Welcome back! I hope you had a great Thanksgiving with your friends and family. Last week we talked about the post-Worlds meta, and I mentioned some cards that you should be checking in on. For those of you who got lazy and didn't check on the cards, fear not; I've got your back.
Olivia Voldaren $14.99
Hero of Bladehold $15.99
Angelic Destiny $19.99
Garruk Relentless $29.99
Moorland Haunt $2.49
Etched Champion $2.99
Geist of Saint Traft $14.99 (Now $15.99)
Karn Liberated $9.99
Gideon Jura $9.99 (Now $8.99)
It looks like nothing changed; we have a dollar here and there but nothing substantial. The lack of change is interesting because Worlds just happened, and you would expect a lot of people to be buying into new decks. I assume that the demand for Magic has been put on hold for the holidays. We'll take a look at where these cards are at come the first of the year.
Before Worlds we were working our way through a series on pimping (I'm still looking for a better word to describe this topic). We left off on the topic of foils, and that's where we'll pick up today. For reference, links to the other two articles are below.
Prerelease /Release Foils (Oops!)
My last foil article was missing an important part of the foil hierarchy. My only guess for why I missed this is because I don't really consider these “pimp”; many times they are worth less than the non-foil version. Check out these examples below.
Hero of Bladehold $15.99 (Promo $14.99)
Wurmcoil Engine $19.99 (Promo $17.99)
Vampire Nocturnus $19.99 (Promo $14.99)
The reason why they are lower in price is because they undermine a lot of what pimping is about. They cost less, and they're easy to get. No self-respecting pimper (yeah, I just said pimper; deal with it) would be caught dead with these in their deck. Put yourself in their shoes. If you just spent thousands of dollars to put the most rare and unique cards into your deck, why would you put a card that isn't as rare, or as expensive, as the regular version in your deck?
Another reason why release promos are cheaper is because collectors who are building sets want the set version over the promo version. There are collectors who collect the promos, but the demand generated by this small group of collectors doesn't stack up against the demand generated by set builders and players who prefer the non-foil set version.
Many players prefer not to play with foils. Part of the reason is because they fear a judge ruling for marked cards. Players also don't want to pay extra for foils. This creates a conflict of interest when the release foil is worth less than the non-foil version. Then the player has a choice: pay more for the non-foil or pay less and have a foil in their non-foil deck. You would be surprised how many people opt for the non-foil option and just pay more.
As a side note, keep in mind that it's pretty easy to trade release promos at the same price as the non-foil version of the card.
Welcome to the Wild West. People who are buying / trading for foreign foils are what I like to call degenerates.
“Hi, my name is Jonathan Medina, and I'm a degenerate.”
Degenerates like to keep a strong poker face when trying to obtain foreign foils. The truth is that we'll pay any “reasonable” amount for a card that we want. The seller has the leverage when it comes to foreign foil cards because there's not a lot on the market. When I first started writing this article series, I thought that I would be able to give you a neat little formula like:
Japanese Foil = 400% of English Non-Foil
The trouble with a formula like this is that there's no one-size-fits-all set of numbers that you can apply to foreign foils. The other problem is coming up with a baseline number because sometimes the data is not there. With English foils, it's easy to take the non-foil price and double it to get the foil price. This works for most foils unless it's a staple in anything other than Standard (this includes Cubes and Modern); then the price is higher. With foreign foils, there are so many different factors that the best policy is to do the research.
I can't count how many people I've “got” when trading for foreign foils. I know that's a rude and bastardly thing for me to say, but it's true. When I was less concerned with building the community, I was always down for the savage trade beats. The reason that I tell you this is not to pat myself on the back and say, “I'm the greatest trader to ever live.” Instead it's to tell you that there is a huge knowledge gap here.
In my defense, half the time I didn't even know the price of the foil that I was trading for. I just knew that there were some sweet spots to look for when looking through a trade binder. For starters, anything in foil Japanese or Russian (and now Korean) is probably worth more than you think. You can safely offer double the English foil price and still make a profit, as long as the card sees tournament play. I'm not talking about offering double the English foil price on cards like Charmbreaker Devils.
If the card in question is playable, foil, and Japanese, Korean, or Russian, then it's worth at least double the English foil (probably more). Especially if the card sees play in a non-rotating format like Commander, Legacy, or Modern. This is good to know if you're shooting from the hip, but if you want more accurate numbers then you have to do the research.
