On Pro Tours and Booster Boxes

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By: Sigmund Ausfresser

Throughout the past few weeks, a number of readers have asked me the same question in different ways. The most common form of this question involves some form of investment in Khans of Tarkir booster boxes and whether or not they’re worthwhile investments. I remained demure on this subject, but not for lack of ability or willingness to answer these questions. Rather, I knew they would merit a lengthy response in order to do them justice.

On the other hand, I would be remiss to neglect last weekend’s events and their impact on the MTG finance market. Pro Tours have a reputation for significantly and permanently moving card prices, and last weekend was no exception.

Therefore, by waiving my writer’s creative license card, I will embark on addressing both topics in this single article. Let’s hope this works.

Star Wars

Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir Perspective

I am choosing to lead with this topic for two reasons. First, the perspective is far more time-sensitive and therefore merits being digested while the Pro Tour is fresh in everyone’s minds. And second, I will be motivated to remain succinct in my analysis.

In fact there are really only a few key points I want to highlight from this event.

The most interesting analysis of the Pro Tour, at least for me, is the list of mythic rares played in the Top 8. This is an objective way of evaluating both which cards were powerful enough to show up in numbers on Sunday as well as which cards have the most upside potential and likelihood to stick. Naturally, I’ll focus on cards from Khans of Tarkir block since they have the longest remaining time in Standard. Below is a list of the mythic rares showing up in the Top 8 along with their MTGPrice.com prices as of Sunday morning (note that prices are likely to shift over the course of the day).

  1. Whisperwood Elemental ($13.13) – 8 copies
  2. Dragonlord Atarka ($13.48) – 7 copies
  3. Ugin, the Spirit Dragon ($33.04) – 6 copies
  4. Dragonlord Silumgar ($7.88) – 4 copies
  5. See the Unwritten ($4.11) – 4 copies
  6. Dragonlord Ojutai ($17.99) – 2 copies
  7. Shaman of Forgotten Ways ($6.14) – 2 copies
  8. Pearl Lake Ancient ($1.24) – 1 copy

Based solely on the numbers, I see a few trends leaping out at me screaming “opportunity.” For starters, if you’re sitting on copies of Dragonlord Ojutai after the recent run-up, I’d recommend selling. The card will certainly remain relevant in Standard, but there are some other Dragonlords I’d rather have my money in at this time—namely, Dragonlord Atarka and Dragonlord Silumgar. These are my preferred targets—Atarka in trade, and Silumgar possibly in cash at the right price. Both are cheaper and showed up in larger numbers in the Top 8. [Editor’s note: Sig was right on, and these have already spiked a bit between his writing and our publishing of this piece. Buying in now may be ambitious, but the logic for why he was buying at the old price remains intact.]

Ojutai

Whisperwood Elemental is already a $13 card, but showing up with two full sets in two separate lists certainly merits a closer look. I would advocate buying, except the recent price trajectory on this card is surprisingly negative. Perhaps it’s experiencing downward pressure because so many key cards in these decks come from Theros block? Perhaps the card was overbought and is now only settling at a more realistic price? Either way, I’ll maintain a hold on this one.

Whisperwood

Ugin appears overpriced to me, but I’m generally biased against $30 planeswalkers. The card did show up in the most number of Top 8 decks, but usually as a one- or two-of. Nobody is going to jam a full set of these, and I believe this severely limits the upside potential on Ugin. If he wasn’t such an iconic card, he would easily be $20. As it stands, I’d pass on these. But I can’t blame you for holding since this is a popular mythic rare planeswalker from a smaller set. If nothing else, Ugin will remain liquid in trade binders.

I’ll skip over Pearl Lake Ancient—I’m not falling for this one again. Shaman of Forgotten Ways made an intriguing appearance, but I’m not moving in on them based on this performance. And even though See the Unwritten made a rewarding appearance for those speculating on the cheap mythic rare, I’m likely to skip over the trend. Though I’ll admit the Top 8 appearance does legitimize the card to some extent. I wouldn’t be surprised if it trends higher from here, though how high is tough to say.

See

Before wrapping up this analysis, I wanted to mention a rare card I bought into at the start of the weekend, which put up zero copies in the Top 8: Den Protector. Clearly the newest version of Eternal Witness caught the eye of speculators, since it more than doubled in value over the weekend.

Den

What’s my take on the card knowing that it didn’t Top 8? I’m still optimistic those who bought in under $2 will make at least some profit. But I don’t see this going above $5 in the short term. I’d advocate selling copies you have in hand immediately with the hope of moving copies still in the mail rather quickly as well. Even if the card is as strong as some pros were indicating, the large set rare has a fairly low price ceiling unless it suddenly defines an archetype in Standard, a la Courser of Kruphix or Sylvan Caryatid. That being said, perhaps after rotation it will get a second wind. That’s a gamble you’ll have to accept if you choose to sit on copies through rotation. I’m not sure if I want to give up profits today to make that bet, but selling half now and half after rotation could be a balanced strategy.

