Mike McDermott: You can't lose what you don't put in the middle.
Mike McDermott: But you can't win much either.
This quote is from Rounders, my favorite movie. If you haven’t yet seen it you absolutely need to put it on your to-do list. It’s all about the grind. For Matt Damon’s character, it’s the poker tables. For us, it’s the trade tables. The movie is a perfect analog to the life many Magic players lead.
But what does this have to do with anything?
Ah, yes. The cryptic Twitter messages I’ve been leaving all week point to this, something I’ve already touched on in our forums. One of my biggest weaknesses in 2011 was an inability to put my money where my mouth was, no matter how confident I was in a call. This year is going to be different. When I saw nearly 100 copies of this card sitting at 50 cents, I knew I had found a perfect opportunity to do some speculating.
So why did I jump headfirst into this card? The first reason was this deck featured on SCG that makes very good use of Splinterfright. Another reason was the new previews from Dark Ascension that indicate a lot more playable cards that care about how many critters are in your graveyard. Thirdly, the UG Mill Yourself deck has been tearing it up in Block on Magic Online. While this helped solidify my decision, it also meant that buying on MTGO was less attractive than buying in paper.
So once you’ve identified a card you want to speculate on, what’s the next step? What I’ve always done (and there’s nothing wrong with this) is to simply target the card in trades. This has certainly made me money in the past, but it’s always frustrating to have only a few copies of a card rather than dozens when it spikes. This is what happened to me with Spellskite last year. I knew the card was nuts, and picked up four or five the weekend before it broke out and quadrupled in price. This made me money, yes, but nowhere near as much as it would have if I had bought a hundred at a dollar apiece.
So determined to buy in for cash, I next took to Ebay to see what was going on with Splinterfright.
Obviously not worth much there, but you see that it’s really not very far off from the retail prices I found on TCGPlayer. So at this point I made the decision to buy from a retailer, but which one?
When scanning TCGPlayer prices, you see a ton of stores that offer extremely low prices; the problem is that they only have a few in stock. To find a store with a large number in stock, you have to pay more, sometimes quite a bit more. Luckily for me, that wasn’t the case with ‘Fright, as Pack Fresh Magic had 94 in stock at 49 cents apiece. So I moved on this immediately, and only paid a few dollars shipping, making the average cost of each card 52 cents. Note that if you try to buy out numerous dealers at cheaper prices you’ll often end up losing any advantage you gained when shipping gets tacked on to your order.
Another interesting note is that when I went to Pack Fresh Magic’s site directly, their software (BidWicket, I believe) would only let me purchase 20 at a time. So I went back to TCGPlayer to place my order, and didn’t run into the same restriction, which I find interesting. Regardless, the store appears to have honored my order and sent notice that my cards have been shipped. I haven’t actually received them yet, but in theory I will in the next few days.
So what now? For starters, I’ll be hyping the deck to everyone I can (and in my testing it’s really not that far off from being good). But after that, there’s nothing to do but wait. I’ve got almost two years for this thing to make a splash, and at some point it has to move enough to pay off for me. The key to this working out in my favor is that I got in so cheap. At 52 cents a pop, I realistically only need the card to hit $2 retail to be in the money, though at that point it’s pretty negligible.
What I’m hoping is that it takes a route similar to Tempered Steel, which spiked to 10+ for a time. I really don’t need it to even go that high, I’ll be happy if it hits $4-5. Assuming I get even $2 apiece out of my copies when I sell them, I’ll be up about $150, which isn’t too shabby for the few hours of work I put into the investment.
Even if the deck never does anything and this move turns out to be a complete bust for me, I’m glad I did it. I’m no longer a broke college student, and even though I’m still a mostly broke college graduate, I generate enough income from Magic that it won’t be the end of the world if I’m out $50 in a few months time.
On the other hand, if this move works out for me, it will easily generate a couple hundreds bucks I didn’t have before. And if you haven’t followed my work in the past, I tend to not put my Magic money back into Magic. Instead, I use it for very practical (though selfish) purchases, such as the new gaming desktop computer I just built. I was even able to use some of the money I made from Magic last year to help pay for part of my fiancee’s engagement ring.
And for any of you with significant others who might not completely approve of your hobby, I suggest doing something like this. They’ll change their tune when the money you make from Magic starts to make an impact on their lives rather than just continue to feed your cardboard habit.
There you have it — the story of why and how I dropped $50 on a pile of a near-bulk in-print rare. I have no idea how this will work out for me (though it will be hard to lose too much here), but you can be sure I’ll let you know how it all goes down.
Until next week, I hope you guys are enjoying the spoilers as much as I am!
Thanks for reading,
@Chosler88 on Twitter