A Look at Collectors’ Edition Cards

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Last week I covered the recent move in a lesser-known bucket of cards: Foreign Black Border. This article was well-received overall, and readers acknowledged the recent trend, consistent with my own observations.

At the end of the article, I gave a very brief nod towards a different black-bordered set that can also be viewed as a budget alternative to many of today’s spiking Reserved List cards. That set is the Collectors’ Edition (and International Collectors’ Edition) sets, CE and IE for short.

While I wrote a section on these cards a couple time in the past (one insightful piece was back in December 2019), I wanted to spend more time this week covering recent trends on this set—there are some very surprising movements lately that merits an article to drive awareness.

A Little Background

If you want the full history, you can read about it in my December article. The key thing I want to emphasize here, for those who don’t want to bother getting lost in the hyperlink tangle, is that the set was released in 1993 and only 14,000 sets were produced. In today’s day, that’s an extremely tiny print run! Even Unlimited was printed in greater numbers, especially when you look at the uncommons and commons.

Keep in mind rarity has no meaning with Collectors’ Edition. Every set was printed to contain one copy of every card in the set. Therefore, there are just as many CE Ironroot Treefolk as there are Mox Jet—their price differential is therefore drifted solely by demand since the supply is constant.

As you can see in the graph today, some of these CE cards are worth a pretty penny. But even though Power is on the move, there are some other CE cards that are running hot that are worth touching upon.

Some Hot CE/IE Cards

You may have noticed Braingeyser’s spike over the weekend—it’s another Commander-playable, Reserved List card so it’s no surprised speculators made their move.

There was an error retrieving a chart for Braingeyser

While the Revised copy was the one that popped on MTGStocks, a quick change to settings reveals that the Collectors’ Edition printing also jumped a significant amount.

According to MTGStocks’ weekly interests page, a couple other CE cards also rose measurable throughout the past seven days. This includes Goblin King (+14%), Savannah (+11%), Lightning Bolt (+11%), Zombie Master (+10%), Force of Nature (+8%), Jayemdae Tome (+5%), Fastbond (+5%), and Wheel of Fortune (+5%).

These gains may not seem drastic when compared to some of the recent Reserved List buyouts—that’s a fair observation. However, these modest gains are much more real than the artificial price manipulation we see on the more popular sets.

Moving beyond MTGStocks, there’s a clever way of utilizing TCGplayer to investigate which cards from a given set are hottest. If I go to the advanced search option, select Collectors’ Edition, as the set, and then click search I’ll narrow the browser down to all cards from the selected set. Then, in the sort drop-down menu, I pick “Best Selling”. Voila! I now have the set sorted according to which cards have sold the most on TCGplayer using some sort of recency basis.

So when I do this, what do I see?

There we go with Braingeyser as mentioned before, the number one seller. I see two other Reserved List cards also showing up on the top 8 list: Gauntlet of Might and Copy Artifact. I’m a little more perplexed by Dragon Whelp and Unholy Strength, but this could be a nod to the fact that some Old School players purposefully seek out CE cards as budget black-bordered alternatives. The basics could be on the list for that same reason.

Two other cards I want to specifically call out are Wheel of Fortune and Chaos Orb. The latter is especially pricey because of its play in Old School. I once saw a joke that CE/IE Chaos Orbs technically have a larger surface area than their rounded-cornered counterparts, so they actually maximize your chance of destroying a card. While that difference is negligible, the fact that Chaos Orb is an icon of Old School is not—because many playgroups allow CE/IE cards, Chaos Orb is one of the hottest cards in the set and will continue to be so.

Wheel of Fortune is an interesting one. It is also popular in Old School, but I suspect Commander players are buoying its price most of all. I mention this card because the CE printing is nearly the same price as the Revised version—both are in the $200 price range on TCGplayer. Interestingly, this similarity is not reflected on Card Kingdom and ABUGames’ site. This brings me to one last observation on these cards, which has a chance of making you a little money on this under-the-radar set!

