Conjured Currency #43: Lessons Learned in 2014

Welcome back, everyone. I just now realized that this is probably going to be the last article of mine that goes up on Brainstorm Brewery for the year of 2014. Next week I’ll be off for the holiday, and the Thursday after that will be the first day of the new year. To end 2014, I’m going to go over some of the things I’ve learned since January about Magic finance, or maybe just Magic in general.

Lesson #1: Learn your Role

When discussing matchups between two different decks, a common piece of advice given to a player is for them to “know their role” in that matchup. Most of us are aware of the “combat triangle” in Magic of aggro, combo, and control, but it takes time and practice to learn exactly how controlling and how aggressive one needs to be in a particular matchup.

I recently learned that the same holds true for a person’s place in a community. I wanted to do it all in Magic: I wanted to be on the Pro Tour, I wanted to travel the world going to every possible event, and I wanted to buy collections and run a small singles business. I couldn’t do it all, and I started to get worn down. I found my niche in buying and selling cards in my local area, picked up writing about finance, and dropped the competitive side of the game. My stress levels have thanked me since. If you have dreams for the Pro Tour, that’s great! If you want to just grind FNM every week and just keep ahead of the trade prices so you can afford a Standard deck, more power to you. I just learned from experience that it might not be the best idea to try and do everything at once.

Lesson #2: Creature Tokens (Reprints) are Important

Tokens allow us to traverse the vast abyss of the Multiverse and prevent players from misrepresenting the board state with a rubber band and a red solo cup that are supposed to invoke the image of a savage 2/2 Wolf and a 5/5 Giant. They restore balance in the world. Either that, or some people just like to make their deck look more “official”.

Either way, Tokens can make us some money, and you can read more about that here. However, they’re not immune to reprint. That’s kind of obvious for common ones like soldiers and angels, but even the $3 wurm tokens made by [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card] got hit with the reprint hammer in the red Commander deck, as I recently found out. I had been holding onto a few of them in hopes of finding a buyer, but I probably should have gotten rid of them when I got the chance. If you’ve got “rare” tokens you’re not using that could be jammed into supplemental products, I recommend buylisting them when you have the chance so you’re not stuck with them.

Lesson #3: Dual Lands Are Their Own Kind of “Power”

While a large majority of us will never own real [card]Mox Jet[/card]s or [card]Black Lotus[/card]es, [card]Savannah[/card]s and [card]Plateaus[/card] are much more affordable and still have that “piece of Magic history” flair to them, even if they’re not played in competitive Legacy decks.

For this reason, it’s often acceptable to ask for a premium when trading them away for lower-end Standard cards, or even bulk rares. Everyone values cards differently on a personal level, and not every deal made by a financier has to be “ripping someone off.” Would you rather have 2,500 bulk rares, or one Revised NM Tundra? I don’t think there’s a true correct answer to this question—it depends entirely on who you are, and your own personal goals.

Lesson #4: Sticking to What I Know

My specialty does not lie in Standard specs. If it did, [card]Duskmantle Seer[/card] would’ve been reprinted in every set, and I would be living like a king. Some people are much better at figuring out the Standard metagame before it changes, and those are the people who can capitalize on [card]Dig Through Time[/card] and [card]Siege Rhino[/card] a couple of weeks in advance.

On the other hand, I do have a knack for buying collections, and picking out the most unexpected cards from bulk. Since earlier this year, I’ve learned to stray away from buying and selling Standard cards unless they’re at buylist prices and I am planning to resell them immediately on TCGplayer or in my display case. Instead of trying to cover every base, I’m focusing only on what I have the most control over. While it’s good to have multiple revenue streams open at once, it’s only efficient if you have a strong grip on each and every one of them.

Lesson #5: Sealed Product is Not a Guarantee

I was always taught the mantra of “Sealed product is like interest at a bank. It never goes down, as long as you don’t touch it.” When I tried this myself with From the Vault: 20, Avacyn Restored booster boxes, and Commander 2013 decks, I found myself with basically zero gain over the course of a year, realizing that there were much better places to plant my money. Also, sealed product takes up a real amount of space in a college dorm room. While some limited-print-run sets will still likely be a good investment (like Modern Masters and its newly announced successor, Modern Masters 2015), the majority of sets will be printed to demand, and we won’t see the gains we expect.

Lesson #6: Social Media is One of the Best Places to Sell Magic Cards on the Entire Internet.

There are at least a dozen Facebook groups dedicated solely to the buying, selling, and trading of Magic cards, so taking a half hour out of your day to post some binder pictures can net you sales while avoiding the fees that will be incurred by selling on TCGplayer or eBay. While avoiding scammers and rippers is a necessity, there’s a network of individuals dedicated to keeping an up-to-date list on shady individuals to stay away from when trying to buy or sell cards. It’s also a great place to get rid of niche things that you can’t find a buyer for elsewhere, like playmats, sleeves, deck boxes, or collectables related to Magic history. 

Lesson #7: Prepare for the Worst

It’s a great life lesson overall, but I’m more specifically referring to any trips you make to large tournaments or other Magic events. Things will go wrong. Your car might break down, you might get lost, a deck might get stolen. Come prepared with extra emergency spending money and a backup plan. And than have a backup plan for your backup plan. While I’ve had many amazing people help me along the way when I ran into trouble, it’s a good idea to be ready in advance.

Lesson #8: Understanding Bias

It took me a while to realize that over 75% of the cards in my speculation box at one point were green. It just so happens that green is the color I play most with, and it gives me an unhealthy obsession with [card]Life from the Loam[/card] and [card]Eternal Witness[/card]. Even though both of these cards’ expensive price tags were mutilated by reprints, I kept them in my “hold” box, stuck in my belief for the longest time that they could both reach $5 someday soon. After having other people take a look at my box of shame, they finally knocked some sense into me and helped me realize that I should just be buying them at buylist, and selling them as soon as possible.

Looking Forward

As you may have been able to tell, I’ve run into a bit of a writer’s block for new material going into next year. I want to write about things that you all are interested in reading, but I’m not sure exactly where that falls. Should I go deeper into the steps to buylisting? Would a step-by-step guide to sorting a collection be helpful? I’m willing to take any questions for my first article of 2015. Let me know in the comments section, or hit me up on Twitter. Hopefully I’ll get enough questions to do an entire Q&A type article, and I’ll go from there.

Thank you all for reading what I wrote this past year, and I hope everyone has a happy holiday!

About the Author
@Rose0fthorns     -     Email     -     Articles Douglas Johnson is a 20-year-old MTG player who goes to college courtesy of a scholarship from Gamers Helping Gamers. He is currently found writing a weekly finance column at, and you can always feel free to contact him on Twitter, Facebook, or Reddit.

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