Most readers know by now that I focus mostly on the older, more nostalgic side of the Magic finance world. If it weren’t for my recent foray into Magic Arena, I wouldn’t even know that the newest set was Theros Beyond Death (and what a complex set it is!).
Imagine my surprise when this weekend I reviewed MTG Stocks’ Interests page only to see multiple buy-outs, with three cards up over 300% for the week!
I thought Magic cards were going to plummet in value due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic? What happened? It turns out, speculators are adequately capitalized and are placing their bets in anticipation of the newest Commander 2020 spoilers!
This leaves me scratching my head. The fact that speculators are going deep on cards like Fluctuator and Bounty Hunter—two cards that have spiked in the past on speculation—is an encouraging sign. People still believe a profit can be made from Magic speculation (and they’re clearly right).
Now, if you’re looking for speculation ideas based on Commander 2020 and Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths, I’m not the right author to cover this topic. We have other, far more qualified writers here at Quiet Speculation. However, I can still use recent observations to detail what gives me optimism that the Magic card market will be okay coming out of this pandemic.
Optimism Point 1: Buyouts
In the past, I’ve discussed the negative impact that buyouts have on this market. It drives illiquidity and forces those who don’t monitor the market hourly to pay higher prices for hot cards. Their only alternative is to wait an unknown period of time for the buyout to fade and price gouging to abate. Neither scenario is attractive.
Now, during this uncertain time, I view buyouts differently. They are a reflection of buyer confidence, normalcy, and sufficient liquidity. I get excited when I see a sudden 500% increase on Urza’s Saga artifact Fluctuator.
Vendor reaction to this particular buyout has been muted so far—best buy prices have only gone from $2.20 to $4. But copies of this card have sold for north of $20 on TCGPlayer, so I’m hoping vendors move prices up further over the coming days. Keep an eye on Card Kingdom, in particular. In the past, I’ve seen their buylist react most reflexively and convincingly, jacking up their buy price immediately after a buyout in order to restock the card. A move in Fluctuator’s buy price from $4 to, say, $8-$10 would be a very encouraging sign.
Unbound Flourishing is another good card for monitoring vendor response. Commander players love green cards that contain the word “double”, so it’s no surprise to see something in Commander 2020 catalyze an Unbound Flourishing buyout.
Being a mythic rare from Modern Horizons, and a card that has not yet been bought out, we may see a more drastic move in price on the green enchantment. Aggressive buylisting tends to “shake the trees” a bit, jostling loose copies that players may have been sitting on for no good reason other than it wasn’t worth their time selling. An aggressive buy price may be short-lived, but if we see one it bodes well for the market’s health in general.
Optimism Point 2: High-End Cards Are Still Moving
Let’s shift focus away from new cards I know little about and toward something near and dear to my heart: Power. But not just any Power 9, let’s focus specifically on heavily played, Unlimited copies.
Recently, Card Kingdom posted a few pieces of Power 9 that they graded “below good”, meaning the copies were too played to be salable on their direct website. Their prices were surprisingly attractive—as low as $1,100 for a beat-up Mox Emerald.
Within 24 hours of posting, most of the discounted Power Card Kingdom had posted on eBay sold. In fact, here are the sales Card Kingdom made on eBay from April 3rd to April 4th, along with the posted price (in most cases, best offers were accepted):
Extending back to March 31st, I see Card Kingdom has sold 14 high-end, below good cards on eBay, equating to approximately $12,685 in sales. I’m sure this number is dwarfed by Card Kingdom’s typical, weekly sales, but to me it again reflects confidence in the market. Old School players and collectors are hungry for budget pieces of Power, and it comes as no surprise that these high-end cards sold within days or even hours of being posted by Card Kingdom.
Prices on Power are soft, it’s true. But any sleeve playable piece of Power posted at $1,100 will sell almost immediately. That’s an encouraging sign.
