The first Zendikar spoilers are starting to trickle in, and having been reminded by The Starkington Post's article about the same subject it's time to have a discussion about spoilers and finances. In the excitement of a new set, its easy to get caught up with wanting to nail down The Next Big Thing. Before you know it, you've pre-ordered four playsets of a card that doesn't even exist yet! Although bargains can be had in the days and weeks before the set is released, extra caution is required when looking for deals. A new dimension of complexity is introduced. When you are buying a card that's already released (or at least officially revealed), you run the risk of the card simply not existing. We're not talking about two toughness on a Giant Solifuge, we're talking about the cards you paid for simply not being real magic cards at all.
The name of the game when it comes to finance, be it Magical or otherwise, is managing risk. When you hear about a "sleeper" card on this site, that's just another way of saying "most people don't think the card's potential outweighs its risk". We try to focus on low-risk investments here because in this game, there are many. Poker players have the concept of Pot Odds, we have the concept of Crap Rares. It's easy to make a few bucks when Elspeth goes from 25 to 30, but the capital required to make 5 dollars is simply too high. There is tangible risk. Something like Caldera Hellion however, which packs a powerful effect for a competitive mana cost, requires almost no capital investment. For the price of a single Elspeth, you could own 6 playsets of Hellion. If that Hellion even sees a TINY amount of play, you'll be counting your earnings in the triple digit percentages. The risk may have been the same - our cost was only 25 dollars both ways - but the expected values were structured completely differently.
There are always going to be ways to augment your collection by value trading. It is not necessary to nail down every single sleeper or predict every trend. If you find yourself capable of doing so, there is a website that might need a new staff writer 🙂 For the rest of us, it is only necessary to be slightly more right than you are wrong. Unlike equities, bonds, and currencies, Magic cards really don't have the risk of zeroing out. A bank can go bust, a company can bankrupt, and a country's treasury can become insolvent, but unless the game of Magic itself goes down in flames or a card is banned, there is a theoretical minimum value of a Magic the Gathering rare. It may only be 10 cents, but it's there. Also consider that unlike the equity markets, where the only relevant goal is profit, Magic cards have value to people outside their financial value. Some players collect sets, and if Pale Moon is the last card Little Timmy needs to finish his set of Nemesis, Pale Moon has value all of a sudden.
The point is, by speculating with your dollar on cards that may be the product of an overactive imagination adds a completely unpredictable dimension of risk to an otherwise predictable process. The fact of the matter is that people don't fake-spoil "sleeper" rares. They mock up the kind of cards that set the forums alight. Were that new Chandra card real, it would easily reach 20 dollars. Thankfully the creator of the mockup had originally posted it as a "what-if" scenario, but had this card taken root as a real card, what's to stop ebay sellers from preselling it?
Over the coming weeks, there will be discussion on this site and elsewhere about the value of these new cards. It would be wise to treat unconfirmed cards as fiction until they're revealed as fact. There will be plenty of time to speculate and profit once Zendikar is out. If people missed Tarmogoyf the first time around, they'll miss something in Zendikar too. If you're going to pre-order cards, be careful and know your risks!