Category Archives: James Chillcott

Super Collection: Diary of a Big Collection Flip (Pt 1)


by James Chillcott (@MTGCritic)

Anatomy of the Deal

MTGFinance may be a niche within a niche, but each of the players in the game still tend to have their own areas of focus. Jason is an EDH specialist with a penchant for flipping collections at retail and via instant collection packages. Sylvain is a master of MTGO. If you’ve followed my MTGFinance exploits on this site over the course of the last year, you may already be aware that most of my activity tends to be focused on identifying blue chip single card specs for Standard and Modern at their lows, and then holding them for 6-18 months for significant gains. Occasionally, I put effort into consolidating my collection by trading up into important cards, as I did with a beautiful Unlimited Black Lotus at GPNewJersey last fall.

As a guy running heading up two established businesses ( and, an active social life and a number of hobbies (gaming, action figures, MTG), I often have to leave certain opportunities at the wayside because I simply don’t have the spare time to pursue them. As such, buying collections has long been off my radar. Bolstering this view was the fact that I live in Toronto, a hot bed of Magic activity with at least 20-25 active MTGFinance types that are constantly scouring social sites, message boards and Craigslist/Kijiji, looking for the next score to fight over like dogs to the bone. It’s tough to make your negotiation time worthwhile when you don’t know who might scoop in to grab up your treasure. The other factor was the time, complexity and risk involved in processing and parceling out a collection of the size that would peak my interest.

So if you’d asked me last month whether I was interested in buying your collection, the answer would likely have been a polite “no thanks.”

That was before my buddy Rob pinged me with an intriguing set of pictures from some guy’s basement. Rob and I have known each other since we were twelve, and though I’ve made him some money on specific Magic card specs before (Snapcaster Mage being the most recent), he’s mostly focused on vintage skateboard decks and comic book finance. We have a long running agreement that if we trip over something of interest to the other guy, we’ll raise the flag.

The text said “Are these dual lands? Worth anything?”

As you might imagine, he had my attention instantly.


“How many are there?”, I returned.

A few minutes later, “Um, like maybe 60…he says he hasn’t advertised them anywhere.”

Fast forward 24 hours and I’m in the basement of a man who says he used to own a card and comic shop. He was in from the beginning but quit collecting around Zendikar block. He makes a big deal of telling me that he sold his P9 and put the down-payment on his house a few years back, so he’s not sure there’s much left I’d be interested in. His son drags box after box of binders into the room as he explains that there is a binder for every set from Revised forward.

60+ binders of MTGFinance goodness.
60+ binders of MTGFinance goodness.

I immediately latch on to $5,000 as the figure to start with. The guy never played in tournaments, and probably wasn’t completion focused, so the binders likely hold single copies of 1/3 to 1/2 of all the relevant cards. I’ve seen collections in this configuration before, and they tend to be wide but shallow, but then again there are the duals to consider.  Once he pulls them out and I realize that they are all basically NM/M (with a few at SP grade) and that the group includes both Underground Sea and Volcanic Island in multiples, I hike my estimate up to $12,000-$15,000 .  There’s no black border in sight, but for Revised duals, this card pile is still the cornerstone of a very attractive deal.

A sexy set of Revised Duals.
A sexy set of Revised Duals.

My host makes clear that he is not willing to split up the collection at all, that he’s not in a rush, and that the deal will be “all or nothing”. He confirms that only Rob and I know about the cards thus far, because “he doesn’t have the time to put it all up on Craigslist.”


At this point, my lovely girlfriend is already rocking her patented “tick, tick” look over in the corner, and the guy has dinner brewing up in the kitchen, so I inform the seller that I’d like to quickly flip through each binder and snap some photos so that I can take them home and try to come up with a number I’d be comfortable with. He agrees, so we split the binders up on two tables, and my ever-loving partner in crime snaps photos of her binders more or less at random, while I attempt a more diligent pass on my own. Within minutes my value flag is standing at full mast as I’ve already blown past several valuable foils including a Metalworker, Asuza, Lost but Seeking, Sensei’s Divining Top and an Arena Foil Promo Swords to Plowshares. We’re moving as fast as we can, but we’re missing a lot and in the end there are at least 20 binders left unseen and a stack of long boxes in the closet that he says are “full of bad cards”.

Choice Early Pulls.
Choice Early Pulls.

Before we leave I tell the seller that I can “see the value here” and ask him what he’s looking to get out of it. He explains that a dealer had come to see him a few years back on the recommendation of a friend, and that he had evaluated the collection at $25-30K Canadian (about $20 – $24K USD). He says he wants to get $20K ($16K USD) for everything and doesn’t want to haggle on the value of specific cards. Though I’m uncertain that such a price will yield a relevant margin, I smile and tell him that his numbers sound reasonable so far and that I will be in touch within the week to try and work things out. Finally, I ask him to not put the collection up for sale elsewhere until we reach a conclusion. He agrees, and we’re on our way.

On the way home in the car, I start browsing through the pictures on my ladies’ phone and I keep seeing things that are ringing my internal cash register. Foil Unhinged lands. A Foil Promo Wasteland still in the wrapper. A random minty Unlimited Volcanic Island. A page of foil FNM Promos I didn’t know existed.


