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Insider: New Market Realities in 2014

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When I’m not doing Magic, I work at my “day job” as a journalist. Specifically, I’m a sportswriter. But no matter what branch of journalism you’re in, be it newspaper, TV, radio, or even strictly the internet, there is one global truth:

Adapt or die.

Newspapers didn’t do a good job of this 15 years ago and are paying the price today. All over, newspapers are going broke and out of business or moving to an online-only presence.

Rather than adapt to the new reality of the internet they tried to stick it out with their century-old strategy, and problems ensued. Newspapers were hopelessly behind the wave of the internet, and as a result lost out on opportunities to pioneer in the field. Instead, they were replaced.

These days, things are a bit different. I do a lot more than write for a newspaper. I tweet coverage regularly, I do pieces for a partner magazine, I’m on a weekly radio show/video webcast about Oklahoma high school football, and text messaging and tweets have become a credible way to obtain information from sources.

In short, the reality of the field has completely changed.

Magic finance is no different.

Seconds Matter

It used to be that hours or even days mattered in speculating. When I caught onto Stoneforge Mystic in 2010, I remember going to my LGS and trading for several playsets at FNM a few days later.

If 2010 was the advent of the MTG finance knowledge spike and rise of smartphone trading, then 2014 is the start of a new age in speculating.

Just a year or two ago you could realistically wait until day two or three of the Pro Tour to figure out what the spec was. Recently it’s been as soon as Round 2 when the “hot” cards go nuts. And in some cases, it’s even earlier. QS’s man on the floor at PT Theros alerted us to Master of Waves before the event even started, and we were able to profit from that.

Back to Stoneforge. As you know, the card recently began picking up some heat again. When it climbed from $10 to 12 last week, I posted in the forums that there wasn’t anything to dislike about this spec and it would probably be $20 by the summer. That seemed like a realistic growth pattern.

Instead, the market at large (the Hive Mind, if you will) caught onto Stoneforge and suddenly the price everywhere is $30. This happened in a matter of about 24 hours rather than the weeks I expected.

Genesis Wave showed this trend at its extreme. It was a great spec when the QS Insider blast went out on Tuesday, and I know many of you were able to get in for cheap. And that turned out to be quite a profitable move, because as soon the rest of the world caught on, the card sold out everywhere. For a moment in time (literally moments), it was $20.

Fast-forward two hours later, and the card is down to $5-6, a realistic range for a card with huge EDH/Casual appeal and a hint of Modern playability. Again, this was a card I really liked as a medium-to-long-term spec before the Modern deck came onto the scene. I certainly didn’t expect it to blow up like it did.

But within literally hours the market had re-adjusted itself. No longer are people waiting 2-3 days to get their copies in stock before repopulating the TCGPlayer market with lower-priced copies. We saw buyout, price spike and price correction all within the time it takes you to go see a movie. That’s never happened before.

Everyone’s Doing It

Here's what lies at the heart of the changes I outlined above. Thanks to the quickly-growing MTGFinance subreddit, the fact that everyone can now easily sell on TCGPlayer and the ease at which people can speculate, the number of players on the market has vastly increased.

I think the TCGPlayer move is the biggest culprit here; not that it’s a bad thing. Sure, anyone could sell on eBay before, but those sales were never hugely factored into market price the way TCGMid is among the general population. It’s become the default outlet for selling, and the fact that there are simply so many people on there translates to accelerated cycles.

The same goes for speculating. Everyone thinks they have the hot new spec, and everyone wants to make it happen. So it does. I know it may not seem like a monumental shift, but the rise of the subreddit has made a difference. Adding 3-4,000 people into the speculating market, when coupled with more people selling on TCGPlayer, has everyone following along the pricing trends and jumping on the bandwagon.

These things snowball quickly now. That’s just the new reality that isn’t going away.

What Does That Mean for Us?

It means that to stay ahead of the market, you must truly be ahead. You can’t just be “quick” any more; you have to be truly ahead. Luckily, the QS forums are still the best collection of speculating talent there is, which is why we’re able to stay ahead of the game. Raging Ravine, Stoneforge Mystic, Phyrexian Obliterator, Genesis Wave, all of these things originated here.

I’m not saying this to flatter anyone. It matters. The fact we’re able to be a few days ahead on these spikes means not only do we get profitable prices when we buy in, but more importantly that orders will actually be filled. You may be the first person to buy Phyrexian Obliterator when Twitter explodes about it, but it won’t matter if the store cancels your order when they get to it the next day and the price has doubled.

And given that we’re able to stay ahead of the market, the inevitable spikes when the general population catches onto the trend means we’ll continue to have great selling opportunities.

Because, as I’ve discussed before--what I've termed the Myth of Making Profits--you have to actually sell the cards you have. It doesn’t matter if something quadruples in price if you stick it in your binder for six months until it falls back to its original price.

My response to everything that has happened in the last month is increased caution. It’s a heck of a lot smarter to miss out on a spec than to buy in too late and eat losses because you didn’t want to be left behind.

Find the cards you’re confident in, pick your spots, take your positions, and wait for it to happen. You can’t force it but you also can’t buy in once it’s already happening. Don’t get caught up in the hypetrain or momentum of a spec. Stay level-headed and you’ll stay profitable.

I’ll be back next week when we get some Born of the Gods spoilers! By the way, Kiora, the Crashing Wave is super overpriced at $20.

Thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter

5 thoughts on “Insider: New Market Realities in 2014

  1. To really optimize profit here, you not only need to stay ahead of the game by buying earlier. You also need to sell into these spikes – imagine if you were already sitting on 20 Genesis Wave during the minutes of the spike. You could have listed your copies at something crazy like $10 each, and possibly even made a sale. Being ready is absolutely critical on both the buying AND selling end. I always advocate selling into these buy outs whenever possible.

    I have 2 sets of Birthing Pod listed on eBay for $35 each as we speak, hoping to catch one or two people overextending on their speculation.

    Great article and very timely 🙂 (see what I did there?)

  2. I still maintain that the lion’s share lies in foresight, not in acting fast at the moment you hear something moves. The people who made the most money are the ones who bought lots of Desecration Demons, Nightveil Specters, Jaces (AoT), Mutavaults, Blood Barons, etc. at their leisure last year. While it’s true there is profit to be had on speed-buys, the average profit is limited since you’re fight against everyone else at once, and the stress can be incredible.

  3. It’s easy to buy when you get an inside speculation tip. In my opinion it’s much harder to know when to sell. I speculated on Genesis Wave back when Scars of Mirrodin was still in standard. I checked my binder and sure enough, I still had 8 copies of the card sitting there. Good for me…sort of. Now the card is a thing but at present I lack the knowledge of when to sell. Sure if I had moved all 8 copies two days ago, I might have gotten $10 a pop – but should I have? Does the card have even more room to grow? I don’t know. So perhaps that is a topic of a future discussion. Not only just when to buy, but when to sell as well. Sometimes the topic of when to sell comes up in articles and when it does, I find this information exceptionally helpful. And taking this to one more level – I’d love to get a little training on how to know a long term spec vs. a spec that is best to sell of in a year – like a fine wine vs. a nice wine.

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