Tag Archives: Sigmund Aufresser

UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Make Money By Going Nostalgic

I remember 1993 as if it was yesterday. The World Series was won by a Canadian team, the Toronto Blue Jays. Canada also took down a Stanley Cup, something they haven’t done in a while, via the Montreal Canadiens. It was the year of “Got Milk?” and Mrs. Doubtfire was outclassed only by Jurassic Park in the movie world.

According to http://www.pop-culture.us/Annual/1993.html, “The Habit” of 1993 was a little collectible card game called Magic: the Gathering.



Anyone who played Magic in the early-to-mid 90’s remembers wishing this card was in every pack they opened…ok this isn’t precisely the case, but I sure remember wishing I owned a copy of this top-end creature. Even now, 20 years later, I feel incredibly nostalgic when looking at my favorite classic cards. That nostalgia is my primary motivation for maintaining a separate “not-for-trade” binder. The binder isn’t about value, though there are certainly some valuable cards inside. It’s more about cards I’ve enjoyed as a kid or cards with artwork I love so much that I want to keep a copy of the card forever.

In the “New Age” of Magic — Modern Masters 2015 reprints, flashy sets filled with Dragons and computer-generated artwork — my nostalgia for classic cards and art grows continuously.

And it seems I’m not the only one who feels this way…

Welcome to Old School (93/94)

From http://oldschoolmtg.com/, here’s a brief overview of the format:

“93/94, Old School Mtg, started 2007 in the casual Magic scene in Gothenburg, Sweden, and have since grown with players across Europe and North America. A total of seven sets are allowed in the format: Alpha, Beta, Unlimited, Arabian Nights, Antiquities, Legends, and The Dark…” [SIC]

Essentially, this is a fledgling format all about enjoying the Magic of yester-year. While technically I didn’t start playing Magic until 1997, I can still appreciate the concept of a format based around the earlier days of the game, where cards like this were highly relevant:


“Seriously? During the release of the most financially impactful set of all time, you’re going to write about Alpha Shivan Dragons and Beta Icy Manipulators?”

Yes, for two reasons.

First, I am 100% confident you will be inundated with Modern Masters 2015 articles throughout the week. From strategy and how to build a sealed pool to what cards to sell immediately to what cards to acquire, it’ll all be covered by my esteemed colleagues here. While I could be content to share my thoughts, I suspect they’ll overlap tremendously with the rest. Frankly, I’d prefer to write something unique that will bring new perspective to MTG finance.

Second, I suspect there is some very relevant financial information associated with this nostalgic phenomenon. More and more players are talking about older cards and I’m noticing my Twitter feed is filled with this buzz. But there’s no explosion of interest yet – I would go out on a limb and suggest this isn’t even as big as Tiny Leaders, which is arguably more hype than actual format. That being said, getting into this format on the ground floor is absolutely critical.

Don’t care about a nostalgic format? Too young to remember casting Juzam Djinn and Hypnotic Specter? This may not be important. I’m not here to sell you on a (yet another) format; I’m writing this column to drive awareness of a small trend with potential for profound financial impact. This is about getting in front of the curve.

Some Observations

Doctor Superstition (@DSuperstition) is an active member of the Old School Mtg community, and he’s been tweeting some curious observations of late.


These comparisons fascinate me. They may not be incredibly successful in converting players to Old School MTG, but they present some intriguing, hypothetical trades — even highly relevant trades, considering all the MM2015 booster packs that are about to be opened. Imagine opening a Mox Opal at GP Vegas, only to be offered a Beta Hypnotic Specter in trade for your sweet pull. Would you do it?

Mox Opal


As Doctor Superstition pointed out, the two cards have roughly the same value. But looking at the charts above, which one would you rather sit on for the long term?

Ok, so it doesn’t take much to convince folks that old-school cards are safe to hold for the long haul. Everyone can look at charts like those above, comparing MM2015 reprints and playable Beta cards, and make this same conclusion. That’s not the most breakthrough observation, I’ll admit. But it does plant a seed in the back of my mind for when I’m in Vegas…

The “ah-ha” observation comes from looking at other charts for Old School Mtg cards alongside the current stock of major retailers such as Star City Games.

