How are Magic card prices determined?

  • #1
    Hey guys - I've taken economics and understand the basics of supply and demand, but I'm having some trouble here.

    There are two questions:

    1) Does WotC have static card prices based on rarity when distributing the cards to retailers? Also, do these prices change over time based on demand, or is it just the retailers prices that change?

    2) Is there a formula retailers use to calculate the price of a card, or is it just a "how much will they pay" game, where they incrementally increase the price and recheck demand?

    For example, say a certain card is seeing increased tournament play and therefore sees an increase in purchase orders. Since demand has gone up, so will the price - the question is, how is the specific increase in price determined?

    Thanks!
    Tyler
  • #2
    Quote from tmurry
    Hey guys - I've taken economics and understand the basics of supply and demand, but I'm having some trouble here.

    There are two questions:

    1) Does WotC have static card prices based on rarity when distributing the cards to retailers? Also, do these prices change over time based on demand, or is it just the retailers prices that change?

    2) Is there a formula retailers use to calculate the price of a card, or is it just a "how much will they pay" game, where they incrementally increase the price and recheck demand?

    For example, say a certain card is seeing increased tournament play and therefore sees an increase in purchase orders. Since demand has gone up, so will the price - the question is, how is the specific increase in price determined?

    Thanks!
    Tyler


    No. Wizards sets no prices. The secondary market is totally on their own there. Wizards doesn't get involved, except for setting the reccomended price on product.

    Whatever we pay, that's what they charge. The same way any product is determined.
  • #3
    Quote from tmurry
    Hey guys - I've taken economics and understand the basics of supply and demand, but I'm having some trouble here.

    There are two questions:

    1) Does WotC have static card prices based on rarity when distributing the cards to retailers? Also, do these prices change over time based on demand, or is it just the retailers prices that change?

    2) Is there a formula retailers use to calculate the price of a card, or is it just a "how much will they pay" game, where they incrementally increase the price and recheck demand?

    For example, say a certain card is seeing increased tournament play and therefore sees an increase in purchase orders. Since demand has gone up, so will the price - the question is, how is the specific increase in price determined?

    Thanks!
    Tyler

    Dealers charge what the players will pay. They'll keep uping the price until no one buys anymore, and then begin lowering the price until people begin buying again.

    That's why I have this pet peeve about people blaming Wizards for the prices of cards. Wizards has NO control over the secondary market (besides the reserved list, which is irrelevant to all formats except Legacy and Vintage). The players have no one but themselves to blame for $100 cards like Jace and Goyf.
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  • #4
    I can't quite tell from your post, but it sounds like you might be confused about how cards are distributed by WotC. WotC only sells sealed product, never single cards. WotC does print some products like the From the Vault series and of course the preconstructed decks, but the vast majority of cards in circulation come from randomized booster packs.
  • #5
    Well, my main question about WotC was if they have higher prices for higher rarity when they sell them to retailers.

    Also, if retailers really "increase the price and wait", how do they manage the thousands of cards that are available?
  • #6
    Quote from tmurry
    Well, my main question about WotC was if they have higher prices for higher rarity when they sell them to retailers.


    Wizards doesn't deal in singles. They set MSRP on sealed product (boosters, preconstructed decks, etc), but that's it. Stores have to open packs themselves to get cards to sell, or else buy/trade with players to get them.

    Also, if retailers really "increase the price and wait", how do they manage the thousands of cards that are available?


    Same way any store with a very wide range of inventory does. Also, they tend to observe what other stores sell their cards at, and price accordingly. Too high above that mean, and nothing sells. Too far below it, and other stores will buy you out and resell at a profit.
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  • #7
    It starts with ebay really. Dealers look at what people are paying, and they adjust prices. Unfortunately, sometimes people see what dealers are charging and pay that much on ebay. It's a vicious circle.
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  • #8
    Quote from tmurry
    Well, my main question about WotC was if they have higher prices for higher rarity when they sell them to retailers.

    Also, if retailers really "increase the price and wait", how do they manage the thousands of cards that are available?


