Insider: To Crack or Not to Crack (Specialty Product)

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Welcome back readers! Today's article will be focused on looking at sealed product (something my friend Sigmund loves to invest in). What we want to look at is not only the current value of said product, but also to compare that with the sum of the cards inside it.

After all if a sealed product is selling for $30 but so are all the singles inside it than it's likely not that great of an investment as we typically want a premium for keeping it sealed. That being said there are several types of sealed products one can invest in.

  • Event decks -- Printed in a relatively large quantity, these often contain 1 or 2 chase rares. Up until recently there were typically 2 decks at each printing and one was usually much better than the other (value-wise).
  • Boxes/Fatpacks/Tournament Packs -- This is the product you can buy throughout the set's time in Standard at MSRP as the print run is usually only limited by the demand from the player base.
  • Specialty product -- Usually a couple times a year WoTC releases a specialty product (FTV, Commander, Holiday Box, Modern Masters, SDCC, Planechase) which has a very limited print run.

Looking over this list we immediately jump to specialty product as the most obvious sealed product with profit potential. The reason is that everyone understands the concept of supply and demand. The more limited the supply, the more likely it won't meet demand.

We need to establish our ground rules. We will use eBay for selling price of sealed product (as that will most likely be how you sell it) and TCG mid price for the individual cards (as that's the price most people trade at.)

So without further ado, let's do some quick checks.

From the Vault Realms

MSRP: $34.99

Current eBay Selling Price: $69.99


  • Maze of Ith - 28
  • Grove of the Burnwillows - 19.50
  • Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth - 20
  • Ancient Tomb - 9.15
  • High Market - 4.11
  • Cephalid Coliseum - 2.97
  • Boseiju, Who Shelters All - 4.79
  • Desert - 1.87
  • Forbidden Orchard - 4.50
  • Dryad Arbor - 5.75
  • Glacial Chasm - 1.19
  • Shivan Gorge - 0.75
  • Murmuring Bosk - 2.53
  • Vesuva - 11
  • Windbrisk Heights - 5.47

Summation of the Parts: $121.58

This tell us FTV: Realms is worth more pieced out and people aren't paying a premium for the actual sealed product. What's more interesting is that the summation of the parts (SoP) is worth considerably more than the eBay selling price.

This means one of two things. Either a lot of people don't realize that they could buy a bunch of sealed product, crack it, and resell the singles at a decent profit, or most of the stores on TCG are asking too much and the cards aren't moving.

If you wanted to do a quick sale and the demand existed you could take the TCG Mid Prices, sell at 80% and still come up with a $30 profit, but what would most likely happen is that you'd sell the high-dollar cards immediately and the rest would languish.

It is interesting to note though that if you were able to sell just the first 3 at TCG Mid you'll have just about broken even with your investment cost, thus any below those 3 would be profit.

Let's check another "Specialty Product" to see if we see a similar pattern:

Commander's Arsenal

MSRP: $74.99

Current eBay Selling Price: $180


Summation of the Parts: $304.48

This data continues the trend that these specialty products seem to be worth more pieced out, however, again I caution that what tends to happen with these is that a few cards are very valuable (highly in demand) and many others aren't. The prices of the desired cards reflect actual demand, whereas the prices of the undesirable cards tends to be inflated.

SDCC Exclusive

MSRP: $59.99

Current eBay Selling Price: $460


  • Chandra, the Pyromaster (Black) - 118.50
  • Garruk, Callder of Beasts (Black) - 118.50
  • Jace, Memory Adebpt (Black) - 125
  • Ajani, Caller of the Pride (Black) - 90
  • Liliana, of the Dark Realms (Black) - 90

Summation of the Parts: $542

Again we see a SoP more valuable than the sealed product. It's important to note that the prices for the individual cards off of TGG player are very limited as there were only 2-5 stores offering them, so there's not a large set of data to get average value.

Given the extremely limited run of these (at least for SDCC) it would seem perfectly safe to sell the cards individually, as even the limited demand on the ones that see little play in Standard or EDH will not be satiated by the small number available. A word of caution on this one, there is talk of another print run as WoTC heavily underestimated the demand on these, though this is an unconfirmed rumor.

I did not delve into the holiday box, because it contains a lot of packs (which is predominantly where its cost comes in) nor the Commander decks as the value on those tends to be heavily based on the few "Commander-only" cards. However, it is important to note that all of the Commander decks have stabilized in price with Heavenly Inferno as the most valuable at around $90.

