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Insider: Cashing In on Recent Catalysts

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As you can imagine, news from last week has been a huge boon for me as a Magic investor. First we saw the jump in many Alpha, Beta, Unlimited, and Revised cards on Star City Games, including noteworthy price adjustment in dual lands. Then the day after we got the announcement of the decade: the return of the Modern Pro Tour and a team Pro Tour that includes Legacy!

There’s no way I could have predicted the latter, although in hindsight it makes perfect sense given the stale taste of Standard. However I would be remiss not to acknowledge my foresight for the former. While I won’t turn this article into 1500 words of boasting, I do want to at least share some snippets of previous articles where I predicted Star City’s inevitable moves.

On July 10th I mentioned Underground Sea in particular.

July 10th

I also mentioned it in the same place on July 3rd.

July 3rd

But my June 12th article is the most prescient, in my opinion—I gave the following analysis:

Last QS Mention

By the way, did you see my mention of Drop of Honey in the Sigbits section of that article? Just saying.


Okay, Enough Bragging Sig

You’re right. These significant moves in Old School and Reserved List cards happen on Star City Games only on occasion, so it’s really exciting when they all come through at once. It feels like my investment strategy of sticking with these classic cards is continuing to work, and it motivates me to be even more focused on this area going forward.

So where do we go from here? Well for starters, the rest of the market is likely to follow Star City Games in pricing. I noticed after SCG bumped their buy price on Underground Sea to $300, Card Kingdom promptly jumped theirs from $235 to $285. I followed this one closely, but I imagine many other cards will follow suit.


This means we will see migration of dual lands from players back to retailers—it’s truly a seller’s market. If you’ve been looking to unload a few duals, now may be the easiest time to do so. I’ve noticed much of the stock on the High End Facebook group selling rapidly and with ease. It’s likely that after the initial shock from this move, dual prices will stabilize and drift sideways for another 18-24 months. So if you invested in some before, I would not fault you for cashing out here to put capital to work elsewhere for a bit.

Where should you be looking to put this newfound cash to work? I have a few ideas!

Other Older Cards

Of course I like any basket-type assortment of Old School cards, but let’s get specific for a moment. The Locust God has awakened demand for Wheel of Fortune type effects, and the namesake itself is a coiled spring looking to pop.


While there are other, similar effects that see a higher play rate in the deck (according to EDH REC), Wheel of Fortune is the one of the few on the Reserved List. When I check stock on TCG Player, the numbers are awfully thin. I see 44 sellers of Revised copies and an abysmal eight sellers of Unlimited copies. Star City Games doesn’t have many copies in stock even despite some price adjustments.

Also, did you notice their NM Alpha and Beta prices are $1250 and $800, respectively?! Meanwhile Unlimited is only $150 (and sold out). That’s a huge multiplier from black-bordered printings to Unlimited, so it makes me most enthusiastic about purchasing Unlimited copies. That said, you’d be fine reaching for some Revised copies as well.

Wheel will spike: it's a matter of when, not if. You might want to keep your eye on Time Spiral too, another prominent Wheel effect that's also on the Reserved List.

Next up, I really like Swords to Plowshares for long-term investment, especially Alpha and Beta copies. These both got a hefty bump from Star City Games—which was completely necessary because they have been nearly out of stock for a long time now.


Funnily enough, they are still nearly out of stock on these. They have zero Alpha in stock ($399.99), one Beta that is MP ($149.99 for MP, $299.99 for NM).

Another card I have had my eye one for quite some time now is Khabál Ghoul. This Arabian Nights Reserved List card seems to be bucking the trend of its contemporaries, in that it hasn’t really moved in price much lately. That could be because the card isn’t all that good, but I would argue there are many poor cards from Magic’s earliest sets that have still jumped in price. Therefore, I’m not giving up on this guy.


Despite TCG Player’s reasonable stock (46 sellers), Card Kingdom has a fairly aggressive buy price of $19.50. That’s not far from TCG Player pricing. Star City Games also has just one SP copy in stock at $29.99 and that’s it. Watch this one closely, and definitely get any copies you want for collecting soon.

Lastly, keep an eye on Pyramids, also a Reserved List card from Arabian Nights. Much like Khabál Ghoul, this card isn’t particularly good. But that hasn’t stopped collectors (and possibly speculators?) from scooping up all the nice copies from the internet.  I only see MP copies or worse remaining on TCG Player, and again Card Kingdom pays very competitively for a card that sees little to no play. A price adjustment upward could happen at any time.

Something Old, Something New…

A week and a half ago I was trying to pick up a few copies of some sleeper Reserved List cards, but I couldn’t find any sellers with more than one or two copies. In fact, many of the copies for sale on TCG Player couldn’t even be bought alone because they didn’t meet the $2 minimum. So I ended up buying six each from Hareruya at around $0.50 a copy.

However, spending $5 at Hareruya is far from ideal when paying a few bucks in shipping. So I threw this into my cart to make the purchase a little more worthwhile:

Lens

That ended up being quite the boon because by the time the card arrived, there were pretty much zero left for sale on the internet. This allowed me to set an attractive price, and within eight hours of listing, the card sold.

I keep returning to the Masterpiece well because it keeps working. I don’t think we’re done yet. It appears EDH staples slowly dry out, speculators take notice and buy up a ton, then relist at a higher price. This creates a perception that the card spiked, even though buyers are hesitant to move in at the higher prices. Still, getting in ahead of the speculators gives you the highest likelihood of profit.

Right now my favorite Masterpiece is Rings of Brighthearth. There are just around a dozen sellers on TCG Player, and the entry price of around $50 is quite reasonable when you consider nonfoil copies retail for $35. If that one doesn’t interest you, Wurmcoil Engine Masterpieces may be a reasonable alternative. There are a few more of those in stock so it may take a bit longer to profit on these, but it has been one of the more popular sellers on TCG Player lately.

