I’ve spent many words recently discussing all the best targets to pick up for play in Old School. Whether you’re interested in investing in the format’s premier cards or you’re primarily looking for budget options just to test out the format with some friends, there’s one thing we all have in common here at Quiet Speculation: we all like deals.
The reason we work together is to make Magic: the Gathering a little bit more affordable. This is true for Standard FNM grinders as well as kitchen table casuals. Old School players are no exception. Sure, we may end up paying exorbitant amounts for silly cards like Erhnam Djinn when there are far-cheaper copies available in older printings…
…But that doesn’t mean we want to overpay for said cards. No, we want to pay competitive prices and save a little bit of money just like the next person.
Now that I’ve been shopping around for Old School MTG cards for almost two years, I feel prepared to share some of the secrets I uncovered when seeking out those good deals.
The High End
Some Old School players really prefer the cream of the crop for their decks. They aren’t interested in some beat-up Revised Savannah Lions for their White Weenie deck—instead, they want that Near Mint Beta copy to show off. I’ve discovered a couple possible venues to investigate for just this sort of buyer.
First, anyone who wants to purchase high-end cards such as these should be a member of the High End Facebook Group. It seems like there’s a perpetual selection of Power, duals, and graded collectible cards in these forums. I have made multiple purchases and sales with this group and I highly recommend perusing the postings from time to time. Even if you never make a purchase, lurking in this group can still educate you on prices and what is selling well versus what isn’t.
If you prefer to avoid risky dealings with individuals, may I recommend a website that may seem a bit surprising: Cool Stuff Inc. That’s right, I’ve found that Cool Stuff Inc has some of the most competitive prices on the most useful Old School staples. For example, there is a very attractive Beta Armageddon for sale on their site right now for $199.99. Factor in the loyalty member discount many frequent shoppers get, and you could be paying around $190 for this card.
It’s difficult to price-compare here, as most other stores don’t have a Beta Armageddon in stock. Star City Games is completely sold out. ABU Games has a far worse copy for sale for $299.99 and a Slightly Played copy for $349.99. The cheapest copy on TCG Player is Moderately Played and $213 plus shipping (from a seller with 96.6% positive feedback). Chances are that copy will look significantly worse than Cool Stuff’s.
In general I’ve found Cool Stuff to have very competitive prices on Alpha, Beta, and Unlimited cards. They don’t always have a ton in stock, but there is usually a decent selection of high-end Old School cards at fair prices. They also offer a 30% trade-in bonus, so leveraging store credit with the Florida-based store offers an even more attractive proposition.
One last idea I have for high-end cards is eBay. But you can’t just browse buy-it-now listings—anything actively listed on eBay is probably too expensive, or the Old School/collector crowd would have snapped up the cards already. Instead, I have found that a very specific type of eBay listing can lead to bargain prices: auctions on not-quite-Near-Mint cards.
The sweet spot seems to be BGS 7.5 to BGS 8.5 graded cards listed at auction with a low starting bid. Collectors have no interest in paying premium on these cards because their condition isn’t special. Players don’t want to have to deal with the slabbed cards. Thus the population of bidders for such auctions is surprisingly small. Listings like these don’t go live all that often, so you’ll have to search frequently for them. But when you land that deal, it can be pretty rewarding.
Let’s say you are interested in some Beta cards for Old School but you don’t necessarily need one in gorgeous condition. Perhaps you appreciate black-bordered cards but don’t care how played they are because you plan on shuffling them up anyways.
First off, Cool Stuff Inc has the occasional played card for very cheap as well. I have picked up a few MP Beta rares from this site for sub $10, which is virtually unheard of anywhere else on the internet, regardless of rarity. And one of them (Timber Wolves) was even playable!
That said, I have a few new ideas if you’re less picky about condition.
I find that Star City Games often has reasonable SP and MP pricing on some of the classics. I just recently bought a Slightly Played Beta Icy Manipulator from their online store for $49.99—this same card probably sells for $10-$15 more on eBay.
Another example would be Ball Lightning from The Dark. Quiet Speculation writer Niels Rietkerk recently pointed out to me that Star City Games had very competitive prices on this card, especially during their Valentine’s Week sale. Paying $6 for Near Mint copies seems very reasonable when there are so few for sale online (ranging from $6 to $7). Once again, store credit makes this proposition even more attractive.
Star City Games isn’t the best for all your Old School favorites, however. Sometimes their pricing is a bit high relative to the rest of the market. This is where you have to be very astute in your shopping.
You could check TCG Player for Moderately Played and Heavily Played copies—once in a while you can find something underpriced. Recently I found an MP Alpha Fireball on TCG Player for $5 shipped, which is a steal since they buylist for $6 to Star City Games. Occasionally, you may even find good prices on played cards at ABU Games. Much of what they have feels inflated, likely a result of their 50% trade-in bonus. But sometimes they have a “PLD” copy in stock that looks closer to SP than MP and that 50% trade-in credit makes the deal attractive enough.