Of course, there are dozens of other cards worth discussing. There were numerous rares from Khans block that showed up in the Top 8 of last weekend’s Pro Tour. But I can pretty much guarantee my article won’t be the only one to review the event’s metagame. Therefore, I will allow my assessment to remain fairly short and incomplete, in the hopes that the objective look at mythic rares at least provides a unique perspective of this highly covered event.

Sealed Booster Boxes

I’m eager to discuss this topic because it strikes close to home. Before sharing my recommendation, I want to first tell a story.

It all started about four years ago…

My spouse and I were on a weekend getaway in coastal Maine, when we happened upon a hobby shop on a stroll through town. Naturally I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to browse their Magic selection for deals. Most of their singles were fairly priced—no jackpots there. However, the store did have a couple remnant packs of Unhinged at a favorable price. The basic lands were already gaining traction and worth a couple bucks, and foil cards from Unhinged could randomly be worth big money. After endless deliberation I decided to roll the dice.

The contents of those packs were not as impactful as the ensuing thought process. At this point in time, Unglued booster boxes were already selling for $300 or more. Yet Unhinged boxes were selling for much less—well under $200. The light bulb went off. Unhinged wasn’t printed a ton, the game had grown significantly since Unglued, and the chance at getting foil full-art basics buoyed demand for sealed Unhinged product significantly. Still being fairly conservative and working with a limited bankroll, I made a move and purchased two boxes. They sat underneath my bed for months.

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During this time, the price of Unhinged booster boxes skyrocketed to $300. I rang the register for a sizable profit (and of course, these readily sell for around $500 today).

Unhinged

This is when the gears started turning in my numbers-oriented brain. Could other sets have similar upside? Do all booster boxes rise in price over time simply because supply steadily dwindles? I set to work, researching the price of all boxes on eBay and Star City Games. As it turns out, a booster box from every single older set, with a few exceptions, increased in price over time. And those that didn’t were fairly obvious: certain core sets, Nemesis, and a couple others. And who would have wanted to invest in those boxes anyway?

The pattern turned into a realization—buying boosters boxes could yield almost guaranteed returns over time with minimal investment. Cha-ching! I began my shopping spree. Boxes of Coldsnap, Zendikar, New Phyrexia, Onslaught, and more all went under my bed. Usually it was only one or two boxes of each, depending on my level of confidence in each one. All of them appreciated nicely and yielded significant profit (and were all sold…prematurely).

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Sometime during this endeavor, I decided to go deep on the set I was most confident in. It had already begun gaining traction in price and with such powerful eternal staples in the set I just knew it would take off. The set in question: Innistrad. At my peak, I had more money invested in Innistrad boxes than I had in certain stocks. It was a legitimate investment.

Impatiently, I watched prices rise. I tracked progress in a spreadsheet, noting small increases or decreases in the position’s value based on recent market prices. The inevitable climb ensued, and the prices of my boxes went from $145 (my average buy-in price) to $200. A delicious 38 percent gain. Surely I should have been singing and dancing, right?

Absolutely not.

A few realities set in. First, I had to overcome the illiquidity of older sealed booster boxes. It may come as no surprise to you, but I was severely disappointed with how difficult it can be to actually move these boxes at market pricing. Sure, people would offer me $170 on sites like MOTL, but I couldn’t bear to give up boxes for over 10 percent off fair pricing. It seemed that no one would be willing to pay $200 for the boxes unless I sold them on eBay.

The next issue was the timeline involved. I sat on these boxes for about two years and in this time I saw this 38 percent gain. I suppose profit is profit, but the opportunity cost of sitting on these boxes was brutally steep. Heck, I could have spent the same amount on foil Snapcaster Mages or Liliana of the Veils from the set and reaped a much larger return on investment for my money.

The booster boxes almost acted like an index fund for Innistrad. So while foil Snapcaster and Liliana more than doubled in value, boxes continued their slow and steady churn upward. Instead of honing in on the eternal staples in the set, I bought boxes, thinking the eternal staples would help drive box prices higher. It was naïve of me to not simply speculate on the top cards themselves.

Snapcaster

The worst part of this whole endeavor was the cost to unload this product. I had to price my boxes competitively on eBay in order to sell them. Then I had to eat about 13 percent in fees and $11 per box in shipping. Suddenly, selling a box for $200 only netted me around $163 . Now my profit had shrunk down to a meager 12 percent. After two years. During a time when the S&P 500 increased by around 40 percent.

While I couldn’t have predicted the performance of the stock market, the comparison is no less painful to make.  So in essence, while I did find an investment with nearly guaranteed upside and almost no downside, the risk/reward equation still didn’t quite work out as I had hoped.

