Financial – Gaining Value with Artist Attendance at Events
Today I am going to take a step out of my comfort zone in writing Magic articles. I’ve been playing Magic for a while and writing about playing the game comes naturally to me. What doesn’t come naturally to me is writing about the financial aspects of magic; buying, selling, and trading. This past extended weekend I had to pleasure to attend GenCon 2011. It was my fifth time attending the Best Four Days of Gaming. Normally I go to test new games, find interesting knick-knacks, and feed my girlfriend’s obsession with dice-sets. This year I went almost solely to play Magic. I attempted to grind into Nationals (which I failed to achieve, but thats a story for another day…i.e. tomorrow), played in a Midnight Madness Chaos Draft, and even the m12 Celebration Sealed event.
However, not only did I find myself actually playing magic, but doing a lot of trading as well. While going through my binders I had two specific pages that people kept stopping at and asking about cards in. These weren’t my two pages of Power, or my duals, or my shockland collection. These were a select group of cards that I collected before the event and purposefully put together on those two pages, even though to some people it looked like a random assortment of cards. The cards in question were Foil and Non-Foil versions of Child of Alara, Dhamia, both Ashlings, Ink-Eyes, Marrow-Gnawer, Glissa the Traitor (both normal and Prerelease), and Jenara. Why these cards? What’s so special about them beyond being awesome legends?
The common denominator between the cards is their artists. Wayne Reynolds, Steve Argyle, and Chris Rahn. All three of these awesome artists were at GenCon this year signing cards, selling art, and talking to fans. Knowing what artists are going to be at an event before you go can gain you immense value. All you have to do to gain this value is take about 5 minutes of your time for prep and a little pre-event trading at your LGS/Club. How, exactly do you go about it though? Well, let’s take a look at how I prepared for my trip to the trading tables at GenCon and exactly how much I walked away with in value.
First, I identified the major artists that were going to be at GenCon. Steve Argyle, Wayne Reynolds, Chris Rahn, Jeff Miracola, and Mark Poole are all huge names in the industry that have done a wide varitey of cards. Poole, especially has done some very awesome work that is now worth a ton on the cardboard it’s printed, such as Ancestral Recall. Picking up Power to trade to people who want to get it signed at the convention isn’t where the money is at though. The most value is actually in the Legends that the artists have done.
See, Commander players love pimping out their decks. We all know (as some of us are these people) that they go through exorbitant lengths to get foils, alternate art, and signed cards. A signed foil version of their general is almost worth the gold painted along its double or more colored border to these players. But, back to our pre-event preperations.
Now you have a list of Legendary cards you want to pick up. Now it’s time to hit up your friendly local gaming store. Find out who has the legends your looking for and how much they value them at. Valuing foils a little high is common because of the Commander market for them. Be prepared for this. It’s ok. You’re going to make your money back. Start trading out your excess dollar or two rares for these Legends and pack them away someplace safe. Pick up more foils than non-foils if possible. Again, Commander players love to pimp. The shinier, the better. A few examples are Child of Alara and Jenara. I traded for their foil versions at $6 and $9 respectively. I managed to pick up about 6 foils of each, alongside about 4 non-foils that I got for $1 and $2 each.
With your Artist-specific legends in tow it is now time to head to the event. But be warned, your first stop should not be the trade tables! Instead you should swing by the vendors and see if they have any of the legends that you picked up in stock. If they don’t you’re one step close to achieving maximum value. If they do have them in stock, take note of how much they’re selling them for. Chances are their prices are three to four times the amount you traded for the cards at. Your next stop, the artists!
Hit up the artists and get one of each of the foils and non-foils you picked up signed by their respective creators. Typically when a player sees a signed card in a trade binder they will take extra care to really look at it before moving on. You want this to happen. Catching their eye will make them want the card, at least a little bit. But, back to gaining your value.
Now you can make your venture to the trade tables. In the beginning leave your pages of special artist cards out of your binder and in your bag. Your first priority should be to survey the trades happening. You want to scope out the players who are there to pick up Commander cards. They’re the ones you want to trade with. The second priority is to try and find out who else has the foils/non-foils you’re looking for and see what they’re valuing them at. If they’re valuing them really low, it doesn’t hurt to try and pick some of them up. Add whatever you picked up to your special pages and them add them to your binder. It is time to initiate trades with the Commander players.
Most of them will reach that magical spot in your binder that you have set up and stop. They’ll stop for a few reasons. The first is the amount of pimp. The second is the signatures. The third is the typically golden borders. At this point you should ask them if they’ve found anything that they like. Most will probably comment on the signatures. You can go ahead and let them know that you got the cards signed by the artists at the event. One of two things will happen. They will either already have the card and go get it signed themselves, or they won’t have the card and will trade you for it. If the first one happens, it’s ok. There’s plenty of other people to trade with. It is the second occurrence that you’re looking for.
A lot of players will ask you what you value the signed foil versions at. You want to start higher with values you give. If the player looks put off by your response, follow up that you have some unsigned versions that you’d be willing to let go for slightly less. This makes the signed versions look more valuable to you simply because you took the time to get them signed. Give the player a new lesser value for the unsigned copy. If they are still unhappy with the number given offer them a non-foil version at a lower point.
If the player really wants the card (and trust me, they do), then they will likely have traded with you by this point. Most players will actually go for the slightly less-valued unsigned foil version to take and get signed themselves. The rest will take a non-foil. You can still easily get a few dollars in value for the non-foils just because you made it evident that the artists are present to sign the cards. You may even get lucky with a few people who will jump at the chance to get the signed version immediately and give you a slight premium on the value.
Remember those Child of Alaras and Jenaras I picked up before the convention? Well, when I got to GenCon I began scouring the dealers hall. I found that not many of the dealers had Jenara and not a single one had Child of Alara with them. With US Nationals, Legacy and Vintage Champs at the event most of the vendors simply brought their staple tournament cards. This left me open to price these cards how I wanted. I got a few of each signed and hit up the trade tables. I found a nice niche of Commander players and began the bargaining.
When people found out the artists were present to sign the cards they went nuts. It was honestly, a little more than I expected. I knew I could gain value, but I didn’t fully realize the demand that there would be. Then when people found out the dealers didn’t bring any of these cards it went even more bonkers. Soon I was trading my initial $6 and $9 investments for upwards $10 and $20 each. I wasn’t even making the starting values. These were numbers being offered to me by other players. Those one and two dollar regular versions I traded out at solid $4-5’s.
By the end of the convention I had actually acquired enough value from my initial investments to go and pick up and entire Dredge deck for Legacy knowing full well that I was giving too much value on the Dredge cards because the main Legacy event was going to start a few hours later. I could afford this expenditure simply because I took 5 minutes at home on my computer and about 30 minutes at my local gaming store in preparation. So the next time you’re going to head to a large event, take the time to look up what artists will be there. You’ll be surprised at the value you can gain from a half an hour of work.
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