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Insider: Sigmund in Europe, Legacy Grand Prix Strasbourg and Room for Opportunity

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This past weekend I had the rare opportunity to play in a Legacy Grand Prix. The fact that this event took place across the pond in Strasbourg, France was no less than extraordinary. Through a twist of fortune. my company sent me on a business trip to the Frankfurt area with overlapping timing of the Grand Prix. This two hour trip was more than worth it.

Fortune was not with me during the main event, however, and I was swiftly eliminated. It turns out not playing Legacy for a year (and mulling to five twice in a round) is a bad idea.

But I did gain some invaluable experience on the finance side. While I claim to be no expert in arbitrage between the European and American MTG market, I would like to share some of the tidbits I picked up while I was overseas.

Legacy Is Alive… and Kicking

A full 1365 players attended this Legacy Grand Prix. While the size doesn’t set any records, the energy in the room was very high and it was obvious how much people enjoy this format. When I asked a friend at the GP if he would drop after a disappointing start his response was, “No. I want to play more Legacy.” True dedication.

This energy transcended to the dealer tables. All five dealers had their fair share of money cards on display. Black bordered Dual Lands, Power, cards like Lions Eye Diamond and foil Jace, the Mind Sculptors were all on display. If the foil Jace wasn’t 500 Euros, I may have made a bid for it. Too much for my blood.

This brings me to my first key observation of the European market. In the United States, booster packs have an MSRP of $3.99. In the Eurozone, the MSRP is 4 euro. Thanks to a conversion rate of 1 euro = $1.31, this equates to a 31% higher price for the same booster pack. While a Standard booster box can be purchased for $90 in the US, those same boxes sell for 90 euros overseas.

This creates a forced price discrepancy in newer cards. In order for a retailer in Europe to sell every card in a new set, they need to open the same number of packs as an American retailer while paying about one-third greater to do so. As a result, a new card like Deathrite Shaman sells for about $12 in the US also sells for about the same in euros within Europe. Even a Standard card like Angel of Serenity was marked with a 12 euro price tag.

Going back to foil Jace – even though this is a Legacy card its recent printing has not yet overcome these price inconsistencies. Therefore, a $500 foil Jace will sell for 500 euro in the Eurozone.

Foils

There’s another factor which is perhaps driving up foil Jace’s price – the demand for foil eternal and casual staples in the European market. The cards that got the most attention in my binder this past weekend was my set of foil Abrupt Decays. This card, like Jace, has the double-whammy of being recently printed and Legacy playable. Not a single dealer had these for sale, and each one attempted to negotiate with me on price.

But what took me most by surprise was what happened next. One dealer asked me what my desired price was on the set of Foil Abrupt Decays and I had to do some quick math. I determined that $100 was fair for the set, I did a rough euro conversion, and I spat out “75 euros”. The dealer closed the binder and handed it back to me.

A player nearby heard my asking price and starting talking to me in French. I apologized for not being able to speak French, but I knew what he wanted – those Abrupt Decays. So much so, that he took 75 euros out of his wallet and tried to hand it to me right in front of the dealer booth!

The dealer was kind enough to instruct us (in French) to go outside and complete the transaction. Two minutes later and I unloaded my foil Abrupt Decays at a fair price. Now I need to purchase more because I think these will do well in the long term!

Many dealers had multiple, thick binders full of English and Foreign foils. I took a quick glance through one of these binders in the hopes I would find a bargain. No such luck. It seems sweet foils have the same dollar-to-euro impact as newer cards.

Older Cards & Conditions

Not every card had this same problem. Surprisingly, many classic Legacy staples were priced comparably to the United States. For example, retailers were selling Underground Sea for around 110 euro. While this seems high for auction pricing, Star City Games is currently sold out of this Dual Land with a price of $159.99. The two are not very far off.

Vintage cards were in a similar boat. Unlimited Black Lotuses could be had for 800 euros, and even things like Mishras Workshops were priced comparably to the US, even after currency conversion. It seems that if a card has been on the market long enough, the price discrepancy slowly erodes over as cards are played, traded and bought/sold to reach ripe demand.

