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Jason’s Alticle: Going Broke By Making a Profit

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How can you tell I think there is a fairly good chance of Modern prices normalizing lower than they are now and reprints helping to control costs?

I'm selling cards right now.

Going for Broke

Back in January, Brainstorm Brewery superfan and Dutch crazy person Sander Van Der Zee wrote something I liked because he used a matrix to divide speculation targets into four categories based on their risk and reward values. I still like this matrix and I am a little surprised not to see it in finance articles before.

What got lost along the way was his uniting thematic element and brief shot-call at the end. He liked Gavony Township as a pickup, especially for 0.12 tix on MODO. Today, Township has quadrupled to .5 tix on MODO and rocketed up to $3.50 in paper.

Sander was totally right about what he called "The Little Township That Could" because he doesn't seem to care about opening up Brainstorm Brewery LLC to the possibility of intellectual property claims from Platt & Munk or other interested parties associated with the unrelated 1930s children's book "The Little Engine That Could" (which doesn't mention Gavony Township anywhere.)

I remember this story being less terrifying.
I remember this story being less terrifying.

Sander was right in that he saw the card as a decent spec, but he didn't imagine it would hit nearly $4 in paper (or 0.00057 Euro) or he might have said so. Even the guy who saw it coming didn't see that coming.

Of course, all of the retrospect finance geniuses are coming out of the woodwork to talk about why it's so obviously a $4 card and anyone who doesn't see that is blind. "It's played in Pod," "It has casual appeal," "It's an EDH staple," etc. Analysis that would have made some people some money if it had been done when the card was $1.50 is now being done at a furious rate.

Is Gavony Township a $4 card? I don't know, maybe. Is it an $8 card? I don't know, maybe.  Today I will be making the case that there is money to be made in not caring.

Money Can't Buy Happiness

What? Of course it can. Money can buy a refrigerator for your new house, and if that makes your wife happy then that totally works in your favor.

A while back, Corbin decided to move his 60 or so fetchlands that traded for at $10-$15 over a year or so. In today's money, 60 Benjamins is pretty sweet, but Corbin sold out while Scalding Tarn and Misty Rainforest were closer to $30. We asked him about it on the cast this week, and his answer didn't surprise me--although it may surprise some of you.

He'd do it again.

Sure, holding out for $100 would have been ideal, but he was able to lock in the profit he had made, do something productive and grown up with the money and he'd do it all over again.

It can kind of sting if a card you just sold goes up, but there are opportunity costs to having money tied up, too. If a card quadruples over a year but you sell after a month after it "just" doubles and use that money to buy cards that double in a month and reinvest that money, you are likely to come out ahead.

Also, while I do this for a living, speculating and viewing certain cards as an investment is a small percentage of what I do. I view a small box of cards as my "investments" but I view the rest of my cards for what they are--inventory. And inventory should be blown through as fast as possible.

Charles Kaiser wrote a book called "No One Ever Went Broke Making a Profit," and I think getting hung up on the one time out of ten where you sold too early can paralyze you if you dwell on it. Don't let fear over potential missed profits make you make the wrong play the next 9 times out of 10. Take your profit and leave 10% for the next guy even when that 10% turns out to be 100%.

If you have ever had to turn down a collection because you had too much money tied up in specs like I have, you understand how your money can do more for you if it's free to do some work.

Listeners to the podcast will be familiar with our "Pick of the Week" segment where we all identify a card we think is worth buying (or, in rare cases, selling). When one of our team members, Brian Dale did some analysis, he determined that I overwhelmingly tend to pick short-term gainers that are best dumped within a month or two. They tend not to go up again, and even if they do, you take the money and buy the next big spec.

Speculation is fun, folks, but there is way steadier money in buying for buylist and selling for retail, in moving casual cards away from competitive players and competitive cards away from casual players and in flipping collections. If you're buying at buylist and a card spikes, increase your buylist number and go about your day.

I'm not saying don't speculate, I'm saying keep cycling. Don't sit on cards forever if you can do more with that money in the short term. Sell your cards, lock in your profits and call it a day.

Be Good to Each Other

This went up Yesterday.

If you can't figure out why, you probably didn't see the photo album of buttcracks that was passed around facebook and made the front page of reddit. Is it funny when super fat dudes' ass cracks are hanging out? Yeah, kinda.

