Category Archives: Best Bet

Throne of eldraine: what the new premium product mix means for #mtgfinance

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Throne of Eldraine will surely be remembered as the set where Wizards of the Coast pushed the envelope on product mix design to new heights.

Stepping well beyond the classic booster boxes of 36 packs, players looking to engage with this set have been forced to parse an unbelievably complex product mix including:

  • Regular Boosters
  • Theme Boosters
  • Collector Boosters
  • Planeswalker Decks
  • Bundle (formerly Fat Packs)
  • Brawl Decks
  • Deluxe Collection
  • Promo Packs
  • Holiday Bundle

Wow. Even for those of us fully invested in the brand that is a LOT to swallow.

For those of us interested in the financial side of Magic: The Gathering, it behooves us to try and understand the math behind these shifts in the product mix and how they are likely to impact the price behavior of the various kinds of cards that are now being dangled in front of players, collectors and speculators.

Overall, the two most relevant considerations here are the new Collector Boosters and their impact on and differentiation from the cards found in regular boosters.

Within regular boosters, the new foil drop rate unveiled for Core2020 continues as 1 in 45 cards (or a 33.4% chance of opening one in any one booster). Previously, the foil drop rate (this is counting all foils of all rarities) was 1 in 67 cards (which results in a 22.5% chance of opening one in any one booster). In practical terms this means that pack foils are now 50% less rare than they used to be, and in theory, equally at all rarities.

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At the same time Wizards has introduced three additional card treatments to the Standard booster mix:

  • Showcase frames: These are brand new to Magic: The Gathering, and are stylistically specific to each set, relatively sparsely used, with two mythics and five rares in Throne of Eldraine. Showcase frames exist at common and uncommon as well and all of the cards that come in these frames also exist in regular frames.
Realm-Cloaked Giant // Cast Off (Showcase), Magic, Throne of Eldraine
  • Borderless Planeswalkers: This is the style we saw most recently in the Mythic Edition planeswalkers starting in fall of 2018, through to Mythic Edition: War of the Spark. Occur at roughly the same drop rates as the showcase frames do for other mythics, and are available for all three planeswalkers in the set, and only those cards. In Throne of Eldraine, this means Oko, Thief of Crowns, The Royal Scions and Garruk, the Huntmaster. As with the showcase cards, each planeswalker also comes in a regular version. Notably the borderless versions also feature alternate art.
Oko, Thief of Crowns (Borderless), Magic, Throne of Eldraine
  • Extended Art: The style of this treatment is very, very close to the Borderless planeswalkers, to the point where using different terms for them has been quite confusing for players. The most important detail here is that extended art rares and mythics ONLY appear in the Collector Boosters, which includes all 48 rares and 10 mythics that were not included in the showcase cards/borderless mythics. Let’s divert for a moment to get things straight about that product.
The Great Henge (Extended Art), Magic, Throne of Eldraine

Collector Boosters

There are only four ways to get your hands on collector boosters:

  • As a free buy-a-box promotion at your local LGS, along with the foil version of Kenrith
  • Via direct purchase from online vendors or LGS owners who happened to have allotments in excess of their BAB program needs
  • Purchase of the direct sale, online only set, the Throne of Eldraine: Deluxe Collection which sold for $449 and included 16 Collector Boosters
  • Purchase of the forthcoming Holiday Gift Bundle, which will include one Collector Booster pack, likely at a $50 price point Nov 15th

The composition of the Collector Boosters is uniquely complex. To put it as simply as possible:

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Pretty simple right?

So these Collectors Boosters have 16 cards. 9 slots are taken up by foil commons and uncommons from Throne of Eldraine regular boosters, and they can be either showcase or regular frames. The single “ancillary” slot offers up any of the unique cards from the Planeswalker decks or newly minted Brawl decks, or a fairly rare non-foil version of Kenrith, the Returned King. Many of these cards are bulk, with Arcane Signet and Kenrith being notable exceptions. The foil token slot can mostly be ignored as those also appear in regular boosters.

