Prospects for Tales of Middle Earth Collector Boosters

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The quest is over. After about two weeks, the A-The One Ring has been found and graded. The news hit my Twitter feed last Friday, capped off with a tweet from PSA themselves.

Personally, I would hold out for a PSA 10 copy, but that’s neither here nor there.

With the exciting (admittedly successful) promotion ending, it begs a few questions regarding the financial implications for Tales of Middle Earth product. I just wrote a piece about draft booster boxes last week, but I feel like this set needs to be revisited given this development.

First and Foremost: Collector Boosters

Many factors influence the price of sealed product. In the case of Tales of Middle Earth collector boosters, the most significant factor was arguably the mystique of A-The One Ring, valued at upwards of $2,000,000. Never mind the odds of opening this card were one in three million. Never mind these odds meant this card contributed less than $0.50 to a collector booster’s expected value (EV). Never mind that there was a greater chance of becoming a movie star than opening this card.

People chased the gamble and it led to a significant premium on these packs.

Now that the chase has concluded, what is next for this premium sealed product? Many members of the Magic finance community predicted a sharp decline. Chris aka Chi Style is financially savvy and a trusted friend, and his tweet summed up a popular opinion:

I believe “balloon pop” paints a nice picture, don’t you?

Sure enough, just hours after PSA’s announcement, collector booster boxes dropped from about $480 to $380—Chris’s 20% prediction was spot on.

Fellow Quiet Speculation writer David Schumann captured the action in a precise way, grabbing a screen capture of recent sales on TCGplayer as the news unfolded.

Balloon popping indeed!

More to the Story

It’s true that the average sale price of a Tales of Middle Earth collector booster box dropped significantly since A-The One Ring was found. However, the price action since June 30th hasn’t been as dire. After bottoming under $350, prices rebounded unexpectedly the following two days. Check out the market price chart for the past month:

While it’s no surprise the price is still well off its high, those $350 boxes didn’t stick around for very long, and now boxes are selling for north of $400 once again.

Part of this rebound could be driven by TCGplayer’s recent kickback deal on sealed product. Even I took the bait and picked up a cheap draft booster box of Crimson Vow to save for a rainy day. Perhaps the incentive was enough to catalyze buying, despite the fact that A-The One Ring was already opened.

Additionally, there are still a bunch of valuable and coveted serialized and non-serialized rings to be found in collector booster packs.  In total, the Sol Rings to be found include:

  • Human: 9,000 copies
  • Dwarven: 7.000 copies
  • Elven: 3,000 copies
  • Foil, Serialized Human: 900 copies
  • Foil, Serialized Dwarven: 700 copies
  • Foil, Serialized Elven: 300 copies

These are all expensive and will handsomely reward those individuals lucky enough to open one. Currently, the market price of the human, dwarven, and elven non-foil Sol Rings are about $182, $215, and $690, respectively. Serialized copies sell for well over $1,000.

Just because the “one ring to rule them all” was found doesn’t mean there are no more incentives to open collector boosters. Let’s not forget the surge foils that can also be found in collector boosters—some of these can be quite valuable!

As much as I would have liked to have opened a $2,000,000 card from a booster pack, I don’t think a single player (no matter how entitled) would complain about opening a beautifully illustrated, $200 surge foil Deserted Temple from their $40 collector booster pack.

Nope. I’d say that mathematically speaking the locating of A-The One Ring should have virtually no impact on collector booster prices. A $0.33 reduction in EV is not enough to move the needle. While psychologically this will definitely reduce demand, the numbers suggest that these are still nice lottery tickets, albeit without a grand prize.

Meanwhile, the Rest of the Set…

Last week I talked about the underwhelming power level of The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle Earth singles. The set is legal in Modern, but not Standard, and as such a little underpowered for this context. I used this as a rationale to predict a softening in prices on singles from this set.

It’s only been a week since I wrote that, but thus far the trend feels contrary to my prediction. Each day I check MTG Stocks’ Interests page, and each day I see more price increases from this set. I wasn’t surprised to see A-The One Ring climb as it broke into eternal formats. Some other cards, such as There and Back Again and Delighted Halfling, I did not expect to show up.

Sometimes TCGplayer market pricing isn’t reliable as they can be manipulated by sellers with artificially high price points. However, I’m also noticing that some of Card Kingdom’s buy prices are also climbing relative to where they were just a week ago.

Lord of the Nazgûl’s buy price has rebounded over the past week. Delighted Halfing has followed suit, bouncing from an $8 buy price to $9.75.

In fact, not counting foils and alternate printings, I count over 20 cards (including each different instance of Lord of the Nazgûl) that buylist for more than TCGplayer’s market price on a Tales of Middle Earth draft booster. If I stretch down to cards that buylist over $2, that count reaches about 30. While the set still has its share of bulk rares, I’m surprised to see demand remain resilient thus far.

Give It Time

This is not a declaration that all Tales of Middle Earth cards are a screaming buy. Far from it. I still anticipate that prices on singles will see downward pressure in the coming weeks, as more product is opened. I do feel a little more optimistic, however, compared to last week.

Perhaps there is enough demand from the Lord of the Rings crowd to keep prices elevated relative to a Standard Premier set. Draft booster boxes are still hovering in the $170 range. I’m starting to develop optimism that these boxes will hold that price point, buoyed by a surprising array of valuable singles in the set.

If sealed product is opened a bit less now that A-The One Ring has been found, perhaps that provides another reason for singles prices to hold up better than expected. Before, people were cracking collector boosters left and right in the chase for the coveted card. If the pace of pack opening diminishes going forward, we could see single prices hold up better than I anticipated.

Either way, I maintain that predicting price action on this set remains challenging given its novelty. I thought an underpowered Modern set would hold up poorly. Commander demand, alongside nostalgia for the franchise, could be enough to overcome the lack of power level in sixty-card eternal formats. If that’s the case, then there’s no telling what the ceiling on these cards could be years from now, especially if reprints are absent.

Wrapping It Up

There’s no arguing the demand for collector boosters will decline dramatically now that the A-The One Ring has been found. These lottery tickets lost their luster now that the grand prize has been claimed.

Despite this, I’m seeing some promising price action in collector boosters over the past couple of days. Could it be that these won’t tank as badly as the most pessimistic predictions suggested? Are there enough other incentives—consolation prizes, if you will—to help sustain demand for these valuable booster packs?

I think this is possible. I don’t expect collector booster prices to reach a new high soon. I would predict these will hit a new low well before they reach a new high. These may not be the “popping balloon” the finance community quickly predicted once the coveted ring was found. Prices may hold up a bit better than that given the other worthwhile pulls from these packs.

Add in the fact that other singles from the set are performing better than I anticipated, and it could bode well for this product over the coming months. Demand will ebb as the summer wraps up and new Standard sets are hyped, but there may be an underlying appreciation for Tales of Middle Earth that lasts over time. If this happens, prices may hold up better than even Wizards of the Coast could have hoped.

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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 Collector Boosters, Finance, Lord of the Rings, Sealed ProductTagged , , , , ,

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One thought on “Prospects for Tales of Middle Earth Collector Boosters

  1. Even collectors with a tight budget can snatch a few of these serialized cards and maybe see their value grow over time. Every player gets a fair shot at owning them. It definitely can be seen as a success. It’s very likely that this is the way Magic will look like from this day forward. Considering how many times the game has changed throughout its history this is without any doubt one of those moments.

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