As the dust settles, I look at my collection and realize that I (thankfully) only have a few boxes left—all of Return to Ravnica. At least with these, I got in at the floor. My average purchase price is around $85. But it’s already been over a year and these are only selling in the $100 range. Selling them here would actually lose me money after fees and shipping. So I continue to watch these boxes collect dust, hoping for some catalyst to move them higher in price.

What happened?! Why didn’t these boxes skyrocket like older sets? I had to think on this at length before coming to the inevitable conclusion: print runs. As Magic has grown in popularity, Wizards of the Coast has steadily increased its print runs. More and more stores are opening up each month, and they are all ordering more and more boxes to meet steadily growing demand from players. Often times, stores will max out their orders time after time to ensure they have enough product in stock for years.

With such large print runs, the time it takes for booster boxes of a set to run scarce takes longer and longer. Even with Modern and Legacy staples in a set, such as shock lands and Abrupt Decay, boxes just rise painfully slow nowadays. Yet again, I’m left wondering if I would have been better off putting this money into foil Abrupt Decays and shock sands rather than buying boxes themselves. They would at least take up less storage space.

So when people ask me about investing in Khans of Tarkir boxes, you can understand why I shiver inside. So much money tied up for years and years, the prospect of selling these boxes and eating so many fees, the storage space involved, the opportunity cost sacrificed…it’s overwhelming. Personally, I can’t stomach the endeavor again. If you are eager to throw money into a long-term spec, buy foil fetches. Or foil Siege Rhinos. Or just buy dual lands. At least those are on the Reserved List and are much easier to store.

Whatever you do, think twice before buying into new booster boxes. The return on investment just isn’t there.

Sig’s Quick Hits

  • Snapcaster Mage has really surged higher throughout the past few months. This is likely related to the fact that the card is dodging reprint in Modern Masters 2015. Star City Games has only 10 copies in stock, all moderately played at $45.65. Near-mint copies are sold out at $57.05. Why, oh why, didn’t I put my Innistrad box money into these???
  • Another reason I question See the Unwritten? The fact that the card made Top 8 of the Pro Tour, yet still sells for $3.99 at Star City Games. They have 40 copies in stock, too. If they really thought this card would move, they would increase price or at least set their stock to zero until the dust settled.
  • On the other hand, Dragonlord Silumgar is completely sold out at Star City Games with the increased price tag of $7.99. This is a strong indicator the card’s price will go higher. I’d much rather have money in these than in See the Unwritten or Dragonlord Ojutai (sold out at $17.15) right now. It just feels like there’s more room for upside.
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43 thoughts on “On Pro Tours and Booster Boxes”

  1. Hello,

    Very nice article; it is true that the Top8 has a lot of exposure, but I think your analysis should also take into account the best standard decks (9-1, 8-2).

    If you actually see in detail the players in the Top8, you’ll realize that most were qualified due to very strong limited perfomances. Some of their standard decks averaged 6-3-1s or even 6-4.

    The Esper Control list of Channelfireball had 4!! players in 8-2 or better. And they all played 3 Dragonlord Ojutai. Craig Wescoe also did 8-2 and played a bunch of them. Given the pre-ProTour increases, I believe this card will most likely stabilize/grow rather than sink.

    On the flip-side both DTK planeswalkers had appaling performances. given the heavy control metagamen, I think Narset might not be that bad in the future, but the new Sarkhan will follow the KTK Sarkhan for sure.

    Regards

  2. Hi Artur,

    Thank you very much for the feedback. You’re absolutely about the best way to analyze the Pro Tour metagame. I took a huge shortcut for the sake of churning out quick data points, while overlooking some important trends. This was a conscious decision I made – in a sense, I went for a shortcut approach because a) I wanted to share how I post-process PT data effectively and b) because Standard is not my strong suit.

    I didn’t want to ignore the PT altogether, so I thought I’d at least share a quick analysis. And while moving away from Ojutai may not be optimal, my conclusions around Silumgar and Atarka were spot on.

    Of course, I couldn’t have predicted such huge jumps over the 24 hour period between my writing the article and the article getting published. Now Atarka and Silumgar are even higher!

    I still think the article is useful though, as it shows how I analyzed the data, to some profitable conclusions. It may be too late this time, but this shortcut approach could help others make money in future Pro Tour’s without doing exhaustive research through endless lists. After all, the Top 8 lists got the most recent and longest camera time, so naturally these will stick in people’s minds more readily even though they don’t perfectly capture the field.