Upon my return home, I sit down to my desk, throw on some Interpol and spend the next three hours plowing through our photo log and creating an isolated collection using the MTGPrice ProTrader tools so that I can figure out a ballpark figure for the collection and also get a peak at how much it might be worth if buylisted. Though I know I would eventually need to price at TCGLow to move many of the cards, the big picture data on this site is still setting me up for a more informed decision.

The final tally blows past my earlier estimate, with the various pleasant surprises taking the number up to $22, 397 USD. Quick math tells me that even at the asking price of $16K USD, there is $3-5K to be made here after fees, depending on time spent and how likely it is that the collection can be parceled out. Given that large portions of the collection remain unknown to me, I speculate that they might add another $1-2K in value and decide that the play is worth making.

Despite my rising interest, I give the seller a few days to cool his heels before deciding to reengage. On Thursday I text him that I think the value of collection is around $25K and ask for a quick phone chat. On the phone I explain that though the collection value is consistent with his own estimates, the odds of a collector being willing to pony up the cash for something this large is very low indeed. As a former dealer himself, I note, he must understand that the deal is likely to be dealer to dealer, and as such, will necessarily involve a significant discount to account for their margin. Since the collection is of quality and includes the duals, I could see them offering up 50-55% of the collection value, which places the deal value somewhere around $14K. As I happen to have the funds, and the interest, but not the overhead, I assure the seller that I will come in above the likely dealer offer. He states plainly that his lowest price is $18.5K (~15K USD), take it or leave it. I ask for another week  to think it over and he agrees.

During the week I ping a few actual dealers I know and run the general details of the collection past them without revealing it’s location. My thinking is that I might be able to derisk the transaction entirely by simply acting as a middle man and collecting $1-2K simply for arranging the sale.  As it turns out most of these contacts express interest, promise to review the list, and then fail to follow up . A few guys toss out numbers like $12.5 K or $14K based on my summary total and the presence of the duals, but nothing ever comes of it.

While I have the cash on hand, I’m only 60/40 on shelling it out, since collections aren’t my main area of expertise, and I’m reluctant to commit the time I suspect will be necessary to turn this one over. Enter David, another contact with deep pockets and a broad interest in stocks and collectibles who I’ve made money for in the past on both Magic tips and stock picks. With the stock market largely stalled this year and heading into the summer doldrums, I ping Dave to see if he’s interested in financing the deal. Because of my continued interest in transparency in MTGFinance, I’ll share the details with you.

I propose a unique set of terms, to which Dave agrees after a bit of back and forth. Dave fronts the cash, which I have resolved will amount to $14.25K USD or about $17K CDN, and I guarantee him the first $17, 500 USD in revenues returned within a year, plus 25% of the remaining net profit after fees and expenses. This provides Dave with a potentially healthy 20%+ annual return, with plenty of upside but no guarantee on his principle other than my value estimate. I lose some upside myself, but derisk the financial portion of the deal entirely, with only my time and a key relationship at stake. Further, I know myself well enough to understand that my reputation being on the line with Dave will absolutely ensure I give the sales process my all to make sure he gets his returns.

(Side note: I don’t recommend trying this stunt with close friends and family that don’t understand the game or the risks. It’s not worth it to alienate the people closest to you for a few thousand dollars.)

With my financing in place, I contact the seller again, and let him know that my best offer is $17K CDN ($14.25 USD), but that I am willing to provide it in cash so long as the deal is for every MTG card he owns. This was clearly not what he was expecting, as most stores would have needed to do the deal with a purchase order for accounting purposes. He considers briefly, then gets back to me in agreement, on the condition that we close the deal by the following Friday, also noting that he is happy to give us every last card in the house.

Conveniently we have friends up from Michigan, and their truck is the perfect size to lug home 60 binders and a bunch of boxes. On site, we double check that everything looks pretty much as we left it, confirm the presence of a few dozen key cards, and start loading it all up. In the process the seller finds several additional boxes of cards, some old decks, a smattering of random unsorted booster boxes, and a few missing binders. With a nod and a handshake we hand over the cash, and drive off into the sunset.

Processing the Collection

Dragging the collection home.
Dragging the collection home.

Upon arriving home, my house guests inquire as to how I will proceed. I break down for them that our first goal is to figure out how much the collection is actually worth by locating and isolating the cards that were included in my first tally, and then pricing and isolating all remaining cards over $1 that might contribute to a higher valuation.

As it turns out the pro basketball player staying with us is an utterly nice guy and awesomely OCD, and once he sees me price checking and stickering cards, he dives in with gusto alongside my lovely girlfriend, and the two of them start powering through binders, competing to see who can find the most value.

Almost immediately, we make a startling discovery, and one that becomes a turning point for the entire deal. As it turns out, the seller was in fact a completionist, and most of the binders between Revised and Ravnica represent complete sets. Even better, most binders contain not one, but four of most cards, and many have the foil on the backside of the page!

This discovery sets off tremors in my heart, as I realize that our photo essay estimates have almost certainly resulted in underestimating the collection value in a big, big way. Frantically, we start flipping through binders, and pulling out entire playsets of key cards we didn’t know were present.

Many cards were in sets of 4 or 5!
Many cards were in sets of 4 or 5!

