The summer slow-down has shown no signs of reversing, much to my dismay. Many Modern staples still remain well below their highs despite Modern PTQ season kicking into gear. I was so confident staples like Snapcaster Mage would bounce, but no such luck yet.
What’s worse, some less frequent Modern-playable cards are continuing to drop even now. I’m baffled that the survival of Jund in the format has not yielded any support for the price of Raging Ravine. Buy lists are abysmal.
A few weeks ago Corbin wrote an excellent article capturing the reality of things: if Modern season hasn’t catalyzed the market, then it was probably overbought to begin with. Even SCG’s recent announcement of adding Modern events to their weekly circuit has done nothing for Modern values in the short term.
Corbin recommended selling freeing up some cash and avoiding unnecessary opportunity cost by selling some Modern stock. I’ve taken this advice to heart, and have since listed a handful of playsets on eBay as well as submitted a couple smaller buy lists. I’m not selling out altogether, but with rotation on the horizon I’d rather have my resources liquid enough to take advantage of movements within the Standard format rather than the lack thereof in Modern and Legacy.
One Little Problem
There’s a reason I haven’t sold off the majority of my Modern staples, and it has nothing to do with diversification. As it turns out, a slow Modern market means it’s very difficult to sell cards profitably. Buy lists reflect the slowing demand and the market is flooded with speculators and traders eager to move some stock.
As a result, I am feverishly kicking myself for declining to take $4 for my Raging Ravines now that I’d be lucky to net that much selling on eBay. The dream of being able to buy list Inkmoth Nexus at $7.50 again is also dead, as these have been on a flat-to-downward trajectory for months.
One thing is for sure–once Modern PTQ season ends, Modern staples which have little presence in other formats could fall severely out of favor out of fear of reprints. Wizards is proving to us they are willing to throw seemingly arbitrary valuable cards into a set to help alleviate prices.
As a player, I’m thankful for these reprints, but, as an MTG Speculator, this means danger. Holding Modern staples through to 2015 in the hopes of moving them at a higher price carries tremendous reprint risk and opportunity cost.
Therefore, my choices are to either hold onto Modern staples and risk reprints in a future set like Modern Masters 2, or to sell some cards at a break-even price point or even a loss.
I have chosen to strategically do a little of both.
What I Sold
The most obvious sale for me was Phyrexian Revoker. As soon as I heard this guy was getting reprinted, I knew I couldn’t keep my set if I wanted anything above a buck for them. Off they went to ABU Games at $1.65 each, likely below where I bought, but also about what I would have gotten with an eBay listing.
After sitting on them for over a year, I also moved my Sorin, Lord of Innistrad. I know, I know – these are Planeswalkers and will never drop in price, right? Right. But that doesn’t mean they have any right to go up in price either. They have sat at a $3.50 buy list price for a long time now and opportunity cost was eating at me.
I only owned a set, but it’s obvious that B/W Tokens isn’t a significant force in Modern, and casual demand could take years to soak up all the Duel Deck copies of this card to make the price rise. This was not time I was willing to wait.
I’ve also decided to move all my Swords. You know, Sword of Feast and Famine and the rest of the cycle. Again, I know casuals love these and they have some Constructed playability as well. But after watching Sword of Feast and Famine get smashed by the Event Deck reprint, I was delighted to get $13ish for my played copy.
Since I’m a tad-bit OCD when it comes to these things, I figured I should just move all my Swords. I only owned one of each, but the enjoyment I was getting out of them did not outweigh potential for price declines. And with Star City Games paying $30 on Sword of Fire and Ice, the decision wasn’t really that painful.
A few cards I’ve listed on eBay in an attempt to net a bit more in cash include Inkmoth Nexus and Raging Ravine. I’m tempted to list my Stirring Wildwoods as well. If Modern won’t bring life into these cards, then I am not sure what will. At this point, I’d rather have the cash to put elsewhere.
