Card rarities in Magic: The Gathering comprise of common, uncommon, rare, and mythic. Typically, each pack of cards contains 10 commons, 3 uncommon, and 1 rare or mythic. Over time, players accumulate piles of commons and uncommon that are deemed unplayable in most formats of the game. These piles of extra cards are called bulk cards. Players often sell local gaming stores (LGS) a mix of 1,000 commons and uncommon (bulk) for $3.00 to $5.00 in-store credit or cash. An LGS will either organize the bulk cards for single selling or re-sell it at a higher price. For example, one of my LGS buys 1,000 bulk cards for $3.00 in-store credit. They will then sell a bundle box quantity (about 550 cards) of unsorted bulk for $5.00.
Why Pick Bulk?
Sifting through bulk cards is a time-consuming process. However, there is an incentive for players to look through bulk boxes. An LGS may buy a collection of cards from a player, but not have the time to go through every card box. Unchecked boxes can end up on shelves for players to look through. There are many common and uncommon in MTG worth multiple dollars. My favorite website to view valuable bulk cards by set is MTG Dawnglare. You can search by format or set to find common and uncommon cards worth over $1.00. Newer sets may contain valuable cards that players overlook. For example, Reliquary Tower from Core 2019 sells for about $3.00. You can buylist Reliquary Tower to a vendor for $1.50 each. Finding just four copies of Reliquary Tower will offset the $5.00 spent on 546 other cards. A few decent pulls from an unsorted box will allow you to keep the rest of the cards for essentially free. Any value gained from the remaining bulk cards can net a profit.
Beyond earning a profit, some players pick bulk because they want to build their card collection. It is much cheaper paying $0.01 per card in the example above than buying single common and uncommon for $0.10 or more. Your time spent picking bulk can save money by acquiring cards you want at a discount. Players interested in the Pauper or Elder Dragon Highlander (EDH) formats may find bulk picking a great opportunity to save money.
My Tips for Effective Bulk Picking
1. Knowledge of the Most Played Commons and Uncommon in Constructed Formats
Part of successfully picking bulk is knowing what you should pull out of a card box. The most played cards are usually worth more than others of similar rarities. A great place to start is with MTGGoldfish's format staple lists. To maximize value, I would focus on the Modern and Legacy card lists. I have found better returns on older cards than most Standard-legal commons and uncommon.
2. Knowledge of the Most Played EDH Cards by Color
EDH is a popular format with a very large card pool. EDHREC has top played card lists by color, artifact, and land. I recommend grabbing guild signets, tri-color lands, and strong blue cards as a starting point. You should also familiarize yourself with the list of top commanders. This list will help you focus on gold cards that share multiple colors. Currently, I have found Gruul (red and green) as the least popular color combination.
3. Reference a Buylist or MTG Dawnglare When Picking Bulk
It is very helpful to pull up a vendor buylist or MTG Dawnglare when picking through bulk. I like to sort prices by MTG set on vendor buylists. This helps me focus on cards that are worth enough money to sell. I try to take cards that will generate $0.08 or higher in-store credit. Otherwise, I believe the return is not worth the time and effort after shipping costs. Also, I use MTG Dawnglare to quickly see a list of valuable cards by set. If I come across a set with no commons and uncommon worth over $1.00, I will skip it entirely. For example, Theros only has Burnished Hart and Grey Merchant of Asphodel that I would consider pulling. Instead of spending time going through a box of Theros, I will just skip it and move on to another set. I use this strategy for sets that have valuable cards in one color. Avacyn Restored has one chase uncommon called Blood Artist. If I come across this set, I will only look at the black cards.
4. Focus on Uncommon Rarity Symbols
Every MTG set beginning with Exodus uses colored rarity set symbols on cards. Commons cards are black and uncommon cards are silver. When sorting cards, I recommend looking for silver uncommon cards. I generally skip through all common unless I recognize the artwork or the card name. The reason for doing this is because very few common cards hold value. It is a waste of time trying to look at every single card in a box. An exception to this rule is when I come across old sets like Zendikar, Fifth Dawn, and Dissension. Common cards can be worth a few dollars from these sets. I will also take my time looking through Modern Masters sets.
5. Make Piles of Cards From Sets Without Rarity Symbols
It is hard for most players to remember rarities of cards from sets like Fourth Edition, Ice Age, and Visions. These sets do not contain rarity symbols on the cards. Some players overlook this trait and put rare cards in their bulk boxes. I strongly encourage you to set cards aside from these sets and check their values. Once you get a good sized stack, you can quickly reference a vendor buylist or MTG Dawnglare. I often find valuable cards, including Reserved List cards, in bulk boxes that are from sets before Exodus.
6. Take Cards You Want to Play for Personal Use
If you enjoy playing MTG and want to build a personal collection, you should take cards to keep as well. I take cards for EDH and older formats that are commonly played. When I recently came across a bulk box of Zendikar commons, I set aside copies of Expedition Map and Journey to Nowhere for personal use. I keep around 15% of my bulk box pulls for playing in various MTG formats.
7. Know Shipping Costs When Buylisting Bulk to Online Vendors
You should have a good gauge for the cost of mailing bulk cards to online vendors. A Reddit user reminded me that USPS sells small flat rate Priority Mail boxes for $7.90 shipped. These boxes hold around 400 cards regardless of weight. You can send an entire box of bulk across the country to an online vendor for about $0.02 a card. I could have saved money using this method with my last bulk buylist of 300 cards. I mailed a bundle box across the United States as a First Class package for $15.00. The price per card to mail was $0.05. I would have made a much higher profit margin had I thought about other shipping alternatives.
Picking bulk can be a profitable and rewarding way to build your MTG card collection. I believe setting thresholds and knowing what to pull will improve your efficiency and profitability. Keep in mind that your time has a value attached to it. Some may find picking bulk to be worth the effort to supplement MTG spending. Others may like the experience of finding valuable cards in a box of 3,000 cards. I enjoy looking through old cards and finding new options for EDH decks. Whatever your reason is for looking through bulk, I hope my tips improve your next picking experience.