Tag Archives: speculating

Colorless Transparency

(Credit for the cover photo alterations goes to Sean, @SeanOhhhh on Twitter.)

So, uhhhh… how about that Jace, eh?  Actually, I really don’t care about the card. I’ve never even owned an Origins Jace, and I certainly don’t plan on buying in at $80. You’ll hear about the mono-blue mind master in much more detail from several of my colleagues this week, so let’s move onto something much more interesting.

Something Much More Interesting

You know what? Let’s check out “today’s most interesting cards” from this past Monday, because that sounds like a fun day that I definitely picked at random.


Oh, darn. According to my ProTrader email, nothing interesting happened that day… OH, WAIT.

spawnsire today


So that finally happened, although I don’t think it’s a coincidence that last week’s article was literally all about Spawnsire of Ulamog and why I thought it was a good spec target at $3. When I wrote that article, the card had crept up to $4, and I even advocated *not* buying in anymore if you were trying to make a profit. Parroting last week, buying in at $4 means that you’re hoping for the card to hit $8 or $9 before you can start to see worthwhile and noticeable margins. As a personal rule, I don’t buy unless I’m confident in my ability to at least double up.

As you can see by the pictures and timing of the whole thing, my article looks like it was the final stroke required to convince some number of people to buy the last 30 or so copies that were available on TCGplayer, and the half dozen left on eBay. I seriously doubt that these people are going to make any money, if it’s any consolation to you.

My hope for the rest of this article is to show two things. First, I want to be as transparent as possible about all of my suggestions to speculate on Spawnsire, be clear exactly where I made money, when and how I bought and sold each of my copies, the areas where I went wrong, and how I would change my approach in the future. Second, I want to explain the concept of the greater fool theory, a topic that Jason Alt first intertwined with MTG finance a couple of years ago back when Theros first came onto the scene. It’s been a little while since then, so I’ll provide a refresher.

Time Warp

Alright, let’s take a trip down the magical mouse-wheel and scroll back to about five weeks ago.


August 30 was the first time I mentioned Spawnsire on Twitter. I subsequently grabbed a dozen or so copies on PucaTrade, because I very rarely buy into a spec target with cash. Most of my “speccing” comes from buying large collections or lots of singles at buylist or below, and setting aside the cards that I’m anticipating will go up for later. While I don’t always get the quantity or card that I’m specifically looking for by using this method, I’m almost guaranteed to not lose money in the long run if the end result is different than my vision.



Fast forward to September 4. I noticed on my daily check of the MTG Stocks interests page that the foil version of Spawnsire had doubled, seemingly out of nowhere. I didn’t own any foils, but I did see that the non-foil was still hanging around the bottom of the interests page. At this point, I was very confident that the card was primed and ready to spike within a couple of days, following the trend of the foil.

I bought the copies that you read about in my article last week from Star City Games, because I saw a perfect storm of reasons to pick them up there: SCG was the cheapest place to buy, I could get 36 copies at once, and I was guaranteed that they would ship. I continued to check the stock on TCGplayer for several days, and it continued to teeter anywhere from 33 to 50 sellers at any given time. There were stores listing new copies, and then they would get eaten up, although I’m not sure if that was the work of non-competitive players looking for their copies, or speculators following the feed of information that I was providing.


And here we are about a week after I bought my copies from SCG. Unfortunately for me, they simply restocked another 40 SP copies a day or two after I cleaned them out, so it meant that there were still a lot of casual players who would need to pick up their Spawnsires at $3 to $4 before I saw any sort of profit. I didn’t want to buy anymore than I already had to force the market to move. Getting rid of 50 copies of a casual card that was likely only a one- or maybe two-of of in a deck was hard enough, so I held back.

In hindsight, I should have also tweeted here that SCG still had 40 copies in stock.  I focused too much on the TCGplayer and eBay stock affecting the price, and should have tweeted back on the 13th that SCG still had a bunch of copies, and that they were probably the place to buy them if you needed Spawnsires to play with.

That was my last tweet before the last of the supply on TCGplayer and eBay disappeared on the evening of October 5. I really wish I had written my last week’s article three weeks ago so that it didn’t coincide with the actual release date of Battle for Zendikar. I would be interested to see if Spawnsire’s available supply decreased at a similar or identical rate without my article, simply because of the set release allowing casual players to get their hands on Battle for Zendikar and start crafting their Eldrazi decks.

