In October 2019, multiple Magic: The Gathering sets will rotate out of the current Standard format card pool. Each fall, a few sets rotate out of Standard to update the format. An article on Card Game Base explains the 2019 Standard rotation. The specific MTG sets rotating this fall are Ixalan, Rivals of Ixalan, Dominaria, and Core 2019.
In my previous article, I evaluated the investment potential of former Standard set booster boxes. I looked at their historical prices over time to determine growth, profitability, and investment potential. This article will attempt to forecast the future prices and potential returns of Standard set booster boxes rotating this fall.
There are multiple techniques one can use to forecast the future of a product's price and demand. This detailed article on forecasting techniques covers qualitative methods, time series analysis, and causal models. I did a simple time series analysis to forecast booster box prices over the next year. The data used to predict and analyze rotating Standard booster boxes is available here. I referenced the worksheet titled October 2019 for this analysis. Data from my previous article are available in the October 2018 worksheet. The data and calculations found on the October 2018 worksheet can be used to establish an average growth rate for forecasting future booster box prices.
Evaluating Current Booster Box Prices
Before going into further details, I need to assume that all rotating fall set print runs have ended. While I have no hard proof this has occurred, I believe it is a safe assumption at this time. As long as booster boxes are print to demand, their prices will remain pretty stagnant. This analysis also assumes booster boxes are available at a low retail price of $80.00. This price is reflective of the cost of a distributor. Also, some businesses sell booster boxes of Standard sets at their expense to move inventory. There are other methods of buying close to distributor pricing as well—the below graphic shows rotating booster box average market prices on eBay for August 2019.
It is interesting how much people are paying for a booster box of Dominaria. The other sets are selling for around the expected retail price of a Standard booster box. Why is Dominaria worth much more money than the different rotating sets? While I cannot provide specific evidence, Dominaria does have a few unique qualities. It is considered one of the best drafting sets in recent history. Also, the nostalgia of the set brought back many former MTG players to the game. Half of the players I spoke with at the pre-release came because they wanted to play with Llanowar Elves, Goblin Warchief, Icy Manipulator, and other iconic cards. I believe the expected value (EV) from opening a booster box of Dominaria supports these qualitative reasons.
Next, I compared current booster box prices to the EV of each set found on MTG Dawnglare using the default TCGplayer Mid pricing. The set EV and booster box prices do not correlate well. Dominaria booster boxes are selling at two and a half times their set EV. Rivals of Ixalan has the highest set EV and the lowest booster box price. There are other factors beyond set EV affecting current booster box prices.
Forecasting Future Booster Box Prices
I used formulas combining set EV, booster box pricing, and a historical average monthly growth rate to forecast future price movement. First, I divided the current market value of a booster box by its set EV to get a percentage. This basic formula combines current market prices and underlying value. For example, Ixalan's booster box price of $90.00 divided by $56.12 equals 60.4%. After establishing the percentages across four sets, I wanted to apply known historical information. I multiplied the calculated percentages by the average monthly growth rate of the six previous Standard set booster boxes. The result from this calculation gave me adjusted average growth rates for each set rotating in October 2019. For example, Ixalan's adjusted average growth rate became 1.07% after multiplying 60.4% by 1.78%. Finally, I multiplied the average monthly growth rate by the number of months for the hold period and added $80.00 (price paid for a booster box). The results showed that Ixalan and Dominaria were likely profitable one year later after applicable shipping and fees. Another point worth noting is that anyone who bought Dominaria booster boxes at $110.00 or less would probably make a profit.
Accuracy of a Forecast
This analysis is just one method to predict future price changes. While future prices seem reasonable, the model is not without flaws. I am assuming that current market conditions do not change for a year. If there is a global recession in 2020, it could negatively affect the future growth rates of booster boxes. If I wanted to test this number for accuracy, I could add additional data for previous Standard sets to the historical analysis. While my data analysis is not perfect, I hope it provides some insight into understanding forecasting models.
