A Few Odd Spikes

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What do Grislbrand, Jetmir's Garden, and Temple of Enlightenment all have in common? They have all recently had an odd overpriced purchase recently. I began noticing this trend while doing my daily review of MTGStocks interests.

The first one was Griselbrand. When I saw its market price jump, I got very excited, as I have quite a few copies. Then I looked into it and found that there were numerous copies below that price listed on TCGPlayer. TCGPlayer now allows you to see recent purchase history, which is fantastic information for the Magic finance community given TCGPlayer's dominance of the secondary card sales community here in the US. I noticed that there were a few sales of Griselbrand all on the same day at the same exorbitant price.

It is important to note that when I look up Temple of Enlightenment, the $95.00 sale shown above is no longer listed in the recent sales for the card on TCGPlayer; however, the Jetmir's Garden and the Griselbrand sales are still listed.

What is especially interesting about this particular sample set is that we have three different results:

  • Griselbrand still has a TCGPlayer market price well above the actual going rate of the cards. This is almost assuredly due to the small number of transactions including copies of the card since the odd purchase.
  • Jetmir's Garden's TCGPlayer market price has essentially crashed back down to what it normally would have been due in large part to the higher transaction volume as it averages back down to reality when the sample size is large.
  • Temple of Enlightenment has also seen its TCGPlayer market price return to normal likely due to the retraction of the sale.

This is not the first time these inflated market prices have been shown on MTGStocks because of such a transaction on TCGPlayer. That makes it valuable to us to understand why those transactions occur at all. So, why would someone pay 10x the going rate on a card when there were plenty of cheaper options?

Possible Explanations

Accidental Purchase

It is possible that the buyer had placed cards in their cart a while ago, and the seller for whatever reason massively increased the price of the card. Or maybe the buyer wasn't 100% in their right mind at the time of the purchase.

Software Issues

Perhaps, for some reason, the cart optimizer failed to operate properly, if the buyer happened to use it. It also seems possible, though unlikely, that someone ordered a card on TCGPlayer Direct, and the original buyer didn't have the card and was forced to purchase the next best option, though this seems like an extremely unlikely occurrence.

Confusing Foil vs. Non-Foil

Originally I thought that perhaps the Griselbrand order was for foil copies that were mislabeled via the TCGPlayer software, or possibly they were picture sales and the buyer could see they were foils. However, that explanation doesn't account for the other cards included in this sample.

Purposeful Market Manipulation

I will emphasize that Quiet Speculation strongly condemns any form of market manipulation and has banned people for pushing attempts. It should also be pointed out that many attempts to corner the market on a given card have often ended very poorly for the manipulator. All that said, I do believe this to be the most likely hypothesis. While I could understand accidental purchases on a very rare occurrence, the fact that we saw these massive jumps in a few weeks' time implies more nefarious intentions.

There was an error retrieving a chart for Mass Manipulation

It is important to keep in mind that I do not know TCGPlayer's market price algorithm, so I do not know if it adjusts back when an order is canceled. The fact stands that the Temple of Enlightenment purchase has been removed, and the TCGPlayer market price now appears to be back in line with what one would expect given the current listed inventory and recent sales history.

Which brings us to why someone would want to manipulate the TCGPlayer market price of a card. Currently, I can only think of a few possible explanations. One obvious, if disheartening, use is to abuse another person's lack of knowledge regarding TCGPlayer and take advantage of them. Many players trade at TCGPlayer market price, as most trading apps use that price by default. I could see a situation in which someone overprices cards on a store, buys the cards to spike the price, and then trades off the cards to unsuspecting people. The flaw in this theory is that typically it takes time for the TCGPlayer market price to adjust, so this would have to be done in advance. There is also difficulty in knowing which cards the unsuspecting person needs unless the trades are taking place in the future.

Another possible but less likely situation: someone claiming damages to an insurance company and manipulating the price to inflate the damage claim value. While plausible, the fact that this only occurred with just a few random cards over multiple weeks would tend to imply that this is not very likely.

I fear the most likely scenario is someone taking advantage of a buylist that they know adjusts to TCGPlayer market pricing. The reason I see this one being the most plausible is that it would make some sense to spread out the spikes over time, so as not to alert suspicion of the buylist manager.

There was an error retrieving a chart for Feasting Troll King

Of course, these spikes could have been done as someone simply trolling the MTG finance community.

Protecting from Manipulators

While I don't know the person responsible for these purchases, I do get the feeling that these were done with purpose and ill intentions. To close things out, I'll offer some advice for anyone hoping to beat these market bullies.

I would suggest that anyone who automates their buylist to TCGPlayer market price be cautious and diligent when reviewing buylist submissions, and flag cards whose value seems significantly out of place. I would also recommend that anyone who does a lot of trading using the apps that reference TCGPlayer market price review the sales history when something looks out of sorts. Knowledge is power, and TCGPlayer offers us plenty of it if we can be bothered to look!

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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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