I have inherited over 20,000 Magic cards. What is the best way to find out what they are worth for selling. Do I need to look up each card? How? Where?
Your first goal is to separate bulk from value. Bulk cards are usually valued by the inch (for example, they'll buy for $0.20 an inch, which works out to about $0.005 per card) so getting value cards out of the bulk pile is paramount in properly valuing a collection.
The first thing you'll want to do is sort the cards by set. This will make them much easier to look up. I suggest you do this with the cards upside down if you're right handed so it's easier to thumb through them. Remember that cards will naturally have some order to them, so you will likely have a lot of runs in the same pile. If you find there's too many sets, then only pick out a couple of sets per pass (ideally the ones that have the most, to reduce the amount of picking on the next pass). I sorted a collection of 10,000 cards in five passes, but I used my knowledge of the block structure to help with that.
Once you have them sorted by set, you'll want to go through each set and find the value cards. Go to a website of your choosing that lists the prices by set, and filter by the price so you only see prices over a certain threshold. (When pricing collections, I use $0.75 as my threshold, since they're the ones likely to pop over $1.00 on occasion...)
Separate your commons and uncommons into one pile and your rares and mythics into another pile. This can easily be done by flipping the pile upside down and thumbing from left to right. Commons are black, uncommons are silver, rares are gold and mythics are red. Now go to your price list for the set and identify if there are any commons or uncommons over your threshold. Don't let the Lightning Bolts and Ponders get lost in your bulk pile! Next look at the number of rares or mythics in the set on your price list - if it's like 8 or less, just find those 8 by name in your rare pile. If it's more than that, sort your rare pile by name, and sort your price list by name, and go down both the list and pile at the same time. You can skip large chunks of the set this way, and you'll find that sorting by name gets a lot easier after you've done it a few times.
I find on average it takes around 1 hour per 1000 cards using this method. You end up looking at each card 4 times doing this:
- Separate by block (so you only have about 20 or so piles)
- Separate blocks into sets (one pile into four piles)
- Separate into common/uncommon and rare/mythic
- Picking out commons, or picking out /sorting for rares
So a 20,000 card collection should take around 20 hours or so to sort.
This doesn't take into account foil cards. As a general rule, just to save time, any full art card, foil card, or dual-mana producing land I will set aside and look up separately.
There is no short cut way for someone not familiar with the game.
The easiest way is to go to a reputable local game store, and offer to sell them the entire batch in bulk.
A potential easy way is to find young honest kids, who love sorting cards, and have them sort by expansion/set and rarity. Then price the individual rares, mythic rares, and complete sets of commons and uncommons. I have three such kids who would love to engage in such a task if you are interested.
What is the current storage condition of the cards? Are they loosely organized by color and alphabet, or meticulously filed by expansion and collector number? The better the cards are organized, the less initial labor you'll have to do.
Start with the larger sites that operate in the 2nd hand marketplace; tcgplayer, channelfireball, etc. Find their buy lists and use it as a dig through of the collection to identify things that have a specific interest.
Consider how much energy you want to invest in selling off the cards. Consignment options may exist, or you can piecemeal via ebay.
If you are looking to maximize your profit, doing it yourself and selling them piecemeal is the best way. If you have someone you trust that knows MTG and can help you, you can work out a deal with them. Kids might be a good idea, but that wouldn't be my first choice.
With the number of cards you have, if you can identify the rares, you can get a rough estimate of what the total value of cards are that you have. If the cards are not sorted in any fashion, look for the gold set icon in the middle of the card, just below the picture and just above the body text of the card.
If your cards are sorted already by the set icon, you can set aside the cards from sets that didn't have gold/silver/black color differences and look those up individually.
For a realistic preparation, the value of 20k cards can be valued for as little as $200 (0.01 per card) to as much as several thousand. Everything hinges on what cards you have. Commons are worth little to nothing and some rares are simply rare but not of high value.
Selling these cards in bulk on ebay or to a friend is the easiest, but you have to be able to identify the number of rares to certify you aren't selling a bulk of commons and then find a buyer willing to purchase them without actually being able to take the time and sort them. This method is also the one where you will receive the least amount of money for.
My bottom line advice is to spend the time sorting them first by set then alphabetically within the set. After that, make a catalog of only the rare cards. Once you know what you have, you can then get a better idea of what you can sell them for.
You might even get lucky and find some very expensive rares that you'll want to sell individually.
It all depends on how much time you are willing to put into sorting cards and looking up what they are worth
You can sell the rares for bulk at 15 cents US to any dealers at PTQ's or GP's and call it a day or you can go to MTG search engines and find out what is worth more than bulk. Be prepared to not get retail for you non bulk cards though.
The biggest retailers are Star City Games and channel fireball. You can try troll and toad and card kingdom as well although I have no experience with there store.
Star City Games has a great track record. I have bought from them for years and even when the packages have to travel literally half way around the world they always arrive.
They also have a simply brilliant customer service department that always answers your questions in a timely manner.
It may be a good idea to send them an email. They do not shark people.