On the first morning alone, we’ve located a ton of unseen value, including a full set of Revised, all NM, sleeved and in a custom wooden box, including the full set of pristine dual lands. How did the seller never mention this?! Sum total we locate a total of 67 dual lands, and the average condition is NM.

A full set of NM Revised in a custom box.
A full set of NM Revised in a custom box.

As the days pass and the work continues, more treasure rises from the mist. One massive binder is full of nothing but foil rares, presumably a trading binder we hadn’t seen on the first pass. Another box has a bunch of binders full of nothing but basic lands, BUT also includes a large binder with nothing but foil and promo lands, including over 200 foil Arena lands and Arena lands worth $5-$20 each. There are 4 sets of 4th Edition and 5 sets of Chronicles, notable mostly for their minty Blood Moons. Lorwyn era cards are entirely absent, but 7th edition foils are plentiful as are foils from Urza’s block. One binder is full of hundreds of random rares, and the handful of decks in the collection all yield sweet goodies. The bulk boxes are almost entirely commons, but cough up hundreds of Dark Rituals, Lightning Bolts and other money commons.

In the end with 90% of the collection processed, we end up with a whopping +$22, 697 (at NM TCGLow) in additional value over my initial estimates, placing the total value of this collection at somewhere between $42,000-$45,000 USD!

Even better, these figures tally less than 5,000 cards, with over $20K in value coming from the top 500 cards alone. 90% of the cards are NM while the remainder are SP, with virtually nothing having been played. The processed collection now fits in a suitcase, and everything is organized by set, in perfect fit sleeves, with top loaders for cards over $20. The remaining 40,000 cards I can do with as I see fit, including entire binders of random bulk foils, bulk rares and uncommons from over 40 sets.

Here are some choice samples of our pulls:

Foil Promo Wastelands x4!
Foil Promo Wastelands x4!


DarkSteel Foils
DarkSteel Foils


Juicy Urza's Legacy foils
Juicy Urza’s Legacy foils


Mixed Goodies
Mixed Goodies


Quad Urza's Saga Lands
Quad Urza’s Saga Lands


So now what? Well, now we need to hold the applause until we actually manage to sell the Super Collection. In Part 2 of this series, I’ll explore our options from outing the collection, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of the various methods and tally early results.

In the meantime, ping me on via @MTGCritic on Twitter if you think you see something you want, or would like to review the full collection list.

A fraction of the money cards.
A fraction of the money cards.


More Tier 2 stuff.
More Tier 2 stuff.


James Chillcott is the CEO of, The Future of Collecting, Senior Partner at Advoca, a designer, adventurer, toy fanatic and an avid Magic player and collector since 1994.

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Digging for Dollars: Magic Origins

By James Chillcott (@MTGCritic)

So far, Magic Origins looks like a triumphant finale for the long-running summer core set of Magic: The Gathering. The final core set (soon to be replaced with the 2nd set in the 2nd block of each season) is chock full of subtle and original cards that many players, both pro and amateur alike, have been having trouble evaluating.

Unlike Dragons of Tarkir, which was widely panned as “for casuals”, only to succeed in shaking up the scene in both Modern and Standard, Magic Origins features a ton of cards that are seemingly powerful, but hard to evaluate, resulting in a mix of both over and under-costed cards currently for sale.  Also, like DTK, Origins is up against several previous set’s worth of very, very powerful cards that may preclude many of the new cards from seeing extensive play until the fall rotation in October.

Many of the best cards in Origins have already been identified, and it’s possible that too many are already priced for success. Remember however, that you’re really going to see the greatest returns if you skip the armchair theorizing and buckle down to test the decks ahead of the curve.

Here, presented in order of likely upside, are my picks for the cards in Magic Origins most likely to reward timely speculation, with all target prices assumed to be possible during 2015 unless otherwise noted:

1. Nissa, Vastwood Seer (Mythic)


It may seem pretty odd to be calling out the most expensive card in the set as my top underdog pick, but hear me out. Nissa has already been called everything from hot garbage to Elspeth by both pros and MTGFinance writers alike. Personally, I’m with Pat Chapin on this one. I see a very flexible early utility creature that turns into a stellar late game draw once your ramp strategy has activated. I also see an iconic mythic that will likely be played as a 4-of when it’s played at all. The Standard meta is going to get shook up something fierce with the release of Origins, so anything could happen, but if Nissa pops up at top tables in some early Standard tournaments, I can easily see her pushing the upper limits of standard playable mythics. Also, with Eldrazi ramp almost certainly a thing once Battle for Zendikar is released in October, the trend-line would seem to favor the home team. Though her percentage returns wouldn’t be the highest in this list, the raw returns would still be $5-10 per copy, and potentially more in trade, especially if you can snag some at peak supply for under $20.