*The information in this article is my knowledge and opinion and is meant for informational purposes only. I am not a registered financial professional or trying to act as one.*
The Queen City Anime Convention is a three-day event centered around anime, cosplay, video games, and other Japanese related themes. This year, the event was held at the Sheraton Charlotte Hotel in Charlotte, NC. It took place from August 9th, 2019 through August 11th, 2019. My brother and I attended the convention on Saturday. I was approved to run a Japan travel panel at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday as well. We decided to stay most of the day and attended other panels, special events, the video game room, and the marketplace. According to the event staff, over 4,000 people attended the convention this year.
Austin and I began our day in the parking garage next to the hotel. The convention offered a discounted rate of $5 to park all day. We quickly went through registration and obtained our badges for the day. QCAC improved their registration process from the previous year. I used the Fan Guru event application to figure out where my panel room was located. This app was very helpful navigating the halls and keeping track of events I wanted to attend. After a quick check-in at Con Ops, I was ready for my panel at 11:00 a.m.
My panel was a success with 42 attendees and great questions from the audience. I was able to present and answer questions with five minutes to spare. The only bad part about my panel was the room size. All of the 32 seats were taken. but 10 additional attendees had to stand across the back wall. The room size issue was a reoccurring problem throughout the day.
After my panel ended, we went next door to see if Austin could participate in the speed dating event. Unfortunately, the demand far exceeded the room size and slots for participants. This created confusion and logistics issues for the event. Ultimately, Austin and I left the area to check out the dealer's room. We checked out some of the dealers among a crowd of people. After walking the room one time, Austin, bought a handmade craft for $12.00. I was tempted to buy a t-shirt, but the styles did not interest me enough.
Later on, we attended the Samurai vs. Ninja panel hosted Samurai Dan. This panel was featured a series of questions to decide if you acted like a samurai or a ninja. Dan did an excellent job entertaining and engaging the audience. I could tell why he was a featured guest host for multiple panels. I recommend attending one of his panels at a future convention. After the panel ended, we tried to get in line for the Cosplay Circus Show. Unfortunately, the line wrapped far around the convention hall. When we realized the main event room was too small to hold all of the people in line, we gave up and went to the gaming room.
I got a chance to play the Initial D Infinite 8 arcade machine. I was able to beat the first rivals race before giving another person a chance to play. Austin and I tried to find a fighting game station available, but they were taken by tournament participants. We ended up walking to the Social Media Breakdown for Cosplayers panel. My hope was that we could learn something even though the panel started 30 minutes prior to our arrival. Much to my surprise, the panel either ended early or did not start at all. With nothing else going on, we went back to the main events room to try and catch part of the Cosplay Circus Show. There was still a line of people waiting to see the show. The room was at maximum capacity forcing volunteers to use a one-in-one-out system. Ultimately, my brother and I decided to take a break until the next scheduled special event.
We got in line about 4:20 p.m. to see the None Like Joshua Rap Show. Unfortunately, the Cosplay Circus Show ran almost 30 minutes past the scheduled time slot. While we did see the show, it started close to an hour later than scheduled. None Like Joshua put on a great performance and it was the highlight of our day at QCAC. After the show, Austin and I decided to end our day at the convention. We had planned to meet Ashley for dinner at Sea Level. While our day was met with unexpected demand and delays, we did have a fun and enjoyable experience. My brother and I enjoyed interacting with other attendees and found the volunteer staff extremely friendly. It is exciting that QCAC continues to grow rapidly as a summer convention in Charlotte, NC. Hopefully, I can attend and present again at QCAC in 2020.
Seoul Food Meat Co. is a BBQ restaurant with Korean inspired cuisine. The restaurant is located in Charlotte's Southend neighborhood near the Wooden Robot Brewery. Walking into Seoul Food, you may notice televisions playing K-pop (Korean Pop) music videos. While Seoul Food has a full bar and table seating for customers, they also offer karaoke rooms to rent by the hour. There are four different themed karaoke rooms that can hold anywhere from 7 to 30 people. For my birthday this year, Ashley rented the Rock Star room that will hold close to 30 individuals. Charlotte Five published an article that has more specific information about each karaoke room available.
