Stream of Consciousness

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Welcome back, DJ!

Thanks, I needed that. As you might have noticed last Thursday, my content was conspicuously absent from MTGPrice. As a resident assistant for the returning students at my school, I was extremely busy last week with preparing the building, checking new students into the residence hall, and repeating the mandatory training that is drilled into us every year. Although the job is a lot of fun and I highly recommend it to any of my fellow college students who are interested, move-in week certainly takes up a chunk of my time. To all of my fellow college-student MTG financiers, I highly recommend applying for the job at your school. It’s a great experience overall, even though it’s a pretty large time commitment.

Unfortunately, even if I did have time to write an article last week, I didn’t exactly have a specific topic ready and waiting to be scribbled down. In fact, I still don’t have a topic this week. I’m just kind of winging it right now, because I’m pretty apathetic about most of Magic right now.

Apathy

I’m not one to obsess over the angels in the new From the Vault, everyone else has already written about the fetch lands and their Battle for Zendikar predictions, and I think I’ve exhausted your patience for “articles concerning my weekly collection buying and organizational processes” in the past couple of months (seriously though, if you guys/girls want to read about more of that stuff, I can do that. I love writing about collection buying). So let’s just see where this goes, okay?

More Fetch Land Talk

Actually, you know what? I do want to talk about fetch lands, even though the spike was a billion weeks ago at this point. In recent news,  there was a fake leak of enemy Zendikar fetches being spoiled at PAX. After several diligent researchers determed that the art was cherry-picked from various other internet sources, the frenzy quieted down. If you’re one of the people who bought a huge number of fetches before the spike and had a miniature heart attack at the sight of the faked announcement due to still owning a couple thousand dollars worth of fetch lands, that was your warning shot.

Warning

I’m still advocating unloading these now instead of waiting a few months, as I think there’s a high probability of Wizards including the five lands in the second set of the block. If you wait too long into BFZ to sell them, then you won’t be able to find any buyers as everyone will be holding off until Sweat is released. Lock in the profits now and you can have cash on hand just in case someone comes up to you to sell a collection. I still have some Zendikar fetches left over that I picked up from the story I’m about to tell you, and the few seconds of jump scare made me realize I need to pick up the pace on selling them.

Sticker Time

While we’re on the subject of fetches, I’d like everyone to gather ’round for story time. We’re traveling back a billion weeks ago to the day of the “enemy fetchlands will not be in Battle for Zendikar” announcement, in a small town called Camden, New York. The closest LGS is 30 minutes away, but at least this one has a singles display case, stocked with staples. Although our weekly EDH night didn’t start until 6:00 p.m., I wanted to get there early and see if the shop had any fetches in its display case at a reasonable price. This was right in the middle of the buyout, with SCG being bought out not even an hour before.

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I arrived at the store and noticed that they still had quite a few fetches in stock: Misty Rainforestfor $35, Marsh Flats for $25, Verdant Catacombs for $34, and Scalding Tarns for $54.  Excellent. There were no Arid Mesas, but you can’t have everything. I inspected the condition to make sure they were all NM and gave the employee my card to swipe. I told him that I was purchasing all of these fetch lands because I expected them to be worth a lot more by the end of the day, and I ended up being correct (for once). One of the main reasons I’ve kept coming back to this store is that it always honors the sticker price, even if the card has already jumped. I help the store out by pointing out low prices when I’m not going to buy cards, too.

Now, let’s fast forward to the next week. I wanted to buy new binders because the Monster brand ones that I’ve used for the past few years were finally at their limit. I didn’t want to wait a week for them to arrive from Amazon, so I stopped by the LGS once again. This time, I was met with an interesting change in the store: it was no longer labeling its singles with price stickers—one now had to ask an employee for the price of each individual card.

Decree of Pain

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I suppose the owner was tired of having people like me buy cards after their actual retail price had already increased. The store certainly loses out on potential income when I buy $5.50  Living Ends, I’m not arguing that point. Then again, I’ve been on the other side of the fence plenty of times, considering I just sold a Cloudstone Curio out of my own display case for $6 before I had the chance to update the price. It’s an unfortunate reality of the business we’re in.

However, I can’t help but wonder if removing the stickers is the best possible move for the store, and I’d love to get your thoughts in the comments section about this. By forcing employees to check the price on every single card sold out of its case, the store loses out on a large number of impulse purchases from players who don’t play nearly as competitively as us vocal minority. I can only assume that an EDH player who is browsing the case for new additions to her decks won’t go through the trouble of asking the price on every single potential candidate—she will narrow her purchase to save on time. It’s much easier for customers to mentally visualize their own budgets and how many cards they can afford when the prices are right in front of them, and this system also removes the joy of finding a card that’s even slightly underpriced, even if it’s only finding a $7 Blood Crypt that was $8 everywhere else one looked. There’s also the employee’s time and effort to take into consideration, because he now has to double-check every single price every time someone asks about a card.