    This could be a whole new article subject, I’m realizing. 🙂

    Thanks again!
    Sig

    1. while I agree with looking at the lists based just record in standard, I still think Sig is right about Ojutai. Even if it some how could hold its price or get to $20, take the big profits while you can. More and more of this set is going to be opened over the next months which will continue to put more copies into the market (not to mention MTGO redemption kicking in). I don’t think there is any way that ojutai, silumgar, atarka, narset, and raptor can all hold $15+ price tag even while all seeing standard play.

      1. Ned,

        Thanks for adding your perspective! Ojutai was the first Dragonlord to get love, and it’s clear he’s not the only one that’s going to see play in Standard this season. Since there’s going to be a distribution of value and a set’s value can only get so high when it’s in Standard, some of those $$ will naturally transfer to other cards. With Silumgar and Atarka seeing a solid bump last weekend, it’s only natural that other cards will drop.

        It’ll be interesting to see how things unfold. I kind of liken this to the Titans when they were first in Standard. There were frequent fluctuations in values depending on which Titan was most popular any given week. Each of them had their chance to shine. But Primeval Titan always maintained the most value since it was so dominant. I don’t think we can pinpoint a dominant Dragonlord here, so I don’t see any $30 Dragonlords for the time being.

        Thanks again!
        Sig

  3. Nice article as always but you do not wrote about deathmist raptor, for me one of the most interesting cards if we talk about finance.

    What do you think about this card? I buy copies in pre order at 5€ and now i buy a few more at 10€ (i’m from Spain and Europe mtg finance is quite diferent that USA, one day MTG price should write about this. MKM is strong and weird sometiems here). I think this card has a really good position to reach 14€ in short, may be have a lose in summer and get valor again in post rotation. It has some copies in top16 and some pros really like the card.

    Kind regards

    1. Hi Rodrigo,

      Thanks for your comment! It’s true I left out Deathmist Raptor – sorry about that! For some reason I missed that it’s Mythic. Good catch!

      At $18 TCG Mid, it’s really hard to advocate buying in however. The card has definitely demonstrated strength, and it should remain relevant through Standard rotation. Being from the 3rd set, it also has an advantage of being a bit less printed.

      But now I wonder…Deathmist Raptor, a bunch of Dragonlords, Planeswalkers…there’s a LOT of high money cards in this set. But they can’t ALL stay so valuable. As more product is opened, cards will inevitably drop in price. So which trains do you want to be on when that happens? To me, selling into this short term hype is a smart play. Otherwise you’re holding onto a $20 card hoping it hits $25-$30, which may be a bit difficult. I certainly can’t advocate for that decision being so risk averse and since I’m not a Standard expert. But I could see there being rationale for doing so.

      If you get a chance, ask your question in the MTG Price forums. There, you’ll get access to other MTG Finance writers who perhaps have more understanding of Standard. I’d value their opinions highly over mine here.

      Thanks again!
      Sig

      1. I will try to do it. I have a pro trader account but still no have user in the forums.

        I hope to sell in short at 13€. I made a good amount with my 5€ picks in pre oder and now with 3€ for each new copy will be ok.

        Thanks for your reply 🙂

        Rodrigo

      2. Profit is profit, right?? I’m always thrilled to make money on MTG speculation – especially in Standard, when things can be a bit volatile!

        See if you can get in the forums! If you’ve already got the Pro Trader account, then take advantage of the community there. 🙂

  4. Another really good piece. I’ve always assumed that investing in boxes of sets chock-full with eternal staples like Innistrad and Return to Ravnica was akin to parking money in blue-chip stocks. I didn’t know it was that difficult to liquidate sealed products. One would have thought people would pay market price for it! I can say this is a good read as it shattered a misconception I’ve held and who knows, it may have just saved me some cash in the future.

    At the moment I am just glad I opened my Khans of Tarkir boxes.

    1. Thanks for the comment!

      For years, parking money in booster boxes seems to have paid off like a charm. After seeing how expensive Rise of the Eldrazi and Future Sight boxes got, I was SURE money could be made on other set. And to an extent, that plan worked out well. New Phyrexia followed suit and even Coldsnap boxes aren’t cheap anymore.

      But it just seems like new sets aren’t behaving the same way. Maybe I’m just being impatient. Maybe it’ll just take a little longer. But sitting around and waiting has been highly suboptimal.

      Nowadays, I’d almost relate boxes to “Savings Bonds”. In a down environment, booster boxes can add a lot of protection. But when the market is booming, newer booster boxes are left in the dust. That’s not to say booster boxes can’t make you money….just be prepared to wait a while, watching other opportunities pass by. If you’re looking for minimal risk and you don’t mind modest gains, booster boxes could still be a sound investment. It’ll be interesting to see how long it takes for Return to Ravnica boxes to do anything. $85 to $100 in a couple years isn’t anything to write home about.

      Thanks again!
      Sig

  5. Interesting to see two articles posted at the same time with completely opposing opinions on the value of Ugin. Interesting… and confusing.