The most interesting slots in the $25-30 collector boosters are the remaining five slots:

  • Foil/Rare Mythic Slot: any foil rare or mythic in ELD in any treatment
  • Non-foil Extended Art: any extended art rare or mythic, non-foil
  • 3x Special Frame cards: showcase cards of all rarities and borderless planeswalkers. Also notable as the ONLY product that has showcase non-foil commons. Yes, really.

This is where we run head first into the extreme variance that comes from creating premium versions of every rare and mythic in the set, and a pile of the commons and uncommons. Collector Booster packs can vary in value from $10 to hundreds of dollars, depending on how lucky you get in these slots most likely to cough up a rare version of a multi-format staple. In magical Christmasland you could in theory open a foil extended art The Great Henge, a non-foil Emry, Lurker of the Loch and a borderless Oko, Thief of Crowns, and be having a pretty great day. On the other hand, you could also open a pack full of draft chaff and end up pretty disappointed.

Now, if you’re looking for hot specs, one way to dodge the variance in the Collector Boosters is to focus on the cards that are exclusive to those boosters and compare them to your best opportunities in regular packs so that you can try to optimize your spec basket once peak supply sets in. To do that properly, we’re going to need to get our hands dirty with some extensive math.

Throne of Eldraine Drop Rates

To really get a handle on our best opportunities with Throne of Eldraine we need to understand how often each card treatment shows up in both regular and collector booster packs vs. the alternative treatments.

Because Wizards of the Coast hasn’t provided any guidance on this aspect of the product mix, MTGPrice reached out to some of our larger vendor partners in the United States and Europe to gather data on drop rates from teams that opened thousands of boxes over the last few weeks. Suffice to say, the drop rates in this set are anything but obvious.

Just off the top, box opening data for ELD suggests that foil commons and uncommons are actually of equal rarity in regular booster packs. We suggest this may be due to the foil commons being syphoned off to fill the 9 foil common/uncommon slots in the Collector Boosters. I’m willing to bet that the gap is made up based on the likely # in the CB packs, but haven’t actually run the numbers yet on that.

Now, some quick facts about showcase rares and mythics:

Showcase non-foil rares appear at a ~1:2.5 ratio vs. regular versions of the same rares in ELD booster packs.
Showcase non-foil mythics appear at a ~1:7.5 ratio vs. mythic versions of the same mythics in ELD booster packs.

So right away we see some useful math emerging. Showcase rares and mythics are significantly more rare than regular versions. Unlike War of the Spark Japanese boxes where the alt-art planeswalkers dropped in roughly 50% of packs, showcase rares are 60% more rare than their regular versions and showcase mythics are 87% more rare than their regular versions.

For example Fae of Wishers alt-arts, which are significantly better looking, also only drop 40 times for every 100 copies of the regular ones. Likewise Brazen Borrower non-foil showcase copies are 3x more rare in comparison to their regular versions their rare faerie cousins.

If that wasn’t confusing enough, showcase foils have different drop ratios than the non-foils, and they pull in opposite directions depending on the rarity.

Showcase foil rares appear at a 1.35:1 ratio vs. regular foil versions of the same rares in ELD booster packs. That means Murderous Rider showcase foils should be less rare than regular pack foils!
Showcase foil mythics however appear at a 1:2.5 ratio vs. mythic regular foil versions of the same mythics in ELD booster packs.

That means that foil showcase Brazen Borrower and Realm-Cloaked Giant (the only showcase mythics) are very, very rare indeed.

Follow me here:

Now remember, foils are 50% more common than they used to be before Core2020.

Foil mythics should now be dropping at a rate of about .216 per regular booster box of ELD, which works out to about 1.08 foil mythics per 5 boxes. That means you need 75 boxes to find a specific foil mythic (1 of 15).