Similarly, I wonder if my article would have been enough of a match in the powder keg to spark a buyout three weeks ago, without the set being released in the same weekend. As things played out, though, I think it was the combination of both factors that made the buyout happen. Now, let’s take a look at what I did that night as a result of the buyout, regardless of who bought the copies that started it.


This screenshot was taken on the night of October 5. As you can see by checking your own TCGplayer mid prices, Spawnsire has settled since then at around $6 to $7, right where I was hoping for. Immediately after I noticed this jump, I went to TCGplayer and listed my own copies. I put up 37 NM copies for $6.99 (if you’e been keeping track, I only got 15 or so NM copies from PucaTrade. I graded all of the 35 SP copies that I got from SCG, and I personally felt that almost half of them were NM. SCG’s grading system is extremely rigid). I also put my 17 SP copies up for $6.49 and crossed my fingers.

While I waited to get lucky and hopefully sell some Spawnsires into the hype, I went to SCG to see if they had been bought out as well. Did the instigators of the buyout really grab all 40 of SCG’s SP copies? Well, not exactly.



While the cheapest copies of Spawnsire on TCGplayer were my own at $6 to $7 and eBay was completely empty, SCG still had 40 SP copies on their website sitting at $3.35 each. Huh. While this is definitely a risky move and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to sell all of these, I felt that I would be able to slowly move them on TCGplayer or through trades at $6 to $7 a piece, eventually making a strong profit. It would take a while and tie up my money, but I didn’t really put a lot of time into thinking about it. I was concerned that someone else would snap them up before I did, so I hastily jammed them all into my card and swiftly made it through checkout.

Ugh. Now I had to move almost 100 of these things. I went to bed that night thinking of strategies of how I would move more than 90 freaking Spawnsire of Ulamogs. Maybe if I got lucky, one buylist would hit $4.50 or $5 and I could just sell them all en masse for a small but safe profit. Facebook would probably be a strong outlet, as there are a ton of non-competitive players in all of the groups that I’m in. I could jam a few in my display case, because I mostly market myself to EDH and newer players out of the store. I’m sure some of them will want to build Eldrazi decks, and slam Barrage Tyrants and Desolation Twins into play with Spawnsire. Hmmm…

Greater Fools

Alright, now we’re almost caught up to present day. I got out of my sports psychology class Tuesday afternoon to check my email, and I was happy to see an email from TCGplayer. I had a Spawnsire sale! The first of many, I’m sure. Although it would be a slow process, I would eventu—



Well, alright then. Either this person knows something that I don’t, or he has a really weird thing for tentacles. One person bought out all 37 NM copies for $6.99 each, so I suppose that solves one of my problems. Obviously no player buys 37 copies of a single spell that’s not a Shadowborn Apostle or Relentless Rat, so this is a purchaser looking to make money. I’m assuming that this person doesn’t read my articles, because I suggested the exact opposite of what this party did. If you buy in at $7, then you’re looking for Spawnsire to hit $13 or $14 before you sell, and you plan to sell 37 of them at that price?

According to the greater fool theory, irrational buyers will set the price of a commodity when that thing’s price is not driven by its own intrinsic value. In this party’s mind, they’re not the fool. They’re going to sell to some other guy who’s a greater fool.

“I can’t wait to get these 37 Spawnsires, so I can sell them to some guy for $10 each. I’ll make like a hundred dollars because I’ll get approximately $3 profit off each one.” –Spawnsire Sam

The problem here is that you’re assuming that person exists, and that the market will still be as volatile as it was when you bought my copies. I’m shipping those Spawnsires out on Wednesday afternoon, so the buyer probably won’t get them in the mail until Monday. Do you still think Spawnsire is going to be $10 on Monday? Hell, it dropped below $10 already, and it’s probably still going to be $7 when this article goes live on Thursday.

When I bought Spawnsires three weeks ago, I had a choice when I saw the spike happen. I could either sell them immediately by racing to the bottom of TCGplayer (an option that I only have because I had the luxury of having copies in hand from three weeks ago), or I could take a greater risk and try to predict that the price would stay at $10, $11, or predict that it would go to something like $15. The choice I made is pretty obvious: I took the safer route. Move the cards, lock in the profit.