Now: $26
Target: $35-40


2. Erebos’s Titan (Mythic)

This big black beat-stick may be a bit lower on players’ radar screens than it should be. The triple black casting cost really reduces the number of decks it can be played in, but there are likely still potential homes in Black Devotion or BG Recursion strategies. Sure he’s big and cheap, but his true form is as a multi-faceted control hoser. His conditional indestructibility has the potential to turn off kill cards from decks that don’t have early drops or can’t keep them on the table, and his recursive potential is unlocked by any deck that either a) plans to use Delve (Tasigur, Angler, Treasure Cruise, Dig Through Time) or b) plans to abuse Deathmist Raptor and Den Protector. He also beats Tasigur, Angel of Tithes and Siege Rhino in combat and survives Languish and Stoke the Flames/Exquisite Firecraft. The fact that he is so useful in turning on Erebos, God of the Dead may not end up being a thing, but it’s certainly worth testing to be sure. Between strong kill and Thoughtseize, mono-black certainly has the tools to make a run.

Now: $8.50
Target: $12-15


3. Abbot of Keral Keep (Foil Rare)

Here we have a rare with at least some potential to be as powerful as Snapcaster Mage. Using the Speculator 3000, I see a low casting cost, an aggressive body, and the potential to generate relevant card advantage in a low slung deck streamlined to abuse it. I have little doubt this will see some play in Standard while it’s legal, but in pointing the finger at foils I’m really saying that it might have a home in Modern or Legacy. Picture a deck with Snaps, Young Pyromancer, Delver of Secrets and this guy alongside a pile of 0/1 casting cost spells. StarCityGames is sold out at $9.99 and currently I can’t see many for sale under $20, which is steep without proven results. I’ll be target these around $15 if I can get them, ramping up my commitment quickly if I see tournament results or deck ideas that seem to drive the value.

Now: $13
Target: $50+


4. Evolutionary Leap (Foil Rare)

I feel reasonably confident that this is a card that will earn a spike within the next 2-3 years. Is it worth going deep on copies now without results hoping this is the next Collected Company in Modern? Probably not. CoCo is already giving green decks a somewhat similar option whose potential hasn’t been fully plumbed, and there are more reliable options for your hard earned dollars. That being said, this is more combo card (think Polymorph into an important creature off of a token) than a Birthing Pod to my eyes. Perhaps what it really needs to go off is reliable card stacking, a la Congregation at Dawn or Sensei’s Divining Top. It’s the perfect example of a card that most players won’t be able to rate effectively until they’ve seen a smarter player bring it to a top table and since I haven’t divined the proper build for it, this spec comes with a giant sized caution label despite the slight potential to be massive in Modern and/or Legacy.

Now: $15
Target: $30 (don’t hold your breath)


5. Harbinger of the Tides (Foil Rare)

Harbinger of the Tides needs a few things to happen to end up facing the right direction. Firstly, he needs to successfully slot into Modern Merfolk as everyone expects him to, and then put up a strong set of results that demonstrates he takes the deck up a notch. Hopefully, that deck wants four copies, though it’s possible they just don’t have all the slots available. If he could simultaneously find a home as a 3-4 of in a dominant Jeskai tempo strategy in Standard for a few months, that would certainly bode well for hitting the target below. Ideally I’ll be looking to scoop up a few sets under $15, looking to hold for a long term double up.

Now: $18
Target: $30+


6. Demonic Pact (Mythic)

Normally, I would be seeing this as a bulk rare, but the reality is that there are plenty of tools in the current Standard to make this work. With cards like Dromoka’s Command and Silumgar’s Command on deck to make sure you never actually lose the game, both Abzan mid-range and U/B control might be able to find reasons to run this.

My conditions for success here are as follows:

  • dominant deck runs 4 copies
  • or 2-3 consistent decks run 2-3 copies
  • and format stays slow enough for a do nothing 4-drop to matter

I’m also only 75% sure this isn’t playable in Modern or Legacy, since funny ways to donate it to opponents might be found.

Now: $3.75
Target: $7-10

7. Animist’s Awakening (Foil Rare)

This card has all the hallmarks of a Modern or Legacy card that will be forgotten about until the day the right combination of cards suddenly makes it spike off of a Top 8 performance that comes out of nowhere. You need to be generating a lot of mana already to make it sexy, so it’s really about finding interesting utility lands or lands with auto-win conditions and benefiting from them all coming into play at once.  If these dip towards $4, and I think they will, I’ll consider acquiring some to stash away in the long spec box.

Now: $10
Target: $20+ (long term)

Bonus Notes:

  • Day’s Undoing foils are over $50 on low supply at present. I’m a believer that someone breaks this in Modern and/or Legacy, likely in some kind of aggro or burn build. If it happens fast, this price will solidify and could climb to $100. If it doesn’t, I’ll be looking to get in on these under $20 with a willingness to wait until it gets snapped in two.
  • Hallowed Moonlight foils are carrying a 4x modifier at present on the assumption of Modern and/or Legacy play. I’d like to snag some under $10, which should be possible once we hit peak supply.
  • Liliana, Heretical Healer might be playable in Modern. I’m brewing with Athreos and Kitchen Finks at present to try and figure out the right angle.
  • Woodland Bellower may end up a big hit, and it may even be modern playable. I’ve got my eye on this guy.
  • Several cards in this set are over-priced already if they don’t find a home in a big deck in a hurry. These short-sell targets include: Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy (Foil) at $40+, Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh (Foil) at $40, Day’s Undoing at $14 and Kytheon, Hero of Akros at $14.

