In case you missed the announcement last week, there are some pretty big changes coming to the world of Magic judging. The Judge Program as we know it is ending, to be replaced by a new certification company called Judge Academy.
First off, let me just say that the efficacy of this change and the potential fallout that it might cause are both beyond the scope of this column. Honestly, I don't have enough knowledge to effectively pass judgment on it either way. I'm just hopeful that our judge friends, who are essential to the fabric of the Magic community, end up being treated well.
For our purposes, the end of the Judge Program and the start of Judge Academy seems like the perfect opportunity to discuss the financial state of judge foils. These cards can hold some pretty incredible value, and the investing in the right judge foils at the right time can pay for an entire year of Standard play. But while certain judge foils can be big money makers, others are traps. My judge foil Force of Will, which I paid $500 for about six years ago, is only worth $350 now.
There are many questions when it comes to judge foils. Is it better to buy a hot new judge foil right away, when the supply is high, or should you wait until the hype dies down? Do competitive judge foils hold their value better than their casual counterparts, or are Commander foils the best investment? Are there any undervalued judge foils that we should be picking up right now? And, perhaps most importantly, how will the Judge Academy era change the financial calculus on judge foils moving forward?
Seems like a deep dive into the past, present, and future market of judge foils is in order.
Analyzing the Last Six Years of Judge Foils
Six years is a long time – Magic finance was very different back in 2013 – but I'm starting here because I'd like to see if there was a notable difference in price behavior both before and after the start of the Exemplar Program.
For those who don't know, judge foil compensation changed drastically in 2015. Beforehand, foil allotment was based on how many events each judge participated in. If you did ten major events in a year, you got ten packets of foils. If you only did three, you got three packets of foils. (Plus bonuses from conference attendance, etc.)
Starting in 2015, however, foils were instead awarded to judges who were written up as exemplary by their co-workers – hence the name "Exemplar Program." It's still unclear to me whether the overall number of foils given out to people went up or down after the start of the Exemplar Program, but perhaps we'll be able to eyeball it by looking at their price tags now.
I wanted to look at pre-Exemplar judge foil prices in order to see whether a major change in foil distribution caused an equally major change to judge foil price tags. That way, we can better determine how much of an effect Judge Academy is likely to have on judge foils going forward.