Since showcase mythics drop once for every 2.5 regular foil mythics, you need ~187.50 boxes to find a specific one. So if you were wondering, $24 might be a pretty solid price if you can think of a reason to play a foil showcase Realm-Cloaked Giant.

As a point of comparison, Masterpiece Inventions dropped 1/144 packs vs. 1/216 for a given foil mythic at the time, and there were 30 of them in that set, so a specific one appeared every 4320 packs, or 120 boxes. That makes showcase foil mythics roughly 56% MORE RARE THAN MASTERPIECES INVENTIONS/EXPEDITIONS. Think about what that will mean down the road if one of the mythic showcases in Theros: Beyond Death or Ikoria is a 4of card for Modern or a sick EDH staple and the drop rates remain the same.

It gets better.

Let’s say WoTC produces roughly 5,000,000 boxes of ELD. That would make the set a 200M+ product, which is probably accurate +/- 50M given that MTG as a brand is likely worth $550-650M USD/annum at present.

If you need 187.50 boxes to find a foil showcase mythic, then there are roughly only 26.7k copies of each in the world, and perhaps only 65% (17.3k) of them are in English. That’s compared to about 67,000 regular foil mythics (43.6k English).

Now, vendors were saying they thought that the Collector Booster boxes were 10x more rare than the regular booster boxes, but based on various vendor interviews, I actually think it’s closer to 20x, given that it was only printed in 2 languages and only for a single wave spread across a handful of linked releases.

If that’s anywhere close to true, there might only be 250,000 collector booster boxes in the world, which makes sense given how fast they sold out most places, and how many vendors couldn’t get their allotments in various corners of the globe. You can further confirm their rarity by checking the inventory levels of the foil extended art rares and mythics on TCGPlayer.com and most of the major vendors in the US. Levels are way lower than Kaladesh Masterpiece Inventions were at this point in their release cycle and there isn’t any easy way for vendors to restock given that very few of these Collector Booster cards are being opened at MagicFest weekends.

Some additional napkin math tells us that it likely takes 5 Collector Booster boxes to find a specific foil extended art rare. As such, there are likely only about 50K of each extended foil full art, and only about 80% of them are in English (the rest are Japanese). That’s 40k English copies. That would mean there may be as few as 6250 foil extended art mythics which explains why they are already in VERY short supply despite us being in a mass cracking period. Using similar math, we have previously calculated that there were likely something like 30-35k of the Masterpiece Expeditions or Inventions, to further that comparison.

Emry, Lurker of the Loch (Extended Art), Magic, Throne of Eldraine

So in summary, my best estimate of the relative rarity of the rarest cards from Throne of Eldraine looks something like this:

6.25k foil extended art mythics (90.5% more rare than pack foil mythics)
26.7k foil showcase/borderless mythics (60% more rare than pack foil mythics)
50k foil extend art rares (33% more rare than pack foil mythics)
66.7k pack foil mythics

Now, for argument’s sake, let’s recalculate where we land if Collector Booster boxes really are 1:10 vs. regular booster boxes. That would give us this relative rarity spread:

12.50k foil extended art mythics (81% more rare than pack foil mythics)
26.7k foil showcase/borderless mythics (60% more rare than pack foil mythics)
66.7k pack foil mythics
100k foil extend art rares (50% less rare than pack foil mythics)

What Have We Learned

Throne of Eldraine has a ridiculously complex product mix.

  • Hopefully WotC will dial it back down the road, because this is just silly.
  • Showcase commons from Eldraine are worth keeping an eye on as they are way more rare than they should be
  • Showcase foils are less rare than pack foil rares
  • Foil Extended Art, borderless planeswalkers and showcase mythics are likely more rare than Masterpiece Expeditions or Inventions.
  • Depending on what print run you believe Collector Boosters have, they too are either close to as rare as a Masterpiece, or 50% less rare than a pack foil mythic (but still far more rare than regular pack foil rares).
  • Multi-format staples or single format superstars are likely to exhibit solid ROI, with the rarest versions moving fastest and hardest.
  • As of today, the market is having trouble keeping extended art foils in stock on key cards, and I question whether the additional inventory coming throughout the fall will be enough to fill in the gaps.
  • We’re still running more math over here to refine this model, so if you think you have relevant info to share, reach out to help us keep things updated!

