Assessing The Success of MTG Las Vegas

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By the time this article goes live, MTG Las Vegas 2021 will have come to a close. Reviewing my Twitter feed over the weekend, I can’t remember the last time I felt this much FOMO as the community converged in one city for a weekend of spell-slinging, gambling, eating world-class cuisine, and partaking in general festivities.

Next time, I am going to lobby my spouse for why I need to attend. It has been at least two years since my last large Magic event and it looks like I’ll have to wait a few more months. Luckily the game isn’t going anywhere, so with some more patience, I should one day reappear on the MTG scene.

But enough about me. I may not have been able to attend this event, but thousands of others did! With such a large group of players coming together, naturally my first question to answer was regarding the financial side of the event. This being the first major event in some time, with many vendors seeking to restock their depleted inventories, I have to imagine such an event will make waves in the secondary market.

So… How Did It Go?

I can’t help but think of Iago asking Jafar this exact question in Disney’s Aladdin. Gilbert Gottfried’s voice enters my head far more often than a normal human being’s, but I digress.

Since I wasn’t at the event, I leveraged social media (namely, Twitter and Discord) to investigate how the buying and selling was in Las Vegas last weekend. I started with this simple question:

The tweet had a relatively far reach: 2,446 impressions and 158 total engagements. I also received five replies, some of which were from some bigger names in the MTG vendor community.

Both of these Twitter handles belong to well-known members of the MTG vendor scene, with Michael running Tales of Adventure and Bash also having years of experience running vendor booths at large events. The impression from both these names was that business overall was very strong throughout the event. It’s no surprise that, with thousands of participants in the event hall at any given time, more vendors would have been merited.

Michael’s take on Power strikes close to home for me, since I have been focusing my attention mostly on the high-end market of late. I’m glad that they’ve been able to move some copies (perhaps to folks trading in some other cards), but it’s also noteworthy that they weren’t exactly looking to stock up on more. My guess is that vendors with Power in inventory are happy to sell, but not too eager to re-stock a significant quantity of the high-dollar items.

A couple other well-known members of the MTG community chimed in on my tweet:

Jim and Jeremy have both been around the MTG finance scene for many years, writing for various websites and recording the Cartel Aristocrats podcast. They summed up the event quite succinctly: there were more cards to buy than there was cash in vendors’ pockets.

Chris Martin, another popular MTG finance enthusiast (and operator of Chicago Style Gaming), went so far as to say that this was the best event ever, though this statement is up for debate. It’s insightful that Chris points out how Modern, Pioneer, and Standard cards were moving best, with higher-end stuff moving a bit more slowly. That’s to be expected—the demand for high dollar cards like Gaea's Cradle is naturally going to be lower since the price is so high.

All in all, I believe Magic is exiting MTG Las Vegas with a very strong secondary market. My confidence in holding Magic cards has never wavered and remains steadfast after hearing about the success of this event. The Quiet Speculation Discord channel was largely in agreement (names blocked for privacy).

What’s Next?

Now that MTG Las Vegas is in the books, it’s time to look ahead to what’s to come. In general, I feel optimistic about the secondary market’s health for Magic. In the Discord picture above, the third message down about sums up my sentiment. This is a very good sign for the hobby and everyone’s confidence in the game.

Does that mean cards are poised to rise in the near term? I wouldn’t go this far. In fact, after this event, it wouldn’t surprise me if we see some pricing pressure on the overall MTG market heading into the holiday season.

For one, the overall supply available on the market is going to see an increase. I don’t care if only a dozen vendors were at the event—if as much buying took place as it sounds like, these copies are going to hit the market and are going to be felt by everybody. This will result in some modest price competition so that vendors can liquidate some of their newly acquired inventory.

Secondly, we have the holiday season approaching. While in a vacuum that may seem irrelevant, in reality the holidays are a distraction from day-to-day life, including Magic deck building and playing. While I’m sure plenty of players are still going to get together with friends for some casual Commander games over the holiday break, I have to imagine general spending on Magic slows down a bit while folks spend their money on gifts, food, and travel for the holiday season.

Thirdly, we have the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales coming up. In some cases, this will directly mean lower prices. In many cases, such as with TCGplayer, eBay, and Card Kingdom, there will be a “cash back” incentive. While receiving store credit back when making purchases doesn’t have the same direct impact on prices, it’ll “pull forward” demand in the short term and then leave a bit of a lull in demand afterwards.

For example, if TCGplayer offers a 10% or 15% cash back deal for Black Friday, it’ll catalyze a wave of buying. This spike in demand will drive prices modestly higher in the short term. But after the promotion ends, and players spend their store credit, their demand will be temporarily satiated. It could be a little time afterwards before they decide to make additional Magic purchases. This resulting dip in demand could linger for a couple months, inevitably leading to some pricing weakness throughout the winter months.

In anticipation of this, I’d recommend being very deliberate about Magic purchases and sales going forward. During the upcoming Black Friday and Cyber Monday specials, it’ll be an opportune time to make purchases you were planning on making—plan ahead, and take full advantage of the specials. On the sell side, this will also be your last great opportunity to get a good price on your wares before the New Year.

After the end of the specials, however, we will probably see a softening of demand. This would not be the ideal time to sell cards. However, if you’re hoping to make some purchases (perhaps using some of your holiday gift money) I’d recommend waiting a bit to see if you can get a deal. As we head into December, the incentive to make aggressive MTG purchases will be lower, so you’ll have the luxury of time to shop around.

When we finally make it through the winter and get into the spring, all bets are off. It seems like March and April are often the months where buyouts and speculation ensue. Given how much that happened in 2020 and 2021, I’m not sure if we’ll see yet another wave of this activity in 2022. I’m inclined to think not, in fact. But there are too many unknowns with the economy at this point to make a reasonable prediction. Let’s just monitor the market closely and cross that bridge when we get to it.

One thing is certain: if large constructed tournaments do return, we may see increased demand for tournament staples, which is also generally good for the market.

Wrapping It Up

MTG Las Vegas 2021 is officially over, and it sounds like it was a tremendously successful event—both for players and vendors alike. I wasn’t able to attend the event myself, but I checked with the Twitter community, consisting of MTG vendors and financiers, and the overall consensus is consistent: there were a lot of vendors buying! This means market inventory will tick up a bit after nearly two years of pressure due to a lack of in-person events.

Following this event, there will be a round of discounts and incentives as the shopping season approaches. This will be a prime time to buy and sell cards. But following these promotions, I expect there will be a bit of market fatigue, and demand will soften. This could lead to a couple of months of price softening throughout the winter.

Will there be another round of buyouts as Spring approaches? I would guess not, but it’s too soon to accurately predict. I’m also going to be watching for other in-person events after the New Year. People may not be eager to travel again for a large Magic event until a month or two into 2022, but the success of this event tells me there will be more of these going forward. Perhaps we will even see some semblance of normalcy in the Magic world after this two-year period?

After the toll this pandemic took on our health and minds, we can only hope.

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Sigmund Ausfresser

Sigmund first started playing Magic when Visions was the newest set, back in 1997. Things were simpler back then. After playing casual Magic for about ten years, he tried his hand at competitive play. It took about two years before Sigmund starting taking down drafts. Since then, he moved his focus towards Legacy and MTG finance. Now that he's married and works full-time, Sigmund enjoys the game by reading up on trends and using this knowledge in buying/selling cards.

View More By Sigmund Ausfresser

Posted in Analysis, Business, Buying, Cash Flow, Event Coverage, Finance, MagicFest

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