After all the crazy Reserved List hype and speculation, the market is slowly reaching a new equilibrium far above where it once was. I hope many QS Insiders enjoyed the explosion in interest—it has certainly been a wild ride.
Now that the hype train has left the station, we are suddenly looking at some strange pricing trends. Cards that were once considered near-bulk have suddenly become worth something. This has led to some strange disconnects in card valuations. If you think about relative values, there’s no way a card that sees a bunch of play across multiple formats should be worth only marginally more than some random Reserved List card with spotty Old School play and not much else.
Yet these imbalances have popped up in a number of places. I’m especially intrigued by how attainable Power and dual lands have become in light of these rampant buyouts. What once could have required trading your entire collection to obtain has now become easy to trade for.
For example, consider what happened to Drop of Honey’s relative value. If you had just two copies of that card, you could trade those in and pick up a played piece of Power. Most players wouldn’t be interested in such a trade, but major vendors offer so much on their buylist for Drop of Honey that you can get enough store credit to pick up a played piece of Power. This would have been a laughable proposition just a few short months ago.
What does this mean for your portfolio? What should we be doing about these perceived imbalances in pricing? This week Sig shares some thoughts on what he expects will happen and how you can make some moves now if you are so inclined.
Anyone who denies the validity of the Reserved List hype needs to review Card Kingdom’s buylist. If they still refused to accept the merits of the recent market movements, then they are in denial. I mean, just look at some of these numbers:
- $140 for Invoke Prejudice
- $130 for All Hallow's Eve
- $120 for Living Plane
- $100 for Mirror Universe
- $63 for In the Eye of Chaos
- $48 for Sword of the Ages (this used to be $10!)
- $490 for Juzám Djinn
- $155 for Shahrazad
- $185 for Guardian Beast
- $150 for Serendib Efreet
- $90 for Ali from Cairo
- $105 for City in a Bottle
The list goes on and on. Then, add in all the little stuff that popped and carries double-digit buylist pricing where they were once worth just a couple bucks. This includes the likes of Archon of Falling Stars, Colossus of Sardia, Golgothian Sylex, Lifeblood, etc.
I still don’t have a clue why Lifeblood’s price is sticking. I don’t think the card does anything relevant, but maybe that’s just me.
You didn’t need to own every single one of these cards to benefit from the recent moves. But if you had just a few, you are suddenly sitting on far more value than what you put into these pieces of cardboard. To me, this screams “opportunity.” You are faced with a key decision.
Hold Them or Fold Them?
I will admit this is not my area of strength because I have an emotional attachment to some of these older cards. Even though I’m quite profitable on many of them, I still cannot bring myself to cash out.
Don’t follow my lead. Instead, I encourage you to reconsider the priorities of your collection. For example, if you were in need of a Tropical Island for your EDH deck but you happened to have a copy of Ali from Cairo in your cube, you could now trade that Ali into ABU Games for $96 plus 50% trade credit and get almost all the way to that Trop. What may have costed you $40 a year ago is now worth two-thirds of a played Trop.
What’s even more laughable is what you can do with the lower-end stuff. If you had a playset of Junún Efreets that you bought for $20 total a year ago, you can now trade them into ABU Games for $112 in credit!
That’s enough for a dual land or perhaps some much needed pieces of your Modern deck. The choices are in front of you if you’re willing to consider them. And if ABU Games doesn’t have what you want, no need to worry—Star City Games pays $17.50 cash on this card and Card Kingdom pays $18.50. Everyone is buying these Arabian Nights cards aggressively.
The opportunities are certainly out there. But if you let emotions get in the way, you may fail to move on some of these cards near their local maxima. This alone isn’t the problem because these cards will continue to get rarer and rarer, so their long-term price trajectory is still upward and to the right. But you may be missing out on some key imbalances in the market—situations where random junk on the Reserved List is suddenly worth way more relative to highly sought-after cards, making for real opportunities to trade for cards you’ve always wanted.
It is this opportunity that I think is worth highlighting. Everyone knows they can sell into the hype—but what may be overlooked is the fact that there’s a narrow window of opportunity here to obtain the unobtainable. Because a Drop of Honey should not be worth the same as a Time Vault and a set of Serendib Efreets should not be worth the same as a Timetwister.
Yet, vendors will be willing to make such trades (assuming they have these cards in stock). It is precisely this that I think is worth your consideration.
ABU Games has a played Mox Pearl in stock for $999.99. This seems fairly in line with what other vendors are charging for this particular piece of Power. Meanwhile, they’re offering $320.10 for a played Juzám Djinn. If you had two copies—cards that cost just $130 a couple years ago—you could trade them into ABU Games for $960.30 in store credit. A couple small throw-ins and you have yourself a Mox Pearl.
Personally, I’m holding out for a chance to get a played Black Lotus with my Juzám playset. I don’t think it’ll happen, but the fact that I can get close is already pretty amazing.
