Magic cards are a physical manifestation of all of the joy, sorrow, triumph, and failure that we experience in the game. They connect us in a deep way to those memories. The first mythic you opened. The bomb rare that carried you to day two of a Grand Prix. The quirky combo piece you used to take down Friday Night Magic. The first piece of power you acquired. The last dual land you needed to complete your set. Promos. Tokens. Oversized commanders. Every bit of cardboard is a memory. How could anyone throw that all away?

Cashing Out

I drove down to Grand Prix Atlantic City on Friday afternoon with local grinder Steve and fellow writer Zach with one goal in mind: sell the remainder of my collection of Magic cards. Ironically, I imagined, I may have been one of the few people to travel to New Jersey’s waterfront city of sin with 99% confidence that I was returning with far more money than I showed up with. But Atlantic City is where this story ends, not where it begins. To see where it begins we have to start with the very origins of this column back in the fall of 2012.

The end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013 marked a series of events which ultimately lead to my decision to retire from playing Magic the Gathering. In November I wrote my first article here about the absurdity of the title “Dragon’s Maze” and my overall unhappiness with this revelation. This sparked in me a desire to continue writing about Magic from outside the play-mat and take a hard look at how Wizards operates and how the community functions. Two-and-a-half years later I’m still writing regularly but I’m no longer playing Magic. In January of 2013 I wrote about my decision to retire from the game, a decision that I still hold by 28 months later.

Since my retirement I’ve played Magic a few times. Most notably for a three-month stint while I was writing Modern Hero, and most recently at the main event of Grand Prix Atlantic City, since I was going to be in the area anyways. However, my life has become full of many other endeavors such as advancing my career, planning my wedding, sorting out my personal finances, and working with the other writers on this site to deliver Hipsters of the Coast. I’ve also spent some time playing Destiny, but you may have already known that.

Soon after my retirement I began the arduous task of sorting through my collection of Magic cards. All told it was well over 10,000 and very likely eclipsed the 20,000 mark but I never got around to counting all of the bulk commons and uncommons that were Standard-legal at the time. This was the first step in the long road to ridding myself of the thousands of pieces of cardboard that were taking up valuable space in my tiny New York City apartment. The sorting process, which was done by expansion set, involved a triage system in which cards were split by value. Anything worth more than $5 on TCGPlayer got listed either there or on eBay. Anything worth $0.99 or less was put in boxes to be sold in bulk. Everything else went in trade binders.

After the cards were all sorted, the first thing to go was the bulk boxes. At the time, Twenty Sided Store was deeply interested in expanding their inventory of singles from Zendikar block and beforehand. I was all too happy to help them bulk up their bulk inventory and sold everything to my local game store in exchange for store credit. Since I would be around from time to time to buy board games and hang out it made sense to take the credit bonus. Anything that was post-Zendikar I offered up to my friends in exchange for very little, but there weren’t a lot of takers, so those left as charity.

For the next year-and-a-half I built up a TCGPlayer business to sell off my cards. You start off at TCGPlayer with a lot of limitations. First you can only list a few cards and they can only be for under a certain price. These limits are removed as you build a reputation. Eventually I no longer had the time or desire to continue using TCGPlayer. It’s a lot of work to package and ship cards and a lot of overhead as well. However, I did manage to move 142 total shipments, a few each week on average, with a final seller rating of 97.9%. Unfortunately I still had about two thousand cards remaining!

While I’ve been retired I was still hanging out at tournaments and working on trading my cards that were worth $1~$5 up into more valuable cards. I even managed to move these up into a handful of revised dual lands. At the Legacy Grand Prix in Edison, NJ last year, I drove down with Matt Jones and we both unloaded a ton of cards on a dealer. Jones had been collecting rares for a while thanks to Team Draft League and he walked away with a Black Lotus, a Mox Sapphire, and a few dual lands. I was there to get rid of my Legacy staples and rid myself of a dozen dual lands, some Force of Wills, and whatever else they were interested in taking from my collection.

But I kept my Dredge deck. Memories are hard to abandon completely and for me, Dredge is the most powerful connection I have to Magic other than Stasis, and Stasis is unplayable so Dredge it is. I used the money from my Legacy sell-off to pick up three Lion’s Eye Diamonds and pocketed the rest.