The party buying my Spawnsires had a different set of choices. They could either buy my $7 copies, hoping to sell them for $10 or $15 as soon as they get them in the mail (what they did), or they could stay out of the game entirely. The bus already left the stop, and this guy is trying to take the elevator to the fourth floor of his apartment building and parkour from the top of a roof to land on top of the bus, all so that he can hand out free Spawnsires to all of the little boys and girls. I didn’t feel confident that my copies of Spawnsire would be able to sell at anything above $7. More specifically, I didn’t expect any fools to come along and believe that there would be any greater fools to buy at $15.

Unfortunately, I’m still not out of the woods yet. I have to sell the 40 copies I’m getting from SCG in the next week, and that’s going to take, uhhh… a while. Only one buylist has hit $4 as of right now, and I doubt there will be many that go above that. In hindsight, buying these additional 40 wasn’t the best move, but at least I won’t lose money on the purchase.

End Step

Are you tired of Spawnsire yet? I hope so. It’s been a while since I’ve dissected a spec to such a degree, but it was a lot of fun writing both of these articles. I hope everyone learned at least a little something, even if it was, “Don’t buy 37 copies of Spawnsire of Ulamog at $7.”

Let me know what you thought of my article through Facebook, Twitter, or in the comments section below!

The Dime Dealer

Nobody’s going to argue that hitting on a personal spec target isn’t one of the best feelings in our little micro community. Seeing that 200-percent increase on Boros Reckoner the week after release or reminiscing on when you bought out the internet of Tasigur at $2 each feels great, and it’s one of the biggest reasons players try to dip their toes into the world of Magic finance. Seeing your $3 preorder hang out at $9 for its entire Standard lifespan is something that will always hang on your mantle as a brag story for years to come, especially if you went all-in on dozens or hundreds of copies.

Today, I’m not here to teach you how to do that. My ability to evaluate pre-order cards is less than stellar, considering I called Rabblemaster “hot garbage,” and claimed it would be a bulk rare soon after the set release. You don’t want me to tell you what card to pick out of Origins to be the next Deathmist Raptor, because that’s not what I’m good at. What I am good at, is making money off what I thought Rabblemaster would turn out to be: bulk rares.

What is a Bulk Rare?

As we’re all well aware, not every gold- or red-symbol-bearing card in the rear end of a booster pack lives a privileged life of playability and power. Some are cast aside and forgotten by the Spikes of our realm, left to rot in the dregs of trade binders for years, thrown into boxes of bulk and forgotten about, or left on draft tables to be thrown away. For the purposes of our discussion today, a “bulk rare” will be any card with a gold set symbol and a TCGplayer mid price of under $1.00.

I’m going to separate the types of bulk rares into a couple of different categories. First, we have “true bulk.” These are the rares that can literally never be seen as anything other than $.10 to $.12, depending on what vendor you talk to. These are the Dragon-Style Twins of the world, which have a TCGplayer mid price of $.35, are acquirable as throw-ins during trades (if you play nice during the transaction), and have never seen any sort of play on a camera. You are not happy when you open one of these in a booster pack. Ever.


Next up, we have something that I’ve patented as a “fake” bulk rare. While vendors at a Grand Prix will treat true and fake bulk rares to be one and the same, you have room to make more money off them than their bottom dollar counterparts. Let’s take a look at Increasing Savagery:


Compare that to the graphs for Dragon-Style Twins and Deathbringer Regent. With a Fair Trade Price that most people would round up to $1, this set of scary window teeth is worth trading straight across for Delver of Secrets or Brainstorm. And the best part is that anyone who cares about casting Delver or Brainstorm is more than likely willing to dump Savagery at a bulk rare price while they’re trying to finish their set of Snapcasters.

We can see a similar price chart in the more recently printed Flamewake Phoenix.


While the card isn’t as bulky as Dragon-Style Twins, it certainly hasn’t made any flamewaves in Standard (yet.) This is a card that I’m extremely happy to pick up while trading for or buying bulk rares at $.10 to $.12 each to set aside with my fingers crossed for post-rotation. I definitely keep cards like this and Increasing Savagery away from my “true” bulk, and either trade them out at $1, buylist them online for more than a 100-percent profit, or speculate at a negligible cost.

Why Should I Care?

Excellent question, voice in my head. When you deal in bulk rares, you get to bridge the aether between the hardcore Spikes and grinders who only care about pureblood Snapcaster Mages and the casual kitchen-table player who will lose his freaking mind over how awesome it will be to windmill slam a Dragon-Style Twins against his friend and then pump it with Increasing Savagery. While it’s a rare occasion to sell massive amounts of bulk rares and reap in huge loads of cash at once, they are one of the most stable assets in Magic.