    Why do you think that is? Is it a personal feeling or based on facts or previous similar cards price development?

    1. I think the differing opinion is simply based on the different approaches to drawing conclusions. Jared based his assessment on buy list / sell price spread. Noticing the favorable spread, he drew his conclusions and added his rationale. I based on analysis on Pro Tour appearances and relative price. Based on this, Ugin’s trajectory is less attractive than Silumgar’s is (was, as of Sunday morning).

      In other words, Jared’s assessment was relative to other buy/sell price spreads. Mine was based on relative mythic rare performance and price in the Pro Tour. Neither are “wrong” assessments to make. They’re both just following a single metric to make a conclusion.

      If anything, it goes to show you how difficult Ugin’s trajectory has been to project. I will readily admit that I neglected how big Ugin was in casual play. After reading Jared’s interpretation on Ugin, I’d be inclined to learn towards a favorable outlook. But I still don’t want to buy a $30 Planeswalker in the hopes it hits $40. VERY few Planeswalkers hit $40 during their time in Standard. Jace, Liliana of the Veil (momentarily)….that’s it. I think Gideon may have peaked near $40 retail at first, but I seem to recall it was largely trading at $30.

      So is a $40 Ugin unprecedented? No. Is buying 20 Ugins at $30 the best place to park money? I’d argue possibly not, though now that Silumgar and Atarka jumped so much Ugin’s relative price isn’t so staggering.

      Great questions. Hope you posted the same thing on Jared’s article. I’d love to hear his further thoughts!
      Sig

    2. Hi Steffen,

      The difference between the two analyses is immediate price impact vs. long term price trajectory. Sig’s article focuses on immediate trends following the Pro Tour, while I’m looking at Ugin’s long term Standard viability in addition to thinking about what exactly the massive casual demand for Ugin could mean for his future price. Sorry if this was confusing, hope this clears it up!

      1. Thank you for your answers, both of you.

        Personally I love the card and I would love to buy some foils too. But the fact that I have my feelings involved rather than being 100% rational, is why I wouldn’t trust my own on judgement if I had to invest in this card. So I have to rely on you guys to figure out the math. If you disagree on prices, then I’m screwed. ^^ So thanks for clearing that up!

      2. LOL if you love the card that much, then just bite the bullet and get a foil. Sometimes we fixate too often on finance and we lose sight of the fun component of the game. 🙂

  6. Thanks for the great article!

    What are your thoughts on investing in MM2015 sealed boxes? Does your analysis apply to those as well? The print run on MM is much less than standard sets, so it seems those might appreciate quicker.

    1. John,

      Thanks for reading!

      MM2015 is going to be a brand new beast, so predicting the outcome is incredibly difficult. On the one hand, we know that MMA boxes sold extremely well and they rallied very quickly to over $300, and continued their steady climb even higher (although at a much slower pace). But we also know MM2015 boxes will be more plentiful. Then again, they’ll also have a higher MSRP. So more supply and a higher start price = less attractive to me.

      But MMA boxes performed SO well and SO predictably that there may still be potential for gains there. It really is a tough thing to anticipate. I may be inclined to buy and hold a box or two as long as there are significantly attractive cards in the set and the print run doesn’t get out of control.

      If you do decide to invest, just be prepared to have hundreds of dollars tied up in sealed product for up to a couple years…investing in non-reprinted Modern staples may end up just being better who knows?

      I’d love to get a discussion going on this topic in the forums, if you’re interested! Other opinions weighing in would help round out the discussion.

      Thanks again,
      Sig

  7. Hi Sig,

    I consume a lot of content on this site, but rarely comment. In this case, I wanted to say that your articles are quickly becoming some of my favorite on the site! I appreciate the references to the stock market, as they lend perspective to the greater idea of where to put your money to work for the greatest return. This is something we all should be focused on, unless you’re one of the rare few for which money is not a finite resource!

    I’ve also noted how conscientiously you reply to the comments in your pieces, which communicates to me how much you enjoy your craft. Enough gushing.

    A bit of commentary in defense of holding sealed boxes: they are a very accessible fire and forget investment with excellent downside protection. The first two points are directly addressed in your article. You can sock these boxes away while they’re in print for $85-90, and like your index fund comparison implies, very little active time monitoring the price of the box is needed as it sits under your bed. Even cards from the reserve list are subject to price fluctuations based upon their use in legacy, and many will cost you quite a bit more than an in print box will.

    Regarding the third point, downside protection, consider your boxes of Innistrad. Nostalgia for this draft format is so strong that I imagine sealed boxes will eventually continue to increase in value even after Snapcaster Mage and Liliana of the Veil see their inevitable mass market reprints. There are a sizable number of people out there that want to crack these packs to draft Spider Spawning one more time, or open Laboratory Maniac when they’re already 10 cards into a solid self-mill deck. If they happen to open a Snapcaster, that’s just gravy!