So there you have it, the long-shot specs of Magic Origins. Which ones are you going after and why? Anything I missed that you think has a shot at a big rise?

DFD: Dragons of Tarkir Update:

In Digging for Dollars: DTK, I called out the following specs as undervalued cards with some chance of financial success (shown with original and current pricing:

  1. Dragonlord Ojutai: $4 to $16 (+400%, 700% at peak)
  2. Sidisi, Undead Vizier: $3 to $1 (-67%)
  3. Zurgo, Bellstriker: $2 to $2 (0%)
  4. Stratus, Dancer: $2 to $1 (-50%)
  5. Surrak, the Hunt Caller: $2 to $0.75 (-62.5%)
  6. Blood-Chin Fanatic: $1  to .25 (-75%)
  7. Dragon Tempest: $3.50 to .50 (-85%)
  8. Boltwing Marauder: $.50 to $.25 (-50%)
  9. Icefall Regent: $1.50 to $1.25 (-17%)
  10. Profaner of the Dead: $.50 to $0.25 (-50%)

Dragonlord Ojutai is clearly the big winner here, and the amount of money I made on my 20 or so copies, easily made up for funds invested in 12 copies of Sidisi, Undead Vizier and Zurgo, Bellstriker that haven’t gone anywhere. It’s laughable however, that I set the ceiling on Ojutai at $8, when in hindsight we see one of the defining finishers of the format, and a card that has already seen Modern play.  (Having hit $30 earlier in the season, Ojutai now looks like a solid pickup for the fall if decks that want him can figure out how to get around the sacrifice effects that have rendered him less effective.)

The only other cards I offered up as solid picks were Zurgo, Bellstriker and Sidisi, and both saw some good early play before falling off the side of the metagame. That being said, both cards are still positioned reasonably well heading into the fall, though major financial gains will be difficult at this point without top table support. I suspect there may be a GB Recursion strategy that wants a couple of copies of Sidisi at the top end but it won’t be a 4-of unless Battle for Zendikar offers up a powerful ramp strategy to effectively reduce it’s casting cost.

Of the true long shots, none of them have yet managed to hit the targets I set for them should they see widespread play.

The results of DFD: DTK then, provide further proof that buying a full portfolio of long-shot lists like this is nearly always a bad strategy. Cards like Dragon Tempest, Blood-Chin Fanatic and Boltwing Marauder too often hinge on the emergence of a specific linear deck, whereas flexible and powerful cards like Snapcaster Mage and Abrupt Decay offer up multi-format appeal that can be tucked into a myriad of decks.

Note: One of my biggest misses from DTK was my complete predictive whiff on the power of Collected Company in Modern and the resulting explosion in the value of CoCo foils. Like everyone else I just saw a poor man’s Birthing Pod at a casting cost that seemed too high for the format. The ability to leverage instant speed status to recover from sweepers, get in under counterspells and occasionally combo off, has however, proven to be extremely powerful. Fortunately, I clued in earlier than most (about a week after publication) and managed to snag 20+ foils around $10-12. Today those foils hover around $40, and I also made strong returns on early acquisitions of Death Mist Raptor and the other Dragonlords, so DTK was a strong win on the spec sheet despite getting stuck holding 3 playsets each of Dragon Tempest and Descent of the Dragons 😉

See you next time and have fun at the pre-release!

James Chillcott is the CEO of, The Future of Collecting, Senior Partner at Advoca, a designer, adventurer, toy fanatic and an avid Magic player and collector since 1994.

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MTGFinance: What We’re Buying/Selling This Week (June 7/15)

By James Chillcott (@MTGCritic)

One of the most common misconceptions about folks involved in MTGFinance is that we are constantly manipulating the market and feeding players misinformation to help fuel achievement of our personal goals.

It has occurred to us at MTGPrice that though we dole out a good deal of advice, most of you ultimately have very little insight into when and why our writing team actually puts our money where our collective mouths are pointing. As such running this weekly series breaking down what we’ve been buying and selling each week and why. These lists are meant to be both complete and transparent, leaving off only cards we bought for personal use without hope of profit. We’ll also try to provide some insight into our thinking behind the specs, and whether we are aiming for a short (<1 month), mid (1-12 month), or long (1 year+) term flip. Here’s what we we’ve been up to this week:

Buying Period: June 1st – June 7th, 2015

Note: All cards NM unless otherwise noted. All sell prices are net of fees unless noted.

James Chillcott (@MTGCritic)


Modern Mid-Term Plays

  • 4x Modern Masters 2015 Booster Box (Japanese) @ $300/per
  • 6x Mutavault @ $9/per
  • 4x Leyline of Sanctity (MM2, Japanese) @ $16/per
  • 5x Leyline of Sanctity (MM2) @ $12
  • 1x Emrakul, the Aeons Torn @ $23
  • 1x Dark Confidant (MM2, Foil) @ $76
  • 1x Monastery Mentor @ $12
  • 1x Noble Hierarch (MM2) @ $34
  • 4x Scavenging Ooze (DOTP Promo Foil) @ $5/per
  • 4x Siege Rhino (foil) @ $15/per
  • 1x Eidolon of the Great Revel @ $18
  • 3x Dark Confidant (MM2) @ $39
  • 13x Abrupt Decay @ $11
  • 1x Soulfire Grant Master (Russian) @ $9
  • 1x Polluted Delta (foil) @ $70
  • 8x Olivia Voldaren @ $7/per
  • 1x Cryptic Command @ $29.50
  • 4x Storm Entity (Foil) @ $1.25/per

