Taking good pictures for selling cards

I recently decided to sell some of my cards. I wanted the pictures to look good and to be able to tell the difference between multiple similar cards and clarify the pictures of the card backs. So I made this: 

It was pretty easy. Just a lamp for light, some paper and tape to reflect the light without much glare.  Also some basic lands for background. I taped the lands together so I could move them around without worrying about spacing the lands each time I move them around. 

This made it easy to make albums with good close picture that you can tell the difference on the cheap. I thought that it was good for selling cards on Facebook groups and Ebay. Here is an album that I made with this:


Lost in the Mist

"What we see depends mainly on what we look for."
― John Lubbock

With so much information on magic prices out there, it can be easy to get lost. Knowing what to look for is something that a lot of people have a hard time with. The price of a magic card is a very strange thing. Some people see it at the price that their local store sells it for. Others see cards at the amount of money of cash they can get out of it. Then there is everything in between. The way you see the cards can make or break the bank. There are a lot of factors to consider, so let's start from the beginning.

Current value

At some point, you have to acknowledge that you don't own a large MTG store. Just because a major store is selling a card for $5.99, that doesn't mean that it is worth $5.99 to you. As a player/trader/collector, you have to understand where you fit into the economy of Magic cards.

To the typical player, the real value is what a store has listed on their buy list. All stores are different, so the more information you have the better. These numbers don't always go up and down at 60% of the sell price.

Cards that move slow and are going down usually have a low percentage of the price tag as the buy price, while cards that are hard to keep in stock or are going up will usually have a very high percentage of the price tag as the buy price.

To some others, the value could be what they can get from selling the cards online. It is work and you have to consider your time, but in many cases, it is well worth the time and effort to increase the returns on the cards.

To the rest of players, they may not have a plan for getting cash out of their cards, but it's more about just the trading power of the cards that they own and being able to play the decks they want. This trading power is just a reflection of the price, and it matters just as much, no matter if you intend on selling the cards or sitting on them.

In all three cases, and combinations of the three, the bottom line is that you should have an idea of what you are going to do with your cards after you get them, which brings me to my next point:

Have a Plan

Have some idea of what you want to do with your cards. It doesn't have to be written out and formal, it just needs to be an idea of what you have and where all of it is going. Card prices change over time, so having a plan can help you make the most of your cards, instead of being left holding the bag... of Hellriders.

So, before you buy or trade for a card, give it a thought on what you are going to do with this card. Are you just buying because it’s cheaper than other places? I used to buy cards that I thought was underpriced to add to my trade binder. It took awhile to learn that these cards were either very slow movers or just cards that are falling in price, not that I got a great deal on a mispriced card.

The plans that you want to stick to are all along the lines of buy low and sell high. If you are trading, you will want to trade your cards that are part of the awesome new deck for cards that may go up later or cards that

have more stable prices, like cards that are good in Modern, Legacy or Commander.

If you are buying and selling the cards, there are a few more steps and costs involved (shipping and time), but the basics are the same: Buy cards that you think will rise, and sell cards that are at their peak. This can be flipping cards that just got unbanned or this can be a long term investment.


Trends are like shortcuts. It’s a bunch of statistics on what other cards have done to give us an idea of what something may do in the future. They don’t always reflect what is going to happen, but in a lot of cases, they do. The more you know about what has happened, the easier it will be to predict what will happen.

New cards: 90% of the new set will drop after 1 month. It's easy to buy into the hype and think that you might actually hit it big. Just make sure you know what you are doing. I have only preordered 1 playset of cards in my life. It was a set of Baneslayer Angels. I picked them up for $15 each and sold them 6 months later for $60 each. This means that I have missed out on a lot of money, but there is a lot of money that I could have lost, but didn't by not buying into something that I didn't fully understand.

The reason the new cards will be pretty low a month after they come out because most people don't want to buy cards from the set that they are currently winning packs of and drafting. If they have 2, they don't want to buy a 3rd and 4th, then open a 5th and have an extras and less money for it. They will usually just wait until the next set comes out. Meanwhile, there are people that have opened a 5th and don't want it. Those extras are the cards you should be looking to pick up.

Rotating cards: Most of the cards that are rotating out of standard often go down in price; even if they are played in other formats.  It's easy to see profit in that. Just don't get bit. These cards don't go down for long and often will come back even higher. In some cases, there is room to make money, but others have such small margins that listing fees and shipping will eat all of your profits. If the card is good in older formats, it's not a bad idea to hold onto it. Even though the Legendary Eldrazi went down as they left standard, the price bounced back higher than then they were in standard.

This is only the case for a small group of the cards rotating out of standard, the rest are going down in flames. These are your $1 - $3 cards that are in standard. They will be the cards that you could have traded for good cards, but instead they sat in your binder for 4 years then got sold to a dealer by the pound. The more of these cards you can trade away for stable cards, the better off your collection/wallet will be.

Non-rotating formats: With the rise of modern and the reprintable nature of the cards, this will be an interesting one. Much will be learned, but the price will probably fall with each reprint and rise until the next reprint or the card if outclassed. MMA being a pretty big exception because there were so many new modern players that got into the format after the release.