Other than Masterpieces with low stock, you may do well to pick up some strategic Modern cards. Now that we have a Modern Pro Tour to look forward to, we’re likely to see more significant movement on format staples. Fetch lands may show some life in particular after getting wrecked by their Modern Masters 2017 reprint.


Thoughtseize has recovered nicely from its Theros reprint, but has plenty of potential to rise higher as long as it dodges further reprinting. It may even become more attractive to pick up Modern Masters 2017 booster boxes as cards from the set regain some demand. Snapcaster Mage and Liliana of the Veil, for example, should start to recover once some Modern Pro Tour hype returns. As the EV on the set stabilizes, boxes will slowly dry up.

Of course if there’s a Modern Masters 2019, then this bet is only viable over the mid-term.  You’ll want to be out of the product by late 2018.

Wrapping It Up

Some players have been vocal in claiming Legacy is a dying format. That may happen eventually, but clearly WoTC is interested in keeping the eternal format around for a bit longer. This is evidenced by its reintroduction to the Pro Tour via the scheduled team event. Channel Fireball is also hosting multiple team events, which will give more opportunity for Legacy coverage. All in all I’d say things aren’t nearly so grim for the format.

I could never have predicted this announcement, though it makes me very happy. What I did anticipate was the coincidental move by Star City Games to increase pricing on many older cards. This writing was on the wall, in my opinion, for many months.

Sitting at new all-time highs for dual lands, I still don’t believe these have peaked. It may take some time now for prices to settle, but this kind of move happens on a somewhat regular basis every 18-24 months. Don’t forget there is demand for duals from EDH players and cube builders as well, so copies will continue to dry up little by little. As this happens, prices will have to rebalance yet again and the cycle will continue.

This type of trend can be expected for as long as Magic remains a healthy game. That’s why I am not planning on cashing out in the near future. I believe there’s still plenty of upside in older cards, and I even mentioned a few specific ones I have my eye on. However if you’d prefer to cash out at these new highs to lock in profits, I wouldn’t blame you. I’d recommend looking into a few Masterpieces or some Modern staples as alternative places to park money. Just be aware of potential reprint pitfalls and keep on your toes so you don’t get burnt!

Sigbits

  • Have you seen Star City Games’s new prices on Chaos Orb? They’re all significantly higher than they were two years ago—a testament to the popularity of Old School MTG! Prices for NM Alpha, Beta, and Unlimited copies are $1000, $800, and $300, respectively. SCG is also completely sold out of all three, so I wonder if they’re even getting new copies in with their new, higher buy prices!
  • Star City Games also upped their sell prices on Alpha and Beta Icy Manipulator. Remember when I wrote that article about how I picked up a Beta copy when it was restocked and the price remained below market? Those days are long gone, as now SCG has a $200 price tag on Alpha and $100 on Beta. It appears they were thorough in their repricing efforts!
  • On the flip side, it appears SCG is actually a bit overloaded with Library of Alexandria. They increased their pricing, which was appropriate given recent market trends, but now they’re sitting on 14 copies with prices ranging from $550 to $775. While this isn’t a major hang-up on their cash flow, I suspect we won’t see any price adjustments on this one in the near future.

13 thoughts on “Insider: Cashing In on Recent Catalysts

  1. As an FYI, SCG had a ton of Wheel of Fortune’s in their HP case this weekend at SCG Atlanta (they also had quite a few Time Spirals).

    1. I wish I had known, I would have put in a request for someone to pick up a couple for me. Do you remember how much the HP Wheels were? I bought a Revised SP copy for $39 on eBay the other day and I kind of want to pick up a few more copies before the well runs completely dry.

        1. The one reason I would skip is that there are still plenty of copies in that price range on TCG Player. It appears it’s mostly the nicer copies that are getting scooped up for now. So I don’t blame you.

  2. “collectors (and possibly speculators?)”

    I think you’ve reversed those ;).

    $100 for a Beta Icy feels pretty cheap. That’s below the lowest on MCM.

    To join in, my Beta Wheel and playset of Beta Swords have turned out to be a pretty nice investment.

    1. You’re probably right, it’s more the reverse haha.

      $100 for a truly NM Beta Icy is probably still cheap – this is why Star City Games continues to have 0 in stock. If I was big on condition, it would be tempting to pounce on any NM copies relisted at that price. But for now my very HP copy will suffice :-).

      Grats on your Swords/Wheel! I have 2 NM Beta Swords and really wish I could find 2 more at a good price. My patience is counterbalanced by the urgency of a climbing price.

  3. Hey Sig, love your articles…

    I’m puzzled why volcanic islands are still below the prices of underground seas. Delver is probably the most popular deck moving forward in legacy and there are definitely less volcanic islands than underground sea as they were not printed in alpha.

    I have been collecting the black border versions for sometime now and I’m wondering if you believe if the magic community will realise that one day and the prices will adjust?

    Cheers.

    1. According to MtGTop8 Decks site USea still has an edge in Legacy but it’s close. Also historically it has seen more play and is the most ‘iconic’ of the duals. People that have them don’t want to sell. Volcanic is making a good run at it though. When I first bought black border versions I went after Volcanic first cause there were fewer.

      1. There may also be Commander / other casual play. I would not be surprised if enemy colors are more rare than friendly colors there, though I certainly have no reliable statistics on that.

          1. As I said, I have no reliable statistics.

            (When I posted I had already checked with EDH REC, which seems to agree with me anyway, 25% more usage, but as I said elsewhere, being the best source doesn’t make it a good source. I would not refer to it even when it is on my side).

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