Insider: Beyond Magic – Applying Finance Skills to Other Areas

Mike-Lanigan QS Magic the Gathering MTG

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If you're like most of our readers here on Quiet Speculation, you have developed a very specific skill set, whether through reading articles, buying and selling, or running a store.

The brokers on Wall Street have the same type of skills; they just apply them on a much larger scale and usually with other people’s money. You are most likely working with a smaller budget, trying to use your knowledge to pay for your hobby or make some extra money on the side.

Regardless of your goals, the skills are the same. And there's no reason they can't be applied to other financial situations.

Today I'd like to show how these skills can be generalized to other, non-Magic areas of finance. I'll describe a situation I ran into at the Fantasy Flight World Championships which I was able to capitalize on. Along the way we'll highlight the basic skills I applied to turn a profit.

Step 1 - Identify an Opportunity

The first skill I want to outline for you today is identifying an opportunity. Listening to what other players are saying about the next big deck or an underrated card are key components of this process. We all rely on others to some degree.

Take a glance, for instance, at almost any Magic finance article. Somewhere in that piece of writing, you are likely to find the writer mentioning a specific card or cards which, in their opinion, are likely to increase or decrease depending on the situation.

They are giving out advice and ideas about possible opportunities. It’s your job to analyze those thoughts for accuracy and then act if you believe the reward is worth your risk.

Asking questions is key. If someone is passionate about a possible spec, they will have good reasons for their stance. Make sure you understand their argument, and if you agree, you can use that knowledge to your benefit.

We can apply this skill to things outside of Magic too, as I did at the Fantasy Flight World Championships this past week.

If you follow me on Twitter (@mtgjedi), then you most likely know that I attended that event for a game called Star Wars: X-wing Miniatures. This is the best miniatures game I’ve ever played. In the year since I started I've had a ton of fun, and also gotten fairly good at it.

The World Championship is held for all of Fantasy Flight’s games simultaneously, so when we checked in they gave us a nice package of free stuff for all their games.

As I was waiting for the event to start, I heard some players discussing the promo cards we received. Apparently, one of them was worth quite a bit of money. Immediately I heard opportunity knocking.

As we got to talking, I discovered that many of the promos were valuable, due to being relatively rare and unique. Think of them like Regional PTQ promos, except instead of being foil, they have alternate, extended art.

Opportunities come in all manner of sizes. For us here at Quiet Spec, they are usually rectangular pieces of cardboard with a specific logo, but don’t limit yourself to that one thing.

I’ve heard successful stories about Magic finance people diving into classic video games, other collectible card games, even things like digital copies of DVDs. Learn the skills and apply them wherever you see fit.

Step 2 - Take Action

I didn't fare well in the event, but I was able to make the most of the trip anyway. After the event, I changed gears and went into dealer mode.

If you are confident in an investment, you have to be willing to take the risk. At first, I started small.

I made a conservative bet on the most in-demand promo and bought a couple copies from other players. Together with my copy and my other promos, I started creating some eBay listings right there at the convention. In situations like this, it’s best to seize the opportunity as quickly as possible before it's gone.

This initial purchase went astoundingly well for me. Not only did I make money on these cards, I sold them in less than a day. To top it off, the other promos I listed sold extremely quickly as well.

It’s rare to see a return on your investment so quickly. In those cases where you do, it may signal additional opportunities to profit.

3. Profit, Now What?

I could have been content covering my flight to Minneapolis, but instead I sought out more sellers.

In this unfamiliar market, I had plenty of uncertainty brewing my head. To figure out the price trajectory of these promos, I tried to apply another basic Magic finance skill--determining the level of demand.

Understanding the desirability of cards, better known as demand, is key to any buy. This comes into play with every season of preorders, when we as financiers are forced to project the future price of the new cards. It's a difficult task, but if you can identify underpriced preorders, you can profit from them even in this market dictated highly by technology and media.

While I was dissecting my eBay listings, I pondered whether they sold so quickly because I was among the first to list them, or because the demand was truly there. How badly did people really want these?

It seemed the circumstances wouldn't happen again, so I decided to push my advantage and reinvest my entire profit margin into more cards.

As far as I know, I was the only one buying promos onsite. The only dealer there was the store owner and he wasn’t buying. Singles for these games typically aren't for sale, as their distribution model is different from Magic (they are so-called Living Card Games, or LCGs.)

