By: Travis Allen
Eternal Masters spoilers wrapped up last Friday, and general reaction has been quite favorable. While not every card made it in – I’ve seen no shortage of jokes and hand wringing regarding Damnation and the lack thereof – people are all-in-all pleased with the outcome. While people weren’t exactly clamoring for Chome Mox or Vindicate, cards like Mana Crypt, Karakas, Natural Order, and Sneak Attack are great “accessibility” reprints, and Gamble, Force of Will, Entomb, and Shardless Agent provide opportunities to pick up foils that otherwise didn’t exist, are ugly as hell, or were exorbitantly expensive. All in all, Magic is better for the release.
The question now is how should we approach it? This is tough, especially because what each one of us wants out of it is different. Is your intention to sit on sealed product? Are you looking to spec on targeted singles? Or maybe you’re more in my camp; mostly interested in just picking up a few personal items for as cheap as possible.
Three years ago, Modern Masters hit the shelves. Supply was constrained and while you could occasionally and briefly find product at MSRP, there wasn’t much of it. I saw a few boxes floating around the $220 mark, but there weren’t many, and it was limited to local pockets.
In February I wrote an article about what to do with sealed MMA product. I concluded that it was getting time to start selling, and that cracking for singles was probably the right idea, but that leaving boxes sealed was only marginally less profitable, and accounting for time, probably a better idea overall.
Quite recently, the equation has begun to shift. Sealed MMA boxes have seen an uptick in sale prices. eBay completed auctions jumped into the $370 to $400 range, and the TCGLow has similarly moved, and in fact, there’s only a handful of boxes under $400. The two boxes I’ve had sitting there since I wrote the article suddenly sold for around $375 each. Before fees that’s about $150 profit on a box. (After, it’s a lot closer to $100.) $100 profit on a $220 investment is a little less than a 50% return, in the span of three years. 50% ROI over three years is pretty great, especially when you consider that it’s a lot easier to put thousands or tens of thousands of dollars into – and get back out of – boxes than it is one dollar rares.
Modern Masters 2015 had a different print run; one which was considerably larger. Today, a full year since release, boxes are still available at $240. That’s MSRP; 24 packs at $10 each. I don’t recall exactly how much MMA boxes were one year later, but I know it wasn’t MSRP. This is no doubt due to a few factors. I don’t expect that the natively higher MSRP on MM2 was a culprit, but the overall lower quality of reprinted rares has certainly stymied interest. In addition it had a much larger print run than MMA. It’s really difficult to put a ratio on that, since we don’t get official sales numbers, but I wouldn’t be surprised if MM2 had anywhere between 30 and 100 percent more boxes available than MMA. I’ve even heard projections as high as fives times MMA. That glut of supply, combined with a less-exciting rare slot, has kept prices from rising. Of course, it’s only been a year. How will boxes look after three? I don’t know and that’s not today’s article.
Those Vegas GPs played no small part in the supply of both sets either. MMA had Las Vegas, while MM2 had Las Vegas, Chiba, and Utrecht. With a player count just south of 8,000 for Las Vegas alone, there were roughly 2,000 boxes of MM2 opened in the main event. If each store was allocated maybe 20 boxes of MM2, that means Las Vegas accounted for 100 stores worth of product. How many states worth of stores is that? I’d guess New York has what, 50 stores maybe? This also doesn’t account for all the side event product, or the other two GPs. All in all, I’d guess the entire GP weekend cracked enough MM2 packs to match a large portion of the entire eastern seaboard’s distribution.
Of course, EMA has no such GP. That’s thousands of packs going uncracked. And given distributor numbers so far, it looks like we’re getting far less EMA than we did MM2, and possibly even MMA. There’s also an expectation that distributors and local stores are going to hold product a lot closer to the chest this time around. With diminished supply and a built-in pedigree of distinction, there’s an incentive to slowly dole out your allocated boxes. I’m reminded of the diamond market.
