I've been buying sealed boxes of Magic: the Gathering cards on eBay, with the plan to hold on them for months or years and then sell them at a profit when they're out of print. For those of you who never encountered this particular strain of nerdiness, Magic is a trading card game (the first, in fact). It has been around for 20 years now. Of note, there exists a robust secondary market for Magic cards.
I have a number of friends who play casually, as I do myself. In addition to casual play, Wizards of the Coast (the company that owns Magic), puts on various tournaments and events. This is where much of the demand for Magic cards comes from. To play in a tournament, your cards can't be faked or proxied. There is also demand from collectors. In addition to the cards themselves, there is some additional value in sealed packs for two reasons: 1) there is a format of play called "drafting" where a group of players make their decks from a limited pool of cards from opening sealed packs, and 2) some sets have very valuable cards in them, and the market adds a premium to packs from those sets.
I started thinking about this idea when I found a few sealed packs I kept around from when I started playing again around 2010. The most recent set at the time was called Zendikar. On a whim I looked up the price of Zendikar packs and noticed that they had greatly appreciated in value. Right now, Zendikar packs are selling for $9-$12 a pack. Magic booster packs usually retail for $4, and buying boxes of them can get you a price of closer to $3/pack. That is a pretty impressive increase in value.
I did some research on recent Magic expansions, and looked at the prices that sealed boxes of booster packs are selling for on eBay. Using conservative assumptions about initial prices, factoring in eBay sellers fees, and using only listings that have sold, I found that the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) averaged between 7% and 15%. This isn't a gold mine by any stretch, but by my estimation there's a reasonable chance to beat the stock market's historical average, and invest in something that's uncorrelated with any other asset class.
Here's a listing of what I bought and when:
|Name||Purchase price||Shipping||Total cost||Purchase date|
|Return to Ravnica||$89.99||$0.00||$89.99||8/11/2013|
Here are the current prices for these products:
|Return to Ravnica||1||$88.00|
As you can see, I'm not doing too well. That's alright though, because I was planning on holding on to most of these for a few years. You can see where I went wrong with buying a few "From the Vault: Twenty"s too soon after they came out. "From the Vault"s are special collectors edition products with a known set of tournament-legal reprints of various cards. Demand was high for FTV:20 when it came out and since then the price has dropped. The rest of the boxes have basically stayed static, which is what I was expecting. You can also see what kind of a bite fees are going to take.
Anyway, I want to be open and honest about how my alternative investments are going. I am planning on posting updates every few months.
I think it's important to realize that there are a lot of opportunities out there that you could be interested in, if only you open your eyes to them. When you're on secure financial footing you can take advantages of opportunities that come your way. In this case I decided it would be fun and interesting to try a different kind of speculation, one that not many people do. Who knows, maybe I'll lose a bunch of money, or maybe I'll hit the jackpot.