The Rock Star room at Seoul Food contains a karaoke machine with two microphones. The software on the system is Korean based. You can change the language to English (your room server should do this for you). Songs are found via a large code book or by searching the system with a remote control. You can play songs instantly or queue them for later. While not all songs we searched were in the system, there are plenty available to enjoy singing for hours.
The room also contains three televisions where song lyrics are displayed along with various Korean music videos. While the videos did not match up well with songs we selected, they were entertaining and interesting to watch. I liked having multiple televisions because anyone could sing while sitting in their seat or at the stage.
If you are interested in renting a room, I recommend calling to reserve one in advance. Seoul Food does not require a deposit, but they will let your room go if you are late for the scheduled time. Once a room is reserved, you can stay in it as long as you want. I also recommend not inviting more people that the room occupancy. We had about 23 people in the Rock Star room with a maximum occupancy of 27. The room was very crowded with over 20 people. There is a form that must be signed outlining the terms and conditions for renting a karaoke room. One point worth mentioning is that your server will charge a mandatory gratuity on top of the room rental price. When we received the bill for our rental, this policy added $63.00 in additional gratuity to the bill.
Beyond the additional gratuity charge, we had an amazing time at Seoul Food. Everyone in attendance agreed that they would do it again for a birthday or special occasion. Their meat platters and wings were excellent choices and easier to share among the group. Our server did a wonderful job keeping track of separate orders and billing. I recommend the karaoke experience at Seoul Food for anyone interested in singing the night away.
In Magic: The Gathering, Standard format booster boxes contain 36 packs of trading cards. Each pack contains 15 individual cards, with one at the rare or mythic rarity. In addition, there is a 1:67 chance to open premium foil versions of cards (changed to 1:45 in Core 2020). Some of the older sets also contain foil lottery cards with unique art. MTG Dawnglare is a website that tracks the average estimated value (EV) of MTG sets and individual packs. The set EV on MTG Dawnglare multiples a set's current pack EV by 36. In other words, this EV is the average expected value found in a booster box. EV can change over time as individual cards in a set move up and down in price. Booster box market prices can differ from set EV because other factors, such as supply and demand, can impact booster box market pricing in addition to set EV.
Current Prices for Rotated Standard Booster Boxes
In this evaluation, I am covering sets that rotated out of Standard in October 2018. You can download a copy of the data file here. My reasoning for using rotated Standard sets is because current Standard booster box prices remain relatively constant while they print to demand. I am rounding box prices to whole numbers for the sake of easy math. The following graphic shows current market prices for sealed booster boxes of previous Standard sets.
The average sale price for Shadows Over Innistrad and Hour of Devastation is $90.00. Amonkhet is selling for $95.00. There is a large gap between the prices for these sets and the others shown. Kaladesh, Aether Revolt, and Eldritch Moon sell for $180.00, $140.00, and $165.00, respectively. What I find interesting is the market price of a sealed booster box compared to the value of its contents. Sealed booster boxes carry a price premium relative to the EV of individual packs. A few reasons players would pay a premium for out-of-print booster boxes include drafting, collecting, and investing. To understand if current booster box pricing is warranted, I compared it against the set EV. I used the default set EV values on MTG Dawnglare, which references TCG Player Mid. The following graphic shows these comparisons.
The gold line across the graphic shows the average July booster box prices on eBay. The blue bars show current set EVs. The biggest takeaway from this graphic is where the gold line is respective to the top of each set's blue bar. Compared to other sets, Aether Revolt and Hour of Devastation booster boxes appear underpriced. On the other hand, Kaladesh and Eldritch Moon booster boxes seem overpriced. Since the sample size is small, I would look for additional data to support selling Kaladesh booster boxes and buying Aether Revolt booster boxes.