If you looked at the price of Underground Sea a year ago and given me the choice of one NM Revised Sea or 3,300 bulk rares, I would have taken the 100 duck-sized horses instead of one horse-sized duck. In the past 365 days, Sea has actually depreciated by a decent percentage, while my army of dimes wouldn’t have moved an inch. Unless Magic as a whole collapses, I can’t see the price of bulk rares ever going down past the dime—casual players just love the game too much. While you sometimes end up having to buy Gallows at Willows Hill, those are the ones that you pass off to the highest bidder at your next Grand Prix.

Bulk rares also have the advantage of randomly spiking six-million percent every now and again. Nourishing Shoal was sitting in my bulk rares box before it suddenly became a $15 card, so that dime saw a higher percentage increase than Deathmist Raptor could ever hope to dream of. Older bulk rares from the blocks of Mirrodin, Kamigawa, and Future Sight are harder to find than modern-day bulk mythics, but have infinite more upside just due to the explosive popularity of a deck being on camera. Guess how quickly I listed my Quickens after this past week. While some people say that I’m insane for holding onto all of the copies of Plunge into Darkness that I pull from collections and bulk buys, I’m confident that it only takes one camera match or new card printed to shoot the Fifth Dawn rare into overdrive.

How Do I Pick Up Bulk Rares?

Thankfully, there are a lot of players who aren’t as interested in these penny stocks as we are. Competitive tournament grinders are (in my experience) often happy to grind their dusty bulk rares into Cryptic Commands, especially when you point out the fact that no one else has wanted or will want these cards other than yourself.

Proper etiquette here is to gently approach the subject, and ask if your partner is interested in moving any or all of their NM bulk rares. You let them know that they’re free to decline any card in particular for any or no reason at all, and that you won’t be offended. Set a price beforehand (I like to use $.10 as a cash baseline and $.12 in trade), and one of you can start pulling and making small piles of 10. I also take any mythic at $.25 to help people not have to look at their copies of Archangel’s Light anymore. Even if they don’t exactly have 300 bulk rares to equal the Cryptic they were looking for,  it certainly helps cushion the blow by reducing the number of their own staples that they have to trade out towards completing their deck.

Alternatively, I used to find success with a “two for one” box. While I don’t use it anymore due to keeping my bulk rare boxes on a glass display case in a storefront, it was a very effective method of grinding sheer quantity of bulk rares during our college gaming nights. The general rule is that you have a large box of at least a few hundred rares, preferably ones that have a degree of casual and Commander appeal. While I’m not sure this is something you want to start while playing at your LGS (it always had kind of a “vendor” feel to me, so I always reserved it for casual events at our college), it’s a great way to make a bit of value on the side, and remove the stress of searching through someone else’s binder for some random rare that you don’t care about anyway.

The key to picking up bulk rares goes back to my article “Nothing is Sacred” from a couple weeks ago. Be flexible, and willing to buy (almost) anything. While I’ve personally drawn a line of not accepting MP or lower bulk rares anymore, I don’t care what NM rares I’m buying. As long as the price is a dime, I’m perfectly willing to pick up binders and binders full of bulk rares. Even though I own more than 30 copies of Daxos of Meletis, I’ll still buy the next one at $.10. In the absolute worst-case scenario, I’ll need to unload it at the next Grand Prix I travel to and break even. The best case is that I make $.03 off of it. The best, best-case scenario is that there’s the next Nourishing Shoal in the same pile as that thirty-first Daxos, and that I help someone complete a deck by taking the cards that she doesn’t need off her hands.

Moving Bulk Rares

It would be really awkward if I closed this article without going over the best ways to sell and trade your newly acquired penny stocks, but I’ve already actually sprinkled those methods throughout. Let’s go over it to recap.

Your number-one outlet is casual players. If you don’t know any casual players, try to find some. I’m not talking about Commander players who understand that Steam Vents is a quality Magic: The Gathering card. Your homework for this week is to meet a casual player who gets excited when they consider putting a Tidal Force into an unsleeved, 78-card deck. Help them experience Christmas in July by giving them a box of sweet rares to look through that are only $.25 each. That’s, like, $3.75 less than a booster pack!

