Insider: All the Other Old Cards Are Spiking, so Why Not the Power Nine?

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I hope you weren't actually expecting me to answer that question in this article, because I'm basically sitting here twiddling my thumbs with all questions / few answers... Nonetheless, it is a good question and one that more people should be contemplating. While we're at it, let's throw out some other good questions:

  • "If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is around to hear it - does it make a sound?"
  • "What is the meaning of life?"
  • "Who's more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows him?"

All solid, and basically unfathomable and unknowable. But not nearly as perplexing to me as the Power Nine staying roughly the same price while fringe Legends and Arabian Nights rares soar into the thousands-of-dollars range.

How are these things roughly equal? Are they roughly equal?

With Everything Going Up, Why Is Power Comparatively Stagnant?

Here is the basic premise behind my theory: As Reserved List cards have continued to skyrocket in value, it seems that the Power Nine has been largely left behind when it comes to spikes. Power does steadily trend upward – it clearly isn't going down – but it hasn't spiked in the same fashion as basically every other Reserved List card.

I sort of lied in the introduction. While I don't understand the current bizarro world where Mox Ruby equals Magus of the Abyss, I have some theories about how we arrived in this place.

The first theory is that all $1300.00 cards are not equal. People can ask whatever they want for cards, but it doesn't mean they are going to sell with a high frequency. It is possible that a $1300 Ruby is a more sellable item than a $1300 Abyss.

It could be a situation where Mox Ruby frequently sells for the posted price and Magus of the Abyss is a much slower seller at that price. Perhaps a lot of copies of Magus of the Abyss being sold by dealers are not hitting that peak online asking price. I don't know, I'm spitballing, but it doesn't feel right to me.

Why Doesn't Power Spike?

It is harder to spike the price of something that is already ridiculously expensive. If a $50 card doubles in value, that is a huge percentage spike. If a $1500 card goes up by $50, it's a smaller percentage. It's possible that people simply won't pay $2500 for Power. Yet I look at cards like this:

It is crazy to me that a card like The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale is more expensive than a non-Lotus piece of Power. It's true that Power isn't legal in Legacy, but Tabernacle isn't some ubiquitous Legacy card like dual lands or Force of Will that is spread across the format. It's a card in one deck.

Sure, it's an awesome card, but still, The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale doesn't have the iconic, nostalgic appeal of Power Nine. It isn't nearly as recognizable or famous. It's not as cool.

My theory for why Power has remained relatively stable while other cards have gone buck wild is that Power started so high. It's a lot easier to buy out a ton of $20 cards and mark them up to $200 than it is to buy out a bunch of $1000 cards and mark them up to $2000.

The investment cost on a Power Nine buyout is much higher and would require a tremendous investment of capital to pull off. I would argue that the significant investment is likely linked to the fact that we have not seen a buyout and subsequent spike on Power Nine.

The other side of the coin is that perhaps the price on Power is real and the price on the other stuff isn't as real, which means it's inflated. It is certainly possible that the Reserved List spikes could settle and come back down to earth a little bit as time goes on. I'll admit, a lot of what's going on is speculative, and some of the trends may not be sustainable on random, unplayable, old cards.

I'm not saying that the price increases are "fool's gold." We are never going back to the days of $75 Magus of the Abyss. But maybe when the hype and the excitement dies down, the actual demand for niche old cards like Magus of the Abyss, Drop of Honey and Nether Void allows them to settle into a price point that is more like 50 to 75 percent of the spike price. I don't know how that will play out, but what I can tell you is that I am very skeptical that Magus of the Abyss and Mox Ruby will settle into the same price point over time.

So... Will Power Ever Spike?

Which brings me to my final point, and I believe the answer is yes.

The reason being that Moxen and other Power are not equal to random Legends and Arabian Nights chase cards. They have never been before and I don't think enough has changed in the past year that would cause me to presume they would now.

