I was a super active PucaTrade user back in its heyday. After the Puca economy went under, I got distracted. So while I still played Cube and Arena and continued to follow the MTG social and financial worlds, I stopped engaging in the regular buying, selling, or trading of Magic cards.
In fact, I just looked it up: I made my last Puca trades in October of 2016, and besides prereleases and purchases for my cube, I don’t recall any other MTG purchases during that time. I have sent in a small buylist or two, but it’s been a while since I reviewed my full holdings.
So it was with mixed delight and horror that I went through my years-old specs, draft leftovers, and trade bait last night to ship out a buylist. What really spurred me to do this was this guy right here:
I went pretty deep on this card via PucaTrade, picking up 39 copies at approximately 130 points each, which was about a dollar in cash at the time. I’m buylisting 38 of those copies to Card Kingdom for $4 each and feel very good about how this has turned out.
What are some other things I learned and decisions I made in this process? Let’s go through a few.
Stop Being Precious About Cards You’re Not Playing
I didn’t dip into any of my decks or cube for this buylist, but I was sitting on a ton of stuff that was a mix of speculation, “I might play this format or deck someday” wishy-washiness, and stubbornness that this card could still go higher.
For example, I’ve been sitting on several dozen shocklands since the Return to Ravnica era, virtually all picked up via Draft or trade. I outed many of them via PucaTrade and buylisted a few here and there, but still had dozens more. When Guilds of Ravnica was announced, I literally placed buylisting shocklands on my to-do list. But I didn’t get around to it—and then the reprints were spoiled.
I obviously punted a lot of value, but it could be worse—I’m buylisting them now for roughly the value I placed on them in trade years ago. I did, however, lose the opportunity cost of using this money elsewhere, as well as the chance for higher profits. Still, I traded for Steam Vents specifically at $8, I’ve outed a lot of them in the $13 to $15 range in the last several years, and now I’m buylisting the rest of them for $8. So I still consider it a win, if not as large as I would have hoped.
I have a handful of Polluted Deltas and Flooded Strands as well. I’m happy to report that I’ve half learned my lesson of holding reprinted lands like this for years and years, as I am shipping all of my Deltas for $15 a pop. Strand at $10 wasn’t cutting it, however, so I am stubbornly holding onto those. Full disclosure: I’m also still holding my Temple Gardens and Godless Shrines, as I just can’t get on board with the sub-$4 price tags on these specifically.
Here are some more examples of cards that I speculated on years ago for about the same price as I am buylisting now. I’m learning to let go, especially in an era where any non-Reserved List card can be reprinted:
Some of these are slightly above or below where I acquired them years ago, but mostly they’re right around the same level. For years I’ve been talking myself into holding onto cards like this. But in a world where reprints happen constantly, I just don’t want to ride these things into dust. Cashing out here leaves me feeling neither especially excited nor disappointed, but I feel great about these sales once I realize I dodged reprints on most of this stuff.
There’s No Reason to Ship Bulk
I’m shipping out very few bulk rares. In a few cases, I was happy to take 25 or 50 cents on a card. But if the offer is 10 or 15 cents, it’s not worth my time to enter on a website, sort, and increase my package size. And as we all know, these cards can jump up at any time. In my opinion, it’s always worth keeping them around when the offer is literal pennies.
One thing I’ve done for years with bulk is to create deck-builder’s toolboxes to sell on Craigslist. Once I’ve attended enough drafts or Sealed events to fill a long box with commons and uncommons, I can add a few of each color’s lands and 10 or 20 bulk rares, and make $15 or $20 selling to someone who wants to get into the game.
I have a lot of draft bulk rares lying around, so I’m considering trying a number like five mythics and 50 rares to see if I might get $30 on a box. I always curate the bulk to ensure that it includes lots of fun cards for new players, and usually throw a few extra rares in for good measure. It seems to work out well, as everybody gets what they want in these transactions.
Accepting Failure Is One Thing, But There’s a Limit
I’ve made some bad speculations over the years and gotten unlucky plenty of times as well. Here’s a sampling of cards I’m still holding a decent number of copies of:
Most painful of these is Beck // Call, which would have made me a hefty profit at one point if I had shipped my copies. I maintain a vague hope things will turn around again, but I may need to hold these copies forever to remind me of my failure.
Tasigur hurts too. I acquired more than 20 of them in the 300 PucaPoint range when it had only one printing. By now it has been reprinted into dust.
As for Sarkhan, a couple of (non-QS) MTG finance personalities who shall remain nameless pushed it hard at $5, which convinced me to pick up a couple playsets. We see how that has turned out.
I don’t expect these cards to hit any time soon, but neither am I willing to accept barely-above-bulk prices for them. They stay with me for now. On the other hand, I still have a decent amount of hope that cards like Greenwarden of Murasa and From Beyond will have their time to shine. I sure hope so, anyway–I went pretty deep on both of them, including several foils of From Beyond.
Accept the Small Wins – Before Reprintings Strip Even Those Away
Shipping Woodland Bellower at $4 would be an example of a small win. I could wait and see if it’s going to push higher, but I run the risk of finding myself in another Tasigur situation, which is exactly what I’m trying to avoid. Folks, Wizards can reprint non-Reserved List cards at any time.
Once I wanted to buy a very well-priced copy of Opposition for my cube, but I needed $25 in my cart to get to free shipping. I bought 12 copies of Karametra, God of Harvests for $2 each (which, in retrospect, was too high of a cash buy price for this card) and now I’m doubling up by shipping for $4 a piece. I could see if it will go higher, but Wizards can reprint non-Reserved List cards at any time.
Similarly, I acquired a handful of Phenax, God of Deceptions once for around $3 each, which I’m now shipping for $5. These could go wild over the next years, but I have to remind myself: Wizards can reprint non-Reserved List cards at any time.
Make Good Choices
We live in a world where it’s not wise to sit on Modern, non-Reserved List cards. Everything gets reprinted eventually, and when it does, it almost always crashes the value. I’ve been far too precious for far too long with many cards I had no business continuing to hold.
Long-term investments in MTG should be cards from the Reserved List, period. If you’re extremely active in MTG finance, it makes way more sense to flip cards in the short and medium terms. For someone like me, who just pokes his head in every once in a while, things change too rapidly to keep up. Know your situation and plan accordingly.