    They cannot have a higher price for a higher rarity when they sell nothing of higher rarity. Wizards only sells sealed product. What is in the product is random based on distribution. There are no "rare" boxes that Wizards sells - sealed product rarity (and, more importantly, the associated price increase) occurs after a length of time has passed during which the supply decreases significantly faster than the demand, as the influx of new players and the tendency of players to hold on to cards rather than put them back into the market causes the demand to move much more slowly, and Wizards only prints a set number of runs of a product before it is no longer printed (thus no longer feeding the supply and allowing it to drop off).
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  • #9
    Quote from Solaran_X
    Dealers charge what the players will pay. They'll keep uping the price until no one buys anymore, and then begin lowering the price until people begin buying again.

    That's why I have this pet peeve about people blaming Wizards for the prices of cards. Wizards has NO control over the secondary market (besides the reserved list, which is irrelevant to all formats except Legacy and Vintage). The players have no one but themselves to blame for $100 cards like Jace and Goyf.


    That's not 100% true.

    With jace, wizards knew they were putting the most powerful card they had printed in years (granted, they didn't know how powerful) into a set that would rarely be drafted. Because triple-ROE was the dominant format, it drove the price of jace up quite a bit more.

    The reason I bring this up, is that I really think that what we're seeing in innistrad is wizards making some concessions to the secondary market. Maybe I'm reading too far into things, but the most powerful cards in this set are mostly commons, uncommons and rares.

    I mean, praetor's council was a mythic, and snapcaster mage is a rare.

    While I don't think that price ever truly drives any decision wizards makes, they aren't fools, either.

    Looking at the past few years, I think wizards is doing a fantastic job keeping limited interesting, creating innovative mechanics, and keeping constructed somewhat novel (cawblade aside).

    When they started printing mythics, it blew up the secondary market in a very negative way - there were no more $10 cards - there were $50 and $1, basically. I can tell from the way the newer sets seem to be playing out, that wizards has definitely reconsidered what mythic rarity means.

    It seems to me that they are using mythic rarity more as a place to put planeswalkers and cards that would be way too broken at rare for limited, as opposed to using mythic rarity on every good, playable rare from a set.

    Anyways, just my .02. I could easily be wrong, and wizards made snapcaster a non-mythic for some other reason. However, wizards is extremely smart about what they do; I don't think it is a coincidence that they're going this direction.
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  • #10
    Quote from Solaran_X
    Dealers charge what the players will pay. They'll keep uping the price until no one buys anymore, and then begin lowering the price until people begin buying again.

    That's why I have this pet peeve about people blaming Wizards for the prices of cards. Wizards has NO control over the secondary market (besides the reserved list, which is irrelevant to all formats except Legacy and Vintage). The players have no one but themselves to blame for $100 cards like Jace and Goyf.


    This is an extremely bizarre post.

    Wotc has almost complete control of card prices. They control them by the amount of a card they print. Goyf was printed once in a small third set as a rare. That is why he is so expensive. Other important and powerful cards like Lightning Bolt, Swords to Plowshares, Wild Nacatl, and Qasali Pridemage are very cheap for a variety of reasons. Some have been printed many times, some have been printed at lower rarities.

    If tarmogoyf had been an uncommon it wouldn't be so expensive, if he had been in a different larger set he wouldn't be so expensive, and if wotc just reprinted him in a new set or other product he wouldn't be so expensive.

    wotc controls card prices. I'm not blaming them for anything or villainize them but I don't understand how someone could think they are not the ones that hold that power.

    edit: urafever makes a good point about Jace. Jace and Goyf are both from small sets that were not drafted for long. That's a huge factor in their price. Compare Goyf to Dark Confidant and look at the price discrepancy there. It would not be that way if Bob had been printed in Disension.
  • #11
    Quote from UnderwaterGuy
    This is an extremely bizarre post.

    Wotc has almost complete control of card prices. They control them by the amount of a card they print. Goyf was printed once in a small third set as a rare. That is why he is so expensive. Other important and powerful cards like Lightning Bolt, Swords to Plowshares, Wild Nacatl, and Qasali Pridemage are very cheap for a variety of reasons. Some have been printed many times, some have been printed at lower rarities.