As someone who sold several Goblin Rabblemasters for $7 out of my case while they were $15 everywhere else, I held no animosity or resentment towards the players and financiers who I sold these cards to. What are your thoughts on this?

Uhh…

Alright, so now that that’s out of the way, what else is there to talk about… Hmm.

One with Nothing

End Step

Apparently Hangarback Walker is a $20 Magic: The Gathering card, which upsets me way more than $80 Scalding Tarns. If you own these, I’m still calling to sell them. I mean, I suggested you sell them at $8, then I suggested selling them at $14, so what do I know? All I know is that this card is the same price as Thoughtseize was almost two years ago, and I highly doubt that Walker has the same longevity.

Temple of Epiphany got its second wind for about a week off the back of the UR Artifacts deck, and then everyone realized: “Oh wait, this stupid thing is about to rotate.” I managed to sell off a pile into the hype, but I think that’s just about died down for now. If you want to pick up any other Temples for speculation, you can probably find the cheaper ones at near-bulk prices as everyone else abandons ship. While I’m still staying away from any and all Temples in favor of collection buying, I’ve been wrong before. A lot, actually.

Foil Hive Mind was bought out recently, but I haven’t really heard or seen anything about that. While it might be part of your daily ritual to check the daily interests on MTGStocks, remember to click that foil tab every day as well.

While we’re on the subject of foils, I fully support Travis’s call on foil Tasigur at $30 to $40. While I’m not going to drop several hundred cash dollars on it like he did, I’m going to horde the few copies I already have in my spec box, target them aggressively in trades, and keep a finger on the pulse of the card’s price moving forward.

That’s all I’ve got for this week. If you have anything in particular you’d like me to write about, hit me up. Summer is usually a pretty dull time in Magic finance anyway, until all hell breaks loose with the release of the fall set. Look forward to the next few weeks as spoiler season starts trickling in, as I’ll be helping Jason and Corbin create up-to-date spoiler coverage and tossing my hat into the ring on where I think most of the cards’ prices will end up in the future months! (Spoiler alert: I predict 90 percent of the set will be bulk rares.)

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25 thoughts on “Stream of Consciousness”

  1. My LCS does not have any sticker prices on their cards either…and every time I go to buy, I have them pull out the 20 or so cards I want, and ask to see them up close. I inspect condition, hand them the pile if all is good, and ask for a price for all of them. It usually takes them a good 10-15 minutes to look them all up, and when I come back they ask for above TCG mid for them all, without fail. I say “no, thank you” and walk away. I hope my time wasting will some day convince them to either put on sticker prices, or not gouge their clients. If they put the prices on stickers that they ask for when they look them up, then they’d never get a sale except for a desparate player or two on FNM. I honestly don’t know what their end game is. They have almost no turnover.

    1. Maybe they sell a lot of overpriced cards to the invisible non-competitive players that you don’t see at events like FNM, who don’t understand that cards are a lot cheaper on the internet. How long has the store been open using this business model?

    2. That’s funny. I often end up doing the same thing. I don’t do it maliciously, but I never understood the point of paying TCGmid on non-foil cards that are actually valued lower (TCGmid is calculated based on asking price, not selling price—the true marker of card worth). I guess there’s a tax on getting your card immediately rather than waiting a week for the mail.

      However, the reason I go through binders and give the LGS a stack of cards to look up prices is because on occasion the store will offer it’s own discount on a card that actually makes it a worthwhile purchase. So, I waste 10-15 minutes of the employee’s time to find that one card I’ll actually buy, be it $0.50 or $10.

    3. I’ve got no problem paying a little bit more than TCG low for a card, even SCG prices (which one local store uses almost exclusively). But only if I need it right then and there.

      They have most stuff marked, some isn’t (binder stuff). If I see something way out of whack ($35 ravagers when they were $50) I point it out to them.

      But when I’m going through a binder of “extra crap” that are just slung into a binder, I’m not really all that interested in paying SCG prices. Staples, that I need for tonight, sure. Random stuff in a binder, not so much.

    1. That’s a bold claim. Maybe I’m just underestimating the universal applicability of the card because I’m out of touch with Standard, but does it really have reason to surge past Abrupt Decay foils by that much?

