Sander van der Zee – The Value of an Opened Box

Hello and welcome everyone! This is Sander and today we are going to take a look at the viability of turning a box of product into a profitable venture. Or rather, what you have to do to not make it a straight-up loss of value. The price of a sealed box is often more than what any person could hope to get from the singles by opening it. The intrinsic value lies in the wrapper around the box, so to speak. That wrapper represents unknown possibility and the legitimacy of a draft format and thus those will be the biggest selling points of any sealed product. But what happens if someone does open a box of sealed product for the singles?

Setting Some Goals

If we want to find out what happens if we place a value on an opened box – and where it can go – we can just make an educated guess, but that’s not what I want to do today. Rather, I have decided to make this a challenge to myself and a learning experience to both me and you, the reader. I have been sitting on a few New Phyrexia booster boxes which I have been selling at a steady pace for 145 euro each ($199) over the past couple of weeks. I am left with five of them and can’t help but wonder how much I could get this box to work for me if I ripped it open, considering the latest speculation and hype price jumps from cards such as [card]Phyrexian Obliterator[/card] and [card]Spellskite[/card].

In order to make this work I need to set goals. I just wrote two entire articles on the topic, so why not put it to work? Let’s turn this into a S.M.A.R.T. goal.

I want to make 145 euro (the value of the box if sold sealed) from selling cards obtained from the cards opened in, or traded with the singles of, a single New Phyrexia booster box before June 21, 2014.

This seems specific, measurable (145 euro),  attainable (the value of a sealed box and the singles within shouldn’t be astronomically far apart), relevant, and time-related (due 6/21/2014).


Before we launch ourselves head-first into this experiment, let’s discuss rules. In order to measure our progress in a reliable and fair way, we need to know what I can and cannot do.  I’ll sum up the guidelines for you:

  • I can both trade the cards from the box or sell the singles from the box directly.
  • I am not allowed to purchase cards with the money gained from selling the singles.
  • I am allowed to trade at any rate as long as the other trading party considers the deal fair. This means that if the values which we trade by aren’t equal to the actual value but provided by a website that the other party prefers, it is still considered fair.
  • I am not allowed to accept gifts or free cards to help me reach this goal

Note that Magic Card Market works a little different than TCG Player. Whereas TCGPlayer always takes 50 cents plus a 5% commission fee and forces the seller to provide the shipping, Magic Card Market only takes a 5% commission fee and has the customer be responsible for the shipping fee 100% of the time. This means I can actually sell cards for 10 cents and not shoot myself in the foot with a gold bullet every time I sell a crap rare. Now, let’s get to that box!

Cards of Interest

An hour and six sealed pool registrations later…

Here we have it. Six mythics, 30 rares, six foils, and a bunch of commons and uncommons. I have an entire Excel spreadsheet containing each card and the number of copies I have opened, but here I would like to highlight some of the opened rares. The Excel spreadsheet has commentary on every rare as well as some of the commons and uncommons, and might be fun to read for those of you that enjoy bad puns.

Click here for the spreadsheet: NPH

Mythic  (6/6)

[card]Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite[/card]

Elesh Norn, Elesh Vee, [card]Gifts Ungiven[/card] target. This is our most expensive Mythic in the entire box at 13 euro. That doesn’t bode well for us. Luckily, this card is enough in demand for the price to have actually gone up steadily since rotation. It even took me by surprise that is was 13 euro, rather than the seven or eight I was expecting.

[card]Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur[/card] (2)

The Lord ’o Probes himself, Jin-Gitaxias.  If you thought your opponent resolving an Eldrazi was bad enough for you, this card is an even greater beating on the EDH table than an indestructible, annihilating beast. At 3.50 euro, I consider him to be vastly underrated and underpriced. With a little haggling I could likely get 4.0 to 4.50 euro for him in a trade, so I do not expect to straight-up sell this one immediately. Plus, I have two of them.

[card]Urabrask the Hidden[/card]

Hidden from play, that’s what he was during his life in Standard. At 2.50 euro this is the least influential Praetor, but much akin to his blue brother, this Mythic can be traded away for more than the 2.50 I would get from Magic Card Market. It’s all about finding the right people.

[card]Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger[/card]

Speaking of season’s beatings, this green Grinch sure delivers it. No presents for you while I get double? Sign me up. And at 4.50 euro, this thing is very–no, criminally–undervalued. While I suspect this card to rise once people realize that the Praetors are the new Eldrazi, I will try to hold onto this one for as long as I can in the coming six months. Remember that the rise in value of the Rise of Eldrazi set was followed shortly by the jump in price of the colorless monsters themselves.

[card]Sword of War and Peace[/card]

Ah, the timing is impeccable. No wait, you’re too late. Discarded by the wayside, only to be used in cubes and EDH decks. That said I am absolutely fine either trading or selling this sword at 11 euro. However, the price memory on this card could serve me well if I try to trade it away.

Foils (1/6)

Yes! We got lucky. We really had to get lucky since we didn’t get a [card]Karn Liberated[/card] or [card]Phyrexian Obliterator[/card], but this card makes up for it quite well.