End Step

So yesterday, I learned this:


Even hardened financiers like myself can slip up sometimes, and it makes me wonder exactly how many copies of Endless Ranks of the Dead I’ve thrown into my quarter box for the past year and a half. If you have someone local who does what I do on the scale that I do, there’s a damn good chance that they messed up at some point, or haven’t gone through their thousands of bulk rares in god knows how long. I remember pulling Gavony Townships out of other people’s bulk boxes back when the card was $1.50, so it’s your turn to do the same. Do some research and go make money off of people like me. Preferably not me, but other people like me. Go buy their Endless Ranks for a quarter. Leave mine alone.


The Immortality of Planeswalkers

It’s been almost eight years since the planeswalker card type was introduced. Before that, the lore of the game cast planeswalkers as legendary pseudo-gods that were almost always too powerful to print. I mean, we got Nicol Bolas back in Legends, but he felt like more of an “attack with big dragon that roars” instead of “archmage that casts multiple spells to obliterate his opponents.” We never got a card for Urza, because Wizards claimed that he would be far too powerful to see play. Neither did we ever get Serra or Leshrac from the pre-Mending era.

Planeswalkers were basically gods that would far overpower the “normal” creatures of the time, and WOTC didn’t yet have the design knowledge to make world-crushing nigh-unstoppable beings in card form.

During the Time Spiral block, we saw the last of the “planeswalkers imagined as creatures.” Jaya Ballard had multiple activated abilities to show the versatility of her spell weaving, but it wasn’t enough to make her feel awesome. Teferi controlled the flow of time by slowing down his opponents, but he was still just a creature. I’m not going to write an entire lore column, because you guys aren’t here for that, but the Mending was Wizards’s way of fixing and adjusting the walkers to a power level where they were more feasibly printed.

October of 2007

Enter Lorwyn. With a brand-new card type that was hinted at by Tarmogoyf itself, planeswalkers and the rules surrounding them were the talk of the town. At least, I assume they were. I barely knew how to play Magic at the time, and I wasn’t paying attention to new set releases until closer to Shards of Alara. But as a casual player, I fell in love with planeswalkers as soon as I saw them. Ironically, I was the last person in my small casual group to actually attain one, and that was only because my friend took pity and traded Garruk to me because he had two from the Garruk vs. Liliana Duel Deck.


Anyway, the point here is that the planeswalker card type was a home run on pretty much all fronts. Casuals foamed at the mouth at the chance to summon an ally to the battlefield and cast spells every turn, and the Spikes of the world enjoyed how difficult to remove and mana-efficient they were. While there were balancing issues over the first few years, ‘walkers as a whole were appreciated by the entire community. Savvy traders who navigated the rift between casual and competitive caught on quick, and learned that converting tournament staples into undervalued loyalty counters was a quick way to make a profit.

This mantra has held true for as long as I’ve been in this business. If your trade partner’s binder is stretched thin, just target pretty much any planeswalker ever. I’ve sold more Vess than Veil in my time buying and selling Magic, and it’s not close. Hell, even Tibalt is worth trading for because he’s so goddamn infamous. There are multiple people out there who collect exclusively Tibalt because he’s regarded as the first “obviously bad” planeswalker. I’ve traded for a Tibalt before, and it was intentional. I wanted that Magic: The Gathering card because I knew another human being on this planet actually wanted to own it, even though the card is obvious garbage and is basically a recurring joke at this point.


In years past, $5 was always the benchmark for “cheap planeswalker that you should probably buy, because it’s going to rebound back like an Immortal.” If the garbage version of Gideon can float around at $5 despite seeing zero play, then that should be the benchmark low (the one exception being our beloved Fiend-Blooded friend).

However, it looks like we have a few challengers in our midst who are refusing to make the climb:





I can come to terms with the fact that Architect and Vraska won’t rise to the occasion. The Duel Deck skewered their prices and sealed their fates (and both pieces of alternate art are absolutely awful).

However, I had at least a little bit of faith in M15 Jace and M12 Chandra slowly making a comeback…

Don’t Call It a Comeback (It’s Probably Not)

Tibalt has a higher fair trade price than M15 Jace . And yet hell hasn’t frozen over, pigs are grounded for the moment, and the third world war hasn’t caused the end of us all. I’m not sure if we should throw a party for Tibalt or mourn the end of his legacy. When M15 first bottomed out, I took the $3 Jace as a signal. His name had E, J, C, and A all arranged in a certain spelling towards the front of the card, he was four mana, and he started with a large chunk of loyalty. Even if he was obviously inferior to his cousins, I figured I could easily pick these up in trade and then dump them out of my display case once they made their climb back to the $5 bare minimum.

