MTG Financial Fundamentals: The Dual Land Dilemma
While everyone knows that the Standard format of Magic: The Gathering is the most popular, the second most popular constructed format is a bit surprising. It is Legacy (or at least was, the last time I heard the statistic). Likely, Star City Games is the entity to thank for this. Their frequent, large tournament structure encourages constant brewing and playing of the evolved format. While increasing its popularity, the giant Magic retailer is capitalizing big time, ringing the register both on entry fees and, especially, on singles. The result is a fascinating singles market with cards ranging from pennies to hundreds of dollars. When “pimp” cards are included (foil, beta, etc.), a deck can be as expensive as a reasonably priced car. While my collection boasts none of these fancy cards, the past two years has done well for my collection’s value. What started as a modest interest in playing an older format transformed into an actual resting place for cash. Many of these cards are liquid, meaning I can easily sell them when I need to without penalty (unlike other assets such as bonds). But in the past few months, it feels like Legacy card values have stagnated; some have even dropped a notable amount. This poses a conundrum: since I do not play Legacy as frequently as I once did, should I continue to sit on these valuable cards or should I “ring the register” and sell them for some fast cash?
Other articles have already been written on the long term viability of Legacy. Quantities of many cards are limited, and a format where cost alone prohibits players from enjoying the game is never a good thing. The intent of this article is not to delve into the various possibilities for Legacy’s future. For now, the going assumption will be that the future is uncertain and nothing more. After all, with the advent of Modern as a PTQ format, this is likely true. Not to mention the fact that Magic can be boiled down to a game being mass-produced to make money. Should Hasbro ever decide the game was not growing proportionally to their goals, the Pro Tour could become deceased. While unlikely in the near term, it is an ever present possibility. To borrow an old cliché, all good things must end.
So the question becomes what should to do with all these cards? Many people have collections valued with five digits, though my own collection is far from. That being said, I do have a set of 40 EX/NM revised dual lands along with a playset of some key staples, and I frequently ponder what I should do with these cards. Let’s stop and assess this a little deeper.
Currently, I have New Horizons sleeved up as my Legacy deck of choice, which plays about eight dual lands. The other 32 are in a binder. What is the purpose of these extra dual lands? I have made a promise with myself to only play blue decks in Legacy, so many of the dual lands will likely never see play. For personal preference, there is no need to play with dual lands in Commander, for example, since the format is often casual and mildly competitive at most. Other than completion of a collection, there may not be a financially valid reason to keep all of these cards. And as there is the constant possibility of the format growing ill and possibly dying in the long term, would that not provide motivation to sell?
Consider a parallel from Wall Street for comparison. If I owned stock in a trendy tech company, and was fifty percent in the green, that would be tremendous. If only every investment was as lucrative. However, if looming on the horizon I saw inevitability for the company, this would weigh heavily on my mind. Good financial advice may be to sell the company’s stock while ahead and to avoid taking the long term risks. Is it not the same with Magic cards?
Now, other MTG finance writers have often taken the parallel to another level, citing that dual lands and other Legacy staples are more comparable to “blue chip” stocks than tech stocks. This seems based in a falsehood, however, for most blue chip stocks have long pedigrees of constant returns and dividends. Can a set of dual lands really be compared to Procter & Gamble stock, for example? The former has been around for 18 years and has only really taken off in value the past couple years. Meanwhile, the latter has been around for over 150 years and has been a solid investment across the majority of that time. And of course this comparison truly breaks down when comparing industries. People will always need toothpaste, shampoo, and diapers. Magic cards, however popular as they are now, are still part of a game. And everyone who has played some classic games in the past know that while there will always be a cult following, lack of support can mean death to new product extensions.
So What am I Trying to Say?
My intent in this article is not to persuade the reader to cash out on the game. Rather, I simply urge him or her to thoroughly assess the true value of their collection and make an informed decision. The right decision will depend on many personal factors, such as financial stability, personal commitments, and overall enjoyment of the game. For me, I have recently shaved about ¼ of my collection. Still, I wonder if that is enough. While having a set of 40 dual lands is a luxury, are there not better things to do with this money? And even if I sold the 32 dual lands I am not playing, I could still enjoy the game just as much. This is just a hobby to me and not a source of income, so this seems like the logical choice.
But at the end of the day, there is still that emotional aspect to it all. The delighted feeling I get when I open up that binder and see the spread of old-school, awesome dual land artworks. The notion that manabase can never be a limitation for me in any Legacy deck I may want to pick up. Thus far, this has been sufficient motivation to keep my collection. With a wife, and a child on the way, however, I know that my hard core gaming days will be very limited. So is now a good time to purge the collection further to avoid a bubble burst in the Magic card community? Or do I hold and take the risk, hoping the game continues to thrive indefinitely?
What are your thoughts?