A Dichotomy in Old Card Prices

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“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”  - Charles Dickens

After months of aggressive buying and supply shortage, some cards have finally settled into their “new price points”—not quite as high as their peak, but also off their lows. Some cards have retraced harder than others, as expected. What wasn’t expected, however, is how robustly some cards are continuing to trade. In fact, a couple cards are at or near their all-time highs on Card Kingdom’s buylist.

This dichotomy reminded me of the famous opening to Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. For some cards, we’re still in the best of times. For others…well it’s hardly the “worst of times” but it’s certainly not as good. This week I’ll share updates on what cards remain hot and which ones have not.

Still Flying High

As I browse Card Kingdom’s hotlist, I see right off the bat some of the hottest cards on the market. Many are Reserved List cards, and while they may not be an “all-time high” buy price, I’ve noticed these buy prices have been on the climb rather than a decline.

For example, Mox Diamond shows up on the hotlist. The Stronghold printing has a buy price of $450—that’s not the peak, but it’s a good bit higher than the $400 offer Card Kingdom had posted just a week ago. They pay even more aggressively on the From the Vaults version, $650.

Gaea's Cradle tops the hotlist with a buy price of $720, which has got to be near its high. Then we have the Dual Lands, which rallied to highs before pulling back significantly. Well, that pullback may be temporarily suspended because Card Kingdom is paying quite well on Revised duals once again:

Underground Sea: $660
Volcanic Island: $540
Tropical Island: $480
Bayou: $360
Badlands: $230
Taiga: $270
Scrubland: $260
Kabira Takedown // Kabira Plateau: $250

Again, these prices aren’t their highest, but they are significantly off the lows they saw last month. Kabira Takedown // Kabira Plateau’s number seems particularly strong—they were paying as low as $200 just over a week ago. The only two Revised Dual Lands not on their hotlist are Tundra and Savannah.

Other cards with still-high buy list prices include Island of Wak-Wak (jumped from mid-$200’s to $325 before dropping back to $300), Old Man of the Sea, Mana Crypt, Magus of the Moat, Rasputin Dreamweaver, and Guardian Beast. Each of these are probably off all-time high buy prices, but not by as much as you’d think.

Lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Unlimited Power, which remains at their highs. Card Kingdom has been able to restock a smattering of copies, and when they do they drop their buy price significantly. But the reality is, they often sell out of the copies they receive and when they do, they jack up their buy price all over again. Black Lotus currently sports a Card Kingdom high of $19,800. Their buy price on Timetwister is also very strong, $6,600. Compare this to Ancestral Recall, where they’re “only” offering $4,000 because they have two near mint copies in stock currently.

Cooling Off

Not every Reserved List card has faired so robustly. It’s obvious if a card that sees minimal play cools off, but some of these pullbacks aren’t on less desirable cards, so I can’t quite pinpoint why they’re not selling as well for Card Kingdom. Perhaps Card Kingdom simply overshot on their pricing to the upside, and now have to reduce inventory of these cards.

For example, currently Card Kingdom doesn’t have Eureka on their buylist at all. They simply aren’t buying the card. When I visit their site, I see that they have 21 copies currently listed, across all conditions, ranging from $1149.99 for Near Mint down to $804.99 for Good copies. These prices are about 10-15% above TCGplayer, which isn’t completely unreasonable for a retailer that offers trade credit bonuses. Something just must have cooled off on this card.

What perplexes me more is that Card Kingdom has plenty of Magus of the Moats and The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vales in stock, 15 and 12 respectively, yet they keep these two cards posted on their buylist with very attractive buy prices. I guess there’s a threshold between 15 copies and 21 copies where Card Kingdom’s algorithm puts a halt on things.

Speaking of halting buying, Card Kingdom took down their buy prices on a bunch of Unlimited Dual Lands. While Revised copies are returning to Card Kingdom’s hotlist, they have cooled off significantly on Unlimited copies. They currently don’t buy Unlimited Underground Sea, Volcanic Island, Tropical Island, Scrubland, Badlands, Taiga, and Kabira Takedown // Kabira Plateau! When you view their stock of these cards, it’s no surprise. They have plenty of copies of Unlimited Dual Lands in stock now, and their prices aren’t exactly tempting. Something tells me these cards, along with some other Unlimited cards, are still cooling off pretty aggressively and have a ways to drop.

Lastly, I want to touch on The Dark, which has its fair share of cards that have cooled off significantly. At one point, Card Kingdom was paying $100 on Goblin Wizard—now they don’t buy the card at all. They have 14 copies in stock, which isn’t as high as some others, so I’m not sure why the algorithm pulled this one off their list. In any event, the card’s TCGplayer market price went from $18 to $130—a 622% increase—in less than two years. So a cooldown is long overdue.

From The Dark, Mana Vortex is another one that’s off Card Kingdom’s buylist altogether for the time being, even though their inventory is only 11 copies. Other less-than-playable The Dark cards are also not on Card Kingdom’s buylist currently, including Cleansing and Grave Robbers. Even in cases where Card Kingdom doesn’t have dozens of copies in stock, I suspect their selling velocity on these cards is probably lower.

Interestingly, you can’t find a similar story with Antiquities, which also contains a bunch of little-played Reserved List cards with suddenly higher price tags. It seems Card Kingdom hasn’t been satisfied with their inventory on this set, as they still offer most noteworthy cards on their buylist.

Wrapping It Up

In the early stages of the recent round of Reserved List buyouts, anything old seemed to be worth buying. The rising tide lifted all ships and lifted them all drastically. Now that the bull market is much more mature, not everything is still experiencing growth—many cards are retracing, as expected.

But what I didn’t expect was the split between the haves and have-nots. Some cards are still selling robustly even at new highs, while others have already seen their prices slashed in recent weeks.

For example, Unlimited cards are definitely cooling off whereas Antiquities cards apparently remain pretty strong. Revised Dual Lands had cooled off, but are now making a modest rebound whereas Unlimited Dual Lands remain soft. And within Legends and Arabian Nights, some cards are trading near highs whereas others are cooling off as Card Kingdom becomes satisfied with their inventory.

I can’t quite pinpoint any rhyme or reason for the dichotomy. It is probably a combination of a couple factors specific to Card Kingdom’s pricing practices. If Card Kingdom overshot on a price increase, they probably overstocked the card and now have to bleed out inventory before they’re willing to re-buy. On the other hand, if they upped their buy price too modestly, it would mean they still haven’t been able to restock sufficiently, so their buy price remains near highs.

At the end of the day, this probably is a local phenomenon…for the most part. But I always view Card Kingdom as at the forefront of pricing trends because of how dynamic their prices are. They aren’t always leaders, but they do react to trends with enough agility that I trust the fluctuations I see on their site. To that end, I’m going to be keeping an eye on the cards that are still climbing because there may still be a chance to pick up a few key cards before they reach their peak. Meanwhile, if you’re looking to trim, you could do worse than selling some of the cards that have cooled off most on Card Kingdom’s site as these likely overshot the most.

As we approach the re-opening of Magic events, it’ll be very interesting to see where prices go from here. One thing is for certain: I’ll be watching prices on these older cards very closely as trends unfold!

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