I was in the middle of a family dinner on December 20th. I took two seconds away to check my phone to see what the verdict was. Twitter told me that Survival of the Fittest was banned in Legacy. I was a little bummed out, hoping that they would give it at least 3 more months so I would have a chance to play it in a tournament.
But this should not have been a surprise to anyone who was paying attention to all the analysis that was going around. You couldn't throw a stick on the internet without hitting someone who believed that it wasn't bound to be around much longer. If you wanted money from your playset that you possessed, it was best to sell. And fast.
It was hard to see this tidal wave of change and no matter what anyone said to me, I wouldn't sell my playset. This wasn't some attempt to buck the trend and hope that they wouldn't get banned. I was one of those people who believed it was going to; though I secretly hoped that wasn't the case. You're on this site to read some of the best financial information about Magic (this is not a plug nor was I encouraged to say it, it's what I believe) and telling those very same readers that sometimes the financial aspect of Magic takes a backseat to other things can be very risky.
But it does.
Let me go back. Some of you remember that in the late 80's-early 90's there was a cartoon called DuckTales. It was the on going adventures of the richest duck in the world, Scrooge McDuck, and his three nephews, Huey, Dewy, and Louie. Scrooge was famous for being really rich; he kept most, if not all, of his money in the liquid asset of coins (some of the economic structure was a little wonky, but that's to be expected). This is great for him, because he keeps it in a giant vault and one of his favorite activities is to go swimming through the coinage (again, it's a cartoon).
Sorry, I digress.
The most prized possession in Scrooge McDuck's life is his first physical payment for work, a dime. Out of everything he owned, cars, helicopters, houses, a giant vault to keep a swimming pool full of money, and a robot bodyguard, it was this simple dime that he cherished most.
Number One Dime.
And no matter what you do, sometimes you can't break those emotional bonds. Everyone has them. Including you. Including Scrooge McDuck. Including me. Financial incentives are sometimes no match for what's already in your possession. It's commonly believed that the value of something is only worth what someone would pay for it. That concept used all the time in Real Estate to value houses and properties. And while we're not talking about hundred of thousands worth of cards, the impact is the same.
The flip side of that argument is that one has to be ready to sell it from the right price. There's the issue of person with the item wanted too much money, so most people pass on it. Everyone is a potential seller/buyer if the price is right. But sometimes money isn't the issue. Sometimes you don't want to sell; you have emotional attachment to that object.
And that makes no financial sense.
To be a successful person, at least in the Darwinian sense, is to procreate and pass along your genes. If you lived your life giving to the needy and help out your fellow humans, but didn't leave offspring by the time you died, you failed at living according to Charles Darwin. If you don't buy/sell/trade Magic cards at the right time you fail at Magic economy. I can see Kelly Reid with slicked back hair in a suit standing in front of a crowd telling us that greed is good. That's what Scrooge McDuck believes and it worked amazingly for him. Why shouldn't you share that belief as well?
Scrooge McDuck also believed that he shouldn't have to sell a dime if he didn't want to. What's the true value of that Number One Dime? Trick question: ten cents (We're not going into the supposed magical value of the dime, so ignore it). To Scrooge it means so much more. Other people may want that dime because he values it so much and they're willing to pay more than a dime for it.
If Scrooge's belief that greed is good, and using money to make more money is what drives him, why doesn't he sell the dime?
Why didn't I sell my playset of Survival of the Fittest?
The simple logic that you could use to get me to sell them was that that old adage: sell high, buy low. I could sell my playset high, wait until they drop in price, then buy them low with extra coin in my pocket. If Scrooge McDuck wanted another dime there was nothing preventing him from doing so.
How many of you remember the first rare you pulled? Or remember which card won you your first game, or FNM, or PTQ? How about your first foil? All of those things are emotional attachments that, depending on the player, will make it hard to sell or trade away. One of my copies of Survival has that story.