The theme here is that I believe we’re at the bottom for MM2 rares and mythics that see high levels of play in Modern. With Jund back on the radar, Dark Confidant seems particularly underrated around $40, and I can easily see it regaining ground along with Cryptic Command, Noble Hierarch, Emrakul, and Leyline of Sanctity, as head into the end of the year. Scavenging Ooze, Monastery Mentor, Abrupt Decay, Eidolon of the Great Revel and Siege Rhino foils are all cards that should show strong appreciation over the next year and the rest of this list is mostly made up of underpriced foils that will be good components in a future P9 trade deal.

Standard Fall Rotation Plays

  • 1x Wingmate Roc @ $3
  • 4x Den Protector @ $5

These were mostly add-ons to other deals, but they’re both cards I feel have a good shot at gaining value in my trade binder this fall based on their demonstrated power level in Standard so far this season.

Casual/EDH Mid to Long Term Plays

  • 1x Ephara, God of the Polis @ $3
  • 2x Umezawa’s Jitte @ $25
  • 2x Mogis, God of Slaughter @ $3.50/per

As seen in earlier weeks, I’m still snagging Theros gods here and there under $5, with the full expectation that they will end up as $10+ cards on casual demand alone within about 2 years. That’s not the best return profile in my card portfolio, but I’m generally comfortable with long term double ups due to ready availability of deployable capital. Jitte can easily be outed on Pucatrade for $35, so that was an easy grab.

SOLD (Pucatrade):

  • 1x Command Tower (Judge Foil) @ $35 ($20 cost)

This was a good value trade up as I continue to build Pucapoints towards a P9 deal.

Jared Yost


  • 2x Tasigur, the Golden Fang (prerelease foil) @ $25/per
  • 2x Tasigur, the Golden Fang (foil) @ $27/per
  • 4x Monastery Mentor (foil) @ $40/per

Jared says:

“I’ve been talking about foil Tasigurs and Mentors for a while and decided that now, since everyone is hyping up MM15, is the time to move in on them.

Tasigur is currently one of the most played cards in Modern with about 20% of all decks playing an average of two copies. He also is played in Legacy Grixis Delver lists, which should also help the foil prices along for the future. Foils look great as pickups now.

Mentor is such a solid card all around. If you haven’t read my article on him, please do so because that sums up all my thoughts on why foils are very appealing. Also, Derek indicated that Mentors are becoming harder and harder to find in binders these days so it could mean that we might start seeing some upward mobility on the price soon.”


Douglas Johnson

Douglas says:

“If you’re a follower of this column, then you’ll notice my details have been absent lately. This is because instead of speculating on specific card prices and buying them up at full retail then waiting for them to go up, I am playing the role of local vendor in my area, providing me with the opportunity to acquire large lots at (or below) buylist prices. I then stock a local display case and sell cards at TCG low through Facebook or TCGplayer. If you’re interested in Magic finance as more than just a way to supplement your hobby and make actual money, this is definitely a good way to go about it if you can fill a gap in the local scene. In the pictures above, we have parts of a small collection that I picked up this past Thursday.





While I’d obviously prefer to move each of these cards to loving homes that will sleeve them up and jam them, I’m definitely more eager to move some cards over others. For example, the Lightning Bolts, Temples, and Polukranos are going on Facebook and being sold for practically buylist price, meaning I’ll only end up making a few cents on each after shipping costs. The real gems here are the Planeswalkers like Ugin, Sarkhan, and Narset, that will end up in my display case at the video game store where I used to be employed. The casual players that browse that case love Planeswalkers, so I’m always happy to pick up walkers in all of the collections that I buy, because I know they move fast. Similarly, I’ll definitely be looking to move the Blood Moon in there that just recently spiked last weekend, so that’s likely going on TCGplayer or Facebook.

All in all, buying collections and reselling them is definitely a safer investment than speculating on specific cards. While you don’t get the rush of winning as you watch the card go up, you can buy cards at a price where losing is almost impossible.”

Note: The rest of the guys were quiet so far this week.

Bonus Tips:

  • Word on the street is that many dealers will have access to a limited number of MM2015 cases for at least a few more weeks before they’re cut off. As the majority of MM2 product has already been opened, I wouldn’t expect for key cards to fall further, but a couple of weeks out should be a sweet time to be picking up dirt cheap cards like Etched Champion, Remand and Electrolyze, along with any casual stuff you may need. If you’re willing to take a ride on some boxes, look for deals in the $190-$200 zone. I can still see them gaining $40-50/box before the end of 2015 once supply dries up, so it should be a solid play despite the known quality control issues.
  • Many of the Modern cards that weren’t reprinted in MM2 are spiking hard, both in paper and online. Blood Moon is leading the pack and is a great card to be getting out of for strong profits if you were holding copies you aren’t using.
  • There are some very good buying opportunities on MTGO right now with the MM2015 mythics and rares being at historic lows in many cases. Entry points are still attractive.