Fast-forward to a few months ago. I had sat on the final 1500 cards in my collection for a while. Things had gotten very busy with work and extracurricular activity and there wasn’t time to sell cards on TCGPlayer or a desire to do so. But then Grand Prix Atlantic City was just around the corner so I booked a room and decided the time was up. I hadn’t played Magic regularly in two years and I didn’t miss it. I was sick of the space that they were taking up. It was one cubby in my Ikea bookshelf but I wanted it for other things. It was time to cash out.

Zach, Steve, and I checked into the Sheraton and then walked across the street to the convention center. The two of them went to sign up for side events while I walked right over to Card Titan and sat down across from my long-time friend Ryan McKinney to unload. I don’t mind mentioning either of these entities. Ryan and I have been friends for almost a decade. When I graduated from school I moved to Binghamton to work and I met Ryan in the local Magic scene. I only lived there for 18 months but Ryan and I remained friends and seeing him at GP’s is always worth the trip.

Two hours later Ryan had finished sorting my cards and handed over the cash. I called my fiancee to inform her of the number and she was pleasantly surprised. She hadn’t been fully aware that despite having spent the better part of two years slowly parting with my collection that there was still so much left. I was actually surprised too, but then again I’ve been collecting cards since 1995 and for the most part they did nothing but appreciate in value over that time.

All that remains of my 20,000+ card collection are four things. The first, as I mentioned above, is my Legacy Dredge deck. When Time Spiral introduced Dread Return to the world I was one of the early adopters of the Bazaar of Baghdad-fueled Sutured Ghoul combo decks. When Future Sight released I was all in on one of the most explosive combos the game had ever seen. The second item is the mono-blue Commander deck from the 2014 edition of the multiplayer boxed sets. I picked this up at PAX East earlier this year and it’s useful to have for impromptu games. The third item is my colorless cube. It is about 360 cards that have no color and it is a lot of fun to draft. I may part with this one day, but it will not be for some time. This is a lot of fun to bust out at parties. Last, but not least, is a box that contains an unopened 50-count pack of Casthaven sleeves, and 60 pre-sleeved Unhinged basic lands, 12 of each basic type. This box could say break seal in case of draft.

But the rest is all gone. The cardboard has been handed over to countless other people to make their own memories with, but my memories will never leave me. Someone playing with my M10 Ajani Goldmane and Baneslayer Angel won’t know that I used those cards to go 6-3 at Grand Prix Boston. Someone with my Verdant Embrace won’t know that I used it to beat Darwin Kastle at my first ever Grand Prix in New Jersey in 2003. Someone with my Friday Night Magic promos won’t know the weekly grind in college that produced them. But I’ll know, and I’ll never forget, because the memories are not the cardboard, the memories are the community, and so long as I’m still a part of the community, the memories will never fade.

I may have cashed out the cardboard, but I’m still a long way from cashing out the community.

The Quick Hits

  • Jared Yost does a much better job of explaining the problems with the distribution of rares and mythic rares in Modern Masters [MTG Price]
  • Wizards announced a revolutionary enhancement in major tournament payouts: they’ll be using computers! Okay I’m snarky but if you plan on winning cash at a Grand Prix or Pro Tour make sure you check this out [Daily MTG]
  • Mark Nestico considers the subtle differences between playing “right” and playing “well” [Star City Games]
  • Wizards trolled everyone by not putting Serum Visions in Modern Masters and then waiting a few days to tell everyone it was going to be an FNM promo [Magic Arcana]
  • M.J. Scott returns with a new cosplay set. This time it’s as Titania, Protector of Argoth [Gathering Magic]
  • Mike Linnemann breaks down the six new pieces of art that were commissioned for Modern Masters [Gathering Magic]
  • Ross Lennon defends the community of MTG Financiers and Speculators and pleads his case for why you shouldn’t blame them for making Magic expensive [MTG Price]

Wallpaper of the Week

After a brief foray into Modern Masters week, we finally finish the cycle of elder dragon wallpaper with Dragonlord Dramoka. Honestly it’s kind of meh. I don’t get the same feeling of grandiosity that I got from the other dragonlord art but here we are. Expect more Modern Masters wallpapers next week, maybe, though there isn’t a whole lot of new artwork in the set. Maybe more Tarkir? Planeswalkers? Who knows.

Grade: B-

What We Learned is a weekly feature here at Hipsters of the Coast written by former amateur Magic Player Rich Stein, who came really close to making day two of a Grand Prix on several occasions. Each week we will take a look at the past seven days of major events, big news items, and community happenings so that you can keep up-to-date on all the latest and greatest Magic: the Gathering community news.

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