Let’s check back in on all of this in January 2020, as we prepare our strategy for the inevitable Theros: Beyond Death premium product mix. Until then, happy hunting!

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

MTGPrice helps keep you at the top of your game with our daily card price index, fast movers lists, weekly articles by the best MTGFinance minds in the business, the MTGFastFinance podcast co-hosted by James Chillcott & Travis Allen, as well as the Pro Trader Discord channels, where all the action goes down. Find out more.

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MTGFinance Fall 2018 Rotation Priorities

With September in full swing, we’re now just a few weeks away from the annual Standard rotation and the resulting shake up in card values that typically accompanies it.

This time around we’re facing the rotation of both the Kaladesh and Amonkhet blocks, both of which are notable for containing Masterpiece cards and a plethora of casual and EDH staples. Kaladesh in particular, as an artifact themed block laden with open ended synergies, seems destined for spec greatness.

A while back I proposed a framework for evaluating Magic specs based on their fundamental attributes, as described in detail over here in my article on Spec Scores. And while I (still) haven’t gotten around to fleshing out that concept in the form of a forthcoming web tool on this site, we can still borrow some core concepts to make sure we’re setting priorities rationally when reviewing the upcoming rotation.

According to my Spec Score framework, we want to consider the following when choosing our top picks at any given moment:

  • rarity
  • inventory levels
  • power level
  • casting cost
  • color intensity
  • # of copies played
  • # of formats played
  • uniqueness
  • current price vs. potential
  • recency of last printing
  • # of printings (# of foil printings)

In quick summary, your best bets are often going to be found among mythics that are near a tipping point and are played in high demand in multiple formats, offer a unique effect, are easy to cast, and are hard to reprint or still years from their first reprint.

With that in mind, let’s dive in and try to find some tasty targets in the Kaladesh and Amonkhet blocks!

Multi-Format Staples

Walking Ballista

Walking Ballista (Rare, Aether Revolt)

Current Price: $12
Target Price (12-24 months): $20-25
Formats: Modern, Legacy, Vintage, Commander, Casual

You’re going to have trouble finding a card more likely to make you money from the Kaladesh block past rotation than Walking Ballista. According to MTGGoldfish.com, this ubiquitous XX construct is now one of the top five most played creatures in Modern and it’s in the Top 20 for most played cards overall. Between Tron variants, Hardened Scales Affinity, Amulet Titan, Counters Company and B/R Vengevine usage it’s pretty clear that Ballista is likely to maintain a presence regardless of which way the metagame rolls. This dangerous war machine also shows up as a powerhouse role player in Legacy (Eldrazi Stompy, Death & Taxes) and Vintage (Shops).  The card has also been reported in 5500 decks on EDHREC.com, so we’re talking a true multi format all-star here.

Based on all of that the question isn’t whether Walking Ballista will rise before it’s next reprint but whether we’re going to get a better entry point in six weeks than we have right now around $12. Personally, given how medium-low the inventory is at present (especially for a rotating Standard rare), I favor dollar cost averaging on this card over the next twelve weeks, opportunistically grabbing a few play sets every time a juicy Ebay or TCGPlayer coupon comes up.  I grabbed 12 near $10 last night, and I’ll be aiming to acquire 40-50 before Xmas with an eye to unloading via a future buylist order.

By the by, foils are already significantly more scarce than non-foils here and snapping a few up near $35 on the assumption that they’ll top $60 by 2020 seems like an easy bet.