This isn't going to be legacy. The originals of cards like Tarmogoyf and Vendilion Clique aren't much different price than the reprints. So, the plan of buy it and throw it in the closet for 10 years isn't as good as it was for legacy cards. This will be a format that financially rewards the people who have a good understanding of the ebb and flow of prices a lot more than the hoarders.


Magic is many different games in one with a lot of forces on the market. There are seemingly endless amounts of facts and opinions at your fingertips. Just start from the beginning and stick to the basics. Hopefully this has opened a few eyes and get people moving in the right direction.  If you have any questions, just ask.



Is it worth it?

I see this on reddit a lot. The question is directly related to value, but for some reason, there is always a wide variety of answers. It seems to me that people are on completely different pages when it comes to what an item is worth in magic. I’d like to go over a few aspects here. The aspects of value that I see having the largest effect on what a person should do it. I think there are a few different things that build off of each other and paint a pretty good picture on what you should do with your money.

What is a card worth?

This seems simple enough. Most people use something like Star City Games or MTGPrice to find out how much their card is worth and that’s what they make decisions on. There are many people who have told me about the $30 card they got for $22 and they were very proud that they did so.

First you have to recognize that there is a fluctuating market. This isn’t a bad thing for a card in the new breakout legacy deck that was printed 15 years ago. The value will probably go up and you will likely do well with your investment. But it’s tricky when it’s a standard card about to rotate out and not seeing play in other formats.

Think of value (for a specific item) as in how much money I can get from this. Your $30 card is good for $22 until you realize that no store buys it for over $12 and after shipping you can only get $14 from ebay. Don’t like at cards like you are the owner of Star City Games, you aren’t going to get that price for your cards. If you don’t plan on playing with that card, you just spent $22 on $12-$14 to just sit in your binder and wait until it goes to $4.

So, when a person tells me that they spent $22 on a $30 card, all I see is a person that threw away $8-$18 depending on what they do with it. This doesn’t mean that no cards are worth buying, it just means that if current “sell price” is the only factor, it was probably a mistake.

This applies to trading too. You can trade your $10 card for my $10 card and lose current value and potential value. Cards can have the same sell price but have different buy prices. Some cards are harder to get (mythics and foils) and they sometimes are harder to keep stocked by stores, so they pay a higher percentage for them. When you make a trade, think about the current value to you and the potential value. If the card isn’t going to go up, you aren’t getting value, and you aren’t going to play the card, why bother?

What is a pack worth?

Well after that, are you reconsidering what you value a pack at? If you think about it, a random pack is worth <$3 to you; Factor in all of the rares that are worth 10-12 cents to you. Packs at MSRP are pretty terrible EV.

This is a major motivation to be good/ok at magic. I get packs in >95% of FNMs that I attend. My FNM gives away really good value on packs, and I understand that not everyone have this available, but if you do, battle at FNM. It is the place that you can get packs at $1-$1.50 pretty easy.

If you find that you need to get cards to play magic, don’t buy packs. If you buy a few packs every week, you should just put that money into a jar. Think of this as the buy 25 get 11 free deal. You can buy booster boxes for $100-$115 depending on the store. If you are buying them for MSRP, you are paying $144 plus tax for every 36 packs.

If your LGS (local game store) doesn’t sell boxes, you can get them online. Talk to your store, they will most likely make a deal for you; they don’t want to have you buying cards from online retailers. More and more business is going to places like Amazon and away from LGS; your store doesn’t want to drive your business away.

I want to hit one more point on this topic. It doesn’t matter what you get. If you buy packs, and you think you are getting ahead… you aren’t. You may get a $12 card in your 3 packs, but remember that and the 2 crap rares are only worth $6.24 to you in cash, so you didn’t make money, you only lost money. You can’t just trade that card in and get 3 more packs. You can’t just use that as $12 off of your meal at a restaurant. That is now worth less than the $12 was.

What is a future/new product worth?

Speculation can be a good thing. Some people are all about making sure they get the new products because they are going to be worth a ton and they can sell them and make a fortune. Remember to consider that it’s worth to you. Buying the new FTV at $100 and doubling your money sounds sweet, but can you hang on to it for 4+ years? It may only need a year and a half before SCG is selling it for $200, but that isn’t what you are going to get for it.

And don’t forget, the set could always flop; nothing is a sure thing. You don’t want to tie your money up with something that isn't going to make a profit. There are a lot of things that will make a profit, speculation is a good thing, but don’t waste money on something that isn’t a sure thing.

Things to take away from this:

-Not all $10 cards are equal.

-If you aren’t playing with the cards in your deck, you don’t want to own them. Trade those cards for cards that can be going up. Don’t let your binder rot, because that is your money rotting.

-Know you’re getting a good deal. If you buy a card for an investment, think about how long it will be until you can sell it and get that same money back. Then think about what the potential is. You may be making very little on your “investments.”

-Never buy $4 packs again. Ever! You are bleeding $1.25 or more every time you do.

-Speculating on new products can be a very long term investment. Sometimes, even if you know you can make money on it, you could just buy up that much in fetch lands and make more money in a shorter time.

Thanks for reading