Robert Chesley

The Magic “Investment” Internet Sensation

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I pay a lot of attention to the price of cards. I go to TCGPlayer daily to see if there are any price drops or anomolies. There was a recent firestorm on the internet in the Magic community over whether or not a certain internet store was responsible for a huge spike in the value of format staples. Legacy is an eternal format that has been gaining popularity for a few years now. The retailer in question is Star City Games. Personally, I feel they are one of the best run Magic website and web store specializing in Magic product. They are probably the most recognizable outside of the official Magic website in terms of content.

In 2009, Star City Games decided that it wanted to start hosting major Magic events across the country. They started their “Star City Games Open Series”. In various cities across North America, Star City Games hosts an event that could rival only a Magic Grand Prix in terms of scope. There is $10K on the line at each major open event. On Saturday the format is Standard. This usually draws the most players, as the cards are newer, hence “easier” to acquire. But on Sunday, the format would be Legacy. Which makes perfect sense for Star City to support. It has been a notoriously under supported format by Wizards proper. Yes, they now hold a few Legacy Grand Prix events now, but for the majority of the player base there wasn’t too many high profile events until Star City stepped in and featured it in their Open Series.

From a business standpoint this made perfect sense. Because there were more high level high stakes events in America, that meant that the value of cards didn’t fluctuate in price whenever the format was “out of season”. Now, fast forward to 2011, and I would argue in America at least, that Star City Games Open events draw just as many or more players then North American Grand Prix events. There is now heavy demand for cards that are needed to compete in both Standard and Legacy. This brings us to early last month when Ben Bleiweiss, his title is card buyer at the Star City Games store, decided that he needed to be more aggressive in terms of keeping these cards in stock. Star City Games posted a huge flyer on the front page of their website listing updated buy prices for many Legacy staples. Bleiweiss has stated that he maintains the same margin on the cards (meaning if he bought a card at $30 and sold it for $60, the same is true when those prices go up). The updated buy list matched closer to eBay’s ending auction results. Meaning players could make roughly the same amount of money just selling the cards to Star City rather than going through the hassle of “being the card dealer” on eBay. This has sent shockwaves throughout the “investment” community. Many cards shot up in price overnight. For example, Force of Will shot from about $50 a card to close to $90. As of this writing, it has come down a bit and is hovering in the $70 dollar range. It also caused a lot of market instability. Cards were shooting up just in case the market could sustain the rapid growth. Star City Games took the brunt of the blame. Many people pointed their fingers at them saying they were the cause for the spikes in prices across the board.

I think this brings about a very difficult position to be in. If you were Star City Games and you ran a successful tournament program, such as, the Star City Games Open series, as the premier dealer at the event, you would need to keep in stock many of each of the format’s staples so players could pick up cards they needed for decks at the time. You not only need to price them correctly for the market, but you also need to entice enough of the community to sell you their “good stuff”. I’ve been following many sides of this story and I don’t think it was particularly fair that Star City Games got most of the blame. Some of the blame needs to come from players themselves. I usually never think of the game of Magic as an “investment”. I only buy cards and decks that I intend to play with. However, I do want to make smart purchases and get the most of my money. I was pleased as punch to see many of my cards double or triple in value seemingly overnight. As a player who has always played in Vintage and Legacy since I started way back in ’97, I like seeing the value of cards that I picked up in trades, bought really cheap, or otherwise held on to for so long, suddenly become relevant to the Magic marketplace.

Star City Games wasn’t the cause for the price of cards. Players ultimately speak with their wallets. If you don’t want to spend X for a card, then don’t. The market will recede back to a point to where both parties can make an equitable medium. I held off on writing this article for a while to see how the Legacy market would react. Most of the cards that saw massive gains from the initial price spike have since retreated a bit. Some cards were highly undervalued to begin with and this was just a correction in price. Some have lost a little value but again, were probably undervalued in the first place. Personally, I would like to see cards at a good value but plentiful enough for people to play the game that I love. People sometimes scoff at the price of my decks. There is no way that those decks are pushing $2K. Then I start pulling them out and pricing them out and really there is no way that they are not worth that much.

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