[card]Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite[/card] (FOIL)

A foil Elesh Norn sells for 27.50 euro on Magic Card Market and that bodes pretty well. It’s just under the value of a regular [card]Karn Liberated[/card]. I am certain I won’t be stuck with this one forever, but it may take a little effort to out this one, either by trade or sale.

Rare (8/30)


Here is one of the big hitters. With [card]Spellskite[/card] at 9.50, this will contribute quite a bit towards my goal. Despite being “just” a sideboard card, the demand for this little two-drop is very much present. Luckily, my goal falls within the Modern PTQ season, meaning I should be able to trade or sell this one for probably more than the 9.50 it’s currently worth.

[card]Birthing Pod[/card]

At 5 euro, this is still a sleeper. This card is too cheap. I already have an entire fat pack box full of these and I am sad that this one won’t join it, but instead I will try to use its low price as leverage to get more out of it in a trade.

[card]Phyrexian Metamorph[/card]

EDH and cube all-star. I have never been dissatisfied with a Phyrexian Metamorph in my hand and it’s a shame that this card doesn’t see play in Modern . Perhaps that will change, but at 2.50, this is a cheap card that I should really try to trade away to the EDH crowd for a premium.

[card]Puresteel Paladin[/card] (2)

The enchantress of equipment. There was misplaced hype as far as its price point in Standard at the release of New Phyrexia, but it is loved by the 60-card casual crowd. This is a fine man at 1 euro.

[card]Melira, Sylvok Outcast[/card]

Much like [card]Birthing Pod[/card] and [card]Spellskite[/card], this is an important piece of a Modern deck. I am fine trading this one away at 1.50 euro.

[card]Caged Sun[/card] (2)

Surprisingly enough, this is not as popular as [card]Gauntlet of Power[/card], yet limiting the gain only to yourself should be a huge boost in EDH. I believe this card will rise at some point in the next five years. I advise you to pick them up. 1.25 euro each (Gauntlet is 4).

[card]Myr Superion[/card]

Ubermyr! Were this card German it would have quintupled in price. Now I just need to find a Myr lover who will take it at 0.75 euro.

[card]Unwinding Clock[/card]

One thing about this card you didn’t know: it’s $1.50 on TCG Player. Go check for yourself. On Magic Card Market this thing is only 0.35 euro, but I certainly searched for all my other copies in the crap rare box. If you have any idea why it is so expensive in the U.S., please inform me!

Commons and Uncommons (12 / a whole bunch)


This thing is still 1 euro. A nice tradeout, but the eternal metagame has to make a real shift if it wants to go up, considering it sees practically no play. Will need to out this to the casual crowd.

[card]Deceiver Exarach[/card] (4)

A staple in the [card]Splinter Twin[/card] combo deck. It also sees play in the Pod and UWR versions as well. 0.35 euro a piece makes for a 1.40 playset.

[card]Mental Misstep[/card] (3)

From 5 euro down to 0.5 euro. I sincerely doubt I can trade or sell these with any ease, although Peasant is a real thing over here and this card is quite good in that format.

[card]Gut Shot[/card]

This is my personal bias but I believe this card is worth mentioning. Any free spell is. This card has already seen play in Legacy and there is little reason it isn’t seeing play in Modern either with the large amount of one toughness creatures reaching from one- to three-drops. Getting an average of two mana ahead in a trade is always satisfying. That said, this thing is currently only 0.20 euro.

[card]Whipflare[/card] (3)

Foils go for around 7, non-foils around 0.20. I suspect a price correction will come in time, at least up to 0.50. This won’t happen within the next six months I would assume, but you never know. I will try to use urgency as a leverage to charge more for these in a trade during Modern events when people are scraping to get their decks together.

[card]Beast Within[/card] (2)

A roleplayer in Modern [card]Living End[/card] and an effect green shouldn’t have according to some people, making it desirable for EDH because green needs more powerful spells. Easy trades for 1 euro.

[card]Noxious Revival[/card] (2)

This thing went up when miracles were released and hasn’t dropped down incredibly much since then. You can still get 0.50 for this free spell, although this is one of the less-powerful ones.

[card]Mindcrank[/card] (2)

This thing. It is more expensive than the price memory serves. At $1.50 on TCG Player and 0.50 euro over here, this thing is a special one.

[card]Gitaxian Probe[/card] (8)

Such a staple. Remember when I said that free spells were good? They are even better if they draw you cards and are blue. Gitaxian Probes go for 1 euro a piece and opening 8 surely helps greatly. One of the reasons to have New Phyrexia is the amount of pure gold you can find in the commons and [card]Gitaxian Probe[/card] is the best of them.

[card]Vapor Snag[/card] (6)

Dreaded in Standard and it still sees some play in Modern, especially now that Travis Woo has been brewing with his [card]Disrupting Shoal[/card] deck (without actual results). It still sees play in Modern Fish so there will be some demand for it at 0.50.

[card]Geth’s Verdict[/card] (7)

Casual all-star and I even run three in my Modern GBw sideboard. It’s good against hexproof and the one damage isn’t irrelevant. At 0.35 euro, this trades especially well with casual people.

