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The Changing Landscape of Foils

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Foils have long been a valued collector item, and as such have commanded prime attention in the finance community, paper and digital alike. This past year has seen several changes to the distribution of foils, and the release of Throne of Eldraine is going to bring even more change on this front as well. This week I'm going to get you up to speed on foils. I'll examine how their prices have already changed, and how they are likely to change going forward.

I. Changes to Boosters

Foil Frequency

         

Starting with Core 2020, players saw foils in packs at an increased frequency. Not just a little more, mind you - quite a bit more. 50% more in fact, from 8 per box to 12 per box. Naturally, the same increase is seen in mythic rare foils. Formerly you saw 0.14 mythic rare foils per 36 boosters opened, slightly less than one in every six boxes. Now you see 0.21 mythic rare foils per 36 boosters opened, slightly more than one in every five boxes.

The same change to the drop rate of foils in paper has taken place on Magic Online. Do note that this change isn't being retroactively applied to all past boosters, meaning that whatever the foil drop rate was for any given Magic set is still the same as it was before.

Throne of Eldraine Collector Boosters

Throne of Eldraine will not only keep the higher foil frequency found in Core 2020 in its regular booster box product, but will also introduce Collector Boosters which will further increase the number of foils in circulation, both in an absolute sense and as a percentage relative to the amount of product opened. These will be sold between $20 and $25 a pop most likely (more info can be found here in case you missed the announcement last month).

Important to paper and digital financiers, each booster contains 1 rare or mythic rare foil, and that foil has a chance to be extended art (like Mythic Edition planeswalkers). Important to digital financiers, each booster contains 3 common or uncommon foils, likely reducing the value of foil uncommons for redemption purposes on MTGO.

I don't know how many of these Collector Boosters will be opened or the extent to which people (collectors, financiers, Timmys who like shiny objects, etc) will prefer buying them over buying the regular booster boxes. What I do know is that these will shift some money away from traditional booster box product toward products that contain more foils (and more than shifting, likely will tap into new demand as did the Masterpiece series).

All of this should decrease the price of paper foils, as more will be in circulation. In essence, paper Magic will now have two streams supplying a concentrated dose of foils rather than just one, MTGO Redemption and Collector Boosters.

II. How will this affect Redemption Finance?

From those who redeem sets to drafters who sell foils so they can enter their next draft, everyone has noticed that foil prices on MTGO have increased dramatically recently. In the past, foil mythics commanded a premium when it could be redeemed for a paper foil, but usually no more than double the price of its regular non-foil counterpart. Beginning with Guilds of Ravnica and Ravnica Allegiance, foil prices began climbing toward sky-high prices as many drafters moved to Arena; demand for redeemed cards had remained the same, but the supply had gone down.

Now, prices for foil mythics usually top 20 tix regardless of playability, and the least opened mythic from any given set on MTGO often tops 90 tix. This is how we get these sorts of messages on Twitter from the most prominent bot chains:

 

For Core 2020, that card is Mu Yanling, Sky Dancer.

The result is that the overall cost to redeem a set has increased dramatically. The chart below depicts the cost of cards needed to redeem a foil set on MTGO and the value of those cards in paper. The data from Core 2020 comes from now, and all other data comes from two months after that set's release (so generally one month after a set is able to redeemed).

As recently as Kaladesh, the cost to redeem a foil set on MTGO was around $200. A few years later that had risen to $350, and now it costs $550 to redeem a foil set of War of the Spark and $484 to redeem Core 2020. Will foil prices on MTGO continue to climb? Is it still worth it to redeem foils on MTGO? Will the increase in foils printed in paper reduce the cost to redeem on MTGO?

The Profit Margins for Redeeming Foils Has Gone Down

Looking back at data from older sets, it is stunning to me that the MTG Finance community was not on top of this easy and reliable revenue stream. The profit margins were insane two plus years ago. For Kaladesh, for example, you could purchase a foil set for $211 and then convert that into a foil paper set valued at $650, a gain of $439! Over time that difference has gone down, and with it the profitability of redeeming:

Some of the reason is definitely Magic Arena reducing the amount of product opened on MTGO through drafting. It also seems that more people have become aware of this price disparity and have taken advantage of it by redeeming sets. The cat has slowly gotten out of the bag. As a percentage, the profitability of redemption has steadily declined set by set:

Will Foils Become Cheaper?

Given that collector boosters are being introduced into the Magic ecosystem with the release of Throne of Eldraine, my hunch is that the cost to redeem sets on MTGO has peaked. I doubt we see the value of a foil set be above $800 in paper again, and the value of a foil set on MTGO will track that of paper (minus at least $100 or $200). We will continue to see prices higher than a few years ago, but I expect a 5-10% decrease in the value of individual foil mythics compared to Ravnica Allegiance, War of the Spark, and Core 2020.

The downside though is that the profitability of redeeming foils will likely not go back up. The difference between digital and paper foil prices will likely remain between $150 and $200, though perhaps it could dip to the $100 to $150 range. Redeeming sets is no longer something every Magic player should do automatically without thought, but for the right person, it can still be a means to make a profit or a means to acquire foils for one's paper collection.

III. Parting Thought: Will the Abundance of Premium Products Reduce the Luster of Foils?

There has been a proliferation of the number of premium versions of Magic cards, and the reason is likely because Wizards is monetizing Magic Arena with cosmetics like card styles, sleeves, and alternate art. With Throne of Eldraine, we will have regular cards, foils, extended art rares and mythics, extended art foil rares and mythics, special masterpiece-esque framed versions of cards with Eldraine-specific mechanics, and likely other alternate versions we don't yet know about.

Will traditional foils retain that air of bling and exclusivity even with all these other premium versions of cards floating around? Only time will tell, but paper financiers should keep an eye on how players and collectors value traditional foils relative to these new alternate premium versions.

Are y'all excited about Collector Boosters? How have y'all liked the increased frequency of foils in Core 2020 boosters? Looking forward to Throne of Eldraine? Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to comment down below or hit me up on Discord or Twitter. Until next time!

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