Not interested in Power? Let’s see if there are some duals out there worth picking up. I see Card Kingdom has EX Underground Seas for around $400. That price point doesn’t thrill me in a vacuum because with cash these can be purchased for less. But when comparing with some trade-in prices I’m suddenly more intrigued.
The fact that two played Guardian Beasts can be traded for a nice Underground Sea is baffling to me. Two Shahrazads will also get you pretty close. And don’t even get me started on the fact that Drop of Honey is now worth more than the most expensive Revised dual land. That just seems wrong!
I’ll offer one more example. If you’re in the market for a Mishra's Workshop, but don’t want to spend the $800 required to buy a played copy with cash, you could consider trading cards to Star City Games. They have a couple played copies for $950—a little higher than TCGplayer’s low price, but also probably far better condition as well.
You could choose to trade in some of your Reserved List holdings to get one. They aren’t buying as aggressively as Card Kingdom, but they are still paying $15 for North Star, $80 for Erhnam Djinn and $50 for Ifh-Bíff Efreet. These are all worth much more now than they were a year ago, and if you had a few you could slowly piece them together to get that Workshop…or at least to significantly reduce your cash outlay.
You could choose to ignore this entire article. I myself am so attached to my Old School cards that I will likely fail to trade up for high-end cards in the way I’ve described to you above. I’m okay with that. But before you decide you feel the same way, let me share a prediction I am making for the future.
First, it’s entirely possible that hype dies down and these Old School/Reserved List cards fade in price a bit. While the three-year outlook for these cards remains strong, pricing can go soft over the next three to six months. New sets will be released and hype will shift to other areas of the market, leaving these Reserved List cards in the background for a bit.
Alternatively, these cards may hold their new price plateaus, and people will exploit the trades I have outlined above. If that happens, we’ll see another move higher in Power and duals.
In fact, Power pricing may shift higher soon anyway—when I searched for Moxen, Time Walk, Timetwister and Ancestral Recall on the big vendor websites, I was shocked to see how little was out there. Most of the stock these vendors had was from Alpha or was Near Mint Unlimited. These markets are a little less liquid than played Unlimited, which explains why there was so little played Unlimited Power out there.
Regardless of which outcome unfolds, the window to trade these newly spiked Reserved List cards will eventually close. Either Power and duals will rise in price, or your Sword of the Ages-type cards will drop in price. This is my prediction, and it’s why I’m highlighting this rare opportunity to you now.
Wrapping It Up
Trades that were once ridiculous a year or two ago are now very realizable. What’s more, you don’t need to find a desperate GP floor trader to move recently spiked cards to pick up duals and Power. With buy prices where they are, some vendors will be more than happy make these trades with you. I’d wager that when you’re at a GP you may even have better opportunities because the sheer number of vendors available to trade with would be much higher…not to mention trading these older cards in person is much better because you can negotiate and discuss card conditions.
However I don’t think these new opportunities will be available forever. I suspect either hyped cards will drop down in price a bit, or the pricing of Power and duals will once again rise. Either way, you won’t be able to make such trades forever. The fact that you can trade two played Juzám Djinns for a Mox Pearl tells me the market is imbalanced and will need to adjust. Luckily these adjustments are a little slow—hence the opportunity!
Rather than sit on your newfound wealth, I’d encourage you to reconsider the priorities in your collection and make conscious choices to acquire what is most important. Yes, your Drop of Honey is worth a ton more now than it was six months ago. But if you bought a Drop of Honey for your Cube but you couldn’t afford that Timetwister, perhaps it’s time to trade up and acquire that Power. It should certainly be more attainable now than it was before.
I make this suggestion because I believe that if you don’t make these trades, someone else will. And while owning a $500 Drop of Honey may seem amazing, you could be getting that Mox you’ve always wanted now before it, too, surges higher in price.
You’ve been warned.
- Have you seen the buyout of Raging River? Some copies have trickled back into stock since then, but Star City Games is completely sold out of all Alpha, Beta, and Unlimited. Currently they are charging $299.99, $99.99, and $39.99 respectively. All of these will have to adjust higher soon, and I suspect Beta and Unlimited copies will move the most.
- I’m eagerly waiting to see where Talas Warrior’s price settles down now that it has been bought out. On the one hand, it’s not the most thrilling of cards to be sitting on and it’s not on the Reserved List. On the other hand, it’s a rare from Portal: Second Age and it’s a Pirate. So far the latter has outweighed the former, but I’m still waiting for Star City Games to adjust their pricing. They still show $2.99, which most assuredly will change given that Card Kingdom is offering near $4 on their buylist. If I had to guess, I’d say $9.99 is a solid stepping stone to test the waters on this one…if they can even get ahold of copies!
- With their higher buy prices, Star City Games has finally restocked some Underground Seas. Given there will be Legacy played at a Pro Tour next year for the first time in ages, the new, higher prices are likely merited. Still, I see zero Unlimited copies in stock even at $799.99. Unlimited is just so much rarer than Revised, and I personally think the price still needs to be adjusted higher to reflect this discrepancy…and to restock copies!