    I realize this argument is anecdotal, but this nostalgia factor is real, and if you’re part of a player base that loves to draft, you have your market (albeit a small one) for unloading boxes without having to pay shipping and/or eBay fees!

    I believe sealed boxes have their place among casual investors that don’t necessarily have the time to keep up with metagame gyrations and reprint announcements. I think the closest analog to Khans is Innistrad, and while there are enough factors to debate that make this a separate discussion, I think you’re not far off if you expect a similar direction for your sealed box of Khans.

    Jason

  8. Hi Jason,

    First off, I cannot thank you enough for both your kind words and for your thoughtful comment! As you alluded, one of my favorite aspects of writing about MTG Finance is engaging with the community after I publish a piece. For a time, I thought I was a bit of an odd-ball for comparing the stock market to MTG Finance. But the more I engage with the community, the more I realize I’m not alone! The two kind of go hand in hand, right? You can’t focus on MTG Finance so much without at least tipping your hat towards Wall St. and “RL” investing, as I jokingly put it. So please, keep the comments coming and let me know where your mind is at – especially when you disagree!

    Regarding booster boxes, I completely understand where you’re coming from. There is a nostalgia factor that I neglected to consider, mostly because I am not a fan of limited in many cases. Now, I DID have nostalgia for Unhinged, which is partly why I got into sealed boxes in the first place. 🙂 THAT’S a fun set to draft. So yes, a fun draft set does help some….but the larger print runs become, the more I question the investment.

    With Khans, we could be waiting 5 years before we make an appreciable return. Granted, it was a low risk return. But I hesitate to believe there’s not a better place you think you could park money for a few years. No? I’m pretty sure some solid casual foils or some such could be safer. Prone to reprinting? Possibly, but you could diversify a bit to mitigate that risk.

    Now let’s move past Khans boxes and talk about Modern Masters 2015 boxes. Are THOSE going to be good buys? MMA boxes sure were. What do you think?

    Thanks again for commenting! 🙂
    Sig

  9. I just wanted to let you know I love the comparison of box prices to being an index fund.

    Also, while I am the crazy set size truther of our bunch, you are the cool and collected analyst.

    1. Glad you found the comparison accurate! The idea came to me rather suddenly while I was writing this article, and it seems very fitting.

      While I may come across as cool and collected, I do tend to over-worry. Some Twitter followers and friends would attest to that. But I think it’s not a bad thing to be concerned with your collection’s value and how external factors can impact said value. They call it worry. I call it being well-prepared. 🙂

  10. “On the other hand, Dragonlord Silumgar is completely sold out at Star City Games with the increased price tag of $7.99. This is a strong indicator the card’s price will go higher.”

    Now it’s $12.99 and completely sold out. At a local tourney, non-foils were going for $15 with ease and foils were topping $30.

    1. This is just crazy. The prices I cited were as of Sunday morning. 24 hours later Silumgar’s price jumped dramatically. Naturally I like the Dragonlord much less at the higher price. I’m inclined to sell anything that spiked last weekend…except maybe Den Protector, which has already come back down. I could see an argument for holding those, though I’m not sure I will hold them or not.

      Ugin could also easily maintain his high price given the steep casual demand alongside Standard strength. He is probably the real deal, but it’s tough to buy any copies at $30 thinking you’ll make a ton of profit.

      1. Well, I’ve got 2 foil and non-foil playsets of Drag Sil, and I think I’m going to roll the dice and hold. When I hear people say, “Wow, it plays much better than I expected” then I believe it can be the start of a long climb higher. The downside is 50%, but the upside is limitless over the long-term.

      2. I’d agree upside is very high on foils, especially if he sees EDH play. For nonoils, there most certainly is a ceiling on upside. I’d put it at around $30 realistically – dominant mythics can hit this price point (Sphinx’s Revelation, Voice of Resurgence) in Standard. $20 is most likely if there are other big ticket Mythics in the same set (such as the other dragonlords).

        Either way, I won’t fault you for holding. As you know, I tend to be risk averse. I’ll take easy profits right away over holding in hopes of more profit. Especially with Standard cards, since the format is not my strongest from an MTG Finance analysis standpoint.

        Thanks for sharing your opinions! I’d be curious to hear if others are on your side. 🙂

        Sig

      3. Just a quick point that Silumgar is 100% certain to see EDH play- elder dragon that steals planeswalkers- I don’t think wizards could fit more edh/casual hit words onto that card. I doubt foils get much cheaper from this point on

      4. Matt – They could have added that you get an extra turn when it died. Then it would have the most EDH appeal possible :-P.