Just like when a new set releases, there was very little data to base my buy prices on. A couple cards had solid trends on eBay that gave me good numbers to go off of. But data on most of the cards was very sparse, so I had to base buy prices on rough estimates of their value.

In some cases, I bought too high and my margin was quite small; in others, I bought very low and ended up with a huge profit margin. With nearly all cards involved though, I made some profit.

Generalized Knowledge

I had a terrific experience deciphering this new finance puzzle that had been plopped down in front of me. And of course, the situation relates back to Magic finance.

If you're creating your own buylist for your Magic inventory, you can follow other sites' example, but you might miss out on potential for your specific store. Customizing your buylist to your precise needs will lead to larger gains and provide the cards your community needs more often.

However you make your money, only you can decide what to do with your profits. If you are running a business, I recommend reinvesting as much as possible. That sequence leads to the most growth in the shortest amount of time.

If you are just starting out in the finance community, make a small investment and then use those profits to fuel your next one. You can snowball a small sum of money into a much larger one if you're careful about what you invest in and liquidate quickly to lock in profits.

Hopefully this analogy didn’t lose your interest because as you can see, it correlates directly to Magic. I may have been investing in cards from other games, but the process is the same.

Fetch Lands & Commander 2015

You may recall last week that I discussed the possible reprinting of fetch lands. My instinct was that we'd see them in the Commander 2015 product, which turned out to be incorrect. Nevertheless, I don't regret moving half a dozen extra fetches and turning them into a different investment.

After a quick overview of the new Commander decks, it seems there are few cards of note. The decks may be good fun for the multiplayer community but I don’t like them from a financial perspective.

The only cards I see worth mentioning are the new Commands, called "Confluences." This cycle looks strong for any multiplayer setting, and players of this type won’t be satisfied with just one copy. Fans of Commander and other multiplayer formats typically have lots of decks built. These are the type of fair, yet powerful cards they are looking to jam in every deck in their arsenal.

Mystic Confluence

Of the cards in this cycle, only Mystic Confluence is more than $3-4. All five of these cards seem like a great long-term hold to me. To touch briefly on buylists again, I will be buying all of these cards at a high percentage. That's due partly to the casual crowd that populates my store, but also to the potential growth I see in them.

As for fetches, we now have a decision to make. Each of us needs to decide whether or not we think Wizards will reprint these enemy fetch lands in Shadows Over Innistrad.

If you think it’s unlikely they'll be in that set, start acquiring these lands immediately. Without a mass reprint, the influx of fetches from Khans of Tarkir will only hold the price down for so long.

Personally, I think the second installment of Innistrad is the perfect place for these lands to reappear. The introduction of that set to Standard will mark the exit of Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged. The enemy fetches would pair perfectly with the full ten Battle lands that will be legal.

Would that make mana too good? Only time will tell, but my bet is fetch land reprints in April.


When do you think the fetches will be reprinted again? Have you used your Magic finance skills in another area? Let me know in the comments.

Until next time,
Unleash the Finance Force!

Mike Lanigan
MtgJedi on Twitter

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Mike Lanigan

Mike Lanigan is high school math teacher by day and a shop owner by night. His tournament grinding may have slowed a little, but his love of the game has not. Mike's goal is to bring you a mix of perspectives from shop-owner insights to finance tips to metagame shifts and everything in between.

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Posted in Buying, Finance, Free Insider, Predictions, SellingTagged , , , , , ,

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7 thoughts on “Insider: Beyond Magic – Applying Finance Skills to Other Areas

  1. Hi Mike, good choice of topic. Besides MTG, I also speculate on collectible toys, and the points you make are true. From my experience, the most money is made when we are ahead of the trend, as you were, buying promo cards before others. Of course, being ahead is not easy…

  2. Being ahead is definitely not easy. I’ve managed to do it a couple times but it soesn’t happen often. What type of collectible toys do you buy and sell? That’s an interesting one I haven’t heard yet.

    1. I invest/speculate in limited edition Marvel statues from XM Studios, a local Singaporean company that is becoming popular internationally. And some Lego limited edition sets as well.

      In my experience, being ahead requires a combination of knowledge and luck. Yes, it definitely doesn’t happen often.

  3. I think it\’s so cool that you were able, in the course of a day, to spot the opportunity and start profiting on it. This is the kind of dream scenario we look for – the market that nobody else is taking seriously yet.

    1. Yeah, it was an exhilarating experience. There was a lot of uncertainty entering a new market so quickly but luckily most of that risk was an illusion due it just being a new thing for me.

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