By: Jared Yost
Time to put my money where my mouth is. This is where you get to find out exactly what I’ve purchased, the amount I purchased, and at what price. I’m going back a whole seven months to show you which cards I’ve been picking up this year. At the end, we’ll see whether or not they worked out in my favor and what I’ve learn about my pickups.
My Therosian Manifesto
One thing I’ve really wanted to nail down when it comes to my forays into the Magic financial realm are goals. Yes, one of the most generic terms for success also applies here when trying to purchase Magic cards for value. At the beginning of the year my goals for enhancing my collection included the following:
- Focus on Foils Over Non-Foils
Why this goal? Because I’ve been burned in the past, and also very recently, on cards where I decided to go the non-foil route over the foil. Since my past mistakes are too numerous to list here, my most recent example of why I crafted this goal was because of Griselbrand. Guess who was announced this year as the GP Promo for the following year? That’s right, my boy Griselbrand who I had acquired during 2013 at $8 per copy. I had accumulated twelve copies by the time of this announcement. Let’s just say I was lucky to buylist them for the price I paid.
The only exceptions I allow myself to this rule are for Standard and reserve list picks. I tried to stick to this this goal as close as possible but didn’t adhere to it every time I picked up something.
Another reason I like foils is because they are especially good targets for Commander staples, which have proven to be good Magic financial gainers. A great example of this was when foil Chromatic Lanterns were everywhere and I was picking them up for $7.50 or cheaper. Now they’re $15 and rising as time goes on.
- Avoid the Booster Box / Booster Pack Money Hole
Booster boxes and packs are really fun to purchase though are a losing proposition in the long run. There are way too many bulk rares out there these days to make flipping boxes into a profit for guys like me that don’t own a store but want their collection to steadily rise in value. This is a lesson that took me way too long to learn. Now that I finally have, I try to avoid buying boxes and packs for pleasure.
- Choose Bulk Rares Carefully
When I first started experimenting with Magic finance I would pick up any bulk rare that I thought was cool, expecting it to eventually go up to the price that I thought it should be at. Several years later and I still have a box of failed specs that haven’t gone anywhere. Even worse, some have dropped considerably in price based on my whimsical logic. This was certainly the most expensive lesson for me to learn, even more so than buying random boxes and packs for “value”. At least packs sometimes produce cards people want that you can use to salvage some of your costs. Bulk rares can stick around for years without moving. It’s not technically a loss on paper because I haven’t gotten rid of them, yet I’ve come to realize that opportunity cost is a real thing. What I spent on bulk rares and questionable cards I could have put into staples that I knew were going to be fine in the long run. My most glaring example of this is I should have just picked up more shock lands rather than try to find “undervalued” RTR and GTC bulk rares and mythics.
Now I’ve made it a point to pick up higher cost format staples that are undervalued either due to being in Standard or having a recent reprint. Rare lands that provide mana fixing from Standard like Mana Confluence is a recent example of this.
Let’s See How I Did
Now that you know my goals for this year, I’ll provide you what I’ve purchased from now back until April 30th. The reason I picked this date to start is because I started formulating my goals mid-April and wanted to see the results of those goals from then on out.
Here’s the breakdown of purchases and the estimated date of the purchase. All buy prices were TCG Median.
|#||Card||Set||Buy Date||Buy Price|
|1||Cabal Coffers||Torment FOIL||10/28/2014||$19.48|
|12||Crater’s Claws||Khans of Tarkir||10/24/2014||$0.99|
|1||Proteus Staff||Mirrodin FOIL||10/24/2014||$7.23|
|3||Ajani, Mentor of Heroes||Journey into Nyx||10/12/2014||$16.94|
|6||See the Unwritten||Khans of Tarkir||10/10/2014||$3.10|
|8||Pearl Lake Ancient||Khans of Tarkir||10/10/2014||$0.99|
|4||Jeskai Ascendancy||Khans of Tarkir||10/10/2014||$5.08|
|7||Altar of the Brood||Khans of Tarkir||10/10/2014||$0.44|
|4||Shivan Reef||M15 FOIL||10/2/2014||$9.88|
|19||Doomwake Giant||Journey into Nyx||9/27/2014||$0.40|
|3||Elspeth, Sun’s Champion||Theros||9/26/2014||$21.86|
|2||Sorin, Solemn Visitor||Khans of Tarkir||9/22/2014||$15.19|
|1||Courser of Kruphix||Born of the Gods||8/31/2014||$12.48|
|4||Congregation at Dawn||Ravnica FOIL||8/20/2014||$2.00|
|3||Xenagos, the Reveler||Theros FOIL||8/15/2014||$18.99|
|4||Master of Waves||Theros||7/25/2014||$3.96|
|5||Mana Confluence||Journey into Nyx||7/25/2014||$7.94|
|3||Hall of Triumph||Journey FOIL||7/25/2014||$2.05|
|12||Anger of the Gods||Theros||7/25/2014||$1.32|
|2||Dictate of Erebos||Journey FOIL||7/25/2014||$7.33|
|1||Sliver Hivelord||M15 FOIL||7/25/2014||$31.00|
|2||Hornet Queen||M15 FOIL||7/25/2014||$4.35|
|1||Erebos, God of the Dead||Theros FOIL||7/25/2014||$16.00|
|3||Swan Song||Theros FOIL||4/30/2014||$8.50|
|12||Soldier of the Pantheon||Theros||4/30/2014||$1.49|
|3||Arcbound Ravager||Modern Masters||4/30/2014||$18.99|
Total spent from April 30th until now – $909.65
Total current retail value of cards TCG Median – $1,152.10
% Gain / Loss – 21% retail (before accounting for shipping)
Accounting for shipping at estimated $1.50 per order, if each single card was an order:
31 separate cards * $1.50 = $46.50. This brings the total spent up to $956.15.