[card]Vault Skirge[/card] (8)

Part of the Modern Affinity list and that’s why it is 0.20. The Gateway promo version has hurt the price a little because nearly everyone owns a silly foil copy now.

Total Value and Prospects

After looking up the value of the cards sans the two-cent cards (most commons), I calculated the total value and I was quite surprised. I surpassed the 90 euro I bought the box for!


Total value:

€ 120,82

5% commission fee

€ 6,04

Actual value

€ 114,78

Box value

€ 145,00


-€ 30,22


We’re not quite at the 145 yet, though. There is still a 30-euro gap between the current value and my goal. Now it is up to me to close that gap.

In order to get to trading, I need to get out. My local magic community is rather small, no bigger than twenty people. That is not a whole lot of trading opportunity. Going out to Grands Prix isn’t worth it unless they’re in the Netherlands themselves. There is one Grand Prix in Holland this year, however it is not within the timeframe of my goal (Grand Prix Utrecht, August 8 through 10). This means I will have to pursue several minor events around the country and try to trade there, as well as make use of a Dutch Magic trading and community site, Despite the complications, I am fairly confident I can reach my goal of 30 euro within six months. Maybe we can make even more..


Well I hope you will enjoy this little challenge! If you want to participate yourself, go ahead! Pick a sealed box, mark down the value of the contents, compare it to the cost of the box, and start trading! Just add your info to the comments below, on the Reddit topic, or email me, and I’ll try to keep everyone updated on each participant’s progress every time I update the article series. You can reach me at [email protected] or @TheMeddlingMage on Twitter.

About the Author
@TheMeddlingMage     -     Email     -     Articles Sander van der Zee is an industrial engineering student who specializes in lean-thinking. He stepped back into Magic in 2009 after a three-year break. Picking back up the pieces, he developed an interest in the financial, technical, and community sides of the game.

10 comments on Sander van der Zee – The Value of an Opened Box

  1. Jason Alt says:

    Shit, half of the value you lost is the ridiculous price difference between MKM and American and Canadian sites on stuff like Vorinclex.

    Also, has anyone outside of the US READ Unwinding Clock?

    1. Rickits says:

      I think Jason basically has it right. Unwinding clock is Seedborn muse for artifacts. This is nuts for things with charge counters, tap abilities, etc. Especially in Mono-colorless decks it’s super powerful, since it’s essentially reads “At the end of each turn, take another turn”. Trust me, I’ve done it.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Did you not open any Dismember?

  3. Sander van der Zee says:

    Hey Anon!

    You’re right – I skipped right past that one in my excel sheet. I opened a single copy, valued at 0,50 euro. This changes the facts to:

    Total value: € 121,32
    5% commission fee € 6,07
    Actual value € 115,25
    Box value € 145,00
    Profit -€ 29,75

    Dismember (1)

    Much like the ‘free’ spells in blue, black doesn’t disappoint with Dismember. At 1 mana and 4 life it is practically a Path to Exile for any non-white deck where you can scale back the drawback if you play black. It will fulfill much of the same roles with only a slightly drawback in not exiling the creature and not killing Wurmcoil Engines outright. I still consider this card underrated and I have actually picked up quite a few foil copies in trade that I will happily sit on. This copy, however, will make its way to the nearest needy Modern player that needs his off-colour removal spell.

  4. Martin Coppersmith says: combo search – be sure to filter by ALL COMBOS cuz these ass hats often do not qualify a combination of cards as a “real” combo unless it is infinite and/or truly unique and unrepeatable using older cards.

    Also, look for any artifacts with a tap symbol and a : in their rules text which have a CMC of 3 or less so you can 1-drop 2-drop 3-drop Clock-Drop and have some sort of assembled engine or soft lock on your opponent in 60-card casual games. In the USA have a LOT of casual players.

    1. Jason Alt says:

      Who are you calling an ass hat?

      1. Martin Coppersmith says:

        The moderators of and their zealous enforcement of of their BS definition of ‘combo’

        The only thing their site offers that is different thatn other sites is a searchable database of card interactions. And then they go overboard on discouraging people from submitting or finding them.

        Probably should have said ‘those asshats’.

  5. Martin Coppersmith says:

    oh, restrict that search to modern cards that do not produce mana if you want a shorter list

  6. Martin Coppersmith says:

    magic cards . info

    o:{T} o:: -o:”sacrifice ~” -o:”your mana pool” cmc<=3 t:"artifact" f:modern

  7. Martin Coppersmith says:

    16 minutes later

    aether vial
    isochron sceptre
    journeyer’s kite + walking atlas
    magewright’s stone + any creature with a tap symbol
    power conduit + corpsejack / doubling season / primal vigor
    scroll of origins + no discard step
    steel overseer + robots
    brass squire + instant speed attach makes all equipment into combat tricks
    chalie of life
    crustal ball + mana rocks = scry 2 per player’s turn
    onyx goblet
    scarecrone + self sac robots + enter/leave triggers

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