Baral, Chief of Compliance

Baral, Chief of Compliance

Current Price: $4 ($11 foil)
Target Price (12-24 months): $10 ($25)
Formats: Modern, Commander, Casual

Baral, Chief of Compliance doesn’t even make the cut for the Top 50 most played creatures in Modern, largely because the only deck he ever shows up in is UR Storm. He is however a semi-permanent fixture of that archetype however, and typically played as a 4-of. Over in EDH, while not a popular commander per se, he does show up in 5000+ decks on EDHREC. Overall, I’m mostly interested in foils, though I liked those even better closer to $8. Snap off a couple of play sets for your spec box here, and a steep ramp will likely get you to $20+ in due time.

Spirebluff Canal

Spirebluff Canal (Rare, Kaladesh)

Current Price: $12 (foil)
Target Price (12-24 months): $25+
Formats: Modern, Commander

In terms of land cycles, the Kaladesh check lands are the most likely to do well for us on a longer horizon. Spirebluff Canal is only barely in the Top 30 lands in Modern, but it also shows up in a fair number of EDH decks so it’s still likely to show some healthy appreciation down the road. Given how many land cycles are backed up for reprint I also feel fairly confident we don’t see these again for at least three or four years.

There’s a lot more of any given fall set rare than any given small set rare, so I would tend to favor the foils here over the non-foils, especially given that Spirebluff Canal foils are already in relatively low supply. Picking these up under $15 and aiming for $30+ seems a good bet.

Side note: Blooming Marsh is also a decent, if lesser, target here, so if it fits better in your collection, consider those foils under $10 as rotation dumping picks up.

Inventors' Fair

Inventors’ Fair (Rare, Kaladesh)

Current Price: $2.50/$15 (foil)
Target Price (12-24 months): $6/$30+ (foil)
Formats: Modern, Commander

I already got in on the foils of this quiet all-star at $6, but I’m not scared to scoop some more up closer to $15 this fall because I think it’s obvious we’re going to see them hit $30 long before a reprint. Ironworks Combo and Bridge both run a pair of these in Modern, as do a few other decks. More importantly, this is the 2nd most played card in all of Kaladesh, with nearly 15,000 registered uses on EDHREC.com. Feel free to add 20 or so non-foils to your spec box if you can get them closer to $2 than $3, since buylists are already close to $2 and your risk is minimal.

EDH Staples

Panharmonicon

Panharmonicon

Current Price: $5.00/$20 (foil)
Target Price (12-24 months): $10/$35+ (foil)
Formats: Commander, Casual

The question isn’t whether Panharmonicon is going to see constant demand from Commander players. The question is whether you still want in given that you’ve missed your best entry point. As the top card for the format from Kaladesh, this card is currently double its peak supply low of $2.50, and foils have also already more than doubled up from their low as well. $20 foil rares that are about to rotate are not automatic wins, but in this case I think that if you’re late you just tip your hat to those of us that spotted this card early and go ahead and jump in. It doesn’t hurt that Saffron Olive just ran an entire theme week for this card on his stream, and that won’t be the last time the card gets a boost from casual coverage or memes. To sell by the single copy focus on foils, and you’ll get to exit over $30 within the year. For non-foils the profitable hold might be closer to 18-24 months, but you will almost certainly get to exit en masse to a buylist.

Aetherflux Reservoir

Aetherflux Reservoir

Current Price: $3.00/$10 (foil)
Target Price (12-24 months): $6/$25+ (foil)
Formats: Commander, Casual

Aetherflux Reservoir is the very definition of a card that most Spikes would ignore at first glance, while the casual scene posts up for a long term love affair. The effect is very unique, specific to the Kaladesh setting and unlikely to be a reprint priority for years. Reservoir was actually a key build around in a Standard deck less than a year ago, but up until May of 2018 it was still under a $1. Fast forward through the typically slow summer months and Reservoir is heading into rotation season with a surprising amount of momentum. The card can already be outed to buylists for $1.50 ($2 credit) and retail is steady around $3. Given that the Reservoirs’ online inventory is relatively modest for a rotating fall set rare, and given that it has been reported in 11,500 decks or so on EDHREC.com (ranking as the 3rd most important card in Kaladesh for EDH purposes) I’d say odds are good that the non-foils will hit $10 long before a reprint shows up. Foils can be found under $10 right now, but the ramp to $20-30 is well defined, and because a reprint is most likely to eventually show up via a fall Commander set release, foils are even more insulated.  Down the road, my best guess is that you will be looking to out non-foils via buylist en masse, and singular foils via the sales platform of your choice.

