PROTRADER: Embracing Profits

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“No one ever went bankrupt selling stocks for a profit.”

I don’t know who initially penned this insightful phrase, but I look back to this mindset time and again. Now is no exception – if you truly hope to minimize the cost of playing Magic, you’ll have to learn how to sell cards when you’re profitable. We all have cards that we’ve developed an emotional attachment to, and that’s not a problem. But keeping that subset of cards as minimal as possible will enable you to react unemotionally and profitably when opportunity arises.

And believe me – opportunity arises a lot.

This week I want to look at a handful of cards as case studies to identify appropriate strategies for buying, holding, and selling depending on where the card is on its price trajectory. This mindset should apply across all formats from Old School and Legacy to Standard. In fact only Vintage staples, playable Legacy Reserved List cards (think duals), and iconic cards really buck this trend by rising nonstop. But even these cards experience sporadic spikes that could yield healthy profits. Short of Power or the truly collectible, nothing is fully immune.

The Full Cycle

We’ve all seen it before. A card makes itself known and jumps onto everyone’s radar in a couple different ways. Twitter buzz, a forum post, a successful performance on camera, the spoiling of a new card, a rise in a format’s popularity, etc. These are all viable ways that could catalyze a price spike. Consider for example a card that has recently completed a full rise and fall cycle: Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker.

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Kiki

Throughout the winter this card had bottomed. The savviest would have been picking up this legendary creature around Christmas time. Unfortunately I didn’t have that foresight. I did manage to make a couple bucks on this card, however, when the news came out that Splinter Twin was banned in Modern. The ensuing hype for Kiki-Jiki was palpable, and I could see quantities on TCG Player drop before my very eyes.

Of course, we all know how this story played out. Eldrazi took over the Modern metagame and Kiki-Jiki is virtually unplayable in the current meta. As a result, the price on Kiki-Jiki has pulled back well off its highs, with buy lists quickly following. At this point anyone still holding copies really can’t make much on them after fees and shipping. Selling at that peak for profit was, in hindsight, the optimal play.

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This trend happens time and again in MTG Finance. In some ways, profit is possible regardless of the catalyst for movement.

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18 thoughts on “PROTRADER: Embracing Profits”

  1. (((Sorry for straight up writing you guys letters each week in the comments. Take it as a compliment!)))

    I decided to buy into a playset of Asceticism foils after getting stomped in EDH by a Dragonlord Atarka build that was running a ton of dragons and a bunch of board wiping damage spells and cards like Tooth and Nail. It had great ramp, tons of damage, dragons and recursion but the key piece that sealed the deal was Asceticism.

    It kept me from doing single target shenanigans and it kept my opponents red damage sweepers one sided so that he could just regenerate after dealing massive damage to the board. Lets just say that with Dragonlord Atarka’s ETB trigger and doublestrike… Making him hexproof and being able to regenerate him for 2 mana was brutal. Not to mention there were other dragons.

    Anyway, I got into a playset of Asceticism foils around Mid-January and there weren’t many copies left. It seems that someone else bought a few as well and the price spiked to $20 very briefly. The price dropped back down to around $12-$15 and I was happy holding my copies for 6 months to a year. But… Just recently it seems that there was ANOTHER buyout of Asceticism foils that I had absolutely nothing to do with.

    Long story short… I guess I’ll just go ahead and try and sell my extra 3 copies at $20-$25 if these new prices stick… No point in waiting to trade these to people if the card already doubled up, right? I’m hoping this second buyout is based off of real demand or an experience like mine where the card performed well for someone.

    I did actually do my research before buying the card too… After that gross loss to Dragonlord Atraka I saw that Asceticism is suggested in over 2k decks out of 17k on EDHRec. Pretty good numbers when you consider that Seedborn Muse is only suggested in 2.5k decks. I think there were 10-15 copies left when I bought mine between $9-$12.

    I just feel kind of “dirty” because it wasn’t really my intention to “spike” the card… But when 2-3 other people decided to buy the last remaining copies after I bought mine… It seems like it caused a chain reaction. Then again… Dragonlord Atarka did rip me a new one and Asceticism was the reason for that. So I guess we will see if anyone buys these for $20 (vendors still have copies under $15 for those who aren’t too lazy to look, but that is why I bought mine between $9-$12)… I was truly expecting to trade them away for $15 over the next year, but I guess this works too.

    What do you think??? Am I a shifty, colluding, filthy speculator that spiked a card for no reason? Or is the guy that bought in after me to blame? Or is it the 3rd or 4th guy or gal that spiked the price yet again… Or is this just a case of low supply and new decks emerging in EDH? Did I spike a crappy spec? Or was I just lucky enough to get in before everyone else???

    1. Well done on the buy. First of all, you should never really feel bad buying and impacting the foils market – foils are a luxury item. No one NEEDS foils, so I wouldn’t really feel guilty even if you DID manipulate the foil market (which I doubt you did by buying a few copies). I do think it’s wise to sell and take profits, however. Seems like now is a great time to do so.

