Buying Magic Card Collections (Again?)

So I don’t write about Magic much, but that’s because I don’t deal with it all that often.  I do buy it (more often than I should), but I almost never get to play it, and I rarely sell anything, so what’s there to talk about?

Alvin6Well, recently I joined a local facebook group for players.  It’s a little bit of everything, but it seems to mostly be used to buy/sell/trade.  I’ve put out a few offers, but nobody seems to be willing to ship, and I’m too lazy to drive across town to buy a $4 card, so they’re mostly misses.  I did wind up talking with a guy about his cards, because he was selling a large lot and seemed willing to go through everything to build common/uncommon playsets for me (which is really what I’m after, as it allows me to spend a minimum amount, but still have enough cards to essentially make whatever decks I wanted).  While I was at it, I asked him for a bunch of cheaper rares, as he was willing to sell them for less than TCG low (which is like an internet standard for pricing).

Anywho, what started off the conversation was that he was selling fetch-lands in a lot for a reasonably good deal.  Normally I don’t buy magic cards as an investment, but I keep reading too many blogs/posts on MTGFinance to stay out.  So I bit on:

  • 1x Bloodstained Mire
  • 3x Flooded Strand
  • 7x Polluted Delta
  • 3x Windswept Heath
  • 2x Wooded Foothills

In total, that came to $150 (the cheapest I can buy them on TCG today is $233.16).  They’re all in good shape, so I figured what could it hurt?  Then, when I picked them up, he was supposed to have picked through for the playsets and some other cheap rares, but that didn’t pan out.  He decided to go through and do it again and I’d meet him the following week to pick up my stuff.

Alvin3In the interim, he posted some more cards for sale on a local facebook group and started selling his good stuff.  When I saw him the following week, he still hadn’t gone through to find the cards I was interested in–but in the process of negotiation, I wound up buying all of his non “good stuff.”  It wasn’t my finest hour, but I make bad decisions when faced with potential for good deals (big surprise, eh?)

My mindset was that he claimed to have 4x playsets for four different sets (in actuality, I’ll be lucky to get two) and I generally buy them for $20 each online, so I didn’t mind paying $80 for those.  He also pulled out some more fetchlands and other choice cards, that I’d agreed to pay his asking price of $75 for.  So, that just left me to wonder how much to offer for the rest of the cards.  He had about 5000 cards of various sorts (All from newer sets) and I wasn’t going to pick through them to see what he had.  My thought was that the “going price” for bulk is about $7 each, so that’s at least $35, and he did have a fair number of rares in it, so maybe $225?  Of course, the logic was flawed in all sorts of ways: I was paying full price for bulk, I had no idea how many rares (or if anything was good in it), and I was overpaying for 4x playsets that didn’t exist.

I was on painkillers though, so we shook hands and made the deal.  By that evening, I was surprised at how many rares were included in the deal, and there were even a few occasional good ones, so I should be able to make my money back on it.  Still, the original plan was to just get some cheap singles (And the fetchlands), and I was already almost $400 into this.  The more I thought about it, the more I developed a bad taste in my mouth.

So I messaged him–not to renig on the deal, but to let him know that if he had trouble selling his good stuff, that I’d be happy to pay him more than a local store would.  The mindset was that he’d go to the store and they’d make him an offer, and I’d beat that.  I wasn’t going to pay the prices he wanted (which were all less than TCG low, mind you)–not because his prices were too high, but because I didn’t need the stuff and was already too deep into this collection.

The thing is, he didn’t seem to want to go to a store.  I made him an offer based solely upon the prices he mentioned and the cards he described (I’m not super into Magic, so I dont know that much about new sets/prices).  I used the mindset of a former employer of mine (I used to work at a card/comic shop), where we offered up to 25% in cash value for cards that we wanted (50% in trade).  Of course, if we didn’t want/need the stuff, we offered less.  So, based upon his math, the cards were worth $385.  I figured that a local store would give him (max) $100 in cash–so I offered him that.  After a day or two of really weak haggling, he mentioned that he had some more cards that weren’t originally included, and threw them in.  Based upon that, I wound up giving him an extra $40 for the lot, but I made him deliver them to my place.

In total, the “good stuff” included:

  • Alvin63 Xenagos, the Reveler
  • 1 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
  • 1 Chandra, Pyromaster
  • 1 Nissa, WorldWaker
  • 3 Sorin, Solemn Visitor
  • 1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
  • 4 Stormbreath Dragon
  • Alvin44 Thunderbreak Regent
  • 1 (foil) Shaman of the Great Hunt
  • 4 Stoke the Flames
  • 2 Whisperwood Elemental
  • 4 Courser of Kruphix
  • 4 Deathmist Raptor
  • 4 Sylvan Caryatid
  • Alvin52 Wingmate Roc
  • 6 Hero’s Downfall
  • 3 Dig Through Time
  • 4 Fleecemance Lion
  • 4 Siege Rhino
  • 3 Anafenza the Foremost
  • 2 Dragonlord Atarka
  • 1 Dragonlord Ojutai
  • 1 Dragonlord Dromoka
  • Alvin74 Temple of Deceit
  • 4 Temple of Abandon
  • 4 Temple of Enlightenment
  • 4 Temple of Plenty
  • 4 Temple of Malady
  • 3 Temple of Triumph
  • 4 Yavimaya Coast
  • 3 Caves of Koilos
  • 3 Llanowar Waste
  • 2 Haven of the Spirit Dragon

According to MTGprice.com, the “total value” of that lot is actually $628.48 and the price I could sell it to if I sold every card to an online vendor (not feasible) for their best price would be $308.40.  Still, that’s a great deal for $140–I shouldn’t have any trouble getting my money out of that.

