Insider: The Value of Inaction

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Our goal here at Quiet Speculation is to assist our members in increasing their collection's value through Magic finance, or at the very least make the game more affordable to play. Usually, that means discussing the pros and cons of potential speculation opportunities that arise from new decks, new tech, new products, or changes to banned lists. Then, allow each person to decide whether to take action or not.

Now, most people think you only make money when you act, but this isn't always true. If you define "making money" simply as having more money now than you did in a previous time, the concept opens up a bit. I honestly believe that one of the most valuable tools one has as a QS Insider is the collective "hivemind" of all Insiders.

Tunnel Vision is one of the more dangerous things that can occur for any speculator. Most people's minds are wired to look for positives. Once you start seeing cards solely as a prospective speculation target, it's easy to focus solely on these positives and ignore any potential negatives. I, along with many other QS Insiders, like to mention my targets in the Discord chat to see if anyone else agrees with me or finds flaws in my arguments. I've saved numerous dollars by being talked out of bad speculation targets thanks to my fellow Insiders.

Associated Risk

Now, obviously, if everyone agrees it's a great target there is a bit of risk that someone else snipes any that might be in your cart; but that risk is far outweighed by the potential losses you can occur when you're wrong. I love getting input from other like-minded people, many of whom have as strong a grasp if not stronger of the Magic finance realm. I don't own a physical store, so hearing from those who do, namely those that have their fingers on the pulse of their local metagames, is extremely valuable information.

After all, metagames can shift very rapidly thanks to the playerbase hivemind on MTGO running multiple iterations of decks, tuning them, and retuning them after other decks get tuned to beat them. This constant change can be quite daunting and frankly impossible to track and monitor for potential financial relevance; at least for a single person, hence the importance of the QS community.

As all this change occurs, both good and bad speculation targets will constantly ebb and flow. Buying last week's tech is often a losing proposition as decks evolve to counter it and holding a stack of bad specs is worse than holding no specs.

Cash is King

One phrase you'll hear a lot in MTG Finance is "Cash is King". Basically, actual money is always more fungible than Magic cards and having it on hand allows you to extract the best deals. Most people will accept less than retail value on a card in cash, whereas, most trade at retail prices. This means that you can maximize your gains by using cash as often as possible and the only way to do that is to have as much available as you can.

Now there are some limits to the truth of "Cash is King". If you bought four copies of a card yesterday for $5 and overnight it shot up to $10, you wouldn't sell all four copies to the guy that walks up offering you $5.25 each. Sometimes it pays to be patient and not act by selling your copies for a $1 gain. You want to maximize your potential gains as well.

Now, if the guy instead offers you $8 it most likely would be smart to sell. Most cards drop after their initial spike and the likelihood of that card dipping down is high. The point, however, is that while it's generally better to have cash on hand than cards, it's not a hard and fast rule.

Exercise Patience

The last valuable "inaction" I want to discuss today is that of patience. Impatience is the reason that so many cards start out higher in value before a set is released and then plummet shortly thereafter. A lot of Magic players want to get their new toys as soon as possible and that impatience costs them. This is why you don't see smart speculators preordering lots of different cards from a set.

It used to be that you could find a lot of Commander gems at rock bottom prices from multiple online vendors. Unfortunately, those days are long gone and the new strategy is to start the price high and lower it until it sells.

Patience doesn't solely apply to pre-ordering cards. One of the best times to speculate on cards from a set is when prices have bottomed out, which typically occurs three to six months after a set's release. While this rule can be a bit different for limited-run sets, like masters ones, it's shown to be pretty accurate for almost every non-limited set release. Modern Horizons released June 13th, 2019, so as of me writing this we are almost two months post-release. We should expect prices to continue to trend downward for most cards, which is what we have been seeing.

Now, I do realize that there have been some conflicting beliefs about this particular set and price floors. Some have advocated that the time to begin buying has already passed. I am not one of those people. This is especially true as Wrenn and Six is soaking up a ton of the sets value. People are still buying packs and boxes hoping to win the W&6 lottery, similar to how people kept buying Worldwake even after Rise of the Eldrazi released hoping to get Jace, the Mind Sculptor


The good news about that is that we haven't totally missed the ideal buying window yet; the bad news is that we all get impatient, so I don't blame you if you jumped the gun a bit early. I am currently sitting on nine copies of Sword of Truth and Justice because I didn't think it could possibly go any lower than $10. Just a week after purchasing them I've seen them for as low as $7 on Facebook sales groups.

There is value in not acting in risky situations. This isn't to say one should never act. Sometimes it's necessary to remind ourselves that while we as a society tend to value action, there is also value in inaction. So long as it's done at the right time with the right motivations, anyway.

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