There was an error retrieving a chart for Wheel Of Fortune

Lastly, let’s talk briefly about Timetwister, the only Power 9 card legal in Commander. Have you seen what’s happened to this card’s price recently? Nice condition copies are selling in the $3500 range and the cheapest Unlimited copy I can find for sale is a played $3980 copy on eBay. Collectors’ Edition copies have also moved in kind, and TCG low is $650. I don’t think this card will ever pass Black Lotus as Power 9 leader, but the gap is certainly closing.

There was an error retrieving a chart for Timetwister

Retailers Behind the Curve?

I made a purchase on Star City Games’ site for the first time in quite a while last weekend. In addition to the 20 Jaya Ballard, Task Mages I grabbed at $0.45 each, I picked up a played Collectors’ Edition Volcanic Island. I had to purchase SCG Premium in order to earn the 10% discount, so my cost basis is roughly $249.99 - $25 + $7.99 + $7.50 (shipping), approximately $241.

A quick glance at TCGplayer suggest this was an amazing price—market price may only be $250, but the cheapest copy available on TCGplayer today is moderately played for $300. While TCG low doesn’t exactly reflect a card’s value, it’s good at indicating directional trend. I believe popular CE/IE cards, such as Dual Lands and Reserved List staples, are climbing in price right now. When I factor in that a couple CE/IE copies of Volcanic Island sold on eBay in the low $300’s over the past month, and I’m confident this purchase will result in a modest profit.

When I browse CE/IE cards across Star City Games, Card Kingdom, and to a lesser extent ABUGames, I’m observing two related trends. First, their prices seem competitive on the set and in some cases actually low relative to the market. Second, they’re sold out of almost all the higher-end cards from these sets.

These two observations are directly related.

See what I mean? The most expensive card Card Kingdom has in stock from Collectors’ Edition is a near mint Mana Vault ($59.99). Even this price is consistent with eBay completed listings and TCG pricing, meaning you could grab those Vaults with store credit and do a decent job flipping them for cash.

The story is similar at Star City Games—they actually have a couple CE Dual Lands in stock: an Underground Sea and Volcanic Island, both near mint for $349.99. While these aren’t slam-dunks in terms of profitability, applying the SCG Premium 10% discount makes them attractive acquisitions with store credit. Given the current upward momentum behind CE cards, it wouldn’t surprise me if these sold out sometime in September.

ABUGames actually does have some high-end CE cards in stock. BUT their prices are often much higher than the rest of the market.

A $2932.49 played CE Black Lotus is about 30% higher than the market. And while that “MINT” CE Mox Ruby may be tempting if you have store credit to cover the $727.39 price tag, I’m pretty sure that card is really worth only about $500. It seems, in some cases, ABUGames has already adjusted their prices upwards on the most desirable CE/IE cards.

However, they do have some CE/IE cards that haven’t been adjusted yet. Consider Wheel of Fortune for which they charge about $100. No surprise they’re out of stock here! But if you can catch a restock on something like this, you could make some easy profit.

Wrapping It Up

While mainstream Reserved List cards continue to disappear from the market, it’s important to keep Collectors’ Edition and International Collectors’ Edition cards in mind. They may not be tournament legal, but many Old School playgroups allow the sets. It wouldn’t surprise me if Commander group did the same thing.

As a result, many CE/IE cards have been quietly climbing in price. This is observable when viewing the best-selling cards from the set on TCGplayer. However, many of the large online vendors haven’t quite caught up with their pricing yet. The result is an opportunity to make a little profit and acquire CE/IE cards at a discount to the market.

This price discrepancy won’t last forever—eventually, Card Kingdom and Star City Games will adjust their pricing accordingly. Until then, expect to see them largely sold out of most of the desirable cards from these sets. But keep an eye out for a restock. If your timing is good, you could nab a great deal on a CE/IE card. Using store credit, the deal becomes even more attractive!

Keep an eye on CE/IE cards in the coming weeks. As speculators swarm over the Revised Reserved List cards, you may find a deal on his overlooked set. Or, as a player, perhaps you are OK playing a CE card in your Commander deck and the budget alternative could save you some money. Whatever your angle, the days of ignoring the non-tournament legal square-bordered cards are long gone. There’s real demand for these cards, and their prices are finally reflecting this

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