When pricing a foreign foil card, eBay completed listings are your best friend. I'm going to reference my pricing article again, be sure to read this. It's an important tool for buying, selling, and trading cards. The one thing that my pricing article doesn't mention is using the completed auctions that didn't sell. Look below, and you'll see what I'm talking about.
You're looking at two completed auctions for a foil Japanese Dark Confidant. One sold, and the other did not. In this case the completed auction that didn't sell is just as important as the one that did. The auctions with the price marked in red tell us the ceiling of the card. In this example, there were no buyers at $699.99, and there was at least one person willing to pay $386. So, what do we value a foil Japanese Dark Confidant at? The answer is somewhere between $386 and $699.98. If you want a more exact number, then you can add some dimensions to these price points by searching the current listings.
You can see above that some people are dreaming with their “Buy It Now (BIN)” prices, but one stands out to me. There's someone selling a BIN for $559 with free shipping. This will adjust our ceiling to $559 instead of $699.99. Another thing to look at is the auctions that are in process. Sometimes the auctions that are in process will have bids that are higher than the lowest price completed auction. There are no in-process auctions in this case, so the value a foil Japanese Dark Confidant at between $386 and $559 gives you about a $200 range that you have to play with. If you're spending cash, then you'll probably be closer to the $386 number, but if it's trade, then it will be closer to the $559 number. If you're trading other Japanese foils towards the Japanese foil Dark Confidant, then you'll probably have similar situations with the pricing gaps, so you can leverage these gaps to come to an agreement.
Another thing that I wanted to point out is that Russian foils for some cards are either close or more expensive than their Japanese counterparts. Look at these closed auctions for Liliana of the Veil:
I could talk all day about the subtleties of pricing foreign foils. Instead let's move on to the topic of full frame foils.
Full Frame Foils
There are three flavors of full-art promo cards: Champs Promos, Magic Player Rewards, and Game Day Promos. Here's a list of each foil promo and the price. These foils can be considered pimp, and a lot of people use them in their Cubes. Most of these are good pickups if you can find them.
These were handed out at the Champs tournament series (also known as States) to the Top 8. The one exception is the Mutavault, which was only available in the UK and Ireland. This explains the crazy high price tag on it.
Doran, the Siege Tower $119.99
Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind $99.99
Serra Avenger $59.99
The top three are pretty impossible to find, and they command a very high premium. Even eBay auctions end pretty close to the listed retail price. See the Doran below:
Magic Player Rewards Promos
These were handed out as part of the now defunct Player Rewards program. There have been murmurs that these promos might rise in price since Wizards of the Coast discontinued this program. This seems like a reasonable assumption, and I could see it happening as these cards drift further out of print and circulation.
Cryptic Command $11.99
Wrath of God $9.99
Lightning Bolt $5.99
Day of Judgment $4.99
Game Day Promos
These are handed out to the Game Day top 8. These are more widely distributed than the Champs promos were. I suspect that's part of the reason that these are on the lower end of the price spectrum. The other reason is because most of these cards suck; you notice that the only ones worth money are the ones that see play in Standard.
Dungrove Elder $19.99
Black Sun's Zenith $14.99
Kalastria Highborn $11.99
Tempered Steel $9.99
Deathless Angel $4.99
Myr Superion $4.99
Mycoid Shepherd $2.99
Mitotic Slime $2.99
Foils You'll Never See
Before I take off for the week, I'll leave you with something cool. Chances are that you won't run into these, but you should be aware that cards like this exist. Before they started printing foils, they ran a series of test prints. For example, have you ever seen a foil City of Traitors?
You can see all the variations of these test prints at Magic Libraries. This is part of the Exodus foil testing. There was also a handful of “Alternate 8th Edition” foils printed as tests. You can see an example below.
Pricing things like this is all about working out a value that works for both parties. Chances are that there's no pricing data for cards like this, and it really just boils down to what someone is willing to pay for it. When you deal with rarities like this, value truly becomes subjective.
I hope that you guys are not growing weary on our journey through the world of pimp! It's my hopes that when this “series” is done, you'll comfortably be able to make an offer on any foil, foreign language, or pimp card. Next week, we'll cover the Printing Error aspect of pimping as well as Alters. That'll be the last section before I conclude with a strategy for how to pimp your Magic collection and gain value. See you next week.