Consider Tawnos’s Coffin, for example, which is seemingly sold out across most the internet.


This is the buyout that no one is talking about. The Antiquities artifact is sold out mostly everywhere, and you can see how both the value and buy list price jumped simultaneously, a sign of very positive upward momentum. This isn’t some forced buy-out here – this is a move backed by retailers. And you can bet the farm that when SCG restocks this card, it’ll have a much higher price tag than its current $24.99 one.

Of course, the trend on Tawnos’s Coffin could be a fluke. It’s a powerful Commander card, so maybe people are finally discovering it? It’s plausible, but I don’t believe Tawnos’s Coffin is the only old-school card suddenly gaining interest.

Old Man

This is one I’ve been highlighting on Twitter lately. Old Man of the Sea’s price seems stagnant when looking at the green curve. But when you assess the blue curve, indicating top buy list price, you can see a noteworthy incline. Retailers are having a tougher time keeping this creature in stock, and it won’t take much to see a sudden spike here as we did with Tawnos’s Coffin. Though it’s worth noting Star City Games has nine total copies in stock with NM listed at $59.99 (this is $10 higher than the price was a month ago).

One of the neatest Old School Mtg card is Chaos Orb, which has also seen significant buy list increases over the past couple years, including one earlier this year.

Chaos Orb

I hear it’s not easy to keep nice copies of this rare artifact in stock. Star City Games is completely sold out of the most affordable Unlimited version, with a NM price of $99.99.  This card seriously deserves more attention than it is currently getting.

The three examples above highlight an important trend – these nostalgically popular cards are destined to increase in price. This should come as no surprise to people. What’s critical to consider, however, is the potential impact an Old School MTG format could have on some of these prices. Let’s face it – there aren’t many Chaos Orbs and Tawnos’s Coffins out there. Any spike in demand, no matter how small, could have a profound impact on card prices.

I’m not here to incite a buyout. If people were to suddenly start speculating on these cards like they did on Tiny Leaders, it could prove detrimental to the health of Old School MTG. Availability is a major consideration here.

But I am trying to inspire you to consider adding a few of these cards into your MTG portfolio. They provide tremendous stability with significant upside. In fact, I’d probably rather have a few Chaos Orbs than, say, a couple booster boxes of Modern Masters 2015. I believe there is much greater upside and lower risk to the former. MM2015 boxes may be good investments eventually, but with so many unknowns right now in this unprecedented time, I can’t help but encourage caution.

Wrapping It Up

Thus summarizes my strategy heading to GP Vegas. Some players will be anxiously dumping the pulls from their MM2015 booster packs. Others will be keenly aware of dropping prices, attempting to pick up their Tarmogoyfs and Vendilion Cliques at a favorable price. While I have a short Modern shopping list myself, I’ll be most interested in picking up some of these older cards.

The reason for this move has nothing to do with my desire to play Old School MTG (although it does sound like a fun format). Rather, I’m noticing a gradual trend towards these nostalgic cards and I recognize that any spurt in demand could lead to drastic price fluctuations. A small surge in Tawnos’s Coffin interest has caused one retailer to double their buy price overnight. ABU Games and Star City Games are two vendors that do not like being out of stock of these older cards – if that trend occurs too frequently, they WILL up their buy prices.

By keeping an eye out for deals now, and trading strategically into some of these nostalgic cards over time, you set yourself up for strong portfolio growth going forward. And if this 93/94 format ever does grow legs, you could be looking at some surprising double-ups. Even if that doesn’t happen, collecting stuff like Guardian Beast and Island of Wak-Wak is just plain fun. With most of these cards also being on the Reserved List, you can be confident your investments will, at a minimum, hold their value.  Cards like these remind me of what initially got me into Magic. Collecting these cards and then making bank on them would just be icing on the cake.