% Gain / Loss including shipping = 17% Retail
Buylist – How much can I get if I buylist all the cards right now?
Using MTGPrice’s My Collection tool I’ve determined that the cash value of my collection when sold to vendors is $649.95.
% Gain / Loss of Buylisting = –29% Buylist
There seems to be some conflicting information here. I’ve gained in terms of retail but lost in terms of buylist? Let me explain further why the numbers resulted this way.
Retail and Buylist – Why You Shouldn’t Value at Retail
Based on my calculations in the previous section, you can see that I thought I was erroneously ahead based on the retail value of the cards – in reality I am set back about 30% based on the pickups I’ve made this year. Seems like I’m doing bad right? Well, only if I decided to cash out this very second. Many of the cards I plan on holding for a while longer yet. You can can put pretty much everything from Khans into this category, including Jeskai Ascendency when I bought in during the hype of Pro Tour Kahns at $5. Retrospectively, it was a bad decision to buy into the hype and I need to restrain myself in the future of buying based on immediate fluctuation.
Another reason that buylist seems so miserable right now is because the more expensive purchases, such as foil Conspiracy Exploration and foil M15 Sliver Hivelord, haven’t moved in price at all since I picked them up earlier this year. These would be examples of the long term holds I mentioned. I’m not planning on selling these at a loss simply because I know with time they are bound to go up due to causal and Commander demand. It happened for Chromatic Lantern and it will happen again here.
In order to get the maximum amount from buylisting this year, I would have needed all of my speculations to double up or more – in seven months this was not going to happen to everything I was choosing. It just goes to show that mtgfinance is the ultimate waiting game if you’re looking to get the most out of future buylisting.
Many of these cards I plan on keeping for personal use and I don’t care what the current prices are, buylist or otherwise. I expect to have them for a long time and can cash them out later when I know I’m not using them.
Valuing at retail looks pretty sweet for cards like Hero’s Downfall and Doomwake Giant – if I can find someone to trade these to, I can really come out ahead if I pick up Modern staples or other casual format gainers like cards from the new Commander 2014 set. This would be the only benefit of a retail price increase.
Lessons Learned – Additional Goals for Next Year
Now that the year is wrapping up and I’ve determined how I did, I want to add a few more goals to my list for next year.
- Ask myself “can this card double up, and if it does will the buylist reflect that?”
This is going to save me a few heartaches when I realize that those Doomwake Giants, even though doubling in retail, actually haven’t moved much at all on the buylist.
- Continue to Find Avenues for Trading such as Puca Trade
Having more ways to trade cards away for retail value is essential for failed buylist specs like Doomwake Giant. By trading them at retail, you can ignore the abysmal buylist price and instead pick up a long term staple like Snapcaster Mage that will continue to be around for years to come.
- Avoid the Hype – The Window is Too Short
As soon as Pro Tour Khans was over, the prices went back down to almost where they started and have leveled off since then. Avoiding the hype is hard to do when the numbers are telling you different, but look no further than my own speculations to see that hype is gone in a flash and then you are stuck waiting a while longer for value that may not even arrive.
2014 has certainly been a learning experience for me. I’ve had success, but at the price of terrible buylisting options. I’ll need to either trade more aggressively once retail prices go up for cards I’m interested in or I will need to pass on the more aggressive spiking cards and instead aim for more stable long term gainers.
Right now, my buylist loss of 30% is pretty big without even considering the shipping costs that would further add to that loss. However, I still believe the future is very promising for some of the cards I’ve acquired. Foil Chromatic Lantern, a card that by every means had to go up in price based on the popularity in Commander, still took eleven months to double up in price from $7.50 to $15.00. The fact that many of the cards I picked up increased in retail price is also a good sign because this means if the cards continue to stay popular the buylist will have to increase in order to match the demand.
The conflicting gains and losses that I discovered for my pickups is acceptable to me at this point yet there is certainly room for improvement. Since my loss would be so great from buylisting, I’m going to have to take the risk that the retail prices will continue to rise rather than getting 70% of the cash value of the cards right now and taking a 30% loss. Many of the cards I picked up are casual and Commander gainers so I expect them to retain their value for quite a while yet. I picked up a fair amount of foils that I believe will gain in the long term, limited my booster box / pack purchases, and severely restricted the amount of bulk rares I bought. I followed my goals closely but not close enough in some cases. There are still plenty of takeaways from this year.
What does everyone think of my selections? Do you think I’m in trouble or do you think I’m doing well? What do you think my worst and best pickups were?