Insider: Where Have All the Buyouts Gone?

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Let’s remember back to six months ago. It’s really not that long of a time, but there was so much different.

Besides all the obvious things, I want to talk about the buyouts. Back then, a new Modern card was being bought out every week, and some of them were truly absurd. Norin the Wary? Runed Halo? Freaking Summoner's Egg?

It’s crazy in retrospect, especially given the lull that Modern prices are in right now, and where they seemed destined to be for the rest of the summer at least. This begs a few questions: with the benefit of hindsight, what led to the buyouts, and what does it mean for the future?

The Buyouts Begin

I know I’ve talked about this in brief before, but I really don’t think you can overstate the rise of Reddit. In particular, the MTGFinance subreddit. It began as something Jason and I helped foster because it was another way to reach people, but it soon took on a life of its own, and the reasonable voices there were quickly drowned out by some of the larger, uninformed masses.

I apologize now if you don’t care about this (and I don’t blame you), but it is crucial to understanding the current state of Modern.

The rise of the subreddit coincided with a time of growth for Modern as a format. The banlist settled down, the format became more welcoming to new players (read: less combo), and some big events propelled it into the spotlight. Then you had a group of newbie financiers who were introduced to the concept of “easy speculating.” Hey, you buy into a card at $2 and it rises to $5, you’re rich!

Of course, I assume most of you reading this are more savvy than that. People learned the hard way that buying into spikes didn’t always work out so neatly. Sometimes a card would rise a few dollars but you wouldn’t even be able to sell at a profit. It was a self-correcting behavior, sure, but one with major implications in the short term.

And those effects reached out beyond just the 4-5,000 subscribers of the group. With so many people suddenly buying into the next growth format and a few high-profile events, it seemed like you couldn’t go wrong. And because of that, the larger finance community (including many of us) hopped onto the train. That’s how we got $100 fetchlands and random cards shooting up every other week.

The End of the Buyouts

As some of us were predicting from the beginning, people slowly began to learn their lesson. If you get burned on a spec or two after finally learning the hard way about holding costs, buylists and shipping fees., you tend to spend your money a little less freely.

That’s what happened, and the market run ended as we always said it would. Crazy buyouts stopped and deflation took its place, leading us to the current malaise we’re in--though it’s worth noting that prices on two benchmarks of the format (Misty Rainforest and Scalding Tarn) have begun to stabilize, even if other staples haven’t. If this continues, we’ll see prices level off before the next catalyst for growth comes along.

Putting It Together

So are buyouts over with?

I’m not prepared to say that. After all, buyouts have been a part of the modern Magic finance for a while, and I think it’s safe to say they’ll be back at some point. But I do think there’s something we can learn from the growth and stagnation of Modern over the past year.

The market is not rational.

I guess it’s not exactly a surprise, but with TCGPlayer expanding and things like Pucatrade taking off, there was a thought that the market was no longer dominated by stores and instead moving toward an extremely efficient model.

And it still is. But that doesn’t mean things operate strictly due to the fundamentals. After all, if they did we would be seeing Modern prices peak right now in line with PTQ season. Instead, we’re seeing the opposite.

So what exactly does this mean for the future? I think the biggest takeaway is that public opinion seems to guide the actions of players (and their wallets) more than the traditional factors.

It’s not PTQ season driving prices; it’s the perception that Modern is the next big things and prices are rising. It’s not a lack of interest in the format holding back prices now; it’s the belief that fetchland reprints are coming and there’s no reason to buy in until that happens.

It can be hard to spot when those things you hear parroted across the internet cross the line from being a vocal minority to being representative of the larger community. It’s something that really requires you to be hitting the floor at events or FNM's to talk to the players out there. It’s also a vitally important tool for making future predictions, and as such is invaluable for your future in Magic finance.


Thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter

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Corbin Hosler

Corbin Hosler is a journalist living in Norman, Oklahoma (also known as the hotbed of Magic). He started playing in Shadowmoor and chased the Pro Tour dream for a few years, culminating in a Star City Games Legacy Open finals appearance in 2011 before deciding to turn to trading and speculation full-time. He writes weekly at and biweekly for LegitMTG. He also cohosts Brainstorm Brewery, the only financial podcast on the net. He can best be reached @Chosler88 on Twitter.

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Posted in Buying, Feature, Finance, Free Insider, Magic Card Market Theory, ModernTagged , , , ,

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6 thoughts on “Insider: Where Have All the Buyouts Gone?

  1. I always wonder how much market activity is simply tied to the season? ie, lots of interest and activity in the fall and winter with cold weather, and declining interest during the spring and summer. I wonder if any of the vendors have looked at their volumes and could comment.

    1. It’s an interesting question. I am personally transitioning from the kinder surprise toy collecting/trading market to magic cards. Over the past two years collecting and trading kinder surprise I have also noticed a distinct increase in the colder months leading up to winter. This could be related to retail-industry style Christmas demand. However, part of me thinks it has something to do with the nature of collecting things, as if collecting things is a residual instinct related to cavemen hoarding for the winter.

  2. good article. i still think modern prices are just retracing. they could retrace as far as pre spike. but demand was built up and even tho price and demand are finding balance, the demand side is growing, just not as fast as previous year.

  3. When one is trying to cornet the market, I.e., buyout, how in the hell can this be done without knowing wizard production run numbers? I understand these numbers to be clsssified by Wizards… any imput would be nice.

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