Old School on a Budget
It’s nice that I can find $50 Icy Manipulators and $5 Fireballs, but how about the players who have no interest in paying such crazy prices to play Old School? Rest assured, I have some advice for you as well.
Last week I touched upon a recent trend in budget Old School: Collectors’ Edition and International Edition cards. These remain one of the best budget options for entering Old School or building additional budget decks to share with friends. And even though this trend is slowly catching on, there are still a few good deals out there.
It seems TCG Player and eBay are nearly cleared out of the square-cornered cards, making prices artificially high. I definitely caution you to look at eBay completed listings and TCG Market Pricing when purchasing from these sites. You may be better off going a different route…
Enter the most ironic point of this article: the oft-most-overpriced vendors seem to have some of the best prices on CE and IE cards, at least for now. For example, Card Kingdom’s current pricing on CE Disrupting Scepter—an Old School staple—is $1.29. This is far below market pricing on all fronts!
Sadly, they’re sold out and I expect they will bump their prices in the near future. But there are a handful of situations like these worth checking frequently. A couple of strategic alerts on Card Kingdom could lead you to a budget pickup. After all, $1.29 is far cheaper than the Beta copy, at $254.99 on the same site!
If you don’t want to deal with browsing out-of-stock CE and IE cards, then I have one last budget idea for you. One of my favorite things to do when I’m bored and in the mood to fill out my Old School collection further is to browse all of TCG Player’s stock for Beta and Unlimited commons and uncommons. I look to see if there are any incongruous prices, such as an LP copy priced below all MP copies or the like. Sometimes I pull up Star City Games’ buylist and compare TCG cards with the buylist, looking for listings with very close spreads.
While this won’t make me money immediately, it does give me additional budget options with which to build in Old School while also getting cards that will likely turn a profit over the coming months. It’s a great way to pick up a few pieces to fill in gaps for a deck while you’re waiting for funds to get more optimal components.
Wrapping It Up
When it comes to shopping for Old School cards, you need to peruse many different sites to make sure you’re getting the absolute best deal. When supply is so limited, it’s easy to overpay. I’ve found the best way to avoid this pitfall is to browse the sites I mentioned throughout this article. And depending on what I’m after, there are certain sites I default to first before others.
If I’m after something more high-end such as Beta staples or even Power, then the High End Facebook group or Cool Stuff Inc are the places I look to. If my goal is to trade cards in for played stuff, then ABU Games and Star City Games may be the best route. If I want to spend cash on some budget options, TCG Player can be a useful tool.
Before concluding, I want to mention two sites that I didn’t touch upon in my article: Card Shark and Channel Fireball.
I don’t recommend shopping for Old School stuff at Card Shark because supply is extremely limited. I find there are one or two sellers who have a bunch of older cards and that’s about it. Once in a while you can get lucky, and Card Shark is still one of the best sites to look to while a buyout is happening. But if you’re just browsing for discounted cards for Old School, I don’t think Card Shark should be your first stop.
For Channel Fireball, I have found they are far better to sell to than to buy from for Old School stuff. They have very competitive buy prices, especially on Near Mint copies of the Old School staples. They do have the occasional underpriced Alpha Uncommon or Common, but this is infrequent.
My advice to you here is to browse TCG Player first—Channel Fireball lists much of their Old School stock on TCG Player anyway. If you see an instance where Channel Fireball is competitively priced on an Old School card, you can then navigate to their website and purchase the card directly at a lower price. Don’t forget that 5% off coupon code!
Hopefully these ideas will help you build out your Old School decks and old set collections in an affordable way—well, as affordable as it can be at least. When supply is so low, shopping around the internet is a must, and some sites are better than others depending on what you’re after. I hope you leverage this information to find what you’re looking for. Happy hunting!
- Wheel of Fortune stock is very limited. Star City Games has a couple sets of played Revised copies ($44.99) and one MP Unlimited copy ($59.99) in stock and that’s it. Being a highly useful card on the Reserved List, I don’t see this one pulling back in price any time soon. I’d suggest getting any copies you need right away—don’t forget to look at CE and IE as budget alternatives!
- I follow a bunch of Old School players on Twitter, and recently I’ve noticed a couple using Storm Seekers in their build. I remember playing this card as a kid, but I never considered it as Old School playable. Supply is starting to dwindle on this Legends uncommon, and Star City Games is completely sold out at $2.99. I’d keep an eye on this one.
- Another Old School card worth picking up is Juggernaut. I initially wrote this one off because it dies to Lightning Bolt, preferring Su-Chi as an alternative. But if your opponent doesn’t have that Bolt, then a 5/3 attacking in the early game can be a real threat. Perhaps that is why Star City Games is completely sold out of Alpha ($59.99), Beta ($39.99), Collectors’ Edition ($1.49), and International Edition ($1.99) copies. Right now they have just a few Unlimited copies in stock, but $4.99 for Near Mint is surprisingly high. This card is definitely on the up-trend though, so I’m sure prices will climb again in the future.