      The only time I personally feel bad about market manipulation is when Old School cards are involved. It’s far too easy to manipulate cards from Beta and Arabian Nights and to me this can seem a little dirtier. But foil EDH cards are fair game in my opinion. Others may agree or disagree. 🙂

  2. WUBRG, I think you were just in the right place at the right time. I bought Foil Blighted Agents and Foil Inkmoth Nexuses after Dig was banned in Legacy cause I’m dumb and need to foil out my deck(s) lol. I think when I checked a few months later there were barely any copies left at higher prices and I bought a few more of each. If you check these prices on both are insane right now. Foil Agent is $40-60 in NM and Nexus is maybe $80-100…

    Sometimes you really do know more than the populous, or sometimes you are in the right place at the right time. But every “old” card is going to get bought out at some point. I “saved” money not getting extra LEGENDS Sylvan Libraries because the 4th and 5th edition ones did the same thing and I targeted the only Foil Library from Commander…well that was an incorrect investment. Well the foil hasn’t gone down but the original black border Legends finally got bought out or people realized that there hasn’t been many NM Legend copies for quite a while.

    I congratulate you, and forward thinking is how you make money in investing. Don’t see why you would feel bad.

    1. Spencer put it very well. If you know the popular cards in a particular format, leverage that knowledge and offset your cost of playing this game. That’s the best way to do it.

      1. Thanks for the reassurances and advice guys. I just got a Craterhoof Behemoth Foil for around $32 and it looks like they will be a solid $40 within a week. Maybe I am just buying into these cards a month before everyone else is… Which is fine with me!

        I think I like my strategy of getting my butt kicked in EDH and then buying cards that beat me if they are popular staples. Cyclonic Rift was another card I was considering picking up foils… Should have done that when I bought Asceticism. Looks like Foil Cyclonic Rift doubled up in February.

        Maybe there is a larger trend at work here… Modern is Meh so people are foiling out their Commander decks. Eternal Masters and Conspiracy is on the way, so foils seem the safest to speculate on. We could be in the perfect storm for foil commander staples right now. I’ve seen A TON of them spike since early January. Maybe Eternal Masters and Conspiracy will entice even more people to build/foil Commander decks?

  3. Siggy,

    I keep posting after you stop answering messages for your articles; this is wrong place and time but I want to know your thoughts on Russian booster boxes of Origins, BFZ, and Oath. Are Russian boxes of these sets good investments/holds?

    Origins obviously has Jace and SCG has a regular Russian Jace selling for more than the price of booster box, and Foil Russian Jace is well over $300. BFZ has some solid eternal cards but there’s also the Expeditions (Fetch Expeditions) and Foil Basic Lands which foil full art Russian basics tend to be $15 minimum. Oath also has Expeditions and foil full art basics and has many of the important cards for Legacy Eldrazi. So what is your opinion on Russian boxes of these sets? Thank you buddy, hope you are well.

    1. Sorry I missed your previous comments. Usually by mid week my article falls off the home page of mtgprice.com and I forget to return for updates.

      Unfortunately I know nothing about Russian Booster Boxes. I don’t buy into sealed product anymore for reasons I’ve written about multiple times. My lack of knowledge regarding foreign boxes is enough to keep me away. My advice would be you study this market, become a relative “expert”, and leverage that knowledge to profit if possible. I know this is generic, but it’s the best I can offer up in a market I know nothing about.

      Good luck!
      Sig

      1. Well if u stopped completely buying booster boxes, even foreign, that kinda answers my question. It’s hard for me to track online what these boxes eventually sell for, cause there’s so few and if a BIN on ebay is accepted it doesn’t say the price. I’m in comfortably deep at the moment, wasn’t sure if u thought the foreign Russian boxes for these set was worthwhile continuing to acquire. Thanks man, take care

      2. You could always crack them and hope for foil Fetches. Even non foil Russian fetches still demand a premium. I just don’t know the market well enough to comment. May be worth looking at the premium of Russian RTR boxes relative to English as a reference point, to see if the percentage difference grows over time or not.

  4. Sig, I personally believe that the hunted horror price is due to the aforementioned factors from last week’s article in reference to the budget modern decks brewed by SaffronOlive.

    I see it as a combination of older cards with low inventory combined with renewed interest that is driven by the budget minded competitive players, brewers, and speculators.

    I can also point out phyrexian crusader as another card that spiked some shortly (a week or two) after a budget brew by SaffronOlive.

    While not everything he does spikes, I do use it as a gauge for looking at inventory of older cards and as another way of finding possible speculation targets.

    1. Appreciate the context. The big question is: after the initial spike, how much does the price drop off? I noticed Legion Loyalist has drifted downward measurably after peaking last week. I believe any spikes that SaffronOlive catalyzes from his articles should largely be sold for a quick profit.

      1. Agreed, and I’m not advocating buying into his decks. I’m a half casual half local competitive player on a budget so I use his ideas more to buy cards before they spike for personal play. If the spike is hard enough and sustains I sometimes seek back into it if profitable.

        The good thing is that it usually takes a card a week or two to some if the deck non budget has legs, so there is time to get the cards and turn them around after.

  5. Where can I see some Modern lists playing Beck? The 30 odd copies I have in a drawer somewhere are anxious to be sold for $2 each.

      1. It’s on lsvs webcasts on CFBs website. The deck actually has legs but it’s a bit difficult to navigate.

        Piggybacking off of this comment, it feels like cloudstone curio is the deck’s engine. The buy in price is a bit high but last time elves played it, the card doubled up. Just hesitant to buy in @ 10 a pop but the deck needs them as a 4 of and it was printed in the original ravnica. If elves becomes a tier 2 deck, this is easily a 20$ card and ID it becomes a t1 deck this could be 30 or more. While beck / call certainly feels safer, this maybe the price people out card.

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