I’m definitely starting to see some signs of softness in the Magic market. At least, that’s my relatively narrow perspective as I focus mostly on cards printed in the 1990’s. Cards that derive most their value from their collectability—particularly such cards from the Four Horsemen sets—have seen some modest price corrections lately.
This is natural, and nothing to be concerned about. It’s part of the regular cycle of hype and buyouts, price spikes, followed by gradual pullback and stabilization.
What’s interesting, however, is that there are certain older cards that remain strong. So strong, in fact, that they topped some vendor hotlists at last weekend’s Star City Games event in Indianapolis, one of the first major in-person events to take place since COVID’s onset.
I wasn’t able to attend, but that didn’t stop me from making some noteworthy observations…
Record Setting Event?
I doubt this was the largest SCGCON ever, but it very well could be one of the largest. Ben Bleiweiss, General Manager of Sales over at Star City Games, was certainly bullish on the turnout!
I’ll get to the hotlist in just a bit. But first, I want to highlight the hype I read about this event all weekend in my Twitter feed. People were flying in from all around the country for this in-person event—both for Magic and Flesh and Blood tournaments. Can you blame them? It’s been a long two years of this pandemic, and people are itching to get out and do things in person like they used to before March 2020.
If Star City Games and Wizards of the Coast are paying attention (and I’m sure they are), they’ll observe the tremendous pent-up demand for such in-person events. The Grand Prix and MagicFest circuits are a thing of the past, for now. But maybe there will be a return of such events in the future as COVID numbers continue to improve and people strive to return to a sense of normalcy. Until then, the MagicFest schedule looks rather depressing.
Hotlists: A Closer Look
There were probably more than two vendors on site at SCGCON last weekend, but only two bothered to share their hotlist on Twitter with the #SCGCON tag. As a result, I could find just the two—but there is still a lot worth discussing between these two lists!
First, let’s take a look at Star City Games’ hotlist, which is quite lengthy and diverse!
As an avid collector of older Magic cards, naturally my eyes move straight towards the most valuable and noteworthy cards on this list. The first one to grab my attention: Gaea's Cradle. Star City Games was offering a record-setting $850 for near mint copies! Holy Reserved List, Batman!
Card Kingdom currently boasts the highest buy price for Gaea's Cradle online, at $720. Star City Games’ in person buy price was a full 18% higher! Being a Commander staple on the Reserved List, I fully expect to see this card continue an inevitable climb higher. But I must admit that I didn’t expect to see an $850 buy price so soon, especially given the aforementioned softness in Magic prices lately. Clearly Gaea's Cradle didn’t get the memo.
The next highest card on SCG’s hotlist was Tropical Island, at $600. I thought Dual Lands had finally calmed down, but judging by the appearance of them on both Star City’s and Ninety-Five’s hotlists last weekend, perhaps these are as liquid as ever. In addition to the blue/green Dual Land, Star City Games had Badlands ($400) and Taiga ($300) on their hotlist. It’s interesting they didn’t post Underground Sea or Volcanic Island, the two most valuable Dual Lands, on their hotlist. I guess they haven’t seen the same demand for those two relative to the others lately.
The other two noteworthy Reserved List cards I see on Star City’s hotlist include City of Traitors ($225) and Sliver Queen ($200). While these buy prices may not be as shocking as that of Gaea's Cradle, they’re still competitive with the best online buy prices (and nothing beats the thrill of being paid immediately in cash when selling in person).
Shifting gears, let’s take a look at Ninety-Five’s iconic hotlist board, recognizable from afar and following the same template at all major events they attend.
While Star City Games’ hotlist is easy to navigate with its alphabetical ordering, I rather like Ninety-Five’s approach of listing in price order. This makes it easy to find the most notable cards.
The top of the list? Surprise surprise, it’s Gaea's Cradle (again), though *only* at $800 in this case. I wonder how many copies they bought last weekend with Star City Games offering $50 next door. Either way, one thing is clear: Gaea's Cradle is one hot Magic card!
Next on the list are four Dual Lands: Underground Sea ($750), Volcanic Island ($750), Tropical Island ($550), and Tundra ($470). In other words, unlike Star City Games who were looking for some of the less expensive Dual Lands, Ninety-Five was on the hunt for all four blue duals, with very attractive buy prices!
Oh, they also have Badlands on their hotlist with a $350 buy price. I almost missed that one!
The other popular Reserved List cards they’re buying aggressively are City of Traitors (again) at $230 and Lion's Eye Diamond at $400. We’ve already established that this is a very competitive number on City of Traitors. But how does Ninety-Five’s number for Lion's Eye Diamond compare with online buylists?
As of Sunday morning, Card Kingdom boasted the best online buy price for LED at $390. So the prospect of receiving $400, immediately in person, for a nice copy of Lion's Eye Diamond is very attractive. It wouldn’t surprise me if Ninety-Five took in a fair amount of this card over the weekend, relatively speaking. I doubt many players have stacks of these lying around that they’re itching to sell.
Oh the Things that Walk in the Door
Maybe I shouldn’t assume no player would show up at SCGCON Indianapolis with a stack of Lion's Eye Diamonds. I was watching Tales of Adventure’s Twitter feed over the weekend and while they didn’t post a hotlist, I saw the vendor pick up some very impressive cards!
First, I saw them post a BGS 8.0 Summer Hurricane for sale with a $7,000 price tag.
This misprint card from 1994 has got to be one of the most famous, iconic misprints from Magic’s history. I can’t imagine there’s a long line of buyers eager to pick one of these up, but any collector would be thrilled to have one of these at a fair price. I don't know much about the Summer Magic market, but this price tag doesn’t surprise me one bit.
More my speed, someone walked in with a nice, complete set of Italian Legends. This probably doesn’t happen all that often.
Sticking to the foreign Old School theme, Tales of Adventure also brought in a complete set of foreign black bordered (FBB) Dual Lands!
The prices on these still amaze me for being relatively reasonable. I mean, these FBB Dual Land prices are lower than Unlimited prices in most cases! I don’t know how their print run compares to Unlimited, but it is surprising to see black bordered Dual Lands at numbers that don’t make me want to run the other direction. I wonder if FBB duals are relatively underpriced as compared to their English counterparts?
All in all, it was an impressive selection of cards to have been acquired by Tales of Adventure over the weekend, and I really enjoyed their pseudo-live sharing of acquisitions throughout the weekend.
Wrapping It Up
It’s only Sunday morning, but I’m going to go out on a limb and declare SCGCON Indianapolis a roaring success! I’d be curious to hear others’ opinions on the event after the weekend’s completion. Just being one of the first major, in-person events to take place since March 2020 makes this one quite special. I truly regret missing out on this one, as Indianapolis is only about 2.5 hours away from my home.
Alas, I’ve been so out of the loop on in-person events that this one completely skipped my radar. I’ll have to watch the schedules more closely to see if another event comes to the Midwest any time soon. It looks like it’ll have to be a Star City Games event, since Channel Fireball and Wizards of the Coast don’t have any MagicFests scheduled for 2022. Not yet, anyways. Maybe after they witness the success of this event, they’ll begin warming up to the idea of rescheduling in-person Magic events.
Until then, Star City Games has a bit of a monopoly on significantly sized in-person events. My unsolicited advice to them: run with it for as long as possible. While there’s tremendous pent-up demand for in-person events after two years of sheltering in place, any event is likely to draw a huge crowd and significant hype. And as long as that’s the case, there should be some good card buying and selling that takes place all weekend long.