Insider: It’s Time to Trade Up

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Another week gone by, another wave of buyouts across Legends, Antiquities, and Arabian Nights. This movement is reminiscent of a bull stock market, where purchasing just about any stock would make money for the investor. If you find a $2 rare from one of these sets in decent condition, you can profit. It’s that simple.

By now you all likely know how these older cards are in my wheelhouse for speculation—I continuously purchase cards like these to flip either on eBay or to buylists for sizable profits. What I want to talk about this week are two interesting trends: one that has already been transpiring, perhaps under some people’s radars, and one that I anticipate will start to happen in the near future.

It all boils down to the relative movement of card prices.

Where Has All the Power Gone?

Less than a year ago I found myself with some spare investment funds and an opportunity. Cool Stuff Inc had a sizable stock of played Power, and they had a particularly heavily played Mox Jet from Unlimited that was a screaming buy. It was priced at $700, and the customer loyalty program helped knock the all-in price down to $665.

There were other tempting cards, but none as attractive as this one, so I went for it. Fast-forward to the present, and I sure would like another such opportunity. The problem is, there are almost no pieces of Unlimited Power in stock on their site anymore. I see two played Mox Sapphire for $1700 each. Gross. No Time Walk, no Timetwister, and only a single Ancestral Recall, which is BGS 9.0 and $2000. No thank you.

It seems the only other Power Cool Stuff Inc has are played or overpriced Alpha and Beta copies, which are far outside my price range. Abandoning this once-plentiful source for discounted Power, I broadened my search to some other major retailers.

I hopped over to ABU Games with high hopes. Now that they’re paying such crazy high prices on Arabian Nights cards, I should be able to trade in a couple less-than-useful cards to get a discounted Unlimited Mox. That 50% trade-in bonus is sure to help.

Upon browsing, however, I noticed the same exact problem. They have virtually no well-priced Unlimited Power! Sure, they have a “Near Mint” Time Walk for $2000 that barely passes for SP, a Near Mint Ancestral Recall for $2200 (clearly Cool Stuff’s is preferred over this), and a Near Mint Mox Jet for $1900. These are all way overpriced.

I was hoping to get some discounted HP/MP Power that can double as an investment and a copy to play with in Old School. If they had a played Mox for $1200, say, then I could ship them a played Juzám Djinn and some other mediocre cards to get it. A played Juzám nets you $800 in store credit, after all. But no such luck—that well is dry. And I’d be dreaming if I should expect them to list a played Black Lotus—instead all they have are a couple “Near Mint” copies at $7500.

You’re probably getting the picture. Card Kingdom was my next logical stop since they pay so well on these random old cards, but they had similar stock. Very little Unlimited pieces of Power and a smattering of overpriced Alpha and Beta. Star City Games did have an HP Mox Ruby for $900, but with such abysmal buy prices this isn’t an attractive proposition either.

What Is Happening?

I thought I was being clever by converting profits from these random Old School cards into high-end investment cards like Power. When a couple cards purchased two or three years ago are suddenly worth as much as a played Mox, you can’t fault one for attempting the trade. While a great idea on paper, the struggle is finding that Mox in stock anywhere. What few pieces on the market were likely scooped up by people in front of this very trend.

The moment ABU Games and Card Kingdom went crazy with their Arabian Nights buylist, I’m sure some savvy investors were all too happy to ship their random Ifh-Bíff Efreets and Serendib Djinns for $100-plus each in store credit to get that critical piece of Power. The unattainable had suddenly become within reach, and the rest is history.

The result: an apparent shortage of low-end Power at the major online vendors. I can’t comment on the stock of smaller vendors, but I will say that finding a non-damaged piece of Power on TCGplayer or eBay for under $1000 is no easy feat as well.

I think we’re on the cusp of a pricing reset on Power, with HP copies of the least desirable pieces in the $1000 range and upward from there. With a two-day Vintage tournament hosted by Star City Games coming up, I think we may see a tiny push in demand that just may be the catalyst needed to cause the pricing reset. We shall see.

Getting in Front of the Next Trend

Now I’m noticing that some of these buy prices have retracted a bit at Card Kingdom. They went aggressive to restock but now that they have ample stock, their buy prices are much more in-line with the rest of the market. Instead of offering $105 on Serendib Djinn they now offer $75. They were up to $210 on Ali from Cairo and now they’re at $165. City in a Bottle was $130 and now $105. Even some Legends and Antiquities prices have calmed down a bit.