Easy game, easy life, right? Those who can’t afford a Mind Sculptor go for Beleren, and those who couldn’t afford Beleren would jump on these. I made similar moves on Chandra, the Firebrand, trusting in the creep back to $5. Trade for a bunch, and then dump them in the display case. Garruks don’t last a week behind that glass, and neither do copies of Nicol Bolas. Why would these be any different? In my past experience selling ‘walkers to casuals, they didn’t have to be good to move off the shelf.  A six-mana Chandra sells like wildfire, and she never saw a spark of competitive play in her life.


So how many Living Guildpacts and Firebrands have I sold out of my case ever since initating my master plan?

Zero Jaces, and one or two Firebrands.

There was actual dust on the front Jace when I went to check on my case last week, and he’s priced at $3, yet hasn’t moved in God knows how long. You would think that casual players would jump at the chance to jam a planeswalker in their decks for such a low cost, but my experience suggests anything but.

A Fading Spark

The mantra that all of us financiers and value traders has been chanting has been dead for over a year. “Trade for a planeswalker if it’s under $5,” and, “Trade for any planeswalker ever because it’s easy to sell,” are relics of a forgotten age.

I’m even wondering if my Daretti investment was a worthwhile buy, even though I managed to find some copies that I thought were underpriced at $2.70 each. I was going to rely on his rock-solid $5 price tag in order to evacuate from the spec in a pinch and settle for doubling up, but he’s already shown signs of sliding in the opposite direction.

So what went wrong? Well, planeswalkers aren’t as special anymore. Instead of having a limited number in each color to choose from, the casual players have approximately seventeen different mono-blue Jaces to choose from for their mill or control decks. Being the 57th best walker out of 59 available walkers sucks a lot more than being the 25th worst walker back when there were 27. There’s a lot less of a “uniqueness” factor, because Living Guildpact, Firebrand, or Vraska all fail to fill a niche in a deck anymore, even down to the casual level of play that those reading an article like this just don’t experience first-hand.

Where to Go with Origins?

As much as I loathe talking about upcoming sets and speculation, I’ll throw my hat into the ring on the Origins double-sided walkers because it’s relevant to this discussion. If you’ve dabbled in Magic finance at all, you’ve obviously been told or have been the one to tell people to drop ‘walkers early on in the opening season like hot potatoes. Sell them as soon as you crack them at the prerelease, because there will be a time several months down the road when you can reap the profits by buying or trading back for them at that sweet $5 baseline fallback plan.

Half of this will still be true. Sell whatever planeswalkers you open at your prerelease right away, but even once they “bottom out” at $5, I’m going to suggest staying away from these new flip ‘walkers entirely.

While they can be used as Commanders this time around, none of these ‘walkers have any truly unique traits compared to their predecessors. Chandra burns creatures and players? So does every other Chandra in existence. Gideon makes you attack him, and then turns into a creature to smack you right back. No surprises there. Jace mills? Someone fire up the printing press, this is breaking and unbelievable news!

While I definitely sound a bit cynical concerning their appeal, I’m not trying to suggest that they’re unplayable. All of the novelty is tied into the fact that they can flip, and I don’t expect their backsides to be overtly exciting or novel to the average casual player.

If you want to play them in EDH (I certainly don’t think they’re bad in that format), I suggest waiting until an absolute rock bottom of $3 to $5, and I wouldn’t advocate holding onto them while crossing your fingers. At least Garruk Relentless started out as a ‘walker, made an impact on the opponent’s board, flipped immediately, and presented a large number of options while in play. Unless these five find homes in Standard (which I do think is entirely possible for Gideon and maybe Liliana), I think it’s possible that we’ll see them at an extreme low, and it will end up being a speculating trap.

End Step

Am I correct about the $5 minimum on planeswalkers being gone for good? Is there a new lower boundary of $3, or is it possible for non-Tibalt walkers to sink even into the $1 bulk mythic status?

I’m certainly expecting a bit of dissenting criticism from this one. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on where the Origins walkers end up, and if being double-sided is enough of a novel appeal to the casual crowd that would sustain a price above $5 throughout their lifetimes.

As always, thanks for reading!


