed. Dark Ritual is a very powerful card and is used in most decks that can run it. But because it has been printed so many times, it isn’t necessarily an “expensive” card. Compare it with Chain Lightning however, and you’ll see that even though they are similar (in terms of they do 3 damage/mana for 1 mana) because one has only been printed fewer times it is worth nearly 10 times as much. Print runs also matter. Cards printed before 1995 had far smaller print runs then those sets after 1995. Cards from Alpha, Beta, Unlimited, Revised, Legends, Arabian Nights, and Antiquities have a higher premium because of print runs rather than necessarily power or play reasons.
It would also be valuable knowledge before jumping into to selling the cards to have a working knowledge of the game. In my experience, most Magic players want to low ball people who may not have as much cardinal game knowledge as other players. Knowing how the game is played and what kinds of cards are generally good can help you a long way into diving into your collection and picking out the gems.
1. Know what cards you have. This seems pretty obvious. Rarities didn’t become obvious on Magic cards until 1998. Exodus was the first expansion to have “Gold = Rare, Silver = Uncommon, and Black = Common” as the expansion symbol so it could provide players with a snap judgement look to see which cards were rare or uncommon opposed to just being common. So that leaves about 3 years worth of Magic cards that you have no way of knowing what the rarities are just by looking at them. If you are confused on how to figure out which expansions you have or what rarities certain cards are check out this resource. Here you can find expansion symbols, what sets are currently Standard and Extended legal, as well as card lists with rarity guides. Typically, most collections will feature predominately common or basic land cards. They will most likely feature mostly core set (white boarded until Tenth Edition typically) cards. But there can be hidden rare gems hidden inside these collections as well.
2. See which cards are “relevant”. So, now we’ve got most of your cards sorted by at least editions and which ones are rare, common, or uncommon. The next step is seeing which of these cards are the most valuable. Legacy is the de facto “eternal” format at the moment. If a card is good there it usually commands a premium. Cards of yesteryear (from about 2003 and earlier) are not printed nearly as much as cards are now. Wizards doesn’t release information on how many cards they actually print in a year. But they typically print to the demand at the time. The game grows and grows every year, meaning older cards get snapped up and hence the value of them rise over time.
The most relevant cards in Legacy right now are Force of Will , Wasteland, and Dual Lands. You’ll notice that both Wasteland and Force of Will are uncommons from their respective expansions. Any revised dual land (white boarder) will fetch between $50 to $100 a piece in any condition, depending on which color combinations it is. Blue duals lands skew a little higher. Red duals typically skew lower. Every legacy player is looking for ANY dual land. Finding these in your collection could fetch a good amount of money for very little effort. Wastelands are typically in the $50 to $70 dollar range at the moment. They were an uncommon in a popular set. If you played in 1997 to 99 you probably bought or played a lot of Tempest. Tempest is a treasure trove of relevant cards. Many cards in the set are worth over $10 dollars. You’ll have no problem unloading Wastelands at $50 a piece regardless of condition. Force of Will was in the Alliances expansion. It came out in 1996. It was also opened in a period of time that Magic was popular. It was the expansion to the “Ice Age” expansion. Many people who “played Magic in high school” played during this time, at least in my experience. Force of Will will easily garner a $60 a piece in any condition. The card is really powerful and is the “glue” that holds the format together. If you are looking for more resources on trying to find relevant cards you may have check out Star City Game’s Deck Database. Here you can search top Legacy (or any format really) so you can see which cards are the most sought after. You can also just straight up search your cards on the site to see how much retailers are “selling” the card for. Be aware, if you sell your cards on your own you should expect to get a little “less” than what a given store is selling the card for. I don’t always recommend selling your cards on ebay, but you can search completed auctions to see how much your card is “roughly worth”.
3. Unlikely treasures. If you have promo cards of any kind. You should research them and see how much they are really worth. Most cards in foil are worth more than their non-foil equivalent. Sometimes basic lands can command a big price too. If you have any Unglued or Unhinged basic lands those can go for $6 – $10 a piece. Guru lands (like the ones pictured here) command at least $50 and range all the way up to $70. These are the most expensive basic lands and are very hard to find. Most promotional lands will fetch a slight premium. If you have black bordered basic lands without expansion symbols you should do research and find out if you have some money there. Cards that are also relevant in “Commander” also demand premiums. The best resource around for commander is this forum link. You can find a lot of information on this very popular casual format. The relevant one for us is the “Top 50 cards of each color”. This one will give us a ball park on what the most sought after cards are for the format so you can find specifically what cards are worth the most to people. Foils are generally worth more to players playing Commander. However, if you have the right cards, people are willing to pay the right price for them.
4. Where to sell? There are a lot of places to unload cards at. The most popular place will probably be eBay and why not? It is the world marketplace and you can buy and sell most anything at any time of day for a decent price. There are a few things about Magic cards that make selling them on eBay a bit of a chore. I wouldn’t sell any card that is worth less than $10 on eBay unless you had a “playset” or “4” copies of that given card and it is equal to $10 dollars. You’ll lose so much money due to fees that it is probably not worth your time. I also wouldn’t sell large collections on ebay either. These are a pain to ship (I’m talking cards in the thousands) and again, probably not worth your time. You’ll most likely not want to sort through all those cards, and people will be reluctant to buy large bulk collections unless they sorta have a good idea of what is in it before hand. You can try your hand at Craig’s List for selling cards. Realize, many “bargain hunters” use Craig’s List and will probably try to low ball your already low price. The best way to sell cards that are worth less than a dollar or two is to just sell them to a major online store. Toad and Troll and Star City Games offer the best prices to sell the cards back. Like I said before, most cards aren’t worth that much money and if you just want to get rid of them from your basement, you could do worse. If you want to try and sell your cards to a local shop, I would call or ask them first before bringing in a ton of cards. Most stores will not buy commons or uncommons. But some do. You can try online communities to sell your cards as well. There are many web forums out there that have buy and sell threads and you can generally unload more popular cards easily, and you’ll get more money than by selling to a shop. But this also requires you to spend time and energy you may not have. My recommendation is if you want to sell your cards, then just sell the ones worth the most money on eBay and the rest, just ship them off to an online store for the best price you can get.
I think I’ll stop there. This should give you a pretty good idea of what your cards could be worth. I’ve known people who think their cards are worthless and I go through their collection and find hundreds of dollars worth of cards in just a few minutes without much effort. As with most collectables, just because they have the potential to be worth money doesn’t mean they do. I hope this was a little bit of an eyeopener for you to go check out the game or maybe make a little money in the process of doing a little spring cleaning.