Sig’s Quick Hits

Here are a few other Old School Mtg cards I have my eye on for GP Vegas:

  • I mentioned Guardian Beast towards the end of this column. The Arabian Nights creature has increased in value by about $10 over the past year. But what really interests me is the top buy list price, which has been steadily increasing throughout 2015. SCG has three total copies in stock, with zero being NM ($79.99 price tag). If you want a copy, why not trade into one soon?
  • Dark Ritual has been printed a billion times. You can find hundreds of copies for $0.50 throughout the internet. But how many Alpha copies of the black instant can you find? None at Star City Games, where they are sold out with a $39.99 price tag. Yet again I see the top buy list price steadily rising over the past 6-12 months despite choppy action in estimated value. I have to imagine this card is a power-house in Old School MTG, and definitely worth keeping an eye on.
  • Speaking of cards that have been reprinted a ton, City of Brass is also worth closer inspection. The original printing of this Nonbasic land has been on a steady incline over the past couple years as well. Did you know this card retails for $79.99 now?! Star City Games has a handful of copies in stock, but finding NM copies can be quite difficult!
  • BONUS TIP: Want to go real deep? Reviewing some of the top decks of the 93/94 format, it looks like Su-chi is a popular card. The artifact creature is an uncommon from Antiquities, so it’s not as difficult to find as some of the other cards I’ve mentioned earlier. But the top buy list price has jumped from $2 to $3 earlier this year. SCG has 17 total copies in stock, with only 1 being NM at $5.99. It probably wouldn’t take much to manipulate this card’s price, but I’d much rather be in the camp of obtaining my set now and sitting on them for a couple years.

My Love/Hate Relationship With Foils

By: Sigmund Ausfresser

I’ve got a confession to make: I don’t really like foils all that much. Their tendency to bend and become clouded causes me to be extra cautious when handling them. Horror stories haunt me—the ones where players are disqualified for having only certain identifiable cards as foils in their decks. Not to mention nonfoil copies do the exact same things as foil copies in a game of Magic (well, placing Super Secret Tech aside).

So why am I dedicating an entire article to foils in MTG finance? Because the more the game evolves, the more critical it is to include foils in any robust MTG portfolio. To do otherwise could have some detrimental effects.

Allow me to explain…

A Few Case Studies

One significant case for speculating on foils is that they have seemingly limitless upside potential. While this is a bit of hyperbole, there is at least a hint of truth to the statement, especially when it comes to older foils. Something as common as Daze can flounder around the $4 mark for years and years. Yet in 2014, foil copies of the oft-free Counterspell finally cracked the $100 mark. Would that be a sensible price ceiling? You may think so, but the card has still continued its climb!


With a $4 price tag for nonfoils and $126 for foils, we’re talking about a multiplier of 31. How about that for potential upside!

Another point in favor of foil investing is that they often hold their value really well, even in the face of reprints.

Consider a recent example: the Magic 2015 reprint of Urborb, Tomb of Yawgmoth. When this card was spoiled in a core set, the Planar Chaos nonfoil version promptly tanked from $40 to $10—a full 75 percent drop in about a month’s time!


The original foil copies, however, have yet to blink an eye. In fact even the release of a foil reprint in the FTV: Realms set still did not punish this card’s price (though I’ll admit upside is limited significantly as a result of both these reprints).

Urborg Foil

Still, the point is clear. While nonfoil Planar Chaos copies were dropping 75 percent, foil copies dropped about 30 percent in that same timeframe (not to mention that the card’s price has promptly recovered to near its pre-reprint high in the time since!). This is yet another compelling reason to include foils in a Magic portfolio, especially in light of the nonstop reprints we’ve been facing recently!

The last benefit of foil speculation I want to touch upon has a more somber rationale. Namely, I want to talk about the recent explosion of counterfeits.

A little over a year ago, Chas Andres wrote a terrific piece on reprints and their detection over at StarCityGames.com. Others have also discussed this subject at length. What I particularly like about Chas’s article from January 2014 is that he lists all the cards of which we need to be most scrupulous due to counterfeits. He also included a picture to show what some of the counterfeits look like.