Nothing is Sacred

I used to be like you. No, not you. You. Over there. With the funny hat. Yes, you.

I was a player at heart, instead of a cold-hearted, finance-focused individual. The endgame of value trading was putting together my Tezzeret control deck for Standard, rather than selling cards on eBay. I didn’t even know that “Magic finance” was a thing, much less that it was possible to use it as a primary source of income. I’m sure that many of you are in the same boat: you’re players that don’t really buy or sell collections on a large scale, don’t try to make hundreds of dollars through speculating, and just want to trade cards away when they’re high and trade for them when they’re low.


So What Changed?

I don’t remember the exact card that I first bought at a buylist price when I didn’t need it for a deck, but it happened because my old LGS doesn’t buy singles for cash—it just has a trade credit list that can be used for other singles. Someone had shown up to the store looking to unload a few random cards and been disappointed to find that the owner was not willing to pay in dollars and cents. He walked into the game room and started asking if anyone was willing to buy his cards. I had a tiny bit of personal spending money from a part-time job at K-Mart, and thankfully, being a high-school student comes with having zero actual real-life bills.

For theoretical argument’s sake (since I don’t actually remember), let’s assume that it was a few copies of Mox Opal. Back in the day, Opal was a $20 card, and Modern was a format that only existed in the minds of those that worked at Wizards of the Coast.

I had my Standard deck completed, Modern didn’t exist, and I sure as hell wasn’t getting into Legacy anytime soon. At the time, I had no idea what EDH was or why I should care about it, because nobody at the store played it. I had enough store credit to keep running drafts back every week, and I knew that booster packs were a money pit. So the question was always there: what should I buy with the minimal amount of money that I had to spare?

When this person was asking around if anyone would buy his cards from him, what went through my head? Well, it’s more than likely that I considered the future possibilities of how I might use those Opals. What if I needed them for a future Standard deck? At the very least, it would be a great deal if I could get them for $10 each and then trade them out at the full retail value of $20 in the future. So, I bought them at half of the TCGplayer mid price. I wasn’t planning to resell them l online, nor was I speculating on them with intent to sell for $50 each four years later. I resolved my cognitive dissonance of, “Don’t buy cards that you don’t need,” with the argument of, “But I got a really great deal, and I might need them in the future.” I wasn’t ready to make the jump to selling cards online (though if I was offered full retail for a card I wasn’t using, I was more than happy to oblige).


Majoring in MTG Finance

As I graduated from high school and moved to a college town with a new job at a local videogame store, I started to have more and more disposable income, and was also learning about the various outlets of moving my cards for cash. I discovered individual seller TCGplayer accounts, the dozens of online buylists that weren’t Star City Games or ChannelFireball, and the Brainstorm Brewery podcast, which I started listening to religiously.

I wanted to catch the big cards before they spiked and make money speculating. After all, that’s where all the money was, right? I wanted to be the Speculator King™. Meanwhile, I started to attend the weekly Magic night at our college. I mainly just went to play EDH, test Standard, and hang out with new friends, but I also happened to be one of the only people there who brought a reasonable amount of cash. Players would stop by with their winnings from FNM, their off-color shocklands that they didn’t need, and their bulk rares. While they found plenty of trade partners, I was the only one paying with actual currency.

I started accepting pretty much anything while quoting buylist numbers that I would look up on my phone. I paid $5 on shocklands, 10 cents on bulk rares, whatever—I started to just buy everything, assuming I could afford it, and since I was at a college campus with a lot of newer players, I didn’t have to make any too backbreaking purchases. The worst-case scenario would be that I had to buylist cards back to an online store and break even, so why not? I could eventually out the bulk rares to a vendor at a GP for at least what I bought them for, and sometimes more. Throughout my freshman year, I ended up leaving my flag in the ground as “that guy who will buy your cards, no matter what they are.”

That being said, my buylist prices differed depending on how easy the card was to move and how many copies I already had, just like any other buylist. I paid less on Hallowed Fountain number 15 than I did on Fountains six, seven, and eight.


Stepping Up

Sophomore year was an even bigger step up for me, and I think of it as sort of the diverging point when I decided to give up on the competitive side of Magic in favor of buying, selling, and trading full-time. At the beginning of the school year, a long-time friend and would-be LGS owner messaged me and let me know that he would be moving across the country at the end of the year. He was getting out of Magic because he knew that taking a job offer he got in Oregon was a much better decision than trying to start an LGS from just a pile of cards and comics.