    If tarmogoyf had been an uncommon it wouldn't be so expensive, if he had been in a different larger set he wouldn't be so expensive, and if wotc just reprinted him in a new set or other product he wouldn't be so expensive.

    wotc controls card prices. I'm not blaming them for anything or villainize them but I don't understand how someone could think they are not the ones that hold that power.

    edit: urafever makes a good point about Jace. Jace and Goyf are both from small sets that were not drafted for long. That's a huge factor in their price. Compare Goyf to Dark Confidant and look at the price discrepancy there. It would not be that way if Bob had been printed in Disension.


    Yeah, they control supply by production, and demand by how good it is. Its hard to say they are not the ones in control. Large dealers can control supply and demand to some extent especially if they work via hivemind (not implying collusion, just that magic community is very connected), but their ability is not on par with WOTC.
  • #12
    What controls the prices? Supply and Demand. Seems obvious, but when people argue whether WotC or dealers set prices, some forget that they both play a part.

    First, consider the amount of the card floating around loose in the market. Whether a card is rare or mythic, and which set it comes in affects this number. Worldwake one of the least drafted sets in a long time, since it did not have an extra three months of being drafted Large-small-small, like other sets would. It is similar with Eventide. It was drafted SSE for only a couple months, since Shards came out a couple months later. With the same demand for a card Innistrad rares will be less expensive than Dark Ascension, and Dark Ascension will be less than the third set in the block. With older sets, one has to consider how much product was made back then and with really old sets, one has to account for cards lost to time and damage. Candelabra of Tawnos is a poster child of the last one, since it is hard to find, even if one is willing to pay its market price.

    So much for supply. The demand side of the market is the one more people consider. If a card sees more play, it goes up in price...sometimes. Commons that see some play are still worth nothing, since there is such an excess that the only value in them is the labor in finding, storing, and trading them.

    However, commons that see TONS of play are worth something, since there is less in circulation than people would want assuming they could have however much they wanted. Preordain was about 1.50 at its peak, because it had been a long time since drafting M11, and the amount that were sitting in boxes full of previous drafts had dried up. It actually was tradible above the value of the little effort put into having the card on hand.

    Uncommons are like commons except the supply dries out faster and can potentially be worth more. Shrine of Burning Rage is currently sold out at SCG at 1.50, and only sees play in one deck in standard.

    Rares will generally go up when they see more play, but going from no play to a tiny amount may not affect the price at all. Ratchet Bomb was a lot when it first came out, partly because of low supply, but also because of high demand. It sank as more were opened and people played fewer of them. Cards that are "expensive" are the swingiest in terms of absolute dollar value, since a card halving in price is a lot for a card that started at $40.

    After that marathon intro, who sets the price? Depends on what you mean. The dealer is the one that decides what number to place on the tag, but whether it sells at that price is the question. If we assume that dealers are trying to maximize profit, then they will set the price for the highest that they think it would sell for. If a card is hot and speculators are pouring in, then a dealer will set the price higher in order to make more money, but it is in response to the market placing a higher value on that card than they did earlier, when he first chose the price he was going to charge.

    The argument that WotC sets the price has some merit. They do set the power level of the card, and by which set it is in roughly how much will be in circulation. To say that WotC has no effect on the price of the card would be untrue, but they set the parameters-the end of new product and a very, very rough estimate of demand. The market can do something about supply, it can order more sealed product, but when a set stops being printed, that is it. In a regular market, people would make more of a good if the demand outstrips supply enough that it would be profitable to resume production. However, WotC does not sell cards at market prices. They sell sealed product.

    This leaves much of the price changing due to the market in the hands of the dealers. They are the ones who have to be on top of things, since the ability to make more profit by producing more product is not available to them. SCG, being one of the biggest Magic card dealers, seems to be the poster child for this. They can set the exact numbers that appear on your screen, but that does not mean that they set the market price. In spoiler season, when everything is speculation, then SCG has to make educated guesses on what to charge, so they set a price and change it based on the demand at that price. Only during this early time could one say that they set the prices. They cannot charge whatever they want and still sell cards, but a high SCG price has a reinforcing effect that causes other people to agree that the card will be expensive.

    However, once the card is in circulation, and there is competition for the cards, the prices theoretically should quickly approach their true values, set by the market, and dealers will price their cards accordingly. They have to do so. If they charge too much, then people will trade for the cards they need and they lose business.

