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Welcome back, readers and speculators. As I look out my window all I see is rain, which got me thinking about the different levels of liquidity in the world of MTG speculation. That will be the focus of today's article.
What Is Liquidity?
First let's define the term.
Liquidity -- The ability to convert an asset to cash quickly.
- "Investopedia" (http://www.investopedia.com/terms/l/liquidity.asp)
Magic cards are surprisingly liquid in certain marketplaces (stores, tournaments, the internet) but it's important to keep in mind that they are not acceptable forms of currency everywhere. If I were to hand the cashier at McDonald's a Sylvan Caryatid to pay for my meal I would likely get an odd look and a refusal of goods. While this is obvious, we often gloss over it when buying and selling cards.
This is why many speculators tout the phrase "cash is king," because cash is the most liquid of assets. It is the reason why prices at major tournament venues are actually higher than they are anywhere else. The stores value the cash they have on hand highly because they want to buy as many cards as they can in a limited window of time.
Levels of Liquidity
Now that we've defined liquidity let's go over the various card types and their level of liquidity. To make this easier I will use a reference number from 1-8 for each category to define its liquidity.
- This card is impossible to move. There is no actual demand and the only way to get rid of it is to sell or trade at bulk status.
- This card is not quite impossible to move, but the market is very limited.
- This card is moveable but it may take a bit of time (2+ months) to find a buyer/trader.
- This card is moveable but it may take a bit of time (2+ weeks) to find a buyer/trader.
- This card is pretty easy to move. You'll find demand relatively easily, though it may be difficult to do so at its current price.
- This card is easy to trade at its current price (often this means the spread is low).
- This card is tradeable above its current price as demand is high enough that a price increase is expected.
- This card can be sold for cash at its current price with relative ease (these are rare).
Hot Standard Mythics -- 7 (or 8)
Hot Standard mythics are often very liquid. Stores always want them and their buylist is high to keep supply coming in. These are the cards store owners focus on when going through a trade binder. Often players who want these cards will need them for the next breakout deck.
These are your PT breakout stars (Master of Waves, Thassa, God of the Sea) and the cards that when they are hot everyone will want out of your binder. They are usually 8's for the first couple weeks after their release because supply hasn't caught up with the demand yet and many stores who think they will go up will purchase them in cash. Their time at the 8 status is short.
Dual Lands -- 7 (or 8)
These are some of the easiest cards to trade. Demand is currently very high and the ability to play them in both Legacy (a format beloved by many) and EDH makes them extremely easy to move. The typically high price for them also keeps demand high as most players would rather trade for things than buy them and the price often prevents many from trading for them.
I've found people constantly interested in them and always have offers for any extras that I have in stock. I love trading them down at buylist prices as that's essentially selling them (assuming you ship off the cards you traded in for right away).
Hot Standard Rares -- 6 (or 8)
Similar to the hot Standard mythics, these cards are easily tradeable and demand is high. They also hit the 8 status within the first couple of weeks of the sets release, though they will often lose that status quicker than mythics because supply will catch up to demand more quickly.
These can also be PT breakout stars or simply cards that were misvalued upon release and shown to be far more powerful than expected; Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and Boros Reckoner are good examples.
Seasonal Staples -- 5 to 8
These are now going to be your Modern staples. The cards that are played in a lot of Modern decks and are well known. Their liquidity will cycle with the season's format.
As many of my fellow writers have mentioned, now is the time to pick up Modern staples as their liquidity is currently lower right now (5) and they are often undervalued and may be "rotting" in someone's binder. That person will often be happy to unload them now for other cards they want or think have more potential.
These are your Kiki-Jiki's, Spellskites, Cryptic Commands. You can make a lot of money by simply picking them back up after the Modern PT season runs its course as many players will unload them after the season to pick up the cards for the next season (and then need to reacquire them the next Modern season). During the season though these cards will be as good as cash to many players as they try to build their decks for the season or the next tournament. This will be the time to unload them to other players.
High-End Legacy Staples -- 5 to 7
There is no real Legacy season, though demand always goes up shortly before a big Legacy GP. Legacy prices are typically stable which makes people feel safer trading for them at current prices as they have less fear of losing money if they trade the card away down the road. This is also why players trading Standard cards for Legacy cards are expected to pay a "Legacy tax" (about 10-20%).
These cards are often easy to trade with most players as they are recognized as decently liquid and stable assets, thus even people with no interest in the Legacy format will often be willing to trade for them. The Legacy staples are your Force of Wills, City of Traitors, Onslaught fetchlands, and Wastelands.
EDH All-Stars -- 5 to 6
These cards are run in a large variety of EDH decks. So long as there's an EDH community where you live there will be demand for these cards, and as the community grows the demand will increase.
The only other factor to consider is the possibility of reprints. WoTC has shown they have no fear of reprinting anything not on the Reserved List, though luckily many EDH players are becoming more like Legacy players with the desire to pimp their decks. This helps original printings and foil versions maintain stable prices.