I’ll also note that Card Kingdom has placed some high-end cards back on their buylist after a temporary absence. They have (admittedly underwhelming) offers posted for pieces of Unlimited Power of which they are out of stock, including Black Lotus. They also put Juzám Djinn, Bazaar of Baghdad, Library of Alexandria, and other expensive cards back on their buylist.
Optimism Point 3: Federal Stimulus is Coming
This is a dicey topic, as it introduces politics. I will attempt to eschew the political component to the incoming federal aid package and focus only on numbers.
Most of the country’s population is about to receive a stimulus check: $1,200 per tax-paying adult and $500 per child. That means a household with total income under $150,000 and two children will get a check for $3,400, courtesy of COVID-19. Details pasted below:
For some, this money will be insufficient. Jobless claims in the United States have exceeded 6,000,000 and unemployment is spiking. If you live in a large city with a high cost of living and are going to be out of a job for a couple months thanks to stay-at-home orders, there’s no way this amount will help you make ends meet (but some money is better than no money).
But what about those who are still able to work from home during this unprecedented time? What about those who do the majority of their work out-of-doors, generally at least six feet away from others? What about those who work on government-deemed critical things, and still have to go into work? All these people are still getting paid for their jobs, yet some will qualify for this government check.
Those in lower cost-of-living areas and can still work are doubly lucky, as they will receive this check while they’re not under any financial hardship. For this subset of individuals, it’ll be like receiving another tax refund check from the government. Is it possible that some of these individuals use this money to purchase Magic cards? We all assume they spend tax refund checks on Magic, so why would this be any different?
This is another point of optimism for me—that these COVID-19 relief checks from the government will spurn at least some level of Magic card buying.
Wrapping It Up
They say the only two guarantees in life are death and taxes. In a world with a rampant pandemic, I’d argue there’s a third guarantee: uncertainty. There are still so many unknowns associated with this virus and its potential to spread, and countries around the world are doing their best to defend against this nearly-invisible enemy.
Such uncertainty is wreaking havoc in markets. Stocks are down significantly, interest rates are plummeting, and there’s a general flight to cash, especially US Dollars. The Magic card market is no exception, and prices are softening across the board.
Despite this market weakness, I am seeing a few encouraging signs. For one, buyouts are still occurring as new Commander 2020 spoilers are announced—as annoying as these can be, it does provide us with a semblance of normalcy. Then you have the fact that Card Kingdom is able to maintain some liquidity by capitulating their damaged high-end cards on eBay, fairly easily I might add. Lastly, the COVID-19 relief checks will be a decent cash windfall for some individuals. Those who can still work and are in lower cost-of-living regions are doubly fortunate, and a fraction of them may use some incentive money to purchase Magic cards.
While these observations don’t signal the “all clear” by any means, they are at least encouraging—they’re reminders that, despite everything going on in the world, people still want to buy paper Magic cards. This gives me hope that once this is all behind us, the Magic community will go back to normal and the market for cards will recover. For this reason, I’m holding the core components of my collection.
- I won’t sit here and pretend Card Kingdom’s buy prices are attractive. The reality is, many of their numbers are well off their highs. But some numbers are encouragingly stable. For example, Card Kingdom is still offering $250 on Underground Sea and $220 on Gaea's Cradle. These numbers have not dropped for a week—an encouraging sign of market stabilization.
- I don’t see Revised Volcanic Island on Card Kingdom’s hotlist. However, they do have one printing of the red/blue dual land on their hotlist: they are offering $160 for Collectors’ Edition copies! I don’t know why they’re after this printing in particular, but the fact that they are still buying such a niche card (only playable in Old School) is another encouraging sign.
- Another stable card on Card Kingdom’s hotlist is Gaea's Cradle—no, this isn’t an editing mistake. I intentionally mentioned the card twice, because in this case I’m referring to the gold-bordered World Championships This card is the epitome of casual because it can’t be played in any tournament (not even Old School, where Urza’s Saga cards aren’t permitted). Yet Card Kingdom maintains a fairly robust $44 buy price for this printing!