But is it okay to post that album online? The guy who made the album didn't include faces or names, which makes this look not super malicious, but I am still reminded of Dr. 8 sides and that whole debacle.

Remember this isn't about free speech, this is about maintaining an environment where attendees can feel safe. Worrying that someone is going to embarrass them publicly is not something a player should have to worry about on top of worrying about keeping their play tight, all of their belongings on them at all times so they don't get stolen and how they can afford a $40 Teferi for their sideboard and still have $8 left for a convention center cheeseburger.

I don't think posting someone's pasty coin slot on reddit for the public to ridicule is tantamount to physical violence or theft or cheating or the other things that can get you banned from events, but I don't think the laughs he got were worth the expense. Some of the people being derided are going to feel pretty shitty about themselves when they see that album, and I don't think that's worth the chuckles you got.

Regardless of how I feel about the album, I think it's up to WotC to maintain a culture where people feel secure at events and I imagine they're likely going to take action in this case, as they did with Dr. 8 sides. Regardless of how any of us feel about that, I think it's something they need to do to keep tournaments appealing.

Folks, don't do stuff like this. Don't bring up the First Amendment in defense of this guy (for lots of reasons), don't share the album on facebook, don't upvote it on reddit (not that it needs it, it's on the top of the front page).

It may be funny at the time, but giving non-Magic players something to laugh about at all Magic players' expense in general, and a few crack dealers specifically, doesn't do a service to our community. I see the whole issue as a little senseless--the gain was pretty small compared to the cost and I don't think it was worth it.

This community may contain a lot of tubby guys and some people have gone so long between showers that they contribute a veritable miasma so thick it could block a Tarmogoyf, but they're our stinky brethren and we need to stick together. Be good to each other.

What Happened in Richmond Besides Butts?

GP Richmond Top 8 Decks

So what kinds of decks did well at the largest Constructed GP ever? Both kinds--Melira Pod and Kiki Pod.

With five Pod decks in the Top 8 of the event, it didn't take long for the community to fold its arms and declare the format solved. However, hopefully some of the other decks that people like do well to save us all from Wizards having to ban Birthing Pod, something that is not currently necessary and which I hope never becomes necessary.

Someone bought all the $12 copies of Birthing Pod off of TCG Player over the weekend, but almost everyone restocked at close to that so his dreams of $30 pods will have to wait until another day. $20 seems reasonable on these but Star City would have to put them at $25 for TCG Player to see $20 so I don't anticipate that soon. It's gratifying to see an attempted buyout whiff like that.

Another attempted buyout, this time targeting Ad Nauseam, also whiffed with restocking taking place around $5-$6, up from the $3-$4 it was before. No profit after fees, there. Someone hoped $8 would be the new price, and they can keep on hoping.

I saw someone say they thought Ad Nauseam would be $20 soon and it was a little hard not to laugh. I feel good staying out of these crazy spikes because when the dust settles and Monday rolls back around, there is never as much profit as people hoped.

The Ad Nauseam deck is fringey. Reuben Bresler did respectable with it Day 1, but the deck's inconsistencies accumulated and losses dragged him down. The deck is not new, but a lot of people acted like it was, and like it being played on camera was somehow an endorsement of the deck by Wizards. Not the case. Reuben got a Round 2 feature match because of who he is, not because of what he was playing. Later camera matches were based on his record, not his deck.

I am glad he did well and a few others did as well with the deck, but it's not going to make Ad Nauseam a $20 card any more than the one copy in ANT in Legacy has. We didn't like any of the cards as specs for the last few weeks (apart from Lotus Bloom, a Pick of the Week of mine) and nothing changed besides the camera being on the deck this weekend.

In fact, the only deck that looked at all new was the G/B Obliterator Rock deck. Everything else was all Tarmo Twin, Affinity and Pod with the occasional other deck sprinkled in.

Unfortunately, I think the new price of Mox Opal is likely to stick, but if those budge down at all, I might snag some. Affinity will always be a solid choice in Modern and Legacy and a lot of the components have applications in Vintage.

Mox Opal has the word Mox in it the same way Lotus Bloom has the word Lotus in it and that should not be ignored. Affinity stuff seems like it's a solid investment, but I don't expect big jumps in anything apart from maybe Etched Champion which is quite strong and not super reprintable given its keyword ability.

