I may sound like a broken record by beginning this article with yet another comment about how the Reserved List market remains hot. But prices are so dynamic, and numbers are so high, that I can’t help but pay exclusive attention to these trends.
The attention paid off—I’ve noticed a couple subtle shifts, primarily in Card Kingdom’s buy prices and inventory. After steady, non-stop price increases on both the buy and sell side, I have observed a few cards that Card Kingdom managed to restock, dropping their buy prices.
I don’t believe for a second this means the entire market has peaked. Rather, I believe it’s an indication that Card Kingdom overextended a bit on their buylist with the intent of restoring some inventory. But how quickly are some of these cards going to move at these newly inflated, retail prices? Should we be trying to take advantage when we see a seemingly aggressive buy price as an opportunity to cash out?
Many people, including myself, are itching to take some profits and perhaps Card Kingdom is giving us a nice opportunity to do so. This week I’m going to dive into some specifics on Card Kingdom’s pricing, summarizing the cards I am looking to sell to them and which I am holding in anticipation of further price appreciation. Most importantly, I’ll share the how: I’ll explain the calculations I’m making when determining if a buy price is perhaps overextended or not.
A Very Recent Card Kingdom Buylist Order
“Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.”
The classic Warren Buffett quote resonates now more than ever as I sit here examining the wild prices on some of my cards. Of course, I had hoped for further price appreciation over time, but I could never have predicted that a year-long pandemic would create a massive acceleration in asset appreciation.
Day in and day out I’m browsing Card Kingdom’s buylist—one I consider to be a gold standard in keeping up with market trends—and marveling at the numbers offered on Reserved List cards. As prices climb, the temptation to trim my collection grows. Finally, after noticing a few particularly attractive numbers, I decided to make a first move.
I buylisted a smattering of cards to Card Kingdom this past weekend, with three primary highlights in the mix (numbers are before condition downgrading):
Now the key question that may come to the reader’s mind is, “Why these cards in particular?” The thought process was nontrivial, and consisted of four steps.
Step 1: Observing a sudden increase in buy price. This means that in my daily checking of the buylist, I saw a time when Card Kingdom’s increase to a buy price was significant. The amount offered seemed very aggressive relative to its “old price”, giving me reason to investigate further.
Step 2: Double checking condition of the card to get the best guess at how much I will actually receive from Card Kingdom.
Step 3: Calculating the amount I’d actually get after condition downgrade, and comparing against what I paid. Granted what I paid should be irrelevant when determining whether or not I should sell a card. But there’s an additional motivation to cash out if I’ve profited on a card knowing I can put the proceeds to work elsewhere in the market.
Step 4: Comparing the amount I’d get against the amount I would net if I sold the card on TCGplayer or eBay. This is the most important step—if I’m getting close to the same amount by buylisting to Card Kingdom as I would selling it myself on eBay, then shipping to the vendor is very attractive. There’s no wait time, no negotiations (as there would be on Facebook, Discord, or eBay), and no risk of negative feedback.
As a corollary to Step 4, comparing buylist price to TCG low is a way of determining if I can actually sell my copy of a card and re-buy one for less money. Given how aggressive Card Kingdom has been lately, this is not so far-fetched an idea!
A Short Case Study
Let’s use Ifh-Bíff Efreet as a case study. When I shipped my [likely VG condition] copy to Card Kingdom, they were paying $195 on NM. This means the amount I expect to receive for my copy is 80% of that, or $156.
This card was worth well under $100 just a couple months ago, so an offer of $156 is very difficult to resist. Then I checked TCGplayer and I made up my mind. There are a smattering of HP and one MP copy of the card under $156. Granted, there aren’t many, but that’s not the point. The point is, I don’t think I’d be able to sell my copy for $156 in a private sale. A prospective buyer would correctly point out they could just buy one for less elsewhere.
Seeing that, I made the difficult decision to cut ties with the card. I say “difficult” because I know it’s highly unlikely I’ll own another copy for quite some time. I am a bit of a collector, so this is always a struggle of mine, but I’m not a completionist. At the end of the day, I can be happy with my collection despite not owning an Ifh-Bíff Efreet.
The other card I want to touch on is Khabál Ghoul.
