A Broken Economy?

(Note: A�You want how much for that?)

I find myself doing something now that I never even considered previously. A�I’m not proud of it because it contributes to the problem instead of attempting to be a solution. A�It takes away from my enjoyment of Magic as a game and a hobby and it adds to my frustration over treating everything in society only in terms of money and profit. A�I don’t think that I will ever take the next logical step, but the forces driving that decision are strong. A�As I opened my new booster boxes of M15 and Khans of Tarkir, I would periodically type “(card name) price” into Google to assess the “value” of each card.

I became more aware of this topic after my student that plays Magic toldme a story of how he pulled a Sarkhan planeswalker card from one of his prize booster packs and someone offered him 25 dollars on the spot for it. A�I wrote Chris about it because we had only days before discussed that his Khans decks aren’t quite what they could be because the tri-lands and other cards are prohibitively expensive. A�He replied that he has known about the state of high priced cards ever since Ice Age. A�That stayed with me because as I’ve mentioned, Ice Age was when I stopped collecting before starting again recently. A�Economics wasn’t my main reason for stopping at the time. A�In fact, I had no idea that it even existed as a strategy in the hobby. A�I assumed that all collectibles, save the very rare ones, like steroid fueled home run baseballs, tanked in price because of oversaturation. A�That’s what happened to me as a kid when I tried to sell baseball cards at the local flea market. A�”Nope,” Chris replied before giving a very specific example from that former set.

The topic continued to ferment in my brain, catalyzed by discussions in the Magic Facebook group that I recently joined. A�everyone posted about how they “made back part (or all) of their money” from their booster boxes. A�Wow, I thought, a hundred bucks. A�After checking the posts, they were only selling a small fraction of the cards and that made the feat even more impressive. A�Someone else posted bragging about how they got such a good deal for their Rabblemaster at $6 because, even though nobody believed them, it was now worth $20. A�Hmm, I thought, I have one of those from the fat pack that I bought. A�Half of the purchase price of that fat pack could be recovered through the quick sale of one card.

I don’t understand economics as a subject in general. A�I can’t for the life of me, figure out how we can’t agree on anything as humans, but we all agree that a dollar is worth a dollar. A�Even when it isn’t worth a dollar anymore–like when people say, “In my day, you could get a gallon of milk, a loaf of bread, and a stick of butter for a quarter and get change”–we still agree that it is a dollar. A�That makes no sense to me. A�It isn’t like money is a finite resource. A�The government seemingly prints new money daily. A�It is only finite for your individual circumstance due to your job, bills, and living situation.

I understand individual markets even less. A�Some make more sense than others. A�Mark McGwire only hit one #62 home run ball. A�I don’t understand paying millions of dollars for it, but if that’s your thing, then it is the only one out there. A�Like money, cards are not finite. A�Sure, some cards are more rare by design, but for $100 I can get 540 of those cards and so can pretty much everyone else. A�If they want, Wizards can fire up the printers and go to town on a whole new batch of them. A�Each pack contains 3 uncommons, and 1 rare or mythic rare card. A�Some packs have a foil. A�I don’t know the exact probabilities because I don’t have exact print numbers, but if the economics are to be believed, then I made back my money for my booster box with two cards, Sarkhan the Dragonspeaker and a foil Wooded Foothillls. A�That seems absolutely absurd.

I said that I would not ever take the next logical step, but that might be a lie. A�The foil card is sold out at Star City Games at a price of $60. A�That is about 2/3 of what I paid for a box that contains 540 cards in just one card. A�No matter what my individual thoughts might be on this subject, that is a tough deal to ignore. A�The problem as a collector, is that is the only copy of that card that I currently have. A�Therein lies the dilemma. A�While there may be many, many of those cards in existence, I only have one. A�Others may not have any because they didn’t open 36 packs of cards in the last week. A�The perceived value of the card is at least partially proportional to the perceived rarity of the card. A�I guess I do understand economics on some level.

I still think that it is absurd that somebody would consider paying $60 for a piece of cardboard just like I found it silly that someone paid $3 million for a baseball. A�Sixty dollars is hard to ignore, though. A�Back and forth. A�Sell or don’t. A�Ultimately, I don’t think that I will sell for two reasons. A�One, I don’t value money as much as I value the unique. A�If somewhere later, I can get someone to say, “Wow, youA�still have one of those?” that’s priceless. A�Second, the foil version of this card from an older set is currently worth $150. A�If I can get someone to both say, “Wow, you have one of those” and follow it up with, “I’ll give you $150 for it” then that is an unquestionable win for me.

Care to explain the changing/constant worth of a dollar paradox to me? A�Want to commiserate over coffee about the ridiculous pricing of certain cards as we play with paper and pen proxies because the hobby is too damn expensive? A�Looking to buy a foil Wooded Foothills for 60 bucks? A�In any case, let me know in the comments, by email, or on Facebook/Twitter. A�As always, thanks for reading and I will be back on Thursday with a new discovery (for me), Breaking Madden.

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