    So, in conclusion, the supply and demand sets the prices for cards. There will be some randomness, since the qualitative value, how good something is is not easily available in a product like trading cards. Since the supply is set once WotC stops printing a set, from then on out, the demand of cards from players will determine prices. Cards stay at bulk prices until more of those cards are wanted than there are circulating in trade binders, dealer cases, and cardboard boxes.

    Most people tend to think of card prices going up as a bad thing, but in fact, it is good for people who want those cards. By prices going up, it ensures that copies of the card are available for those who want them enough. If for some reason Snapcaster was $1, it would be hard to convince casual players who have a copy to trade such an awesome card for $1 trade value. Since it is $30, it is easy to convince someone with a copy to trade it away so that you can play it the first week of Innistrad standard.

    tl;dr-Supply and demand/ the market.
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  • #13
    Quote from Solaran_X
    Dealers charge what the players will pay. They'll keep uping the price until no one buys anymore, and then begin lowering the price until people begin buying again.

    That's why I have this pet peeve about people blaming Wizards for the prices of cards. Wizards has NO control over the secondary market (besides the reserved list, which is irrelevant to all formats except Legacy and Vintage). The players have no one but themselves to blame for $100 cards like Jace and Goyf.

    You know what they could do to help us? Sell complete sets instead of just giving them out in MTGO set redemptions. I'd totally pay $150 for a complete set including mythics.
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  • #14
    Quote from Dio
    You know what they could do to help us? Sell complete sets instead of just giving them out in MTGO set redemptions. I'd totally pay $150 for a complete set including mythics.


    http://sales.starcitygames.com/category.php?t=a&cat=141

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  • #15

    Innistrad is $275 and sold out, no thank you. Channel Fireball is charging $200.
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  • #16
    Quote from Dio
    Innistrad is $275 and sold out, no thank you. Channel Fireball is charging $200.


    Then by all means buy it from CFB. The point is that you can buy them, which is the information you requested. If you want to get a $25 card, a $30 card, a $50 card, and about 200 other cards including at least 2 $15 cards for $150, you're not going to, though.
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    Quote from Ertai87 »
    No Allies or Landfall in RoE, no Clash or Evoke in Shadowmoor...


    WATWATWATWAT?
    You realize this is completely different, right?
    First, Shadowmoor/Eventide are A DIFFERENT BLOCK. DERP.

    There will be DFCs in this set.
  • #17
    Quote from Ertai87
    Then by all means buy it from CFB. The point is that you can buy them, which is the information you requested. If you want to get a $25 card, a $30 card, a $50 card, and about 200 other cards including at least 2 $15 cards for $150, you're not going to, though.

    My point is that prices wouldn't be this high if you could easily get a complete set for $150.
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  • #18
    Quote from Dio
    My point is that prices wouldn't be this high if you could easily get a complete set for $150.


    It would probably also kill the market for sealed product if Wizards sold complete sets on demand.
  • #19
    Quote from Wander
    It would probably also kill the market for sealed product if Wizards sold complete sets on demand.

    I could still see people drafting and playing in sealed events. Then there are also the people who like opening packs/boxes. There are people in my shop who buy one booster pack at a time and wouldn't have the $150 for a complete set, so I imagine there are other people like them too.
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  • #20
    Quote from Dio
    My point is that prices wouldn't be this high if you could easily get a complete set for $150.


    Except WotC can't do anything if the stores want to raise their prices. For example, the MSRP (Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price, i.e. what WotC says a product is worth) of the From the Vault series is about $40, but tell me if you've ever found one at that price. Even if WotC says a set is worth $150, it doesn't mean stores will actually sell it for that much. And WotC is in the business of selling packs, and who would buy packs if you could just buy complete sets for "reasonable" prices?

    Basically, what you want to do doesn't make business sense, and as much as you'd like it, WotC is a business first and a game company second.
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    Quote from shadowboy
    Quote from Ertai87 »
    No Allies or Landfall in RoE, no Clash or Evoke in Shadowmoor...


    WATWATWATWAT?
    You realize this is completely different, right?
    First, Shadowmoor/Eventide are A DIFFERENT BLOCK. DERP.