Alvin2So, in total, I’m out $510 (did I really just spend that much on Magic cards), and after I do alot of sorting, I should be able to make that money back and keep the actual commons/uncommons that I wanted (and hopefully the fetches, as they’re supposed to be “an investment.”)  We’ll see in time if I ever do that, and if I ever make any money on this stuff.  I just wanted to get it documented so I would know one day what I put into this lot.

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Chronicling a Piece of MtG History

In case there was any doubt, I’ve been a nerd for a long time:

  • My first game of D&D was in 1984.
  • I’ve been playing Warhammer (in one form or another) since 1993.
  • I started playing Magic: the Gathering, well, I’m not sure about this one.

I know that Magic was released in 1993 and I graduated high school in 1994.  I know that Unlimited packs were still available for sale when I started playing, and I may have bought some of them at the time (though the frugality of my nature would’ve more than likely steered me away from them towards revised).  I also know that we spent a far bit of time playing magic in the hallways at school, which is where the dilemma lies.  If revised didn’t come out until April of 1994, and my last day of school was in May of 1994, it would seem logical that I played a bit before revised.

I did buy a lot of Antiquities back in the day, so it stands to reason that I was playing in March as well.  I guess then I must’ve had at least a few packs of unlimited (though I never recall opening any of the power 9, in case you were wondering).

I got out of the game on multiple occasions.  The first time was when Legends was released.

wh39kChronicles (4) (Medium)Can that be right?  I know that I pre-ordered a box of legends, and then wound up selling that back to the store for cost, and then a week later, realizing it was worth 10x that much.  That much I’m certain about, but did I really get out of magic completely at that point?  Something tells me that just wouldn’t have been long enough.  No, I think I just sold the box of Legends back at that point.  It would’ve been a few sets before I’d get out of magic completely.  My best guess would be that I lasted until about Mirage (so 1996), before I sold everything.  I don’t know what I had exactly at that point in time, but I do know at one point I’d owned 80ish dual lands, and my most power was I’d owned 9 moxes at one time, along with a time walk (which was my first piece of power 9, and the only one I never seemed to trade away).

I think I got about $1,000 when I got out of the game, which was probably a little more than I’d invested (monetarily) at the time.  That was long before I was keeping track of my frugal gaming goals (long before I even had such goals).  But I was pretty lucrative with trading back in the day, so it’s entirely possible I made some profit on it (I’d honestly guess I made quite a bit, but that was so long ago, it’s impossible to know for sure).  I did get back in once or twice, but never with that same passion.  I still collect cards, but mostly just commons and uncommons (who am I kidding, you can see my spending in my annual frugal gaming page).

I guess the point of all of this inane rambling is that I’m fairly old school, as far as gaming goes–and certainly as far as Magic goes.  Heck, I was once ranked the third best player in the state, and I was certified as a level two judge.  I’ve been playing, off-and-on, since essentially when the game was released.  I’ve had big money collections, played in tournaments, and played plenty of casual/kitchen table magic.

So, now that I’m a little more affluent than I was when I was younger, I have money to blow on frivolities.  I’ve been watching Ebay for a while looking for a classic set of magic cards in uncut sheet form.  These are collector’s items to some extent, and I guess I’m a collector, but I don’t see myself that way.  I just wanted a piece of artwork to hang on my wall.  Ideally, it would’ve been something from back when I first started playing, and something in black  border, but they’re pretty few and far between and, quite frankly, more than my budget-conscious mind is willing to pay.  I did find some sheets of Legends and The Dark at one point, but those went as high as $768 per sheet, so I walked away.

One seller had listed a sheet of Chronicles uncommons, which was white bordered, but essentially had cards from all of the other sets that I’d played with.  He wanted something in the realm of $700 for the sheet, but I wasn’t willing to pay that.  I did offer him $400ish, but he turned me down.  Months later, that same guy wound up putting the sheet up for open auction, and I wound up winning it for $213.50 (including shipping).

The sheet was damaged a bit in shipping, and I tried to work with the seller for some compensation, but the fact of the matter was, I got such a good deal, that I was going to keep it even if it was damaged.  I’m not a collector, after all, so some nicks in the sides wouldn’t lower it’s value.  Besides, I think he was really miffed that he left several hundred dollars on the table.  I also bought a frame for this at $224.61 (including shipping to Washington) and had a friend bring it up to me.  I didn’t count either of these purchase amounts against my frugal spending for the year, based upon the discussion we had about my card catalog.  This was largely seen as a piece of furniture/decoration, and I figured artwork fell into a similar category.

The frame, in case you were wondering, came from a company called American Frame, and they do great work.  It was pretty pricey, but the thing was ignormous.  It also came with some great cardboard in it that I’m going to use for priming/dipping models in the future.

wh39kChronicles (2) (Medium)So, here is a crappy photo of the sheet hanging in my painting room (that I never use for painting–it’s really just referred to as “the fourth room,” and more of a storage room).  I wanted to hang it in a position where it wasn’t going to be exposed to a lot of direct sunlight, so that it doesn’t fade over time (or at least, does so minimally).

So yeah, I spent almost $500 on a piece of art (which, is more than double what I’ve paid for any other piece of art I own), but it comes with memories, and was arguably quite a steal as far as price was concerned.  Not that I plan on selling it, but a big part of who I am is wrapped up in whether or not “I got a good deal.”   Sure, it’s nice to look at, but it’s also nice to have that thought racing around in the back of my head that I got a good deal when I bought it as well…