I’m sure by now you know where I’m going with this. I see no foils in the picture above nor do I read any mention of foils in Chas’s article.

Does that mean zero foil counterfeits exist? Absolutely not! I know there are methods of dissecting a foil card, removing a foil layer, and applying it to other cards. But I never hear concerns about such a counterfeiting process becoming rampant. Perhaps the procedure is far too tedious. Perhaps the finished fakes don’t look nearly convincing enough. Or perhaps it’s just plain easier to dodge authorities by sticking with nonfoils. Either way, the fact that you read less about foil counterfeits than nonfoil is definitely a consideration I take seriously.

So Just Buy All Foils?

 By now I’m hopeful I’ve convinced you to at least consider picking up some foils to round out your MTG portfolio. If you’ve been hesitant in the past like I have, perhaps the case studies above help you gain some confidence in the endeavor. The data is certainly compelling.

We must proceed with caution, however, because while there are certainly ample positives to foil speculation, there are also a number of real downsides. I would be remiss in my writing if I left these out.

  • Foils have a tendency to bend and cloud over, so they do require care when handling.
  • Foils can be a bit less liquid, and the bid/ask spread (the difference between a seller’s asking price and a buyer’s offer) can become a bit wide, causing some small inefficiencies in the market.
  • Foils are more valuable and fewer in number, so you won’t be able to buy as many copies when speculating.

These concerns are not negligible, and we need to take them into consideration. In fact, these very concerns are what lead me to encourage a diverse approach to MTG investing. In other words, I’m not advocating a portfolio of only foils—I’m merely stressing the importance of including foils in your broader portfolio.

In no way am I encouraging a foil-only portfolio!

So How Do I Proceed?

Not every speculation target should be acquired in foil. Oftentimes foils are actually terrible targets. Cards played strictly in Standard are awful to acquire in foil because there’s often a very low multiplier for such cards. Sometimes when a card is reprinted in foil, previous foil copies develop a lower price ceiling, as we saw with Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth.

And consider one of the most painful foil reprints I’m aware of: the FTV: 20 reprint of Jace, the Mind Sculptor. When that card was reprinted in August 2013, both foil and nonfoil copies got absolutely crushed by about 50 percent. Suffering a loss of $100 on the nonfoils was a bad beat, but those who watched their foil copies drop from $1300 to under $600 suffered one of the worst value declines in the history of Magic.

Jace foil

My intent in showing this data point is not to discourage you from foil investing, although you may fee compelled to do so. I’m merely emphasizing that foil investing, like anything else, merits consideration and strategy. One simply can’t buy any foil and expect immediate profit.

How do you go about choosing which foils to invest in? I’ve got a couple suggestions, for starters, and I’m certain there are financial experts who specialize in this area. Jason Alt, for one, has a valuable perspective since he’s so well-versed in EDH—a popular format for foils. Legacy and Vintage experts could also share insights into this matter.

While I don’t claim to be a world-renowned expert in any single format—not even close—I believe I have enough experience to at least recommend a few targets myself. Please take these in stride, and remember to do your own research before committing cash to an investment.

Sigmund’s Top 3 Foil Picks

  1. RTR Block Shock Lands

Tomb foil

It’s true that shock lands have not paid out the way many speculators expected, myself included. I continue to sit on superfluous copies of the Modern staples, waiting patiently for any sort of price appreciation. It’s been a difficult wait and I’m losing patience very rapidly.

Foil shock lands,  particularly from Return to Ravnica block, have not yielded such underwhelming returns. Consider the chart on foil Overgrown Tomb, the second most played shock land in Modern (after Steam Vents).

No one is going to pay off their mortgage by sitting on foil copies of this card. On the other hand, it’s difficult to ignore the upward trend. I cannot emphasize this next point enough: while the nonfoil copy of Overgrown Tomb is nearing an all-time low, foil copies have appreciated from $25 to $40. So not only are foil copies increasing in price, the multiplier is also increasing. This is a great scenario, because should the nonfoils ever catch a break and go higher, the foil counterpart will jump even more.

