I speculate very little. I also speculate a lot. It all depends on your viewpoint. As a collector, my long-term goal is completing a playset of Magic, and the trader in me supports this goal because I am speculating that Magic as a whole will remain a very good investment. As a trader, though, I speculate very little because I am quite risk-averse and do not usually have enough faith in a given card. The main form of speculation I regularly engage in is to pull cards from bulk and set them aside hoping they will increase, but this is essentially riskless speculation, as I can always still move those cards as bulk in the future if they do not pan out.
This article is about one of the few times I have actually speculated as a trader.
Back in 2013, the Mind Seize deck was released. This was a very popular Commander deck for several reasons. Initially, it was primarily because the deck contained True-Name Nemesis, the chase card of Commander 2013, but it was also found to have a very popular Commander: Nekusar, the Mindrazer. Nekusar inspired spikes in cards such as Wheel and Deal and Wheel of Fortune. The latter has since spiked again.
Thinking about this, I realized that there were other cards with effects similar to the Wheels. As at the time I was working on my Glissa, the Traitor Commander deck, Memory Jar was already on my mind. I reckoned that it had the ideal characteristics to follow the Wheels: it is old and Reserved, it is colorless (so it fits into more EDH decks) and while it does draw the opponents a lot of cards, it does not let them keep them. The card is also banned in Legacy, but there might even be a tiny chance that it ever becomes unbanned there and sees a serious spike as a result.
I decided that Jar would be a good long-term spec, because even if Nekusar wouldn't be enough to push it, there may still be newer cards released that ultimately get it there. This led to:
I basically included as many Jars as I could find in the €3.5 to €5 range whenever I placed an order somewhere. I also placed a couple of orders with mostly Jars on TCGplayer. Finally, I got a whole bunch as part of a collection that had a major Urza's Legacy component (to give you an idea: there were at least 50 copies of every common except for Rancor, which he had already sold at some point). I made sure not to do an actual buyout: I believed the card would get there on its own, and it is much easier to move cards that actually reach a value normally.
Trends and Movement
Initially, nothing much happened. We saw a very slow rise in 2014, but if you remember my Fun with Graphs article, the same thing happened to the whole of Magic, so that's not saying much. Contrary to the overall trend, Jar continued rising in 2015 and remained stable when Magic as a whole dropped at the end of the year. Early in 2016, buylists were up to about $4 and retail was about $6.50, so I was starting to approach profits. This is around the time that people were getting more and more worried about reprints, and as such, people started looking towards Reserved List cards more than they had been.
An estimated print run of 180 million cards with one rare per 15-card booster pack implies 12 million rares. With 44 rares in the set, this means that there should be roughly 273,0000 Memory Jars in existence, which is in the same ballpark as Revised rares and The Dark uncommon 2s. Obviously this is just guesswork, but it gives you a feel for how many might be around even if the numbers are off. Jar is a prominent card by virtue of being banned or restricted pretty much everywhere and also for being arguably the only emergency-banned card in history (Wizards says it was not, but it got added to the ban list announcement to be banned at the first possible opportunity after its release). Beyond that, it's known to be quite good and playable for pretty much the same reasons as I also came up with. It is not unthinkable that people looking to invest in Reserved List cards identify it as one of the better options available.
Later in 2016, the card really started moving, possibly because of Leovold, Emissary of Trest being printed in August and subsequently drawing more attention to card drawers. It is now showing one of the best price trends available and, very importantly, the buylists are following! My usual out would now give me considerably more for them than I paid. Time to celebrate!
The Plan Moving Forward
The thing is: do I get out here? I believe that doing so would be a mistake. Wheel of Fortune from Revised is similarly rare and arguably has worse characteristics except for its lower converted mana cost. I believe that Jar can easily pass $20 and may even touch $30 on a good day in a couple of years, if not sooner. I am in no rush to move them, and in fact, I will hold for now.
As I am not moving them now, I should think about the risks of holding. Here's the main ones I identified, plus my thoughts on them:
- Keeping the money tied up means I won't have it available for other investments – As I don't commonly speculate, however, this is not a big concern.
- The card might be banned in Commander – I don't think this is likely; it's good, but it doesn't meet the Commander banning criteria.
- The card might be banned in Vintage – Just kidding; this is all but impossible.
- Something better might be printed – In Commander, you don't mind playing multiple cards with similar effects; paradoxically, a new and better card may even increase interest in older cards for this reason; also it would mean that Wizards would be crazy enough to print a card better than an arguably emergency-banned card, and I am giving the development team more credit than that.
- Interest in Magic and/or Commander wanes – It's possible, but I would have a much bigger problem than a handful of Memory Jars in that case, and I am working under the assumption that this will not happen.
Basically, I see risks, but I believe that they are small.
So how would you move a card like this when it's ultimately time? The best time to move it is at a time of peak interest. I am patient, so I can hold these for many more years. I believe that we can count on Wizards releasing more and more cards that interact favorably with drawing lots of cards. I think that, for me, it would be best to wait for a time when I can get my desired profit after such a card has just been released.
I'm setting my target at $25 credit or better at my favorite store, because that's likely how I will be moving them. I could get more profit by selling or trading, but that would take more effort. When I balance things out, I am likely to get a more interesting deal just buylisting them. Not everyone is like me, though. I would definitely recommend keeping a few in your binder, and when Commander players tell you about their decks, point out the card to them if it would make a good addition. I will also be trading some for bulk rares, as I get a good enough deal on those to already get close to my desired amount of credit.
It's a shame that Wizards printed the From the Vault: Relics version or this would have likely made an ever better spec. That said, I definitely believe that there are still good profits to be had even if you get in today – assuming you are patient.