Those who engage in the Old School Discord may have recently seen some doom-and-gloom rhetoric regarding the market for old cards. I noticed the use of specific phrases such as “the bubble has burst”, “prices are dropping hard”, and “prices crashing”. Rudy of Alpha Investments is referenced, and he doesn’t exactly instill confidence in this market.
While it’s true prices have been correcting, I don’t think we’re going to see the bottom fall out from under this market. Demand is far too robust, and I see Old School cards priced fairly sell on a daily basis. I believe this sell-off is disciplined and merited, indicating prices will eventually stabilize and rebound.
Of course…try telling that to major online vendors. While major retailers haven’t dropped their Old School prices across the board, they have each adjusted their sell prices to reflect a stagnant market in their own way. The result: there are amazing deals to be had at each vendor. That is, if you can snag copies as they’re restocked.
You see, the demand is there, and that is reflected in the fact that any underpriced card vendors restock will immediately sell. There are great deals to be had out there, but you have to be quick enough. What cards am I referring to? This week I’ll share where I’ve got my restock alerts set to take advantage of the unwarranted doom-and-gloom attitude of the broader market.
The Kingdom of Good Cards
It’s true that condition is critical when it comes to Magic’s oldest cards—especially those from Alpha, Beta, and Unlimited. Some vendors adjust their downgrade percentages to be most severe for these older sets. Card Kingdom is no exception.
However, just because an Unlimited card is Heavily Played, doesn’t mean there is no demand. In fact, the Old School community often prefers HP cards because they’re affordable, while still being sleeve playable. Sure, a heavily played useless rare such as Deathlace or Aspect of Wolf has very little demand. But sometimes an HP piece of Power or Dual Land sells faster than its near mint counterpart because the card is more affordable.
Card Kingdom does not distinguish playability when pricing Unlimited cards. They pay 40% of their posted buy price for “Good” copies no matter the card. In some cases, this downgrade still isn’t enticing enough. Card Kingdom charges $28 for Good copies of Unlimited Vesuvan Doppelganger, and this is consistent with the broader market. No steal of a price there, and this is reflected in the fact that Card Kingdom has a few copies for sale on their site…not to mention this is more a collector’s card. Therefore, demand would be more in the NM/EX grading range (where CK is in fact sold out).
Good condition Power, however, is priced very well on Card Kingdom’s site. This is especially true for Timetwister and Time Walk—both are listed at $1400. A sleeve playable piece of Power, sold from a trustworthy vendor, typically merits at least $1400. Imagine acquiring one of these from Card Kingdom with store credit. The equivalent cash price paid would be even better!
But the best deals worth monitoring for a restock are Good copies of Chaos Orb, Time Vault, Forcefield, and Dual Lands. Here are some Good prices compared with TCG Low:
Chaos Orb: $380 vs. $550
Time Vault: $340 vs. $500
Forcefield: $132 vs $165
Underground Sea: $380 vs. $450
Bayou: $220 vs. $310
Scrubland: $152 vs. $190
Notice how, for each of these cards (and more), Card Kingdom’s Good price is significantly discounted vs. HP/Damaged copies on the market. The result: Card Kingdom is perpetually out of stock on these cards in Good condition. This reflects the reality that player demand is still there. If you can catch a restock of these Good Unlimited cards, as well as some similarly attractive Beta and Alpha cards, you could make a decent profit.
Channel Fireball’s Undamaged Reputation
Channel Fireball adheres to the same pricing strategy as Card Kingdom, severely downgrading prices on heavily played, Old School cards. But Channel Fireball uses the strategy more broadly, adjusting not only A/B/U cards but all pre-Modern cards.
Alpha through Legends cards are downgraded most aggressively, whereas The Dark through Scourge merit less severe price decreases. Therefore, I recommend focusing on Alpha through Legends when hunting for underpriced “Damaged” cards.
Unfortunately, Channel Fireball doesn’t post their sell prices on Damaged cards for which there is no stock. This makes identifying the best deals a bit difficult, and it means I can’t readily rattle off a list of examples. I can mention a Damaged Thunder Spirit I recently bought from Channel Fireball for $49.99. TCG Low for and English copy is $76.
But there is good news! Since Channel Fireball sells on TCGPlayer, we can run an advanced search and browse Channel Fireball’s Damaged stock by set. I ran a quick search on Legends, sorted by price (high to low), checked “English” and “Damaged”, and shopped from Channel Fireball’s store specifically. Sure, most cards show as “out of stock” for Damaged condition, but check out one thing I found with this strategy:
That’s a great deal considering Channel Fireball’s “Damaged” is often HP and almost always sleeve playable. Don’t forget you can navigate to Channel Fireball’s site and purchase the card there to get free shipping and use a coupon code (they always have some special going on).
