PROTRADER: The Psychology of Classic Buyouts

We’ve been here before.

You know the feeling – you’ve been eyeing a card for a while, saving resources and trying to find the right condition at the right price.  The card’s price stable for years, showing only modest growth.  Then it happens.


Suddenly that card you were eager to acquire disappears from the internet, only to be replaced by copies that cost nearly twice the price as previous.  This time the buyout happened with Moat, but it has taken many other forms recently: Library of Alexandria, The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale, Bazaar of Baghdad, Tetravus, Guardian Beast, etc.  The list really does go on and on.

When the spike happens on a card you were eyeing, you develop a terrible feeling in the pit of your stomach.  “Why didn’t I just buy the copy when I had the chance?” you may wonder.  For me, this most notably occurred about 5 years ago, when I had funds for an MP Unlimited Black Lotus for the first time in my Magic career.  But instead of grabbing that copy from Star City Games I hesitated – we all know how that story turned out.

Why do these trends happen?  Why do we have these emotional reactions when cards spike – even cards that weren’t necessarily on our radar?  What should we do from here?  This week I’ll break down the psychology of the classic card buyout and try to explain when you know you’re too late to chase.

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12 thoughts on “PROTRADER: The Psychology of Classic Buyouts”

  1. Great article, How about the price of foil fnm swords to plowshares? Do you think those are safe as well? Although there are a few of those still floating around.

      1. Thanks for the comment and question!

        With Eternal Masters, we just got yet another printing of foil Swords to Plowshares (at Uncommon no less). This is likely adding competition to the FNM copies. Now, I don’t think we’ll ever see the original art reprinted in foil again – but if players like the new art or the new frame, it’ll certainly detract from the value of the FNM copy.

        I think there will be downward pressure for some time still, but eventually prices will recover. It’ll be a slow process though so I wouldn’t advocate sitting around on tons of copies. You’ll get better returns elsewhere.

  2. Thanks for another good on Sig…it’s always nice to touch on subjects that extend beyond Magic.

    1. Lou R,

      Thank you very much! This idea popped into my head while listening to CNBC’s Fast Money. They talk about FoMO on occasion there, and I wholeheartedly believe in the psychological theory behind it. When I myself experienced a sudden urge to buy Moat upon seeing its spike, I knew firsthand what this FoMO was all about. I decided not to buy a copy the day of the spike, and the feel-bads still linger. True story.

      Thanks again!

  3. Let me help you feel better with some big feel bads. In the late nineties, I meant to buy a playset of Bazaars at $5 each at a tourney I was still playing in. Unfortunately, I played to the end and won, and the dealer had packed up and left by then. Ouch. That box of ice age didn’t make up for it. Or how about the time I offered a guy $15 each on 20 Arabian Mountains only to recind my offer when I felt bad about spending more money on magic cards. Sometimes ya just gotta feel bad.

    1. Wow, I’m not sure if this makes me feel any better. Your pain is not my pleasure! I’m sorry to hear the rough beats – but I guess we all have stories like that in the MTG Finance community, right?

      1. Oh the gains we could’ve made if only we could’ve predicted the future… Everybody who’s been at this for some time has those stories. I always ask myself: did I make the best move I could given the available information? If yes then I don’t regret it. If no, then why the hell did I make that deal?

      2. I may wonder if I could’ve somehow gotten more / better information, but sometimes price movement just goes against all logic and there’s nothing you can do about it.

      3. But if I didn’t realize it that means I did the best I could with the information I had. I would not regret that decision as that would make me doubt future decisions too.

        As an example, I was once tempted to buy a pack of Revised. The shop had set aside 1 pack per box for years and offered those up at a very fair price, but under the condition that they would be opened immediately .

        Both me and another guy were interested in buying it and ultimately I let it go to him. Imagine he had opened a Dual, should I then start gambling more on sealed packs? As it was the pack was pretty much as bad as possible. I certainly wasn’t tempted to get the Antiquities pack that was also on offer.

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