  11. I’m a seller into the pro tour hype as well, dragonlords and all. I was one of the lucky ones to have opened a foil DL Atarka. When I opened it, it was $20. That seemed underpriced, so I held, hoping it would see a significant increase over the next year or two. Well, pro tour happened, Atarka spiked, and I took advantage of the fact that most online retailers were sold out. Sold today for $50, far too much money to pass up, even if in, say, 5 years it surpasses that. Plus there’s always time to jump back in when the hype is over.

    1. John,

      I’m with you on that one! I’m generally eager to sell Standard cards into hype for profit…or most cards for that matter. Even if they drop back down and then recover over time, I can’t resist taking profits on the table. Firm believer in the saying “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”. That’s my MTG investing style to a “T”.

      Nice pull and great timing on the sale!

      Sig

  12. There is a very simple explanation on why Innistrad and RTR booster boxes have not delivered the historical returns that earlier sets did. There are too many “investors” in the MTG Finance arena now.

    When everyone is going after the “sure-bet” investments such as sealed products and shocklands, the future prices will be suppressed by a glut of supply that is being hoarded by investors. This is why I sold/traded 500+ shocklands back in September 2013 because I don’t want to participate in the rat races of trying to liquidate these investments. And that is why I am also staying away from KTK fetches. Too many people are touting this to be the next “double up your retail value in 2 years” investment.

    1. I certainly think you have a strong point here. I learned a tough lesson on recent booster boxes and on Shock Lands. And it’s THIS lesson that steers me away from Fetches. Too many hands in the kitchen, along with excess supply due to record print runs, means very slow gains and lower price ceilings.

      More reason to stick to cards with sparser supply and that had been overlooked in the past. These are the picks with the most upside. And if you go old enough and low-risk enough, you can still avoid unnecessary risk!

      Great observation, thanks for the build!
      Sig

      1. I would even go as far as making this statement: Investors/Speculators were/are artificially holding up the prices of shocklands and KTK fetches.

        And this is probably the most controversial statement that I will make: The Golden Age of Magic Finance is over. The days of price spikes across the board are gone.

        This is the first year that I can remember that we didn’t see the “tax-return” seasonal effect. With increased high-profile reprints, either in a regular set or special releases, you are basically gambling every year that certain staples that you are holding will not get reprinted. It is a high-risk, high-reward situation (the latest Snapcaster Mage rise in price is mainly attributed to Innistrad not being in MM2). I think this is a time where doing the research will benefit the most, as you can identify cards that are either low supply or low reprint probability or both. Then you can acquire them and hold them for a year or two. Other than that, it will be identifying the latest Constructed tech/metagame and act quickly. But even then, you would have to play the rat games in getting rid of your copies ASAP.

      2. The scenarios you point out are 2 of the 3 ways I make money in MTG Finance. Buying during a Pro Tour weekend and selling into hype, or buying cards that should rise in demand over a 1-2 year period while dodging reprint. But I think you overlook an important 3rd avenue to making money – buying older cards on the reserved list or VERY unlikely to see reprint and riding the tide higher. This final option may only work in an environment where MTG grows, but I still have confidence Wizards can make this happen. That’s why I’m on Dual Lands. That’s why Power is still going higher. That’s why random stuff like Invoke Prejudice is $100 and Alpha Blessing buy lists for $80.

        Also, don’t under estimate the importance of collectors. They have their impact on prices too – especially old stuff like Alpha.

        So while I don’t think the golden age of Finance is over, I do think we need to be more strategic than ever before. Perhaps that’s what you meant, and the “golden age” comment was meant as a hyperbole for effect. There is a truth to the statement along that trajectory – I just don’t think it’s as far gone as you’ve indicated…yet…

        Thanks again for adding to the discussion. We need to pay close attention to the trends you’ve identified. That much is for certain!

  13. Sig, excellent article. Glad you talked about boxes and as other commentors mentioned I really like the comparison to the stock market. I think Khans boxes are solid investments as they will go up over time…however you are probably correct in that there’s probably other investments I could make that would yield better returns. So I pose a different question to you:

    What about foreign booster boxes? Namely Russian boxes!! And then Korean and Japanese. My LGS sells out very quickly of Russian packs/boxes and that’s at $4 a pack and they no longer offer a box discount. I’ve also noticed on ebay (which can skew prices because it’s harder to track an actual Sold price vs an asking price) that sealed Russian boxes go for significantly more than sealed English boxes. As such, I’ve been targeting one or 2 Russian boxes per set for no more that $125 (except Khans) as they seem to sell for $200 minimum. Do you have any thoughts on the foreign magic box market? [I admittedly have a personal nostalgia for collecting boxes so I will continue to do so to some extent]