What I Am Holding
I am still sitting on all of my Shock Lands and Scars Fast Lands. Like many others, I’ve placed a significant bet on these and that bet has not yielded satisfactory gains. In a time where the Stock Market yielded something like a 25% gain in 2013, to see something significantly less in a Shock Land investment has been very disappointing.
But I can’t sell yet. My gut is still insisting these are a solid long-term investment. Even though many people are sitting on a gaggle of excess copies, I’m going to sit tight for the time being. At least the bottom hasn’t fallen out from other them yet–buy lists are still reasonable and I don’t believe there will be much dip come rotation.
In addition to this real estate, I recommend sitting on newer cards also playable in Legacy. This mostly refers to Deathrite Shaman, Abrupt Decay, and Swan Songs. In fact, foil versions of these cards are probably an even safer hold, and I don’t believe the market bottom has dropped from under foils like they have recently on nonfoils.
While we’re at it, let’s add foil Cavern of Souls, foil Shock Lands, and foil Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration to the hold list. While I don’t own all of these, the ones I do currently possess are staying with me and not getting shipped off to a buylist despite the short-term market decline.
(Though, as an aside, I will admit it’s awfully tempting to buy list my single foil Cavern of Souls to ABU Games because as of now they’re offering $35 each!)
Am I Acquiring Anything?
As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, I am actually keeping a closer watch on Standard than I am on Modern as we approach rotation. Magic 2015 is shaping up to be an interesting enough Core Set to maintain player interest. Reprints like Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth will compound interest and ensure players don’t abandon Standard altogether. And with mysterious promises from Mark Rosewater regarding Khans of Tarkir, I can only assume Standard will boom yet again come rotation.
All that being said, I’m not actively picking up a whole lot these days. I’ve got a few sets of Theros Thoughtseize, though I could use a couple foils. I’m on the lookout for those. I made a move into Eidolon of the Great Revel just in time to make a few bucks, but I’m more in the “sell” camp now that the card has bounced nicely. Mana Confluence should be a decent buy, but I honestly like the Theros block Temples more.
I also still like Power and other Vintage staples, though, after acquiring a few high-end cards in this category, I feel the need to put on the brakes simply because I want to maintain a diversified portfolio.
Casual gems continue to make it on the Interests page of mtgstocks.com, but I have zero desire to speculate on stuff like Apocalypse and Copy Artifact. In fact, I admittedly gave up on my Winding Canyons spec recently. I figure if the recent hype the card received wasn’t enough to catalyze the market on this EDH-playable land, then I don’t want to wait around for what will. I took my losses, which were razor-thin, and moved on.
I’m sure there will be plenty of excitement in the MTG Finance world come the fall. But for now, things are fairly stagnant. And with downward catalysts coming up for Modern cards, such as the end of PTQ season and potential for reprints, I’m placing one foot out of the “Modern is awesome for investing” camp and into Corbin’s “Modern was overbought and has little financial opportunity” camp.
I’m not going all-in on this because diversification is still a critical way to reduce portfolio risk. But after witnessing the recent boom in Modern, I have to admit I’m disappointed in the financial trends this PTQ season so far. Prices should flatten out, but I certainly don’t see growth ahead. This is why I’m taking a hard look at my MTG portfolio and selling some cards, even for small losses. I’d rather have the funds working for me elsewhere, and I would encourage you to consider the same.
Here’s how bleak the Modern scenario is:
- I buy listed my Birthing Pods at GP Cincinnati this year for around $12 each. Now Star City Games has 64 total copies in stock with a NM price of $11.99. Quite the drop.
- I sold a couple sets of Inkmoth Nexus in the $7 range between GP Cincinnati and eBay, and I decided I’d keep a few more to catch that last 10% gain. The plan backfired. SCG only has 21 copies in stock, but at $7.99 I may have to wait quite a while for a chance to sell my stock at $7 so easily.
- The best buy list offer I saw on Razorverge Thicket during GP Cincinnati was in the $3.50 range and I insisted on holding out for $4. Big mistake. Star City games has 432 NM copies in stock, on sale for $3.74 each. Other Scars Lands are also on the decline. Ouch.