This summer has brought significant shifts in Magic market prices. Some cards were overbought and so their prices have dropped over the past few months, while other cards, such as some casual staples, were unnoticed during the Modern and Legacy boom and received attention through these summer months.
And of course with Standard rotation approaching, changes to PTQ schedules, major reprints, the risk of Modern Masters II, and overall shifts in the Pro Tour format schedule, there are a number of factors likely to influence the market in the coming six months.
Naturally, all of these shifts give good cause to reevaluate one’s MTG portfolio. Because of some significant changes I’ve made over the summer, I thought it best I reveal my current investments to give everyone a glimpse into where I’m focusing resources most these days as well as where I’m deemphasizing my attentions.
Some of this may be a rehash of my previous articles, but my intent here is to summarize all of my portfolio shifts in one convenient location. As the summer winds down, hopefully this summary will be useful to readers because they will see where I’m prioritizing my own cash as we prepare for more significant changes in Magic ahead.
(Note: all percentages are approximate and best for relative comparisons)
Modern – 28%
This portfolio breakdown exercise has already been completely enlightening to me. Despite my efforts to significantly trim back my Modern position, these cards comprise over one-fourth of my entire MTG portfolio!
You know why I overlooked this? Two words: Shock Lands.
I keep my Shock Lands investment in a separate binder – over half of my Modern position is solely in foil and non-foil Shock Lands. The fact that I maintain a Modern deck also feeds into this number. In reality, if I subtract out Shock Lands and my Modern deck, the actual dollar value of my remaining Modern collection is very small.
With changes to the PTQ schedule, constant reprints, and the risk of a Modern Masters II on the horizon, I actually prefer it this way. I’m not completely ignoring Modern speculation, but I am going to be very careful with my cash. Before I make any purchase of Modern cards, I ask myself a couple critical questions: When’s the next time this card could feasibly be reprinted? Why will demand increase, driving prices higher? How much upside is available versus the downside risk of a sudden reprint?
Not many Modern cards pass this litmus test with flying colors right now because I see little upside to demand. The Modern PTQ season is winding down and there doesn't appear to be an upcoming official “Modern PTQ” season. Sure, Star City Games is lending their support to the format and this does make a difference, but I’m going to remain highly selective here.
Legacy – 27%
Nearly two years ago I made the difficult decision to sell out of Legacy. This choice was made based on a number of personal factors, and I stand by the decision with little regret.
Since then, we saw prices of Legacy staples drive higher only to pull back modestly this past summer.
I see a load of opportunity in this pullback. I’m not going to buy just any Legacy staple now, even though many are cheaper now than they were three months ago.
Instead my focus will be cards on the Reserved List. But I will get even more specific than that. My true focus of late is on Dual Lands, which are selling for very favorable prices on eBay. Tropical Islands and Tundras are at the top of my list because they are selling for around $130 at auction, even for NM/SP copies. This is a significant discount to recent history and it also gives you arbitrage opportunity when trading for value – especially if you’re using TCG Mid pricing!
With this recent drop-off in prices, I’ve begun acquiring. I’ll check eBay a couple times a week for auctions ending soon for these blue Duals. If any are still below $130 and their auction ends within about 24 hours, I’ll throw them on my watch list with the intent of bidding.
Mind you, I don’t go chasing. If the auction exceeds my target price of $135, I stop bidding. I’ve admittedly lost more auctions than I’ve won. But with enough patience, I’ve acquired two Tropical Islands and two Tundras at what I’d consider to be favorable pricing.
These recent acquisitions, along with my currently built Legacy deck, makes up the vast majority of my Legacy portfolio. By focusing on Dual Lands I dodge any reprint risk and gain upside potential from more than just Legacy. Dual Lands are played in casual formats and Vintage, so any increase in player base for these formats can also bump the price of Duals higher.
There are only so many of these in existence and Wizards of the Coast has pledged they will never print more again. I’ll maintain a diversified approach, but I really like the story on Dual Lands right now and I plan on continuing to invest here.
Booster Boxes – 15%
I have gone through great lengths to significantly reduce my exposure to Booster Boxes. These are still the safest investment you could make in MTG Finance, but returns are so slow and moving these can be cumbersome. Shipping a Booster Box is a pain, and the $12 cost really reduces profitability. Combine shipping cost with fees and you need to see a solid 20% appreciation in a booster box investment before truly becoming profitable.
Most of the time a 20% increase is inevitable… it may just take years. I’m not interested in waiting years anymore. So I sold most of my booster box investment.
I still own a good collection of Return to Ravnica boxes alongside two Avacyn Restored boxes.
I’m fine with holding these for another year or so. There is enough eternal and casual gold in these sets to justify a higher and higher price tag. But once they are gone, I may not invest heavily in sealed product ever again. It’s just so much easier to make money elsewhere.