Foil shock lands from RTR block are a solid place to have investments right now, and I’m glad I have one copy of each. These should see solid appreciation going forward, as long as they dodge further reprint, and that seems unlikely for now because nonfoil shocks have become so inexpensive—Wizards of the Coast has bigger fish to fry when it comes to reprints.

  1. Cyclonic Rift

Rift foil

The blue instant is everywhere in EDH. Despite being reprinted in Commander 2014, nonfoil copies have maintained a $3 price tag, and they’ve inched up a bit in value lately.

At $10, we’re looking at around a multiplier of three for foils. While this isn’t necessarily screaming “opportunity,” I still really like picking up foil copies in this price range. Assuming the card isn’t banned from EDH, we can expect nothing but upside from foils. It may take time, but these will inevitably climb higher. Only a reprint could undermine this investment, and being so recently printed and reprinted, I can’t imagine we see these again soon. And even if they show up in every Commander set going forward, so what? Arsenal aside, Commander sets aren’t foil!

  1. Tasigur, the Golden Fang

Tasigur foil

My favorite foil target today is Tasigur, the Golden Fang. I’ve become increasingly vocal about this target because I continue to hear buzz on how good this creature is in Legacy. He’ll never be a four-of, but he has certainly earned his status as “Legacy-playable card.” In fact, one copy even showed up in last weekend’s Grand Prix Kyoto’s Top 8, played by Yousuke Morinaga.

I’ve been acquiring a few foils with cash in the $25 range. And while I don’t intend to drop thousands into this investment, I really like the upside potential of a virtual one-mana 4/5 creature in Legacy. He’s even better in Modern, I hear.

Wrapping It Up

 Foils are an unnecessary evil. I don’t like handling them, I don’t like playing them, and I don’t like having to unload them. But I can’t argue with the benefits of speculating on foils. Something like Tasigur, the Golden Fang has only so much upside when it comes to nonfoil copies. I could see them hitting $10 eventually, for example. But with foils, I see so much more potential! And while I’m waiting for these gains, I don’t have to worry about potential Event Deck reprints. No foils there!

All I recommend is that you consider holding a spot in your MTG portfolio for foils. If you’re unsure which targets are best, ask around. The MTGPrice forums are a great place to make inquiries because many of the site’s writers read through the threads there and share their thoughts. And if there’s one thing I learned throughout my experiences with MTG finance, it’s that I trust the experts in their respective fields.

Happy foiling!

Sig’s Quick Hits – Foil Edition

  • Star City Games has three SP nonfoil Academy Ruins in stock from Modern Masters, for $9.79. The reprint certainly hurts this card’s upside potential, but foil copies from the same set are only holding a multiplier of two, selling for $19.99. What’s more, SCG is out of stock of these foils! That seems a bit odd to me, given how popular this nonbasic land is in various formats.
  • Summoning Trap has been a nonplayer for a while now, but we can’t discount how powerful its effect is. Nonfoils are virtually bulk, yet their foils show signs of life. SCG is sold out of NM foil copies at $4.99 and they have only five SP ones in stock at $4.49. I wouldn’t go crazy here, but in terms of cheap foil pickups, you could do far worse—this card only gets better as more powerful creatures are printed. Eldrazi in Battle for Zendikar block, anyone?
  • This last one is a bit baffling to me. Everyone knows how ubiquitous Snapcaster Mage is in Legacy and Modern. I even jam a copy in my Tiny Leaders deck. But if the card is played so much in eternal formats, why in the world are foils less than three times the nonfoils? SCG has six nonfoil copies in stock at $56.85 but is currently sold out of foils at $149.99. I see foils occasionally selling for as low as $120! The older these get, the higher that multiplier should grow. And with no Innistrad in Modern Masters 2015, you can be confident your copies won’t see a reprint for at least a year.