Analyzing Rotated Standard Booster Box Growth and Profitability
When looking at current prices, all rotated Standard booster boxes have appreciated over time. Shadows Over Innistrad, Amonkhet, and Hour of Devastation have increased the least. They also have the lowest values among set EVs. The monthly average growth of the top three booster boxes far outpaces the bottom three. Since their release, the average increase per month of the top-performing booster boxes has been $2.00 or higher. The increase equates to an estimated 12-month return of at least 30.0%. However, the growth of these boxes most likely occurred toward the end of their print cycle through today. If you assume booster boxes remained at $80.00 while in print for the first 12 months of availability, then the average growth per month would be higher than $2.00.
While 30.0% is a strong return, it is not necessary the net return for selling booster boxes. Since booster boxes are physical assets, you must mail or personally deliver them to a potential buyer. If you use an online platform to sell your booster boxes, you may pay a seller transaction fee.
In this evaluation, I used the USPS Priority Mail medium flat rate box as the shipping method of choice. You may find cheaper rates through other delivery methods or by utilizing a business account. I also calculated the fees for selling on eBay as 12.9%, including the 10% eBay and 2.9% Paypal fees. I purposely omitted the $0.29 additional transaction fee on Paypal for simplicity. When adding the shipping costs and expenses together, you can expect a minimum transaction cost of $24.41 on a $90.00 booster box through eBay. Unfortunately, these costs equate to 27.1% of the sale price. This high percentage means that selling one booster box of Shadows Over Innistrad, Amonkhet, or Hour of Devastation is unprofitable on eBay. You would need to sell these booster boxes locally, through other Internet platforms, or as a bundle with discounted shipping to earn a profit.
I calculated the breakeven amounts for selling booster boxes on eBay. To earn a profit of 0.0% on an $80.00 booster box, you will need to sell it for $106.54, or essentially a 33.2% return on investment. If you paid $90.00 for a booster box, you would need to sell it for $118.03 to net 0.0% profit. The return on investment at 0.0% on a $90.00 box is 31.1%. It is clear in these calculations that shipping prices are detrimental to profit margins. Every $1.00 saved on shipping costs for a $90.00 sale price will lower your transaction costs by about 1.1%. These estimates may differ from your actual shipping options and fees.
However, selling one booster box at a higher price point can yield higher returns. Shipping is arguably a fixed cost since each Standard booster box has the same size and weight. The net return on selling a Kaladesh booster box on eBay at $180.00 is 80.0%. Eldritch Moon's net return is 63.6%, followed by Aether Revolt's net return at 36.4%. Assuming you sold one of each $80.00 rotated Standard set booster box on eBay to different buyers, you would have earned a net profit of $105.16 or 21.9%.
Risk and Opportunity Cost
Investing in booster boxes is not without risk. Supply and demand for these collectible products affect prices. In addition, booster boxes are physical assets that must be stored and protected. Any accidental damage to a sealed booster box can negatively impact its value. A holding cost may become relevant if you have to pay for storage space. However, the riskiness of holding booster boxes can pay off with potential double-digit returns. Investment vehicles with negligible risks, such as Certificate of Deposits and Money Market accounts, would produce lower returns than the evaluated booster boxes in totality.
Current CD rates on Bankrate show the annual percentage yield (APY) offered at one and two years fall between 2.50% and 2.70%. This article on balance highlights the returns of other risky investment options over 10, 5, and 3-year periods. I want to draw attention to the 3-year returns since the average hold period in the evaluation was two years and eight months. You can see that the only investment vehicle with similar returns to the overall rotated Standard booster boxes was the S&P 500 Index. While I do not know the actual risk level for MTG booster box investing, I would compare it to the riskiness of purchasing stocks. My takeaway is that the evaluated booster boxes outperformed other investment vehicles with less riskiness.
Before investing in any product, I always think about my level of risk tolerance. Booster boxes do not seem to be a short-term investment (under a year). While they appear relatively easy to liquidate, the transaction fees can be steep. However, the returns calculated in this analysis match closest (after estimated costs) to the S&P 500 Index during a similar period. Due to the overall results of this evaluation, I believe MTG booster boxes can be a good investment vehicle when held in a diverse portfolio.
*The information in this article is my knowledge and opinion and is meant for informational purposes only. I am not a registered financial professional or trying to act as one.*
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