What we can take away from this is that when it comes to specialty products it seems there is no premium to be had by keeping them sealed. This implies that "collector" demand is considerably lower than "player" demand.

In fact, all data points to the player demand being high enough that it's more profitable to crack them and sell the cards individually. Even with the risk of getting stuck with the cheaper cards, it's completely possible to break even selling just the high dollar cards.

I would suggest before cracking all your sealed specialty products that you head over to eBay and filter the cards by "sold" as that may give you a better idea of what the current prices are. Then determine at that point whether cracking them is more valuable.

Last but not least, for those who may have guessed it, this will be a three-article series. (I will delve into the other product in the future).

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David Schumann

David started playing Magic in the days of Fifth Edition, with a hiatus between Judgment to Shards. He's been playing Commander since 2009 and Legacy since 2010.

View More By David Schumann

Posted in Finance, Free Insider

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14 thoughts on “Insider: To Crack or Not to Crack (Specialty Product)

    1. I was going to put those in the article regarding “event decks”, though you are correct they have the ability to fall within either category. I believe the more recent “duel” decks have much larger print runs and are closer to event decks than specialty product, but the original duel decks are closer to specialty product.

  1. Good article Dave! “Keep it sealed, it’ll be worth more” is one of those myths that everyone thinks is true so it’s nice to see some data on it. I cracked my Commander’s Arsenal rather than keeping it sealed because I wanted to play with the cards in Commander. At the time, I was thinking that this was not the best idea financially but it sounds like it may work out ok. I have started to de-pimp my commander decks and the high and mid-tier cards from FTV Realms and Commander’s Arsenal have been selling really well for me. I would be interested to see the breakdown for the other FTV products.

    1. Yep…my friend actually asked me to sell his FTV: Realms on ebay the other day and I mentioned that the parts were worth more than the sealed product which baffled him. I was just as surprised as everyone else with the actual results of my research, but that’s why I do it.

  2. Great analysis! I think there may be a threshold where sealed product becomes more valuable than its components ie all the commander decks, ftv exiled dragons etc

    Sealed sets are also an interesting are as well as sealed collectible decks like the dotp planeswalker decks

    1. Exactly. It’s not that I believe ALL of the products are worth more opened than sealed, it’s just that is typically the belief everyone holds. What I hope people pull from this is to run the numbers of the individual cards instead of just assuming it’s worth more sealed.

    1. Yep and they reprinted slivers in M14 which gave that already popular tribe another push. But compare that with the “Premium Fire & Lightning Deck” which is selling on ebay for LESS than MSRP.

  3. The amount of work (and time) required to piece these out is what makes up the difference. Honestly, I still prefer to take a small percentage less and keep these boxed up in the closet, because when I do sell, I’m guaranteed to move the entire thing all at once, to one person.

    But I really liked this analysis showing the other side.

    1. Thanks..and I actually allude to that issue a couple times myself…typically the “high dollar” cards are the ones that sell quickly for around their asking price and the less in demand ones just languish in your binder/store window…

    1. If past trends prove accurate (barring any major announcements…like JTMS being unbanned in modern or banned in legacy), then I expect the value on a normal (non-foil) JTMS to drop to the 100-105 range (basically 80% of his current value) or his pre-spike price. The rest of the cards in the set will also take a hit, the major exceptions being Hymn to Tourach and Swords to Plowshares, as those are the first “cheap” foils available. My gut feeling is that anything above $140 will either barely break even or lose you money in the long run. There’s a decent chance that similar to FTV: Realms if you can buy it and unload it quick you can make a decent profit, however, I have a strong feeling that like other FTV’s the fact that this one has such a huge discrepency between card #1 and card #2 means that likely people will crack them, keep the Jace and sell/trade off the rest to “recoup” the cost. Thus in the short term, pick up any of the other foils you like as they will flood the market.

  4. What is your opinion on cracking a FTV: Dragons? The Bolas and Koko go for $50 and $40 respectively, but most of the other stuff is between $5-$1. I only paid $100.

    1. Well if you’ve invested $100 into it..and the 2 money cards only go for $90..the most recent ebay sales of this around around $110-140

      So it’s up to you…I think you’re better off selling it sealed as it’s the first and honestly one of the hardest ones to find “sealed” because it didn’t get the kind of reception that the newer FTV’s there wasn’t a “chase” card worth a lot of money at the time.

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