  2. Since BFZ will have a “brand new” land cycle the probability for a fetch reprint in the small BFZ-set is close to zero. Two different cycles of dual lands in the same block is unheard of.

  3. Concerning Hangarback:

    I’m confident that he will hold his value and even go further up. He’s far too useful in so many decks.

    Concerning price tags/LGS:

    In Europe we have kind of a different system. Magickartenmarkt.de is our price indicator, and most of the time people look up cards there and check for language/condition and corresponding price. Since all people can make accounts, prices will always be a bit lower than what tcg shows. Our local, or in general all game stores in Switzerland ask ridicolous prices for value cards. I don’t even know how they get their prices. They almost always forget to adjust prices, so you can get cards for very cheap if they spike.
    But, I always feel guilty when I buy cards (for example cloudstone curio for 2,5$ a piece) just because I can imagine how hard it must be for the local game stores in Switzerland to earn money for magic.
    Just as an example. Since the Euro is almost on par with the Swiss Franc, we get booster boxes from Germany for 70 Euros. The cheapest game store (physical store) sells them for about 110-120 Euros a piece. Big difference. Prereleases or also Booster Drafts are not really attractive to attend, because a prerelease costs you about 40-45 Euros and most of the time the prize pool is set at 1 booster per player. Drafts cost about 12 – 15 Euros. People now just play on their own, unsanctioned. We even started ordering the promos ourselves so that we can have prices for our winners. It just makes a very big difference to draft for 6-7 Euros instead of 12-15. So unless prices will be adjusted, Lgs in Switzerland will abandon Magic for not being lucrative. And this is not because we don’t have players, its because of the price policy and the ridicolous price differeces in the neighbouring countries.

    Btw, thanks for your article 🙂

    1. And thank you for that lengthy and informative comment! I’ve never even traveled to Europe and am ignorant about the Magic economy and lifestyle on the other side of the Atlantic, so it’s always extremely interesting to read about it from a first-person perspective. I feel sorry for you that the pricing structure is so screwed to the point that it’s not financially sensible to play in even prereleases.

    1. I’d rather try to sell everything at pre-sale prices instead of gambling on what I think might be the next Hangerback. The percentage given won’t be completely accurate, but it’s better to be safe than sorry when trying to pick what the next “big thing” is from a new set.

  4. Regarding your LGS/Price Sticker question, we have a few stores in the area that do this and the pricing they use when they look up stuff is TCG Mid. From a player standpoint, it’s inconvenient when you need something quickly for a deck on the night of FNM and the employee has to spend 10 minutes looking up 2 cards online. From a financier standpoint, I can’t picture a scenario where I would actually buy a card at TCG Mid since I can get it cheaper through a number of different outlets.

    This is a classic case of stores being penny wise and pound foolish. As you pointed out, the amount of sales that you lose due to your potential buyers not being able to window shop likely far outweighs the couple of scenarios a month where someone is going to buy your $10 card for $4 because of a spike.

    It’s a lot of overhead to price and re-price inventory so some stores may think they are saving the time of having to initially price everything. However, they sacrifice buyer convenience and customer service by doing this. Plus, people get really irritated when the employee returns with a price that is too high in their mind. Most store owners probably don’t think about whether there would be any downside to making their pricing “real time”.

    I’m sure many store owners get irritated when they miss out on potential profit. Rather than viewing it through the lens of “I paid $15 for that card and sold it for $30”, they focus on the fact that they could have sold it for $50. I’m sure a lot of owners view this as being taken advantage of or being “stolen” from.

    1. Thanks, glad to see that someone else follows with the same logic as I did. I can empathize with the owner of not being able to capitalize on every single price change, but it’s just one of the costs of doing business as a store like that. He probably bought those Living Ends for practically bulk before Modern was even a thing, for near bulk rare prices, then sold them to me for $5.50. That’s still a huge profit margin.

      1. It’s really more an issue with business culture in general than anything specific to MTG. Businesses require maximum profit on everything, all the time, every quarter, and it’s considered a failure to miss something, even if it benefits customers, or might help you over periods longer than 3 months.

        Stores typically argue that their prices should be higher than internet because 1) you get the card NOW, 2) you’re not paying for shipping (this is valid if you’re only buying 1-2 cards) and 3) human interaction matters (plus there are higher overhead costs in dealing with a real store and playing space, etc.) This is all true, but prices can still be excessive.

        I don’t play MTG competitively much any more in part because the stores around here are far too stingy. One store in particular consistently prices around TCG high, if not even higher. I have to drive way too far for a decent price structure.

