A couple years ago I made a rare purchase out of weakness. I had significant emotional attachment to the Homelands set, it being one of the first sets I bought packs of as a kid, and I decided to purchase a complete set of Homelands. The eBay listing cost me about $43.
Talk about a waste of money, right?
Sure, there’s no way I could sell the individual cards of the set for $43—the price I paid was more to cover someone’s time and effort to assemble the set than the value of the cards themselves. It is not my financial folly that I want to touch upon this week, however. Instead, I want to point out a couple of interesting trends in some of Magic’s most detested sets in history.
My Homelands set is a frequent reminder of some of these unexpected trends. Perhaps after finishing this column, you won’t be so inclined to breeze past cards from these horrendous sets when digging through bulk bins at your LGS. There are quite a few pleasant surprises.
Despite the massive print run and lack of demand for Homelands, a few cards managed to break beyond bulk that I think are worth thinking about. We all know about the iconic Baron Sengir—this wouldn’t be a very valuable article if that was the only card I mentioned. Fortunately, I think there are a few more obscure and far more interesting cards to keep an eye out for from the unpopular set.
For example, my favorite speculation target from Homelands would have to be Koskun Falls.
This card spiked back in July—perhaps as part of the Reserved List buyouts that occurred this past summer—and has held its price fairly robustly since. Sure, the card is a bit odd in that it’s an enchant world. But it’s a Propaganda effect, in black, and on the Reserved List. To me this is a recipe for success. That $1.50 buy price is nothing to sneeze at either. If you can find any copies of this card make sure you tuck them away for a rainy day.
If Koskun Falls is a little tricky to track down in bulk, here’s another idea: Merchant Scroll. The blue card from Homelands was printed at common, so it’s very likely to show up in any Homelands bulk. You can see its price has also been on the move lately, despite being from that detested 1996 set.
Its top buy list is now $0.65. To me, that’s more than worth pulling out of bulk whenever possible. After all, if you want a non-foil, black-bordered copy of this card there’s only one option: Homelands.
How could I possibly forget Didgeridoo? Remember when that card was $7 for about a day?
I’ll admit I like this card much less than Merchant Scroll and Koskun Falls. But it is on the Reserved List and it does buylist for a buck. I’d discourage speculating on this one in favor of the other two, but I would be remiss not to mention this card's above-bulk status.
Lastly, keep the following cards in mind: Leeches, Narwhal and Timmerian Fiends. All three of these are above bulk and buylist for at least $0.50. I list these cards separately because I do not advocate speculating on them. They’re all a trap. But I can’t deny the fact that they randomly have value nowadays. If you come across bulk Homelands cards, these are three other cards you cannot overlook…no matter how ridiculous it is. (I mean, an ante card, really?)
Back in 1997-1998, my LGS had packs of all the recent Standard sets. However those packs typically retailed for $2.95. They did have packs of cards from two different sets that were cheaper (read: more affordable for a 14-year-old). The only set cheaper than Homelands ($1.75 a pack) was Fallen Empires ($0.50 a pack). Needless to say, poor income-less me picked up my fair share of both.
This card has miraculously been moving higher lately. Part of that is due to recent interest that some people have taken to using these lands for pack wars (disclaimer: I myself have about 40 of these for pack wars). Apparently enough people are taking notice because buylists are now reaching $1.00. It won’t ever be a $20 Legacy staple, but the card is very unique and will never be printed again. It may be worth grabbing a few to sit on for a year.
Sadly, there’s only one more noteworthy card worth mentioning: Goblin Warrens.
I guess even bad Goblin tribal cards are worth money nowadays? The artwork may be amusing, but the $0.30 buylist is actually not something to laugh at. Pull these out of Fallen Empire bulk whenever you find them.
Of course, Chronicles cards are more desirable than Homelands and Fallen Empires. They don’t really belong in the same category. The reason I lump them together is twofold. First, the set is known for its disastrous impact on the secondary market. Second, it’s the third and final set that I could buy packs of for below MSRP growing up.
In this set I need to be careful. Talking about Blood Moon is inconsequential—everyone knows this card is valuable. But believe it or not, there are some up-and-coming cards from this white-bordered set that may be worth buying and holding onto.
One card that may surprise you is Hell's Caretaker.
I’ll be honest with you: I don’t have a clue why this card spiked in April this year. But for whatever reason, the card popped from $1.75 to $2.75 during the spring. The card has been selling off since the spike, but eventually it will settle and flatten out. That may be a good time to buy.
The other Chronicles card I want to highlight is Concordant Crossroads. While not nearly as under-the-radar as Hell's Caretaker, this green enchant world is still worth far more than many may realize.
After flat-lining for years, the card just began gaining price traction in 2016. Much like the Caretaker, I’m not really sure why now, after 20 years, this card is finally gaining price traction. It can’t be any significantly rarer now than it was a year ago, right?
Either way, the ability this card offers is very strong. Wizards has shown a willingness to print cards at the same power level with the colorshifted Mass Hysteria, but haste is no longer considered part of green's color pie. So if you want this effect in this color, Crossroads is the only option. For this reason alone I’d keep this on your radar as a card worth picking up in trade.
Wrapping It Up
Homelands. Fallen Empires. Chronicles. These are three sets that have been written off as worthless for over a decade. Yet the year 2016, for some reason, has catalyzed movement in a number of surprisingly obscure cards. Would you have ever guessed that Narwhal would become one of the most valuable cards in Homelands? I sure wouldn’t have! (Aside: I believe there’s a person who is collecting Narwhals…either way, the card is worth more now than it was last year!)
As a person who has enjoyed Magic for 19 years, I can certainly appreciate the flavor these old sets have to offer. Therefore I naturally get excited when I see these price movements. I hope that by flagging some of them, you may have reason to look through any bulk from these sets you encounter, being sure to keep a sharper eye for cards mentioned in this article.
Chances are that not many people know Leeches is a card worth nonzero dollars—use this awareness to your advantage. Find enough quarters and dollars and you just may eek a little more cash out of a collection you bought. With many of the cards listed here as common or uncommon, there’s even more reason to look closely as you skim.
The classic feel, obscureness, and flavor of these cards are enough to get me interested in them. That’s why I purchased that Homelands set a while back. But then you add in the fact that some of these cards also show up on the Reserved List! This suddenly makes the proposition more interesting.
Granted, you won’t make millions buying out copies of Didgeridoo. But you can move the market if you wanted to do so. I’m not saying it’s a good idea—but it may be interesting to try.
You never know; maybe Soraya the Falconer will be the next $3 Homelands card. Stranger things have happened!
- ABU Games is currently offering $0.50 on Narwhal. I would sell any copies you can find hand-over-fist at that price. Why do I suggest this? Star City Games has 118 copies in stock with Near Mint copies listed at $0.99. There’s no way this price sticks. The price may have spiked, but it is far from sustainable.
- Contrast that to Didgeridoo, where Star City Games has 11 total copies in stock. There are far fewer of these available, and Near Mint copies are actually selling at $1.99. The tribal aspect of this card—yes even though it’s Minotaurs—makes it actually worth picking and keeping for long-term growth potential.
- There are a few Homelands cards actually sold out at Star City Games: Ebony Rhino, Serrated Arrows, Truce, Veldrane of Sengir, Willow Priestess, and Winter Sky. I wouldn’t necessarily buy TCGPlayer out of these cards, but they may be worth checking out. Some of these are fairly unique, others are on the Reserved List, and all of them merit picking from bulk for long-term potential.