Take a Deep Breath

Cliff Daigle • January 30, 2021

So let’s lead off with the obvious things: I haven’t seen a wave of spikes like this, pretty much ever. Wheel of Fortune is the big gainer, but tons of cards from the Reserved List and from Revised are going crazy right now. I can’t give you a simple list, because there’s a lot of them, but rest assured, we’ve got you covered when cards go nuts and we put a pause on trading for that card.

My friends know I’m active in Magic finance. So you can imagine how many people have messaged me recently asking what the heck is going on and what they should do. I like to explain things to everyone, and I’m going to give you the same set of answers.

First of all, why is this happening?

I don’t think there is one particular reason why this happened, but there’s a confluence of factors that work together to create this environment:

  • Bitcoin reached a new high and then trended down. The last big jump in Power and duals occurred during a Bitcoin spike, as people swapped the Internet-only money for collectibles. It’s an easy way to get fungible, especially if you acquired the Bitcoin in... questionable deals that aren’t legal in all areas.
  • Commander has seen much greater growth during the pandemic than other formats. This makes sense, because webcam Commander is a lot of fun, brewing during quarantine has been nonstop, and other formats have much better outlets. If you’re into Standard or Modern or Pioneer or drafting, you’ve got options. If you look at the cards that have spiked during the past year or so, then you’re only looking at Commander cards.
  • There wasn’t a lot of Reserved List available anyway. Especially on things like Wheel of Fortune. The old estimates of print runs stated that there about 300,000 of each Revised rare printed, which sounds like a lot until you grasp that it was 26 years ago and we didn’t get our first good sleeves until a year later. (Shoutout to everyone who remembers calling them blackbacks!)
  • Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) is the herd mentality. It’s not enough for a card to spike. A certain number of people have to buy in at the new price, and that is happening for these new prices. The summer of 2016 had price spikes for random RL cards like Narwhal, but since no one bought at the new price, the price dropped back down fairly quickly. That doesn’t seem to be happening yet, and we’ll see what Wheel does over the next few weeks.

  • Stimulus checks arrived about two weeks ago. It’s a fact: prices tend to bump a little around tax return season, as people get their money back and decide to splurge a little. We saw a mild version of this last March with the first COVID stimulus payments, and if you’re someone who’s got a stable income despite the pandemic, it didn’t feel too bad to grab that card you’ve been craving for the longest time.
  • Attention from assorted finance videos/writing/streams. Even if you had a carefully curated list of people who don’t pump and dump their own holdings, or who like to troll their viewers, once the spikes happened everyone was talking about it and it made people jumpy.

Like I said, no one factor is to blame. This is the perfect storm, and it’s not just Wheel of Fortune. Most of the dual lands have risen in price, the blue ones have really gone nuts. Other RL cards like Yawgmoth’s Will have gone crazy as well, and there’s probably more coming up.

Now that we’ve established the factors causing this whirlwind of prices going nuts, what do we do? I’ve got you covered there too.

If you own one of these cards that’s going crazy, and it’s not in a deck or a Cube, I’m an advocate of selling out. There’s no reason to keep these indefinitely, and while I respect ‘I might use this someday’ as a reason to keep a card, it’s just sitting in a binder and you could do lots of things with that value. Trade it for other things that haven’t spiked yet ( Tombstone Stairwell, Hatred, or if you’re really feeling spicy, Amulet of Quoz) or get your cash ready for the next wave of undervalued things.

I do not think you should sell the copies you’re using. I used Cardsphere to get a few dual lands in the past year, and they are all in my Ur-Dragon deck. I had the goal, I made it happen, and I’m under no pressure to sell them. Putting expensive cards in your Commander deck is a method of storing value for later, especially things that will keep value well. Reserved List, Foil Extended Art, Masterpieces, etc. Special versions should weather the storm nicely, and even be resistant to price drops in case of a reprint. So if you’ve put a lot of bling in your Cube, I think you should keep it there and appreciate the good work you did acquiring while cheap.

A corollary is this: If you wanted a copy of something for a personal deck, I think you should go ahead and get it. Let’s look at a semi-popular RL card, Gilded Drake:

Yes, it’s going up and has gone up significantly in the past month, and really has gone up a lot in the past year. If you have a Commander deck that needs one, I think you should get it if you can afford it. If you don’t have the spare cash, then don’t panic. You’ve got a lot of options (here, take a look) that might have a higher mana cost but are much easier on the wallet. That’s the lovely thing about Commander: lots and lots of options.

I hope I’ve been able to clarify the current situation for you, and I want to remind you all that you don’t need these cards any more than you did two months ago. Don’t let the FOMO decide for you.