Here’s the thing: I think these modest drops are short-lived. Why? Two reasons. First, these remain attractive Reserved List collectibles with an upward trajectory as long as the game itself remains healthy.

Second, with random junk like Elder Spawn and Merchant Ship buylisting for $8 and $15.50, respectively, it’s never been easier to accumulate store credit. Card Kingdom has even been getting aggressive on some Alpha cards lately, such as a $10 buy price on Psychic Venom.

I myself have made a decision recently: rather than shopping for arbitrage and turning underpriced junk into modest cash profits, I’m going to start accumulating store credit. I won’t be able to grab that Power that I was hoping for, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t high-quality pickups to go after. My next logical choice will be some better quality Old School cards, such as the ones with dropping prices mentioned earlier. If those are still too expensive, then my next choice will be dual lands.

In fact, let’s stop on duals for a minute. These have been gradually rising in price lately, haven’t they?

I predict this trend will accelerate at some point in 2018. Why? Well for one, I’d much rather own a couple extra Tundras and Plateaus than Cyclones and Rebirths. As cards in the latter category spike, acquiring duals in trade is becoming more feasible. But also, don’t forget we have a Pro Tour coming up that will feature some Legacy play. That combined with reprinting of some Legacy staples like Jace, the Mind Sculptor in Masters 25 could rekindle interest in the format.

So this is the trend I’m predicting—that Power will climb out of reach and all of us speculators will have to convert our profits from a pool of Legends and Antiquities junk into dual lands and high-end staples. The rising tide will continue to lift ships and so on and so forth.

I like dual lands most in this environment, but I suppose other Reserved List cards are fine to acquire: Library of Alexandria, Candelabra of Tawnos, Moat, The Abyss, Lion's Eye Diamond, etc. These are what I’ll be trying to convert profits into over the coming months while speculators continue to chase the stupidity that is $20 Shapeshifters.

Wrapping It Up

These silly spikes in unplayable rares from Magic’s earliest expansions are difficult to justify. For some reason a few people probably decided these cards were worth acquiring due to their age and collectibility. Rather than question the movement, I’ve chosen to embrace it and will continue to do so. After all, there are still Legends rares under $5 out there, so the movement isn’t done yet. Keep an eye out for deals.

As this unfolds further, I expect Card Kingdom and possibly ABU Games to move their buylists in step to keep these cards in stock. That’s our opportunity. It feels great selling a $3 Voodoo Doll on eBay for $6, but it may be even easier to convert gains by taking store credit at Card Kingdom and using that money to pick up key staples. While Power was my first choice, it looks like that well has already run dry. Therefore, I like cards that lie on the tier just below Power as fine pickups with store credit. Duals are on the top of my list because I think Legacy will get a jolt of energy in the coming months.

I continue to believe in the health of Magic itself, and so these Reserved List cards should continue to provide ample returns for patient investors. If the team Pro Tour coming up this year offers a catalyst for a short-term spike in demand, all the better. Let’s watch stock on dual lands together and stay on top of the trend. We may have missed the boat on Power, but there are still plenty of opportunities to convert unplayable cards into real gems.


  • You know what just hit an all-time high last weekend? Asceticism. The card has never been reprinted, and now it retails on Card Kingdom’s website for $14.99. Of course they’re all sold out. If they do restock at this price, you could do worse than to pick up some copies with store credit. Just watch out for reprints—although I can’t imagine this one is high on Wizards’s radar and it certainly doesn’t fit the Masters 25 theme. When was this card ever dominant?
  • Who’s ready for a buyout on Back to Basics. The once-critical sideboard Legacy card must be seeing plenty of play because I see just 18 vendors on TCGplayer at the moment and an all-time high price in the $30 range. Card Kingdom has eight Near Mint copies in stock at $29.99 that could present an attractive way of cashing out some store credit. If you can get $35 on these, you’d be looking at converting credit to cash netting you that extra 30 percent trade-in bonus!
  • Looking at TCGplayer’s top selling Legends rares, we can anticipate what is left to spike. Rubinia Soulsinger seems attractively positioned, as does Carrion Ants and Knowledge Vault (again). Card Kingdom pays $7.25, $3.80, and $14.50 respectively on each of these cards, so use these numbers as your downside protection when buying these up.

2 thoughts on “Insider: It’s Time to Trade Up

    1. Almost, being the key operator. I’ve found some decent prices on a couple Alpha cards. If you aren’t picky about what you acquire, you can find some gems.

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