Disallow

Disallow

Current Price: $7 (foil)
Target Price (12-24 months): $15 (foil)
Formats: Commander, Casual

As a three mana counter spell with no alternate casting cost, Disallow is unlikely to ever make waves in Modern, Legacy or Vintage. In Commander however, it is one of the most useful counterspells ever printed, due to the flexibility of being able to counter activated and triggered abilities. EDHREC.com has Disallow pegged as the most popular card in the format from Aether Revolt, with over 12,500 decks registered using the card there. Inventory levels for non-foils are quite high, so I don’t have high hopes for that option, but I’m definitely down to pick up some foils near $7 with a plan to out them in under 24 months for $15+.

Paradox Engine

Paradox Engine

Current Price: $15/$25 (foil)/$100 (MPS)
Target Price (12-24 months): $30/$50(foil)/$150 (MPS)
Formats: Commander, Casual

The first time I saw this card I was a little stunned it had been printed. While a 5 mana artifact seemed fairly unlikely to make waves in Modern, Legacy or Vintage, in the slower battlefields of EDH, this shone out as a very likely open ended combo piece. Fast forward eighteen months and Paradox Engine is the 2nd most important Commander card from Aether Revolt with only slightly less decks registered than Disallow. Most importantly, as a mythic its inventory is likely to drain much faster and as a colorless card, the number of combos it will fit into as time goes on is likely to continue growing. At present the foil multiplier is only 67% or so, and foils are already showing a scarcity driven ramp up toward $50, so I like those to double long before a reprint. Non-foils are also a solid option, and you may want to also consider snapping up a Masterpiece version close to $100, which seems very likely to beat $150 no matter when an eventual reprint hits (I’d guess 3-5 years away minimum).

Anointed Procession

Anointed Procession

Current Price: $5/$10 (foil)
Target Price (12-24 months): $30/$50(foil)
Formats: Commander, Casual’

As the white version of Parallel Lives, Anointed Procession is a near lock to appreciate over time. This is definitely an EDH/casual only card now that’s its time in Standard is over, but in kitchen table magic I would expect demand to be pretty steady for the next 3-5 years before a reprint shows up, likely in sync with the launch of a “tokens matter” style commander in a fall EDH release. Non-foil supply is pretty deep, so I like targeting foils as a double up within 18 months that could end up appreciating in half that time if the ramp heats up.

So there you have it, my priority pick-ups for fall rotation 2018. Hollar in the comments if you have a pet spec you think should have made the list or a good reason to ignore one of my picks.

Until next time, have a great time making and saving money playing our favorite game, Magic: The Gathering!