Casual – 15%
This catch-all bucket comprises my “keeper” cards. These are things like my Jaya Ballard, Task Mage collection and angel collection. Also included are a handful of older cards like Island of Wak-Wak and Shahrazad that I keep because of my love for their flavor. It’s likely I don’t sell these cards until I quit Magic for good (or my son goes to college, whichever happens first). But because there’s sufficient value in them, I make sure to include them in my portfolio assessment.
I’ll likely continue to add to this collection over time as I find more flavorful cards I enjoy enough to buy. I’ll also continue to dabble in cheaper casual staples that Wizards prints because of their slow-and-steady trends upward. But because casual formats are not my expertise, my focus on EDH and Cube staples will remain small.
Vintage – 12%
This bucket fluctuates the most drastically simply because the cards I include in the category are worth so much. I may pick up two pieces of Power only to immediately flip them for a modest profit. My intent is always to hold onto a Mox or two alongside a few Mana Drains, but these are so easy to move right now that I can’t resist taking the guaranteed profit.
Italian Mana Drains are now selling for $100+ on eBay. A couple months ago you could buy a played English copy for a similar price. Star City Games has been sold out of Mana Drains for an eternity now and a price increase is inevitable.
I don’t necessarily want to bet the farm on these simply because they’re not on the Reserved List. Upside is much reduced at these new prices as well. But buying these at their old prices (still possible, I find) or trading into them can yield nice returns.
And, of course, Power is Power. It’s been on a tear over the last few months much like other Vintage staples. People want these for their cubes as well. When the dust settles at the end of this year, I hope to have at least two Moxen in my portfolio for a mid-term investment. But as long as I can virtually sell them for profit before I even receive the cards in the mail, I’ll continue to play the quick flip game for the easy buck.
Standard – 3%
“Wait a second, Sig. You’ve been pushing Temples and Thoughtseizes so hard these last couple months and your Standard portfolio is only 3% of your total MTG investment?!”
The reason – Standard cards are just so cheap! I can buy thirty Temples for less than $100. I can grab a couple playsets of Thoughtseize for under $100 as well. And my other Standard bets are tiny and unfocused. My strategy with Standard has always been to acquire staples after they’ve proven themselves in a new format. I miss out on the maximum potential profit, but I find there’s still plenty of opportunity to buy Standard cards on the way up.
So when Khans of Tarkir is released in the fall, I will monitor tournament results VERY closely. I will actively buy cards that make a strong showing with the intent of selling them just a few weeks later after they finish their run. I find this strategy yields decent profits with very little risk – a risk/reward balance that fits my appetite perfectly. So while my Standard holdings seem very tiny right now, they should spike for about a month come this fall.
Still, despite all of this, my attention on Standard is always limited. For one, it takes massive buying of Standard cards to equal one Mox or a couple Dual Lands. And it’s much easier for me to move a Mox Ruby than it is moving 100 Temples. With this in mind, I’ll always put more emphasis on eternal staples.
Summing it Up
That about sums it up! Now you have a good idea of where my money is currently parked.
Are you surprised with any components of the breakdown? I know I was! I had no clue I still had so much emphasis on Modern. The more I think about it, the more I hope my Shock Lands option is called away so that I can reduce my exposure to the format in the short term. I’d much rather have the cash right now so I could buy a few foil Shocks, a couple more Dual Lands, and have the rest available for some quick buying come Standard rotation.
My top focus areas right now remain well-priced Mana Drains, Tropical Islands and Tundras, with a few Temples thrown into the mix for good measure. I’m sure this will shift some come the fall when prices move around again. But for now, I like where I’m at and, other than my undesirably large Modern position, I am quite pleased with my shift in focus. Hopefully the moves pay out as we close out 2014!
- In case you missed it, Maralen of the Mornsong was bought out on TCG Player. The card was priced at $1.99 at Star City Games. Of course they’re sold out now and the restocked price will surely be higher. But keep your eye out for these in trade binders – especially foils, which are also sold out at $19.99!
- A sudden interest in Goblin Guide has driven the price of the one-drop creature much higher. He’s now sold out at Star City Games with a price tag of $19.99, with a price bump very likely in the short term.
- The recent reappearance of Slivers in Magic 2015 has sent many Sliver prices much higher. Foil Magma Sliver: sold out at $11.99. Foil Pulmonic Sliver: sold out at $6.99. And Horned Sliver: sold out at $3.99. Just as a few examples. If you have any old Slivers lying around, I’d make sure you centralize them in your trade binders. You never know when you’ll come across that crazed Sliver fan who wants all the Slivers and will give you a premium in trade for having many available.