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Defining Our Terms

Nowadays there are a lot of potential investment opportunities, so I think it’s important to look at them in relation to Magic: The Gathering. Just 10 years ago, if you’d told someone that you invested in Magic cards, they most likely would have looked at you quizzically or just outright laughed at you. But thanks to collectibles becoming more mainstream, we have seen a resurgence in Reserved List spikes in the past 12 months that can only really be logically tied to people investing in these cards.

I understand it might come off as a bit cliché to start an article with a definition of a term, but with all that’s going on in the financial world right now, I think it’s important to define key terms upfront so that all can understand where I’m coming from.

Investment

Investment (n): Property or another possession acquired for future financial return or benefit.

 

I have a friend who speculated on Kuzdu and has already made 6x his investment while still holding onto a majority of his copies so far, despite it not seeing play in any format and not comboing with anything that has recently come out.


In fact, for several months the front page of MTGStocks was littered with random Reserved List (RL) cards quadrupling overnight. As expected we are seeing many of these prices creep back down, but many are unlikely to ever return to their original price which means that those who bought up these cards may still consider it a good investment even if it takes quite some time to actually turn the cards back into cash and make a profit. This has died down somewhat and I believe the reason is that many who jumped onto that train bought in without knowing a whole lot about the game and understanding card demand. This leads us to our next definition.

Value

Value (n): Worth in usefulness or importance to the possessor.

A card’s value stems from multiple properties such as:

  • Playability – how often the card is played in a given deck.
  • Rarity – how rare the card is compared to other cards.
  • Collectibility – how collectible or iconic the card is compared to other cards. This may include the set it’s from, its artwork, the artist who did the artwork, or other factors.
  • Personal Attachment – how personally attached to a given card a player or players are. This one tends to be more subjective than the others, but there is a reason that Alpha Animate Wall is more valuable than other bulk Alpha rares and it’s because one person started collecting them a long time ago, so there are far fewer in the marketplace than others.

The market price of a card is dictated by these values because these values will determine the demand for the card. When someone buys up all the copies of an old obscure card they may make the market react in such a way that some people who fear missing out (FOMO) will purchase copies at new inflated prices, but overall these properties have not changed just because Person A buys up the lowest 200 copies of some obscure card and suddenly the TCGplayer market price moves up by 50%. If the rest of the player population wasn’t interested in buying the card at $0.5, few will now be interested to buy it at $5.

Despite the clear-cut definition of the term “value”, nowadays it does seem to have a fair amount of ambiguity. Every day we see multiple types of cryptocurrency rise and drop in price.

I have often repeated a wise Warren Buffet quote: “price is what you pay, value is what you get.” I repeat it because it is incredibly important to understand. We typically view the terms as interchangeable because they are so closely linked, however, doing so misses an important distinction. The price is determined by the seller, but the value is determined by the buyer. If you are finishing up your decklist for a major event and realize you are missing a key sideboard card, you are willing to pay over market price at the venue because the value of having access to it is worth it. However, if you walk into your LGS and they have the same card priced the same, but you don’t need it immediately, it is easy to simply pass on purchasing it.
I have a foil Shadowmage Infiltrator I opened in an Odyssey pack long ago. It has plummeted in price since I cracked that pack, but its price is irrelevant to me because I greatly value the memory of playing it in standard and winning an FNM with it and it reminds me of the time I got to meet Johnny Magic himself when I covered PT Guilds of Ravnica.

Conclusion

The reason for this article is that I have seen a lot of people using these terms, oftentimes incorrectly. I have heard of numerous investment opportunities, be it, cryptocurrency, stocks, index funds, real estate, or Magic cards as a “good value” which obviously implies the speaker believes the current price is below what they believe the price should be or will become. There are plenty of analysts on many of those subjects with a lot more knowledge than me, every time I hear those words I ask myself by what standards do they think that. I encourage you all to do the same, regardless of the source.


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Want to write for Quiet Speculation?

All you need to succeed is a passion for Magic: The Gathering, an aptitude for getting value from your cards, and the ability to write coherently. Share your knowledge of MTG and how you leverage it to play the game for less – or even turn a profit.
David Schumann

David Schumann

David started playing Magic in the days of Fifth Edition, with a hiatus between Judgment to Shards. He's been playing Commander since 2009 and Legacy since 2010.

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