Welcome back, readers!
You'd have to be living under a rock with no cell reception to be unaware of all the recent Reserved List price spikes . It seems that cards of all types (Legacy staples, Commander staples, and random garbage cards) are getting bought up by the droves on TCGplayer.
Many of these cards have gains in the 400-percent range over the past month or so. The boat has sailed on these. This is especially true when you consider what I mentioned last week: stores are slow to increase their buylist prices in response. We see a card's TCGplayer price shoot up some massive percent only to see the market price remain relatively stagnant—the surest sign of a buyout.
I have stated repeatedly that I'm against buyouts, as they more often than not are attempts to pump-and-dump. However, with this latest round, it seems the buyers are simply sinking a ton of money into the cards and sitting on them. Their plan seems to be for prices to stabilize at some higher number, and then to start selling them slowly, hoping that the low supply by itself is enough to keep the new price up (or slowly rising).
As I showed with my last article, this isn't guaranteed for all buyouts, but it's certainly plausible that it will work for some cards. It also means that the people orchestrating these buyouts are forced to have a lot of cash tied up in a rather illiquid asset—but that's their call.
But enough about that. Let's look at how we can profit from others buying out cards. The MTGStocks website looks only at TCGplayer for its data. There are two key components to unpack from that:
- If you go to other non-TCGplayer sites, you might be able to find copies of cards moving at the "old" price, and thus pick them up cheaply to flip ASAP.
- Most people have the default language set to English for cards on TCGplayer. Thus you can often pick up foreign copies at a decent discount. If you go down this route, don't forget that foreign ones are often more difficult to move than English.
Other Sites to Check
It's important to have a good list of sites you can check regularly for underpriced cards. It seems that more and more stores are hopping onto the TCGplayer bandwagon and selling on the platform, however, there are still some stores who don't:
- Card Kingdom
- ABU Games
- Cool Stuff Inc
- Ninety Five
- Face to Face Games
In addition to these, there are plenty of other larger stores not selling on TCG. Depending on how quick stores react, you can often snag good deals on other websites. The best targets are stores that adjust their prices themselves (i.e. don't have them tied to TCGplayer), as well as any LGSs that pre-price cards (which does seem to be a dying trend).
When you find these types of stores it's often worth your time to look through as much of their inventory as possible. It's extremely difficult to keep track of all card prices in any sort of manual way. Thanks to odd jumps here and there, you can score some really nice finds as long as you have the knowledge.
Whenever I travel, I always try to find a local store or two to visit (as long as I'm in town long enough and/or my fiance doesn't mind). You really do find hidden gems from time to time.
I've mentioned above how it can be more difficult to move foreign cards. This is especially true for Commander staples, because people don't like having to explain what a card does in the middle of a game. However, Commander players fall on the casual spectrum, and that's the group of players most willing to buy the cheapest copy available.
So the trick here is to find really good eternal cards in foreign languages that are:
- Recognizable. The more so the better, as people will have to explain what they do a lot less often.
- Competitive. You'll often see casual players slowly begin to incorporate more competitive cards into decks, which then increases demand. A cheaper option is very appealing when one wants to "upgrade" their deck. It also means you attract both casuals and competitive players.
- Staples. As with all formats, there are typically staples for a given color combination. For example, most green-white decks include Mirari's Wake, and most blue decks include Cyclonic Rift. Being a staple tends to also means the card is "recognizable" as well, so these categories overlap somewhat.
- Reserved List. This isn't a requirement, but it certainly does help.
While it's already come and gone, Star City Games had a foreign card sale at the beginning of April. I purchased a fair number of Reserved List cards in foreign languages, emphasizing Japanese versions. Some of these cards don't have foil printings, so the "most pimp" version is the one in the language printed the least. Back in the days before Russian was an option, this was Korean or Japanese, depending on the set.
I went pretty deep with this sale and spent far more than I originally anticipated. Here's what I picked up.
- 4x Dream Halls (Japanese): $5.15 - This was before they jumped thanks to Muldrotha, the Gravetide, but being a Reserved List card that was a four-of in some Legacy decks (mainly Know and Tell), I felt it had a lot of potential at the time. Stronghold was printed in both Japanese and Korean—Korean copies would have been preferable, but I haven't actually seen any on the market.
- 6x Mind Over Matter (Japanese): $11.85 - This was also before it jumped two weeks ago. Mind Over Matter enables multiple combos in Commander, though the casting cost is a bit prohibitive for some decks. It is often desired by competitive players.
- 4x Replenish (Japanese): $16.74 - This is a staple in W/x archetypes that utilize a lot of enchantments, whether they be voltron, stax, or enchantress builds.
- 4x Yavimaya Hollow (Japanese): $15.47 - This is a staple for pretty much every deck that runs green and creatures (which is pretty much all green decks).
- 2x Treachery (Japanese): $12.05 - This is the preferred version of Control Magic for most competitive players. It's essentially free thanks to the untap, and can even generate mana if any of your lands produce extra mana.
All of these cards saw their English counterparts jump dramatically since early April. Even the foreign versions are selling for considerably more than I paid for any one of them (though I haven't sold any yet).
Legends cards have been no stranger to the recent Reserved List buyouts, and some have had some huge percentage gains in the past few months. Interestingly enough, Italian versions can be found far below the English ones.
While we have exact print runs for Magic's earliest sets (including Legends) we don't have the print run numbers for Italian Legends. I've heard it's likely around three times as much, which would definitely explain why the Italian ones are cheaper than the English versions. However, what's interesting to note is that some of the most expensive Legends cards have a relatively low multiplier between Italian and English versions.
Looking at both versions on TCGplayer, there's definitely a premium for English, at least in the LP category. However, the Italian ones are not too far behind (ignoring the NM English one).
That isn't the case for every Legends card. Look at The Abyss.
Here we see a definite gap between English and Italian options, with the LP Italians going for around 40% of the English option. This translates to a 2.5x multiplier, which falls in line with our estimate of the larger print run.
What about the non-Legacy staples?
Here we see a pretty wide range for the NM English versions. We only have one Italian version and it's on par with the NM English version. Granted, the market price on this card is only $167 (as of May 15) so they aren't selling for the upper-end prices yet.
However, I've picked up not one, not two, but three SP Italian Angus Mackenzie from a well known store for $39.99 each within the past two weeks. They are sold out of them now thanks to me, but the point is that there are a lot of opportunities to find some of these cards at bargain prices if you look around.
Now, eBay shows that the Italian Angus's are selling at closer to $82 (taking the average of the three below). These recent sales do put the multiplier between English and Italian at around 2.5x as well.
The point is that we are likely to see movement on Italian Legends cards that are desirable for Commander in the coming months, as casual players buy up the much cheaper options (for fear of missing out on ever getting to play them in Commander).
I think there's some definite promise in foreign Reserved List cards that are played in Commander (despite the fact that I personally avoid foreign Commander cards like the plague). Casual players will often wait for a reprint to drop the price of cards they want—for Reserved List cards that's not an option.
I myself have picked up a couple extra copies of the Italian Legends cards I think are most underpriced, specifically cards that are very playable in Commander and have a multiplier of more than 3x between the Italian and English versions.