  5. I won’t even bother asking for prices at a ‘non sticker shop’. Speculation, thrill of the hunt for bargains, and windowshopping are central to MTG’s secundary market, and making your shop close to all these buyers is indeed penny-wise, pound-foolish.

    Hangarback: sell non foils at current price, and invest your profits into Foil Hangerbacks under 25.

    1. I’ve always stayed away from Standard non-land foils as a rule, with Abrupt Decay and Deathrite being the notable exceptions. Do you expect foil Walker to go up to $45-50? I’m not saying you’re wrong, but that’s just a risk I’m not willing to take right now.

      1. I think the spread non-foil/foil gave good opportunity up to a few days ago. Being it a standard card doesn’t really matter when it’s being played in both eternal formats. As a rule of thumb I agree with staying away from foil standard non-land cards. But I like to target one or two foil specs per set with eternal or commander playability.

        I keep a spec box like you that is all foil and fueled only by my short term profits on non foil hyped standard cards. Things I have in there now are mostly from the newest sets that I like extra due to having the holofoil ans being harder to forge: foil ktk fetch, tasigurs, mentors, ugins, hangarbacks, jace prodigy and eidolons. I only target these foils while their sets are being drafted or when redemption rolls in and supply is high.

  6. DJ, Hangerback was in “Hangerback Shops” (Workshops with Hangarback Walker obv) and did very well in Vintage Champs at Eternal Weekend so there’s some extra investing and predicting going on with him. Tim R if you got foils under $25 or can find them now that’s pretty amazing.

    Regarding LGS pricing, my LGS labels cards and still looks up the prices on the internet!! Even in their Standard binders 90% of the employees will still double check the internet price unless the employee at the register is too tired to look online and goes by the sticker on the binder page. Most of the time the price they look up is higher than what is marked and out of principle I don’t buy the card(s). I’d say they are mostly competitively priced but usually they run a little higher than average unless they are overstocked on a card (Narset Transcendant for instance) or they really don’t believe a pre-sale card deserves all the hype. The store makes a TON of money on singles before FNM, probably also before Competitive Standard tourneys.

    There’s another LGS nearby where the manager seems to be trying to build up the store’s credibility (The Comic Book Store in NJ for anyone who cares). He seems to give really good pricing buying and selling singles. I’ve only attended SCG IQs there, but everyone also seems happy buying and selling cards at the store and when I looked through the value box I found some solid deals on singles. You also can use store credit there to enter events.

    That could be another topic for you if you run out of material. My LGS does NOT allow for store credit to be used for events. The store I mentioned above and another newer store DO allow store credit to be used for anything including events. This is actually causing some players to leave and I don’t blame them. “Going infinite” playing standard events or drafting is a lot better than paying every week and building up store credit or winning packs.

    1. Spencer: european market had them at 22 euro’s up till yesterday. Now moved to about 25 to 30 euro.

    2. Thanks for the input, Spencer! Based on your last name, I’ll grant you authority on Hangerback Walker pricing.

      As for differences in store credit usage, I “grew up” so to speak grinding events and going infinite at my LGS in Watertown NY, Sanctuary Comics. He used to give out store credit equal to the total entry fee paid for the event (So if it was $5 per person and 20 people showed up for Standard then there was $100 credit in the pool), and I would use it to go infinite week after week by buying into events with it, until I eventually cashed out and bought my first Modern deck. I absolutely loved that system, and that event format brought a ton of people into the store. I would always prefer that system over one where store credit can only be sent on singles.

  7. I have a LGS who has their cards priced. I was a loyal customer and had been buying singles there for a few years. I asked to buy several cards. After the clerk looked up all the prices, the total was nearly double the prices shown. I asked why and the clerk said the prices were out of date and had to look them all up. I really wanted a Thrun that was priced at $5. I asked for just the Thrun and he said $10. Thrun was priced at $8 online and I thought $5 was a good deal. I walked out of the store and gave someone $5 to go in and buy the Thrun for me. They came out with Thrun in hand. I never bought singles from them again. They came back out with my Thrun. A friend who later worked at the store then told me that the owner would tell his new employees to look up every price and charge me higher because I only buy if I’m getting a deal. Which was true sometimes. I picked out the Thrun because it was listed at $5. If they did it for everyone, I would not mind. But to single me out was price discrimination and I felt hurt. Was I in the wrong here?

    1. That sounds… pretty illegal. I mean I’m not a lawyer or anything, but I would never shop there again if I learned that I was being charged more just for having greater knowledge of the MTG market.

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