So there you have it. Now what were you guys buying and selling this week and why?

James Chillcott is the CEO of, The Future of Collecting, Senior Partner at Advoca, a designer, adventurer, toy fanatic and an avid Magic player and collector since 1994.

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Best Bet: Booster Packs vs Fat Packs?

By James Chillcott (@MTGCritic)

During the last few years, as my devotion to Magic: The Gathering as an alternate investment vehicle has grown, I’ve learned some (sometimes painful) lessons about sealed product.

If you swing by my place to check out my storage closet, you’ll find 12 sets of FTV: 20, a couple of cases of Commander 2013 decks and a half-dozen copies of the Dark Ascension Spiraling Doom Event Deck that I held onto just a bit longer than was wise. On the other hand, larger bets on  foreign boxes of Khans of Tarkir, SDCC sets and Modern Masters have paid off huge for me.

As a result of my efforts, I can now confidently share the following general guidelines on sealed MTG investing with you:

  1. Timing the market on the buying and selling of singles is more profitable than holding on to unlimited print run sealed product by a large margin, BUT you need to be good at both picking cards and timing the market.  With singles, you also need to be on top of things day to day, rather than the month to month management you can generally get away with when managing your sealed collection.
  2. Unlimited print run English booster boxes since Avacyn Restored have not shown positive returns, likely due to a dramatic stall in player growth since 2013 (see recent Hasbro investor presentations for details). This may weight against returns over the next few years, BUT a renewed period of player growth would likely reduce the trend.
  3. Limited edition sealed products like FTV sets, Commander’s Arsenal and the San Diego Comicon sets are often the exception and can yield excellent returns in short periods of time if you can source them below market cost and time your exits near the highs.
  4. Not all sets are created equal (think KTK vs. Dragon’s Maze), and choosing which sets to stash away is critical. When choosing a set, look for value spread across multiple cards, with a focus on cards that will appreciate in value due to demand from multiple formats, are hard to reprint often and were undervalued when on shelves (since this may indicate lower total products sales). Generally, fall sets are opened the most and spring sets and core sets the least, though this  may change in 2015 with the new set release schedule.
  5. The acceleration of Magic product releases, with regular fall and summer releases, additional ancillary product releases and the shortening of the Standard rotation schedule are all designed to ensure that existing MTG players spend more, and more often, eliminating the lulls between releases that once provided more opportunity for boredom to lead to the purchase of old products. (Note: This is pure theory, but I challenge you to outline other possibilities in the comments if you see reason.)

Now, all of that being said, I still generally put away a few cases of sealed product per year, choosing carefully. Recently however, it occurred to me that I had noticed some fat packs with price appreciation in excess of their corresponding booster boxes. In order to establish which product class was more likely to yield the best returns, I decided to take a look back at the last 30 sets worth of product, starting with M15, all the way back to Future Sight. To keep things simple, I limited my research to English language products.

(For the record, I’m a big believer in acquiring Russian, Korean, and Japanese boxes, in that order, especially for sets that are likely to yield relevant high end foils. This is on the basis that the foils in those languages hold multipliers in the 3-7x range, and therefore tend to contribute to sealed values down the road at levels far beyond their original cost, which can be as little as $20 more than a regular booster box.)

I have assumed that the average cost of a booster box for our purposes is $90 USD, and that the corresponding cost of a Fat Pack is $30 USD, based on the easily accessed pricing that has been popular for years on both products via online vendors. To establish current value I looked at Ebay, TCGPlayer and StarCityGames and selected the lowest priced copy available, including shipping within the US. It’s worth noting that actual sell prices can sometimes vary due to late night Ebay sniping, but because the pricing across the three major platforms tended to cluster within 5% of each other, I felt good about using the established market pricing.

Here’s what the research had to say about the last 30 sets worth of Booster Boxes.

Booster Box Research

    Current Price      
SetRelease DateOriginal Box PriceEbay (BIN)TCGSCGLowest AvailableRaw ReturnRaw % ReturnAnnualized ReturnCurrent Date
Journey Into Nyx5/2/2014$90.00$84.00$88.00$100.00$84.00-$6.00-6.67%-6.34%5/21/2015
Born of the Gods2/7/2014$90.00$85.00$86.00$100.00$85.00-$5.00-5.56%-4.33%5/21/2015
Dragons Maze5/3/2013$90.00$70.00$80.00$90.00$70.00-$20.00-22.22%-10.84%5/21/2015
Return to Ravnica10/5/2012$90.00$98.00$102.00$110.00$98.00$8.008.89%3.39%5/21/2015
Avacyn Restored5/4/2012$90.00$139.00$140.00$150.00$139.00$49.0054.44%17.87%5/21/2015
Dark Ascension2/3/2012$90.00$120.00$115.00$120.00$115.00$25.0027.78%8.43%5/21/2015
New Phyrexia5/13/2011$90.00$345.00$350.00$350.00$345.00$255.00283.33%70.40%5/21/2015
Mirrodin Besieged2/4/2011$90.00$162.00$166.00$150.00$150.00$60.0066.67%15.53%5/21/2015
Scars of Mirrodin10/1/2010$90.00$224.00$200.00$200.00$200.00$110.00122.22%26.35%5/21/2015
Rise of the Eldrazi4/23/2010$90.00$600.00$606.00$600.00$600.00$510.00566.67%111.56%5/21/2015
Alara Reborn4/30/2009$90.00$265.00$300.00$250.00$250.00$160.00177.78%29.33%5/21/2015
Shards of Alara10/3/2008$90.00$333.00$361.00$350.00$333.00$243.00270.00%40.71%5/21/2015
10th Edition7/14/2007$90.00$335.00na$300.00$300.00$210.00233.33%29.70%5/21/2015
Future Sight5/4/2007$90.00$628.00na$800.00$628.00$538.00597.78%74.24%5/21/2015

Note: If the table doesn’t look good on your mobile device, you might have better results viewing my original spreadsheets in Google Docs.