Not much to say about Richmond. It was insane, lots of people were there and Tier 1 decks did well despite all the talk of fringe decks.

There was no need for an SCG Open since SCG ran the GP, so you'll have to wait until next week to get your Legacy and Standard fix.

Sage Advice

That's all for this week. Don't buy into hype, keep your inventory moving, and pull your pants up. Everyone's phone has a camera on it these days.

Jason Alt

Jason Alt is a value trader and writer. He is Quiet Speculation's self-appointed web content archivist and co-captain of the interdepartmental dodgeball team. He enjoys craft microbrews and doing things ironically. You may have seen him at magic events; he wears black t-shirts and has a beard and a backpack so he's pretty easy to spot. You can hear him as co-host on the Brainstorm Brewery podcast or catch his articles on Gatheringmagic.com. He is also the Community Manager at BrainstormBrewery.com and writes the odd article there, too. Follow him on Twitter @JasonEAlt unless you don't like having your mind blown.

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46 thoughts on “Jason’s Alticle: Going Broke By Making a Profit

  1. I 100% agree that people need to respect other players and taking pictures of butt cracks is juvenile. I disagree with giving people a pass on hygiene though. If you’re overweight and your pants sag enough that people can see your crack…it doesn’t affect my game, but when I’m forced to sit next to someone who has put basic hygiene on the backburner, that’s unfair to me. I can’t concentrate when every time someone walks by and stirs the air I feel like I’ve fallen into the Sarlacc. I will say I didn’t get hit with this at GP Richmond (thank God), but I have definitely been in tournaments in the past when part of my motivation to get a match to end was to get away from someone at the table. I understand that over a long day people can “ripen”…but 1 days worth of sweat is very different than weeks worth. I loved the rest of the article though, especially the etched champion call.

    1. how about people for whom using deodorant or bathing is against their religious beliefs? How about people who smell bad for medical reasons? They shouldn’t be able to come out? Should they be required to bring a drs note or a note from their religious leader? Inclusiveness is more important than you smelling smells you don’t like. Furthermore, many Magic players struggle to find inclusiveness in their non-magic lives, so it’s like a doublehurt when they turn to Magic and be a target of public ridicule for how they look etc.

  2. “When the DCI prohibits people from posting pictures of asscracks, it is acting in an official gubberment capacity for purposes of the First Amendment.” Ex Parte Bolas, 283 Mrdn.2d 820, 823 (2008).

  3. I agree. Many people I know who don’t care at all about magic posted this onto facebook and it makes me sad that this is the facet of the community that people see. I live in Toronto, and a local guy won one of the largest magic events ever, in a different country, and nobody cares because buttcracks

  4. So; while the posting of people’s buttcracks on the internet may not be in good taste, it brings up an important point.

    Magic has grown fairly steadily over the last X amount of years; however, it’s definitely not where it could be. A lot of that is because of the negative stereotypes that exist in regard to Magic players ( and of course the ever-rising cost of modern staples :p ).

    Now, I understand that people can be overweight; people can have natural odors, buttcracks can poke out, etc. There’s nothing wrong with being a tolerant community; however, players who truly enjoy Magic and want to see it grow should WANT to present a better image to potential players, and shouldn’t want current players to have to deal with stinky armpits and gaping asscracks.

    Every week at FNM (or any other day I enter a hobby store) I smell people who haven’t showered; I see more asscracks then I’d like. Granted, our community can’t ask players to look like male models from Zoolander…

    However, if you’re playing a card game with images and storylines and text that talk about angels and demons and witches and gorgons, it’s probably not against your religious beliefs to take a shower before you come to FMN.

    Additionally, if you’re able to fork out $35 apiece for 4 Domri Rades, you can’t tell me that you can’t afford a shirt and pair of pants that will keep your fellow players from having a bird’s eye view of your asscrack.

    Instead of being outraged that someone “took advantage” of the Magic community to get a laugh on Reddit, let’s use our brains and take this opportunity to be a more progressive community; not by ostracizing members for their miscues, but by asking ourselves about the small things we could do to improve the experience of a Magic tournament for those around us. By self-checking before we leave the house for FNM, and making sure that we’ve showered, put on our deodorant, and are wearing clothes that fit properly; it’s the least we can do to make events more comfortable and enjoyable for everyone.

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