The sum of all this is that if you can get boxes at MSRP, it’s basically a slam dunk. I’m pretty sure the expected value is over MSRP at this point anyways, so essentially you’d be a fool not to buy it at that price. What about north of MSRP though? I’m seeing boxes in the $300 to $350 range, which is already 50% over MSRP. That’s, well, brutal. Remember I made 50% profit on my MMA boxes over the course of three years. At the same time, there’s simply less EMA out there, it will generally be more desirable, the cards are less likely to be reprinted, and if they do run back another Eternal Masters, it will be missing many of the cards it has this time around. Sure, you’ll see Force of Will and Wasteland return, but what about Gamble or Mana Crypt?
Overall, I’d say paying less than $300 is reasonably safe. I can’t imagine how you lose money on that, so the worst case scenario is that you end up outing it to someone local for basically what you paid. Boxes at MSRP are a home run, and if you find one at that price that you can’t afford you call your friend and tell them to get their ass to the store. The possible upside on boxes is also large, as if the distribution numbers end up landing where we’re predicting them to, prices could end up in the $500+ range in a few years. For those of you looking to make some real money on Magic investments, you could do a lot worse.
All the Single Ladies
Here’s a photo that was shared by fellow writer Jim Casale. (No idea who created it.)
Those are all the cards, as of probably a week ago, that are worth more than the cost of a pack. Prices have begun slipping on the low end, with Shardless Agent, Vindicate, and Maelstrom Wanderer beginning to fall below $10. Of course, single prices will be at their absolute highest right now, since we’re in maximum hype/minimum supply territory. In about a month we’ll probably see several more dip beneath double digits.
Here’s roughly what we can expect:
Across the top ten or so MMA cards, most saw their local valleys between mid-October and early December. I’d expect EMA singles to follow a similar pattern. Most sets usually see their floors several months after printing, and it just so happens that a set released in June hits that time period during the shopping frenzy ahead of Christmas, when wallets are thin and attention is directed elsewhere. That’s when I’ll be shopping for my singles, and I’d recommend the same for you too.
Although really, I’ll be looking for foils, and waiting may not be ideal. Here’s a handful of foil price graphs, to contrast the non-foils above.
It would seem that while non-foils enjoy a cooling off period over the span of several months, we shouldn’t hold our breath for the same thing on shiny copies. Prices will be erratic as people try and figure out what foil prices should be in the days leading up to and directly after release, but once they find their foothold, I don’t foresee any dramatic drops in price. In fact, if we’re modeling our predictions on MMA, you’re far more likely to get blown out by waiting. Most MMA foils were close to their floor in the weeks and months following release, and then experienced various rates and severities of growth. It would appear that the lesson here is that waiting is a fool’s game. By the end of July, you should have already begun to acquire any foils you’re seeking. It may be burdensome attempting to trying to cover the cost of several large ticket foils early on, but you’re likely to save yourself money in the long run being proactive here.
I’m not going to pick out exactly what cards you want to spec on quite yet. I’d like another few weeks of price data before we begin honing in on specific targets, and with some time before non-foils settle down, we can make informed decisions. As we just discussed, the floor on non-foils tends to land in mid-fall. If you really feel compelled to start jumping on the EMA train today though, I’d look for uncommon foils like Hydroblast or Pyroblast, or inexpensive rare foils. While there’s a lot of attention and excitement around big ticket cards, these small foil items may experience dramatic roller coasters over the next few weeks, especially without reliable price data. Use your best judgment while seeking deals and you may manage to get your hands on some foil uncommons for what ends up being below buylist.
One quick aside for today: have any of you checked out the price on the original San Diego Comic-Con Planeswalker sets? They’re now selling – actually selling – for $600. Holey moley. A lot of people grabbed them in the $200 to $300 range when they were released, which means big profits for anyone that scored some. I swear I remember seeing someone that grabbed like 45 or some such nonsense…