I was at my first Pro Tour: Seattle 2004. No, I wasn't playing in it: it had come to my backyard and I wanted to see what it was like. I sat at the same table as Kai Buddie, who was one of the only Pro Tour regulars I recognized, while he was in between drafts. It was the first time I saw Mark Rosewater and I was too nervous to meet him at first. But, it was the first time I went to an event where they had artists. After bringing some stuff to get signed, I wondered over to the dealer's table to see what he had. And there I saw it: Survival of the Fittest. That $15 was the most I've ever spent on a single card. Why did I buy it?
Pete Venters, the artist who painted the art, was there.
I had been playing 150 Highlander, and I wanted to pimp out the deck. One of the best ways to do that was to get an artist draw on his/her art. Not wanting to cramp their creativity, they had free reign to doodle whatever they wanted to. Sam Wood altered my Oblivion Stone to make it look like it was the obelisk scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey (and as a sci-fi geek, it was completely cool). Anthony Waters drew a dinosaur on my Windswept Heath.
And this is what Pete Venters did:
Awesome, right? [Editor's Note: Despite all the discussion to the contrary, I'd totally be hot-to-trot to trade for this bad boy if it was on the market.]
After get some more cards signed and traded with a few foreign people who wanted my English cards as much as I wanted their foreign ones, I was off. Yes, it was a great time, and it's something I use to tell people why they should go to these big traveling Pro Tour stops. This experience shaped my love for the game more than any other event I've been to.
Now, not everyone likes their cards altered or signed, but I did. Does it add value? If I'm aiming to keep it, what does the value mean any way? However, if I could sell the card for $50, wait a couple weeks since I wasn't playing in any Legacy events, and buy some more back, I could easily do that. I've seen Pete Venters sign a couple more times, that's easy to do.
Except he doesn't alter cards anymore.
The constant altering with the tiny detail in his work hindered his eyesight to where he doesn't doodle on cards anymore. There’s a sign above his table where he signs that says just that.
My copy is the only one he will ever create.
While some might be similar, and while the card still functions the same, the fact that I can't get a semi-close replacement to what I currently have makes this priceless to me.
Even though it's only worth market price.
But this issue digs deeper than just one player and a card. Everyone has emotional attachments to certain cards. Some players like to show off their “pretties” by keeping them in their trade binder. When another person going flipping through them and points at that card, the owner goes “No, that's my favorite card.” The trader gets mad because "Why have it in a trade binder if you're not going to trade it?"
Yes, a binder is a great way to keep all your cards together, but have one that you can have for all the cards you're not going to trade. The regulars on this site might know that, but this is for the people who don't read the financial side: if you're not going to trade a card, don't put it in your trade binder. Unless it's an oddity or you're using a page to separate what you're trading and what you're not trading, most people really don't care.
I've got a binder full of cards I'm not trading or selling for this very reason. Artists proofs, or cards signed by designers or Pro Players, or just cool cards that I don't want to get rid of (like a foil textless Lighting Bolt I received for participating in the Zendikar developer's chat that sits next to my Magic 2010 foil Lighting Bolt). If my friends want to see the cards they can, but they're not for sale.
Just like a certain cartoon dime.
You might be wondering about the other three cards in the playset. I acquired them sometime after the Pro Tour and brought them to the next time Pete Venters came to a Prerelease to sign cards. It was there that I first saw his no alter sign. It was only 14 months later. In case you were wondering, the three of them are signed. So, I could have just sold the three and done the same thing (sell high, buy low).
But it's more than just making money.
Magic is first, and foremost, a game. While some people consider cards like trading stock; a card is only as good as its last performance in a big tournament. I trade, buy and collect for the love of the game. Part of my wants to collect for fun, part of me wants to play a game. If I already have the cards, they why should I trade them away? Yes, I can join your little game of nickel and dime to earn me some money which then can earn me some more money and more cards.
But I don't have to.
Not with my Number One Dime.