In a world where Revised Underground Sea is well over $600, how can there be so little separation between the high-end staples and Power? It feels like only a matter of time before the market corrects itself. When has two Underground Seas ever been equal to a Mox? There's like a zillion times more Seas than Moxen.

I don't have a crystal ball, but I've collected Magic cards for a really long time. It seems strange to me that in a world where Reserved List cards are going crazy that the most epic of all the Reserved List cards, the Power Nine, have made among the smallest gains. How can that be?

  • Power isn't as good as it used to be? False.
  • Power isn't as cool as it used to be? False.
  • Power isn't as desirable as it used to be? False.

I don't think this market trend is related to Power's status. It's still great.

So if it isn't related to the Power Nine itself, it has to be related to something else. The relationship between prices among Power and other Reserved List cards dictates that one of the following is likely true:

  • The other spiked Reserved List cards got more valuable, while the value of the  Power Nine hasn't.
  • The value of other spiked Reserved List cards is real and sustainable and the Power Nine hasn't caught up yet because it's harder to spike the prices of things that are already so inherently expensive.
  • The spikes on other Reserved List cards are not sustainable, whereas the price of the Power Nine is at its current market price. The other Reserved List cards will settle down while power continues to creep up slowly.

I don't know which of these is the truest. However, I would suggest that if owning the Power Nine is one of your bucket-list things to do, that you might want to get on that sooner rather than later.

3 thoughts on “Insider: All the Other Old Cards Are Spiking, so Why Not the Power Nine?

  1. My theory is partly commander, legacy and restricted list. You can play almost all the spike cards in Commander, you can not play power so those players have near zero demand for Power 9. Legacy is a format that players can still enter, albeit at a high cost. With players opening Masters Set Jackpot foils they tend to want to trade for Duals when they hit it. If you got 1 Sea, then you can save 2 more. Now you have a Legacy deck. With boxes of Masters hitting the $150-175 level and you can hit a $200-300 foil it made the gamble better. Masterpieces were the same thing only more frequent. So all those Dual’s that were collecting on store shelves got scooped up in trades for the latest and greatest. Last you only need 1 of any power 9 ever to play but you need 2-4 of all the spiking cards. Which means just by math those cards have double to quadruple the demand. Personally these spikes follow the trend of late 80’s/early 90’s sports cards. Everyone chased those cards at very inflated prices. The market crashed hard in the late 90’s as people realized they were overpaying for as many copies that were available. You see the same thing happening here, buyouts cause spikes but who is going to pay $200 for Master of the Hunt? Commander players will move on and it has near zero value in any other format. It’s purely a fake price that should head down. But it won’t. And that is the more interesting part.

  2. I have a different take on it. What I see is that savvy investors are seeing that MTG cards just go up over time and give a better than average return, so some investors are moving some of their investment dollars into MTG. If they can use their investment dollars to buy out a specific card every couple months and there are 40 or 50 investors doing this, it drives up the prices due to the investor demand, and all the other people who scoop up everything else in the rising path. As long as Hasbro and WOTC stick to their guns on not reprinting Reserve List cards, it’s going to continue to make them an increasingly popular investment commodity. Good for the game…good for Wizards, good for the market, great for those of us with thousands of RL cards….bad for the players if they aren’t investors themselves. If you sell enough non-power spiked cards, power is within your reach at what essentially cost you a fraction of the cost. So start buying up the lowest reserved list cards before they get out of reach too. How’s that for selling the hype?

  3. Here’s an example. In 2014, I bought 2 Juzam Djinn’s for about $110 each. Maybe 2 years later (I’d have to research when I sold them), I sold them for double what I paid and thought I was such a smart speculator….Sadly, today they are worth $1800+, 18 times what I paid in 2014, in a mere 4 years. What other investment can give you 18X your investment in 4 years with near 0 risk. Housing markets collapse, stock markets crash, MTG has held steady…Are you convinced yet?

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