    And there is some value in buying boxes instead of single cards for a more casual investor such as myself. Griselbrand foils took a significant hit when the promo was released. Liliana looks great now but she was $40ish and near unplayable in the Treasure Cruise era and that had to be a harrowing time for Lili owners and investors. Singles are subject to significant fluctuations while boxes typically are not. But I take your article very seriously and really do believe that I will not be investing money in Dragons of Tarkir boxes or future sets except the obligatory 1-2 boxes per set… except for Battle for Zendikar if they do another fetch reprint (and triple Khans was a very popular draft format) and when they print mythic duals ;p (i have hypothesized that eventually Wizards will release mythic dual lands but they won’t have a land type like the Temples so that you can’t fetch for them, basically “buddy” or “check” lands without the condition to enter untapped)

    1. Spencer,

      First, let me thank you for your positive feedback. I’m really energized by the fact that so many other people are more like passive MTG investors, as that’s the general approach I take for the majority of my MTG funds. Hopefully we can continue to share ideas and learn from each other. I believe looking at booster boxes almost like an index fund or ETF for a given set is a strong comparison, and draws a nice parallel for people who also invest in stocks :).

      Foreign boxes? Wow. I’ll be honest – the only time I ever bought into a foreign box was when they were significantly CHEAPER than the English equivalent. I figured NO booster box should be $60 or less from any set, no matter what language. So I picked up an Italian box of Saviors of Kamigawa once and I picked up a box of Chinese Champions of Kamigawa to crack ages ago. In other words, I have very little experience. That experience is even LESS with premium foreign languages like Russian.

      This is what I know:
      1. Foil Russian Fetches are worth a TON.
      2. Drafting English packs is easier than foreign packs for the majority of players.
      3. Russian product is extremely limited.

      The data above is not enough for me to draw a definitive conclusion. Russian boxes with Legacy staples COULD pay out nicely I’m sure. But the market is a lot smaller, so perhaps it would be difficult to move them at their fair market value years from now? Tough call. I could see arguments for both sides. Perhaps you’ll have to let me know how it goes!

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts,
      Sig

  14. I wanted to comment separately on the Shock lands and Fetch land investing comments and theories. I re-entered the magic scene at the end of Gatecrash and it seemed like half the players thought shocklands would rise quickly after rotation but a few smarter players/magic speculators said that there were more people playing Standard than Modern and shock lands wouldn’t necessarily rise as most would be traded or sold upon rotation. Additionally, someone wrote a good article comparing the number of Shocks in a modern deck with the number of Fetches and Fetches greatly outweigh the number of Shocks needed for most decks. In fact even in Legacy there’s more fetch lands than dual lands.

    The obvious difference between Shocks and Fetches is the playability in different eternal formats. I think fetches will have a better long term value than shocks despite being exceptionally over printed because the collector demand to save unplayed fetches and the player demand to acquire fetches for modern and legacy decks will keep demand high for a while. At worst when I’m trading standard cards for standard cards fetches won’t go down like 98% of all cards after rotation…but if people want to stay away that’s fine with me 🙂

    1. Fetches are certainly highly liquid and will continue to be for a long time. Just don’t buy into Khans fetches expecting them to hit $50 like the Zendikar ones did. And when the Zendikar fetches are inevitably reprinted, there will be even more downward pressure. And if everyone and their mother buys heavily into fetches like they did with Shocks, then it could be years before these return an appreciable profit.

  15. Yeah Sig, I have tempered my expectations for Khans fetches. Again, I got back into Magic around Gatecrash and I never rode the original fetch rollercoaster. I don’t expect them to pull a snapcaster or lili re-enactment and greatly jump in price at any point. But I honestly don’t know what else to trade Standard cards for some times. Even my buddy Tasigur or Siege Rhino I feel will be reprinted after Wizards reprinted Courser in the Clash Pack so I’m reluctant to go all in for them in trades. I traded for Abrupt Decays at $6 when they weren’t played in standard, and while they have doubled Deathrite hasn’t gone up at all (modern ban likely the culprit). I can’t keep track of popular EDH commanders and it seems like only foils are important there (like khans versions of Anafenza, Sidisi, Narset) but when a new card is printed an old commander can become obsolete right?? I’ve heard there isn’t a Sultai (i hate that name, BUG is so much better) Tiny Leader’s commander…so when Wizards makes one is that going to replace Sidisi Brood Tyrant??? I guess that’s why I both read articles and still buy boxes 😀 Catch you next week.

    And at the moment mtgprice has dragonlord Atarka at $20. Sell now buddy if you got him and make that money!!

    1. I’ve got no Atarkas but I’m selling my Silumgars! 🙂 If only I could move these darned Den Protectors!

      Everything new seems to have greater risk these days. I’m actually wondering if foils are the way to go now. They’re less vulnerable to reprints and have much higher ceilings. But they can also be tougher to move as well. This may a future article topic, so I’ll leave it open ended for now.

      Talk to you again soon!
      Sig

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