    There will be DFCs in this set.
  • #21
    Quote from Wander
    It would probably also kill the market for sealed product if Wizards sold complete sets on demand.



    Not really... not everyone WANTS a full set. Some people are perfectly happy treasure hunting and playing Limited.
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  • #22
    Quote from Solaran_X
    Dealers charge what the players will pay. They'll keep uping the price until no one buys anymore, and then begin lowering the price until people begin buying again.

    That's why I have this pet peeve about people blaming Wizards for the prices of cards. Wizards has NO control over the secondary market (besides the reserved list, which is irrelevant to all formats except Legacy and Vintage). The players have no one but themselves to blame for $100 cards like Jace and Goyf.


    Wizards can be blamed because the encourage competitive play and print competitive cards only in the upper rarities, thus limiting thier supply, which increases thier demand.

    Prices are set b supply and demand, and WoTC controls both of those factors: supply by printing cards at certain rarities, and demand by printing tournamanet quality cards on ay certain rarities.

    If liliana was an uncomon she'd be less than $10 right now. Her price is purely because WoTC made her abilities tournamanet worthy and printed her at mythic rare
    Last edited by Valarin: 10/4/2011 8:18:32 AM
  • #23
    Quote from Valarin
    Wizards can be blamed because the encourage competitive play and print competitive cards only in the upper rarities, thus limiting thier supply, which increases thier demand.


    This is straight-up untrue. You're thinking of Yu-Gi-Oh. List of recent competitive cards at lower rarities:

    Squadron Hawk
    Ponder
    Preordain
    Timely Reinforcements
    Lightning Bolt
    Dismember
    Despise
    Inquisition of Kozilek

    ...need I continue?
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    Play (noun): Battlefield
    Play (verb): Cast/Play
    RFG: Exile
    CIP: Enters the Battlefield
    Land reference:
    Dual land: Taiga
    Fetchland: Arid Mesa
    Shockland: Watery Grave
    M10 Dual: Glacial Fortress
    Don't be rude:
    Quote from shadowboy
    Quote from Ertai87 »
    No Allies or Landfall in RoE, no Clash or Evoke in Shadowmoor...


    WATWATWATWAT?
    You realize this is completely different, right?
    First, Shadowmoor/Eventide are A DIFFERENT BLOCK. DERP.

    There will be DFCs in this set.
  • #24
    Quote from pandafarmer
    It starts with ebay really. Dealers look at what people are paying, and they adjust prices. Unfortunately, sometimes people see what dealers are charging and pay that much on ebay. It's a vicious circle.


    Sometimes its the dealers. Lilliana of the Veil was so hot this morning that someone (most likely a dealer) swept all the auctions selling for less than $50 to restock.

    Ben from SCG has stated that a lot of the times the sell prices are more tied to the BUY prices than anything else. IE if I have to buy this card from a player, what do I have to pay to keep it in stock. Obvously the sell price has to be higher to compensate for risk.

    Quote from Valarin
    Wizards can be blamed because the encourage competitive play and print competitive cards only in the upper rarities, thus limiting thier supply, which increases thier demand.

    Prices are set b supply and demand, and WoTC controls both of those factors: supply by printing cards at certain rarities, and demand by printing tournamanet quality cards on ay certain rarities.

    If liliana was an uncomon she'd be less than $10 right now. Her price is purely because WoTC made her abilities tournamanet worthy and printed her at mythic rare


    They actually want all PW to be Mythics for both flavor and Limited. That's why when a PW breaks out they always go through the roof. I can think of a few (Chandra Ablaze) you can pick up cheap...
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  • #25
    Quote from Valarin

    If liliana was an uncomon she'd be less than $10 right now. Her price is purely because WoTC made her abilities tournamanet worthy and printed her at mythic rare


    And had they not, then people would be moaning about how much she sucked and how WOTC doesn't want to give us playable PWs anymore since
    Jace...

    In this game they could make all rare booster packs lined in real gold, put them in boxes of Captain Crunch... yet people would still bitch about having to go to the grocery store to buy Magic. that's just how diverse the player base is. not everyone will be happy 100% of the time.
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