The only card I did pick up from a dealer this past weekend also fell into this category. I grabbed a MP German Lions Eye Diamond for 49 euro. While not spectacular, the recent jump in LED caused by Star City Games should mean this is the optimal time to make such an acquisition. I hope to bring this card to the US market and sell for it a small profit thanks to the rarity of German copies. Currently there is only one for sale on eBay, and I am confident I can beat this price and still profit.

I also understand that the Lions Eye Diamond I acquired was discounted due to its played condition. Most of the dealers were very concerned with this point. It seems many Europeans like to have their cards NM. Anything less is rather unacceptable. I asked one dealer how much they’d pay for a Vendilion Clique and they responded 20 euros. I felt this wasn’t bad, but then I recalled my copy was a little played. I asked his buy price on a played copy and he simply said “not interested”. Not even an offer was made!

Key Conclusions

Before leaving for this trip I decided not to sell out of Legacy at this event. Instead, I just trimmed down the collection so that I could maintain cards for two decks (should be three once I buy some cheap Tarmogoyfs after Modern Masters release).

This ended up being the right decision. Firstly, I was reminded of how amazing Legacy can be. The format has a strong, healthy following which suggests to me Wizards will likely continue some support for the format. Second, and more importantly, the buy prices of dealers in Europe are no better than the US when it comes to older staples such as Dual Lands. I would have carried with me the entire collection only to have found disappointing buy prices – and even worse on my played cards!

What will I plan for next time? Apparently I need to purchase more foil copies of newer Legacy staples. I was told that something like Aether Vial is hard to find in Europe, and I’d imagine set foils would demand quite the premium. Of course, foil Abrupt Decays are great for unloading in Europe as well.

While the arbitrage opportunity of a lifetime did not present itself, I still learned a good deal about how the European Magic market operates. And while I am far from expert, I hope to be able to apply this knowledge to help me grow as a MTG speculator in the future.

Due to my busy travel schedule, I will have to cancel Sigbits for this week. I will try to make up for this by providing double the Sigbits next week. Sorry for the inconvenience.

-Sigmund Ausfresser
@sigfig8

23 thoughts on “Insider: Sigmund in Europe, Legacy Grand Prix Strasbourg and Room for Opportunity

  1. I feel that your playset of decays could have been sold closer to 90€.

    Usually the dealers at GP´s sell at very high prices when compared to what you can get at mkm, also the dealers “always” try to rip you off, they always take advantage when possible, and usually prey on people´s ignorance of prices (I´ve seen some deals happen that i am sure are a crime in some country).

    I don´t travel much to GP´s, but i try to go to the ones in spain (closer to portugal=cheaper, and the spanish pay good prices on cards) and i found that the best deals are made on the floor trading/buying/selling. there is not much awareness regarding commander foils, and casual staples so good opportunities come along often enough.

    1. In hindsight, I should have gotten more on the foil decays. I agree. Problem is, the guy overheard my offer to one of the dealers, so I didn’t have the heart (or the French) to tell him that the 75 euro was my dealer price and that I’d want more from another player. So basically I sucked it up and took the deal knowing it wasn’t perfect. I hope to replace the set for at most the same price I paid when I’m back in the U.S. It looks like the price has stabilized in the 25$ range, so I may get lucky on eBay.

      The dealer prices were overall not favorable. A valuable learning for me while I was here!

      1. I don’t get why you would have a ‘dealer price’, unless you were getting a trade-in bonus or something. A dealer’s money spends the same as a player’s, so what are you getting extra from the dealer that you won’t from the player? Future business contacts or something?

        1. I suppose I have set myself up to expect lower offers from dealers. So I try to give them a bottom line since I often expect them to say no (as they did in this case). If I had planned to sell these to another player I would have quoted a higher price. Once the guy heard my dealer price I didn’t feel like trying to negotiate further (plus he spoke no English). I’ll chalk this one up to a valuable learning experience with a lesson learned on dealing in Europe. But yes, I should have gotten more for these.

  2. I’ve been monitoring shops in France to find underpriced cards. If the shops are not behind with their pricing they tend to price their cards relatively high. Regularly even beyond $ = €. Your experience might be partially based on the location of the event, as Diogo is implying too with closer to Portugal being cheaper. $ = € does frequently prove true, but shops do exist that undercut the market or simply decide to match US prices. I also find that many shop owners are willing to negotiate on bigger purchases.