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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
M157/18/2014$90.00$83.00$93.00$100.00$83.00-$7.00-7.78%-9.25%5/21/2015
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
Theros9/27/2013$90.00$90.00$90.00$100.00$90.00$0.000.00%0.00%5/21/2015
M147/19/2013$90.00$79.00$88.00$100.00$79.00-$11.00-12.22%-6.65%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
Gatecrash2/1/2013$90.00$80.00$90.00$100.00$80.00-$10.00-11.11%-4.83%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
M137/13/2012$90.00$75.00$95.00$90.00$75.00-$15.00-16.67%-5.84%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
Innistrad9/30/2011$90.00$220.00$221.00$225.00$220.00$130.00144.44%39.67%5/21/2015
M127/15/2011$90.00$92.00$104.00$100.00$92.00$2.002.22%0.58%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
M117/16/2010$90.00$120.00$141.00$140.00$120.00$30.0033.33%6.87%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
Worldwake2/2/2010$90.00$640.00$776.00$800.00$640.00$550.00611.11%115.33%5/21/2015
Zendikar10/2/2009$90.00$515.00$547.00$600.00$515.00$425.00472.22%83.79%5/21/2015
M107/17/2009$90.00$195.00$160.00$200.00$160.00$70.0077.78%13.30%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
Conflux2/6/2009$90.00$435.00$526.00$450.00$435.00$345.00383.33%60.97%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
Eventide7/25/2008$90.00$327.00$377.00$400.00$327.00$237.00263.33%38.59%5/21/2015
Shadowmoor5/2/2008$90.00$500.00$490.00$600.00$490.00$400.00444.44%63.00%5/21/2015
Morningtide2/1/2008$90.00$425.00$430.00$400.00$400.00$310.00344.44%47.16%5/21/2015
Lorwyn10/12/2007$90.00$715.00$590.00$700.00$590.00$500.00555.56%72.99%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
M157/18/2014$30.00$48.00$40.00$40.00$40.00$10.0033.33%39.63%5/21/2015
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
Theros9/27/2013$30.00$45.00$40.00$50.00$40.00$10.0033.33%20.24%5/21/2015
M147/19/2013$30.00$39.00$35.00$40.00$35.00$5.0016.67%9.07%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
Gatecrash2/1/2013$30.00$37.50$40.00$45.00$37.50$7.5025.00%10.88%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
M137/13/2012$30.00$46.00$45.00$40.00$40.00$10.0033.33%11.68%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
Innistrad9/30/2011$30.00$123.00$128.00$120.00$120.00$90.00300.00%82.39%5/21/2015
M127/15/2011$30.00$54.00$50.00$40.00$40.00$10.0033.33%8.65%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
M117/16/2010$30.00$49.95$47.00$50.00$47.00$17.0056.67%11.69%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
Worldwake2/2/2010$30.00$275.00$285.00$300.00$275.00$245.00816.67%154.13%5/21/2015
Zendikar10/2/2009$30.00$300.00$300.00$300.00$300.00$270.00900.00%159.70%5/21/2015
M107/17/2009$30.00n/an/a$130.00$130.00$100.00333.33%57.01%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
Conflux2/6/2009$30.00$120.00$150.00$130.00$120.00$90.00300.00%47.71%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
Eventide7/25/2008$30.00$105.00n/a$120.00$105.00$75.00250.00%36.63%5/21/2015
Shadowmoor5/2/2008$30.00$155.00n/a$200.00$155.00$125.00416.67%59.06%5/21/2015
Morningtide2/1/2008$30.00$134.00$138.00$150.00$134.00$104.00346.67%47.46%5/21/2015
Lorwyn10/12/2007$30.00$227.00$241.00$250.00$227.00$197.00656.67%86.28%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
M15-9.25%39.63%
Journey Into Nyx-6.34%0.00%
Born of the Gods-4.33%-5.20%
Theros0.00%20.24%
M14-6.65%9.07%
Dragons Maze-10.84%0.00%
Gatecrash-4.83%10.88%
Return to Ravnica3.39%33.02%
M13-5.84%11.68%
Avacyn Restored17.87%50.33%
Dark Ascension8.43%18.20%
Innistrad39.67%82.39%
M120.58%8.65%
New Phyrexia70.40%50.52%
Mirrodin Besieged15.53%23.29%
Scars of Mirrodin26.35%21.56%
M116.87%11.69%
Rise of the Eldrazi111.56%95.15%
Worldwake115.33%154.13%
Zendikar83.79%159.70%
M1013.30%57.01%
Alara Reborn29.33%44.55%
Conflux60.97%47.71%
Shards of Alara40.71%60.31%
Eventide38.59%36.63%
Shadowmoor63.00%59.06%
Morningtide47.16%47.46%
Lorwyn72.99%86.28%
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 ShelfLife.net, 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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