My copy was probably heavily played, and I expect to get 70% of Card Kingdom’s buylist, or $70. While that is a little more than TCG low (ignoring the damaged copies), the difference was very small. Again, it would have been very difficult to sell my copy for $70 on a different platform. Additionally, I may be able to rebuy the copy from eBay, where I see some recently completed listings in that $70 price range.
Finally, there’s the third card I mentioned, Alchor's Tomb.
This is a pretty goofy card. Historically, cards that change the color of another card have been largely irrelevant, with few exceptions (Celestial Dawn comes to mind). The only funny application I could think of is using this artifact to put a counter on a creature in response to someone’s Heartless Act…pretty random, I know. There’s also a story about the artist thinking the card was Alchor's Tomb instead of Alchor’s Tome, permanently changing Magic lore.
Otherwise, the card is useless. I bought a copy opportunistically not long ago in order to mitigate shipping costs. Seeing the reasonable buy price, I decided it was a fine time to cash out.
Other Cards for Consideration
Now, onto the most actionable part: I’m going to identify a list of cards that I believe Card Kingdom has overextended a bit on, at least in the short term. I’ll also highlight a few cards that I’m not shipping them because I think they may be increasing their number at least once more.
Cards I’d Consider Shipping Soon:
- Tolarian Academy: Buy price is $140 and this is a card that sees very little play given it’s banned in nearly everything.
- Low-end, non-Reserved List, not-really-playable Arabian Nights cards: Ebony Horse, Mijae Djinn, Jandor's Saddlebags, Sindbad.
- Low-end The Dark cards: Grave Robbers, Sorrow's Path, Elves of Deep Shadow, Cleansing.
- Any garbage Reserved List rare that sees a buylist bump after being bought out. I’m not sure if buylists have actually reacted on all of these or not, but it’s definitely worth checking. Cards such as Aku Djinn, Catacomb Dragon, Anaba Spirit Crafter, and Serra Aviary.
- Mid-tier and low-tier Revised and Unlimited rares/uncommons: cards like Blaze of Glory, Force of Nature, Copper Tablet, Kudzu. Exception: If you have a truly near mint Unlimited copy, you may be better served keeping it or selling to a collector.
Cards I’d Hold In Anticipation of Higher Buy Prices:
- The high-end Legends cards: The Abyss, Chains of Mephistopheles, Moat, Nether Void, Eureka
- The high-end Arabian Nights cards: Bazaar of Baghdad, Library of Alexandria, Juzám Djinn, Drop of Honey, Guardian Beast
- Power, Alpha and Beta
Wrapping It Up
It’s possible that we’re in for yet another round of buyouts and price increases. Between tax refunds and government stimulus, many players may suddenly have another cash infusion. At least some folks will surely put that money into the collectibles market. With a pandemic, what else is there really?
As this trend continues, I’m paying very close attention to buylists. I am not advocating complete liquidation—far from it. But some buy prices are just getting too attractive to ignore. Some cards with very limited playability are suddenly selling for triple their previous price. When such greed enters the market, I look for opportunities to trim back a bit.
That’s precisely what I’ve begun last weekend by completing a buylist to Card Kingdom. I started relatively modest, shipping them just a handful of mid-tier Reserved List cards. As numbers climb, I’ll be forced to scrutinize my collection even more closely to identify other areas I could trim. We’re not quite there yet, but when I can sell Card Kingdom a card for the same amount as I’d get selling on eBay or Facebook, it becomes very tempting.
It is especially tempting when the card in question is not in a deck, isn’t very useful, and isn’t all that special (to me). These are the perfect candidates to sell, raising some cash for alternate endeavors. After all, at some point as these prices climb, the opportunity cost to holding them becomes steeper and steeper!
Imagine selling some cards to fund a significant upgrade to your home. Or using the proceeds in pursuit of another passion area (e.g. buying a high-end DSLR camera, a nice set of golf clubs, etc.). At some point, these comparisons become a reality. And while Magic cards have historically been attractive because they carried a prospect of price appreciation, at some point you’ve realized that expected appreciation and it’s time to consider selling.
Yes, I think prices five years from now will be higher than they are today, but not without some bumps along the way. I fully expect a cool-down period, and it would be a true surprise if I never had the chance to rebuy the cards I buylisted last weekend for less than I’ll receive for them. The long-term prospect for Magic is rosy, so I’m definitely not advocating complete liquidation. But if people and vendors are willing to pay so much more for cards now, I can’t resist obliging them…at least a little bit.