Here’s one more find using this strategy, this time browsing Antiquities:
This is another steal if you’re looking for a sleeve playable copy of Argivian Archaeologist. It’s not a copy that’ll likely get a collector’s interest, but it could be the perfect copy to jam in an Old School deck! It could also be used to flip to ABUGames for trade credit—they offer $40.46 in trade credit for HP copies of this card.
HP Cards: The Star at Star City Games
Star City Games also has significant mark-downs on Heavily Played Old School cards, for all the reasons discussed above. Rather than rehash the same rationale, I’ll share some examples of underpriced HP cards listed at Star City Games. They’re always going to be out of stock on these, but if you can catch a restock by using their restock alert system, you can nab a great deal!
Don’t forget, Star City Games’ “HP” often corresponds to moderately played using other stores’ grading guides. Here are some comparisons against TCG Low.
The list goes on and on. I’d focus on the higher-end playable cards. It seems Star City Games marks these down such a high percentage that their price is well below TCG Low. I browsed Legends cards to find examples, but I’m sure you can find similar deals from other early expansions such as Antiquities and Arabian Nights.
Limited Possibilities at ABUGames
The last vendor I want to touch on is ABUGames. As you know, ABUGames’ prices are all inflated due to their inflated trade credit. They’ve been making significant progress in curtailing the rampant credit inflation they experienced over the past couple years. This is reflected by some markdowns in pricing and significant cuts to trade credit numbers on Old School cards.
In a few cases, the price decreases were relatively overdone. The result: there are a few played/HP cards worth grabbing with trade credit (never cash). The way I see it, any card that can be acquired and sold for at least 70% of ABU’s price is a worthwhile consideration because it represents a profitable out for trade credit.
Here are a few cards I’m perpetually searching for in the hopes of a restock, along with TCG low pricing. The ABUGames prices sited below are for Played copies because they only list HP prices when they have HP copies in stock. It’s safe to assume picking up HP copies of these cards would be even more attractive.
Power Artifact: $107.55 vs. $81.71 (75%)
Thunder Spirit: $98.19 vs. $76 (77%)
Serra's Sanctum: $100.69 vs. $75 (74%)
Icy Manipulator: $119.99 (HP) vs. $95 (79%)
Revised Savannah: $131.19 (HP) vs. $89 (68%)
I’m sure there are other examples out there, but these are some of the cards I browse most often when looking to convert trade credit into profit. They have OK prices on any HP Revised Dual Lands, by the way, so if you’re looking for some sleeve playable copies but don’t want to outlay a bunch of cash, ABUGames may be a good source.
Wrapping It Up
Old School cards are definitely in a correction as prices pull back significantly from their highs. But we’re nowhere near a “market crash”. This is evidenced by the robust demand from the Old School community, particularly for popular cards in heavily played condition. How do I know demand for this class of cards is robust?
There are two reasons for this conclusion. First is the fact that any well-priced (TCG low -10%) Old School card posted on the Old School Discord is promptly purchased. And second is the fact that vendors, who have dropped their prices too far, are perpetually out of stock on some popular cards.
My strategy varies for each major vendor, but ABUGames, Card Kingdom, Channel Fireball, and Star City Games all have cards worth monitoring for a restock. If you’re able to grab copies of underpriced cards such as the ones mentioned in this article, there is some profit to be made. Or, better yet, you can acquire cards for decks, cubes, Commander, etc. on the cheap. Just be aware that you’re not the only one refreshing these sites in the search for deals.
- After dropping their sell price on Unlimited Underground Sea, Card Kingdom quickly sold out of their stock. Now they have zero copies in stock and only $570 posted on their hotlist. They must not realize ABUGames offers $936, cash! They also offer $1,140 in trade credit for NM copies. With this differential, Card Kingdom is going to have to offer more if they’re hoping to restock copies of this card.
- Card Kingdom has upped their buy price on Candelabra of Tawnos to $455, where the number has stuck for a full week. Unlike Unlimited Underground Sea, Card Kingdom’s buy price on Candelabra is best in class. But TCG low is around $420 for heavily played copies, so I suspect there’s still a gap here and Card Kingdom may have to increase this number as well.
- Card Kingdom now has two Guru basic lands on their hotlist: Swamp and Forest, both posted with a $235 buy price. These must be selling well for Card Kingdom because there always appears to be some combination of Guru basics on their hotlist.