It is a contentious topic to be sure but it is here to stay. MTG Finance is a constant force and will affect your ability to play the game. Whenever you see the price of a card spike tremendously, you can bet that MTG Finance had a hand in it. Today we will go over the basics of card pricing, the underlying strategies, and basic tips to ensure that you can play the game as inexpensively as possible.
For those than do not know, finance is simply the study of money. A large component of this is investing and that is what MTG Finance is focused on. The goal is to purchase a card and then sell or trade it at a later date for a net gain. For example, you could have bought a Tarmogoyf for about $60 in 2010. If you sold that Tarmogoyf in 2015 you could have gotten nearly $200 for it; a profit of $140. That same Tarmogoyf, the original printing, today would only fetch about $75; $15 or 25% gain is a poor profit for a near ten year investment.
The price of a card is a function of supply and demand. This is more economics than finance but it holds true. High demand and low supply result in a high price and vice versa. When a card sees increased play it generates additional demand and if the supply is constant, the price will rise. If a card is reprinted it generates additional supply and if the demand is constant, the price will fall. It is somewhat common to see players call Masters sets failures as the cards always go back up in price eventually. While this is true, those prices are rising because of demand. The deck that said card goes into became more affordable so the card saw increased demand and caught up to the supply; at equilibrium the old price held again. The Masters set was successful though. Hasbro got their money and a greater number of players were able to play the game. Even the collectors who owned the card beforehand were able to maintain the investment if they held onto it.
The thing about MTG Finance, unlike actual investing, is that it is quite easy. There are a near countless number of factors that can affect the value of a stock price. MTG Finance is much more simple. A personal example would be Worldspine Wurm. Ultimate Masters reprinted Through the Breach, Goryo’s Vengeance, and Nourishing Shoal; high-priced staples of Grishoalbrand. This would reduce the price of the deck and make it more attractive to budget-minded players. The supply of cards in the deck that had not been reprinted would not change though while the demand for them would rise. It was plain as day that Worldspine Wurm would increase in price. So I purchased two playsets at $5 per card. Within a week they went up to $15 dollars and I was able to walk away with an easy $80 in my pocket. This was me engaging in MTG Finance. I do have my MBA but in all honesty finance was my weakest subject. It does not take a genius to do it.
Sealed Product- Minimal Volatility
One thing to take into account when investing is volatility, more commonly known as risk. The lowest volatility is in sealed products such as booster boxes. It will take years but they always go up eventually. There are savvy players that buy one box of every set to store and sell later. It can be annoying to have bulk boxes of cards stored in your home but if you have the space, go for it. An ideal strategy would be to buy one box of each Standard legal set right now. Then buy one box of each set released going forward. Five years from now sell off the first set of boxes that you purchased. Then takes that revenue, buy your boxes for that year, and pocket the resulting profits. You can do this every year, as long as Magic continues to thrive, for guaranteed profit every year. The only risk with this strategy is the death of paper Magic. Such a risk is obviously unavoidable in MTG Finance.
Lands- Low Volatility
When looking at specific cards though, the safest bets are typically land cards; fetches and shocks in particular. There is very little risk in purchasing these cards as nearly every deck needs lands. However, with greater risk comes greater reward. It is not common to see lands card drastically spike in price as they are always in demand; the prices will steadily increase over time as demand builds from new players entering the format. The upside is that they are not likely to plummet either. Even with a reprint, you can expect the price to eventually rebound; just look at Scalding Tarn. Spells have greater volatility as the strategies they belong to may fall out of favor, be banned, or be invalidated by a newer more powerful version. This can happen with lands but occurs far less often.
Unlikely Reprints- Middling Volatility
Another way to find cards with reduced volatility is to search out cards that are difficult to reprint. Cards that are too powerful to be in Standard come to mind. This restricts their reprinting to less heavily printed products. Legendary cards also work as they are tied to a specific plane in the story. Unless Thalia is somehow transported in the story, she will only see a Standard-legal reprint in an Innistrad set. But as we have seen, returns to planes often come with new versions of the characters rather than reprints. There are also obscure keywords and creature types such as Sunburst and Kithkin. Any of these methods will help you to find a middle ground between risk and reward.
Foils- High Volatility
If you want to go for high risk and high reward, take a look at foils. They have especially low supply so they are prone to wild price spikes. However, if you buy a dozen copies of a cheap foil and it does not rise, it will be difficult for you to dump them. If you are correct though, your profits can be absurd. Just make sure to use KMC hard sleeves and silica packets for storage. You could also bet that a card will not be reprinted in a forthcoming premium set. If you are right, the card will rise in price quickly due to a “now or never” mentality. If you are wrong, the reprint will tank the price and you will be left holding the bag.
Tips For All Strategies
No matter which strategy you focus on, there are key things to keep in mind. First and foremost, you should not buy a card at presale price unless you are certain that it is underrated. These prices almost always fall within a couple weeks of release. That being said, the best cards to buy are those that have been recently reprinted. The supply will be high and demand has not yet caught up. Buy them low and watch them rise over time. Also, just jump on older cards that are being hyped up by a newly printed card. Even if the strategy falls flat, the card will not sink down to your buy-in price until it is reprinted. There are many cards that shot up and have never returned to their previous price levels; take a look at Semblance Anvil. The final thing is a cornerstone of investing in general; diversify. The collective value of the card market rises over time. Some fall, some rise but overall the market increases in value. By diversifying, you make your collection more representative of the overall market. You will see losses and you will see gains. Just stay on top of it and dump cards that you expect to get reprinted. In time, you will make a tidy profit.
This is not the most exciting topic but mastering it can earn or save you a lot of money in the long run. How has MTG Finance impacted your love of the game? What was the best deal you ever came across? Please let us know in our discussion group. Or if you would like to take a swing at writing content for the site you can contact us directly here. I personally have developed a harsh opinion of MTG Finance but we will save my personal take for tomorrow. Until then my friends.