And here is the research on Fat Packs:

Fat Pack Research

    Current Value      
SetRelease DateOriginal Avg PriceEbay (BIN)TCGSCGLowest AvailableRaw ReturnRaw % ReturnAnnualized ReturnCurrent Date
Journey Into Nyx5/2/2014$30.00$30.00$30.00$40.00$30.00$0.000.00%0.00%5/21/2015
Born of the Gods2/7/2014$30.00$28.00$30.00$40.00$28.00-$2.00-6.67%-5.20%5/21/2015
Dragons Maze5/3/2013$30.00$30.00$30.00$30.00$30.00$0.000.00%0.00%5/21/2015
Return to Ravnica10/5/2012$30.00$56.00$56.00$60.00$56.00$26.0086.67%33.02%5/21/2015
Avacyn Restored5/4/2012$30.00$83.00$76.00$100.00$76.00$46.00153.33%50.33%5/21/2015
Dark Ascension2/3/2012$30.00$48.00$50.00$60.00$48.00$18.0060.00%18.20%5/21/2015
New Phyrexia5/13/2011$30.00$93.00$91.00$99.00$91.00$61.00203.33%50.52%5/21/2015
Mirrodin Besieged2/4/2011$30.00$64.00$60.00$60.00$60.00$30.00100.00%23.29%5/21/2015
Scars of Mirrodin10/1/2010$30.00$68.00$65.00$60.00$60.00$30.00100.00%21.56%5/21/2015
Rise of the Eldrazi4/23/2010$30.00$280.00$175.00$250.00$175.00$145.00483.33%95.15%5/21/2015
Alara Reborn4/30/2009$30.00$111.00$118.00$120.00$111.00$81.00270.00%44.55%5/21/2015
Shards of Alara10/3/2008$30.00n/a$181.00$150.00$150.00$120.00400.00%60.31%5/21/2015
10th Edition7/14/2007$30.00$145.00n/a$120.00$120.00$90.00300.00%38.18%5/21/2015
Future Sight5/4/2007$30.00$200.00$252.00$250.00$200.00$170.00566.67%70.38%5/21/2015

Note: If the table doesn’t look good on your mobile device, you might have better results viewing my original spreadsheets in Google Docs.

So what does this info tell us? Let’s take a look at the average annualized returns (proper return on investment calculations, taking into account the discounting of returns over the time period in question).

Booster Boxes vs Fat Packs

 Annualized Gain 
SetBooster BoxFat Pack
Journey Into Nyx-6.34%0.00%
Born of the Gods-4.33%-5.20%
Dragons Maze-10.84%0.00%
Return to Ravnica3.39%33.02%
Avacyn Restored17.87%50.33%
Dark Ascension8.43%18.20%
New Phyrexia70.40%50.52%
Mirrodin Besieged15.53%23.29%
Scars of Mirrodin26.35%21.56%
Rise of the Eldrazi111.56%95.15%
Alara Reborn29.33%44.55%
Shards of Alara40.71%60.31%
10th Edition29.70%38.18%
Future Sight74.24%70.38%
Average Gain/Year30.72%44.75%
Average Gain/Year (Sets Older than 3 years)46.02%58.25%


So there you have it. In comparing the average returns for booster boxes vs. Fat Packs over the last thirty sets, there is no question that Fat Packs are the superior investment, beating booster boxes by 15% on average over the last 30 sets and by 12% when considering sets older than three years old.

Why might this be? Here’s my theory:

  1. Magic: The Gathering is a collectible card game and Fat Packs are more collectible than regular boxes because of the inclusion of dice, set guides, card boxes and (at one point) novels.
  2. The price point on Fat Packs, both at release and down the road, is significantly below that of the booster boxes. Retail theory generally suggests that you will sell more of lower cost items than higher cost ones.
  3. As pointed out by Spencer in the comments, Fat Packs are generally thought to be printed in a single wave up front and therefore significantly more limited than Booster Boxes. This is also likely to be a key contributing factor to their increased returns.

In short, there’s more demand for Fat Packs because they’re more collectible and they cost less, leading to naturally better returns. Even when considering the low returns on recent sets, Fat Packs for KTK and M15 stand out as having appreciated earlier than their corresponding booster boxes.

Best Bet? Go for Fat Packs over Booster Boxes.

James Chillcott is the CEO of, The Future of Collecting, Senior Partner at Advoca, a designer, adventurer, toy fanatic and an avid Magic player and collector since 1994.

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