$4+ Standard Mythics & Rares -- 4 to 5
These are Standard cards with enough demand to keep them at non-bulk status, but not enough to cause the price to be high. These are usually tradeable to people who are looking to build whatever deck runs them or into a store that has run out of their own stock. But demand is low enough for these cards to rot in your binder a while.
$1-4 Standard Mythics & Rares -- 3 to 4
These Standard rares haven't hit bulk status yet, but there are plenty of them and demand is low. They may be one- or two-of sideboard cards. I don't advise trading for them unless you already have an out because they are likely to become bulk before you can unload them.
Low-End Legacy Staples -- 3 to 5
These are the cheaper Legacy staples or the ones that fit really well in a few decks. There is demand for them, but it's limited to people who want to play one of the few decks they are run in and don't already have them. These are your Thalias, Grafdigger's Cages, and Meddling Mages.
Legacy Commons & Uncommons -- 3 to 4
These are the harder-to-find older commons and uncommons used in the Legacy format. Typically they are far more valuable than bulk commons but not so valuable that the demand is all that high. They are usually only tradeable at Legacy venues or to people who are trying to get into the format. These are your Dark Rituals, Counterspells, Brainstorms, Elvish Spirit Guides.
One Deck All-Stars -- 2 to 4
These are cards played in just one deck, like Time Spiral and Mangara of Corondor. More often than not they are some of the best cards in the deck they are played. But their inability to fit into other shells makes them sit in the 2-3 category most of the time, only hitting 4-5 when the deck's popularity spikes. For example, demand for Death and Taxes cards went up almost across the board after it won the last European Legacy GP.
Modern Commons & Uncommons -- 2 to 3
Similar to the Legacy commons and uncommons except they aren't as old or rare and the format hasn't developed the same following. These will sit dormant in your trade binder until you either go to a Modern event and trade with people trying to stockpile commons and uncommons, build a deck, or are just entering the format.
Sub $1 Mythics & Rares -- 1 to 3 (8)
These are your bulk rares. They are impossible or nearly impossible to move outside of bulk status, however, at bulk status they are 8's (you can always sell them to several stores at whatever the store's going rate for bulk rares is). In fact at bulk rates they are about as liquid as you can get with cards and this is the reason they are some of my favorite things to trade for.
6 thoughts on “Insider – Liquidity”
What do you think about including language as a multiplier of these score. Any non fancy, non european languages is actually a downer (yaw for chinese cards) while even the so-called PIMP language easily made a 8 a 6 because of the restricted demand.
Depending on the region (this is maybe an european thing), i cant move non-english cards at all except for the occasional non native speaker. I mean, i cant even sell spanish cards to spanish people reliably.
That’s an interesting thought. However, as you’d expect the “pimp” language multiplier is going to be heavily based on the format. I don’t recommend them for standard only cards at all (a very small group of standard players feels the need to “pimp” their decks on account of the constantly changing environment) so you could eliminate any standard only ones all together. I have also not witnessed a “pimp” modern group, though I believe there will be one at some point and this would be the time to get in, the only danger is that the cards that are “pimp” now get overshadowed later on.
On the modern commons and uncommons note – do you mean the uncommon/common staples i.e. lightning helix, kitchen finks, path to exile?
I believe helix has one of hte lowest spreads in MMasters hence really liquid for buylist prices. Most modern decks want 4 paths and demand is sprinkled over in legacy and casual also.
Maybe it also depends on your market. Standard is the most ubiquitous, but there’s a solid modern following in the NYC area
I do indeed mean those staples. I have had very little interest in any of them locally or at major events within the past few months. I expect the interest to ramp up as we get closer to modern season though.
I really like the concept of this article, but it is important for everyone reading to understand that these numbers can vary depending on your local market. David has often mentioned that Legacy is pretty big in his area, and that shows with these scores.
For my local area, Standard is what most play, but the EDH demand is quite high, to where I can expect EDH staples to trade almost as well as Hot Standard staples. I don’t put much for Legacy in my binder because there are maybe 10 people out of the entire gaming community that care whatsoever for Legacy.
I don’t even put OG dual lands in my binder anymore. I’ve found that people that want them for EDH just get fixated on them and it causes other smaller trades to break down or just never happen, but people rarely can offer proper value for a dual land. It must be nice for these to be a 7/8 for you. I would put almost any Legacy only (not also used in EDH) card as a 2-3 for me.
You bring some valid points to the table as you are 100% correct in that local markets have a great deal of say in the liquidity of a lot of your cards. However, I was pulling from my experiences at large events (GPs, PTQs, SCG Opens, SCG Invitationals, etc) as well. It is easy for me to move EDH staples in my local area, but it was similarly easy to move them at big events too. Normally I use the big events to restock on cards that people ask me for and I’m out of.