He asked me if I wanted to buy his entire inventory. I had been buying and moving a lot of stuff over the past year, but was I ready to fully commit to buying a collection like this? It would be a huge time investment to sort everything, learn how to move all of the bulk commons and uncommons, price out the higher-value stuff, synch it into my own collection, and then sell enough to make a profit.



Long story short: yes, I bought it all. And ever since that collection, I’ve been willing to buy pretty much anything, so long as I don’t dip into my personal emergency funds. I give my phone number out to every player who buys or sells cards with me, and I make myself available as quickly as possible when negotiating to buy a collection. Do you have a playset of Force of Wills that you want to sell as soon as possible so you can afford a car? I am your guy. Do you have 40,000 commons and uncommons in your basement that have been accumulating over the past five years? I’ll be glad to drive over tonight and take them off your hands. Is that a stack of 380 bulk rares? If they’re all NM and English, I’ll be glad to pay cash on them. Being open and willing to buy all types of cards at buylist instead of restricting myself to high-dollar staples or just bulk has been one of my biggest arsenals in becoming one of the most well-known buyers in my area.


(Almost) Nothing is Sacred

Allow me to present you with a scenario that you may have been a part of in the past. You’re trading, you open the other trade binder, and point to the Snapcaster Mage on the front page.


“Nah, man, sorry. I’ve got to hold onto it, I think it’s gonna keep going up.” You actually really need these for your Modern deck at FNM this weekend, so you decide to be a bit more aggressive.

“Would you sell it? Cheapest copy on TCGplayer at the moment is $76 plus shipping—would you sell yours for $80? I have the cash right now.”

“Hmm…. Nah, I think I’m gonna hold onto it until it hits $90. Thanks anyway, though.” You flip through the rest of the binder to find nothing, defeated. The binders close, and you walk away.


How often has a similar situation happened to you? I’ve personally been on both sides of this interaction. I used to be “that guy” who had stuff in his binder that wasn’t for trade or sale for one reason or another. I’ve also tried to buy cards at practically retail simply because I wanted to play a card in EDH and the other party couldn’t find anything in my binders. It can definitely be a frustrating situation for both traders, and I have a simple piece of advice that can help resolve the situation.

Sell it

If someone offers to buy one of your Magic: The Gathering cards at full retail, there are very few situations in which you should refuse. The only reasons I can think of are either that you need it for a deck that will play in a sanctioned event in the very near future or that you have a very good reason to believe that the card will massively spike in the next few days. Speculating is fine, and I have a spec box myself, but it’s something that I hold entirely separate from my inventory, and pretend that it doesn’t exist except for once a week or so when I skim through it to check for spikes. This is something that took me a while to learn, especially as someone who was ingrained in speculating and being afraid that all of my cards would increase in value the very next day if I were to let go of them.

If it’s in my binders or boxes that I lay out during the weekly gaming night, it’s for sale or trade, no matter what. There’s no need for the customers to ask whether or not something is for grabs—they just have to ask how much something is worth. It smooths over everything, and prevents you from being tempted to move cards that you’ve dedicated to being labeled as “holds.”

If a person wants a card from you so badly that she is willing to pay full retail, make the deal. You can almost certainly just find another copy for a few bucks cheaper on eBay or TCGplayer, ending up a few dollars ahead just for being patient and waiting for your new copy to arrive. Obviously, this goes out the window if you’re using it for an event, but even EDH singles can be proxied temporarily, and your playgroup probably won’t hate you for it.

While it isn’t going to hold true for a lot of players reading this, I treat every card I own as inventory, and I treat every card in every collection as potential inventory. Liberating myself to be a walking buylist exponentially increased the number of purchases I was able to make at low prices, as long as I had cash in hand. Freeing my collection to view the entire thing as sellable made transactions much easier, and resulted in more players willing to come up to me to buy, sell, or trade.

End Step

Is this kind of information going to help you guys make money in Magic? I tried to entwine my own personal experiences a bit deeper this time to show you guys and gals the progression of how I went from “FNM grinder looking to value trade” into “walking local buylist who’s always willing to drive to your house and buy your entire collection.”

I understand that not everyone is going to want to take this step, but hopefully I shed some light on an option you may want to pursue, should you have the right circumstances available to you.

Thanks for reading, as always, and let me know in the comments if you want to discuss this further!