Essential Magic Articles


Exploiting a Secondary Market

by Kevin Weber

My first instinct upon hearing about "Timeshifted" cards was, well, unprintable on a site like this.  The non-profane version would something like, "Those greedy jerks!  Now there are two sets of rares I have to worry about getting!"

But the more I thought about it, the more it didn't make any sense.

Before going any further, I should explain that, due to the singles market, there's an economy to Magic cards.  Imagine Wizards produces an imaginary set with 30 rares; 20 are absolute duds while the other 10 are equally and amazingly powerful.  How much will one of those rares cost?

If you answered more than $7 or $8, think about it for a minute.  Let's say one of those rares was worth $12.  Packs, in bulk, cost somewhere around $2.40.  A third of the packs will have a card worth $12.  Which means, if you buy 300 packs, you'll spend, $720... but have an average of $1200 worth of rares.  If a money rare was worth $12, people would buy case after case simply to resell the contents at a profit (and this is in fact what happens during the weeks after a set is released.)  Eventually, the price will sink to around $7.20.

Obviously this is important for Wizards.  After all, all those packs that people bought simply to resell on the market are just bonus; they weren't going to be used for drafting or sealed events, after all.  In other words, the singles market lets Wizards sell more packs than they would without it.  But it makes the Timeshifted thing look a bit different.

Imagine that the mythical set, the one with 30 rares, has another set of bonus rares.  Those bonus rares are the same way - 30 of them, with only 10 being powerful - and there is one included in each pack as well.  How much will either a rare or a bonus rare sell for, at most?

$3.60.  There's no way around it - if they cost more than that, people will buy packs in bulk to resell them, and will continue to do it until they can't make a profit out of it - when the larger supply lowers the price down to $3.60.

I'm sure you see the connection to Timeshifted cards.  Granted, it's not quite the same; in real life, cards aren't "Completely worthless or worth the same as every other money rare."  Still, it's the reason why the average rare in Time Spiral costs a lot less than Planar Chaos and Future Sight - the Time Spiral ones had the Timeshifted cards to help push down the individual cards' cost.

So, Wizards sells additional packs because of this secondary market - selling packs to people who only intend to crack them open and resell the contents, packs that wouldn't otherwise get sold.  Wizards obviously knows about this trend... so the question is, are they exploiting it?

Last edited 1/23/2008 5:14:24 PM Page 1 of 6  Prev  Next  Go to page:

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