    €90 is on the high side for a box. Most online shops here sit right around €85 (though a B&M store will be closer to €95) and if you know where to look you can get them below €80.

    1. Thanks for the comment! Re: boxes, Gatecrash boxes were 85 euros but I was hoping to find Innistrad boxes at that price too. Unfortunately cheapest I could find was 90 euros, which isn’t terrible but with the conversion rate I would be getting it just wasn’t enough of a steal for me to drop the cash. Perhaps in hindsight I should have though because now I have to convert these euros back, which will hurt me due to conversion fees.

      Needless to say I’m coming out of the experience with a couple mediocre deals and a great deal of valuable learning!

  3. 85€ is the usual price for displays in portugal as well.

    Another thing that i meant to discuss was the $ = € price on newer cards, i believe that it only happens because in the US you have a gazzilion stores to order from, in my case (Portugal) i don´t usually buy singles from portuguese stores as the prices are inflated.

    I guess some other countries here in Europe will have similar situations, therefore mkm is usually the best option.

    1. It sounds like MKM is indeed the best way to go. But this must make it difficult on brick and mortar stores. They have very thin profit margins on sealed product, and they are forced to compete with both MKM and US stores (in some cases). I wonder if that is why fewer vendors show up for GPs…

      1. Yes, MKM is by far the best place to buy in Europe. Sometimes, you can find out cards even cheaper than US… and that’s just one the reasons why SCG now has also an account in there.

    2. Diogo, regarding the display price in Portugal…that’s not totally true..If you go to an official wizards store usually the price will be closer to 90€. You do get some displays at 85€ but only in a few stores or through the “black market”. As you know, Devir (Portugal magic the gathering distributor) is forcing the other stores to sell at higher prices and the ones that do not… Usually get into problems with them.

      1. The cheaper way to buy displays is from game island. The shippment is just 10€, they sell most of them for 80€, if you buy more than 6 they go as low as 75€ and free shipment if you spend 500€.

        In portugal some stores charge you 140€ for a display

  4. I enjoyed the article..personally would have enjoyed a bit more tournament report information (but that’s because I’d like to know the European meta..and because like your friend I just love to play Legacy)..the financial information was quite useful to. The company I work for is based out of London (but obviously has a branch here in the US) and when they send me over I will make sure to bring over a bunch of NM Legacy Staples for a nice flip. My LGS owner mentioned that a couple months ago he had a guy from England enter the store (who was here on business) and bought him out of all his staples and bought a case of boxes to do exactly this. If you’re lucky enough to get sent to Europe it seems like a great strategy to bring your cards with you and work that Euro to Dollar inequality to your advantage.

    1. Thanks for your comment! I’m not much of a tournament report writer – especially this time since I had such bad luck. Round 2 I played the mono-red Painter’s Grindstone deck. Yeah, he had turn 2 Blood Moon and turn 1 Blood Moon games 1 and 2 respectively. Game 2 I even managed to play a basic swamp, island, and plains and I still lost b/c of bad draws 🙁

      My draw was frustrating, and double mull to 5 sucked. So yeah, basically I didn’t love the playing itself. So that’s why I focused on the finance side. After all, this is a finance site 😉

      Next time I go I plan on bringing some legacy foils I think. Stuff like foil Aether Vial must do well. Sealed product may be tougher to move and to transport on a plane – keep that in mind!

      1. I have my doubts, given to supply issues and MTG policies, I really see the Legacy player base getting lower and lower and the moder player base getting bigger

    1. I believe they can…I think legacy events will be less often and scg will add modern to their schedules..but the legacy players I know (and can include myself) find the format far more enjoyable…the metagame fixes itself for the most part which allows wotc to not add to the banned list too often. Modern players I talk to are standard players looking for a new format (when standard gets stale)..legacy players are a different archetype…we play for the enjoyment..we tweak decks to suit our needs but often find a playstyle we enjoy and stick to decks that fit it.

    1. I didn’t have that kind of dough to spend lol. And the Euro really makes things unfavorable. Only solid price I saw was a played German LED for 49 euro, which I traded 3 Visions Natural Orders for.

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