There are many reasons why players of Magic: The Gathering purchase sealed booster boxes. Common motives for buying booster boxes include drafting, collecting, and opening booster packs. When purchasing sealed booster boxes of sets out of print, players can expect a market price premium above the average expected value (EV) of its contents. This price premium can add hundreds of dollars to the EV of a sealed booster box. Why would an individual pay five times the EV for a booster box? I attempted to answer this question through an analysis of 30 different sets in MTG’s history. I measured how the draft experience, EV, and age of a booster box affects the overall price premium. You can download the entire data along with charts here.
Understanding the Data
In order to understand the draft experience, I searched online for articles rating the best and worst MTG draft sets of all time. I found articles from professional players, content creators, and Reddit ranking draft experiences by set and block. Older MTG sets were often printed in three set blocks. The draft experience for the beginning of the block consisted of three packs from the first set. Each subsequent set would change the amount of packs used from the first set. Ultimately, players would draft one pack of each set when an entire block was released. The Draft Set Resources tab provides rankings and links to articles I used to decide on the 30 different MTG sets in the data. On the Set Prices tab, I grouped the 30 sets between best and worst draft experiences.
I pulled set EV from MTG Dawnglare for each set. This information serves as a baseline price someone may pay for a booster box. Next, I collected up to 30 English sealed booster boxes sold from Ebay between July 1, 2019 and October 17, 2019. Any sets I was unable to find 30 individual booster box sales has the number next to the set name highlighted in red. The information regarding booster boxes sold by set is on the Box Sales History tab. A few sets had little to no recorded sales during the data pull time frame. I used listed English booster box prices only for Planeshift since no recorded sales were found. The lack of information available for some sets creates challenges for compiling data.
Release date information was found on Wikipedia. While I do not believe Wikipedia is an ideal resource for pulling accurate data, it had the most comprehensive information available online. The rest of the columns on the Set Prices tab are calculations from the different metrics.
Two regressions are included in the data file. If you are unfamiliar with regression, you can read a basic explanation here. While neither regression is statically significant, they show the highest correlations between the different metrics. Regression 1 compares MTG set EV to the average sold booster box price on Ebay. This regression shows the highest correlation in the analysis with a Multiple R of 0.73 and R Squared of 0.53. Regression 2 compares the sale $ multiplier of EV to set release dates.
Does Draft Experience Affect Price Premiums?
The list of sets represented can vary by player. However, I believe this list includes the most common top-of-mind best and worst draft experience sets. When looking at the data, the best draft sets sell at a higher price and set EV. However, I believe the more important metrics are the sale $ multiplier of EV and the sold / EV % premium. These two metrics isolate the price premium between the average sale price and set EV.
When reviewing the overall average of the best and worst draft sets, the worst draft sets show a higher % premium and $ multiplier. Turning attention to the averages of sets with 30 recorded booster box sales, the metrics for best and worst draft sets are much closer. In my opinion, the data does not show any compelling evidence to suggest that draft experience affects the premium price of a booster box positively or negatively.
Does Set EV of a Booster Box Affect Price Premiums?
The analysis on the Regression 1 tab helps answer this question. While there is some relationship between set EV and the average price of a booster box sold, it is not statistically significant. The EV acts more as a floor price for a booster box rather than a gauge of market price. Players are incentivized to open booster boxes when the set EV is higher than the average market price (ex: Conspiracy 2014). The more boxes opened, the more singles will likely enter the market. At some point, Equilibrium price will likely drive set EV down when supply for singles is greater than demand. The opposite affect occurs for sealed booster boxes that become out of print. Average market prices could rise due to less boxes available in the market as demand exceeds an available, finite supply.
Does Age of a Booster Box Affect Price Premiums?
I tried to answer this question on the Set Multiplier to Age tab of the data file. This tab contains a comparison of set $ multiplier of EV to the age of a booster box. The chart below shows this comparison across all 30 of the sets in the analysis. In addition, the chart is sorted by the oldest set at the top (Fallen Empires) and the most recent set at the bottom (Dominaria).
Data in the Regression 2 tab shows that the set $ multiplier of EV and age of a booster box are not statistically significant. You can see in the chart that the multipliers are not linear over time. While the oldest sets do have the highest multiplier, the multiplier is not necessarily high across other old sets. There is some argument in this factor because of the lack of sales data for older sets. However, I believe the sales $ multiplier could be affected by another metric not measured in this analysis.
What Else Could Affect Price Premiums?
After reviewing the data analysis, there is a possibility that the draft experience, set EV, and age have little to no impact on booster box price premiums. If this is the case, then why do sealed, out of print booster boxes sell at a premium? There could be other potential reasons.
One potential influence of premium prices is a set’s print run. The age of a box does not necessarily mean a set has a high or low print run. There are periods of time in MTG’s history where sets were printed beyond demand (ex: Gatecrash) or low due to general player interest. Print runs were documented for some of the oldest sets in MTG history. However, print runs for modern era sets are not released publicly. The lack of information on print runs makes it extremely difficult to know the true affect by set.
Another possible influence affecting premium prices is nostalgia. People are purchasing booster boxes of Fallen Empires and Homelands that have very low set EVs for hundreds of dollars. Fallen Empires specifically had a large print run for the time. Why would an individual pay over $200.00 for a Fallen Empires booster box? One possible answer is the nostalgia of owning a piece of MTG history from 25 years ago. Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to measure nostalgia without surveying individuals who have bought old booster boxes.
A third plausible reason for understanding price premiums is the scarcity principle. For example, I was unable to find any copies of Planeshift booster boxes that sold on Ebay between July 2019 and October 2019. Sellers with Planeshift booster boxes could set any sale price they want since history (at least in the time frame given) does not exist. If a price was set at $500 and someone purchased it, then the price for Planeshift booster boxes could rise to the new sale price. Anyone with the ability to curtail the market availability on a low print set could potentially set a new average market price.
There may be other metrics and reasons beside those mentioned that explain premium prices for sealed booster boxes. If you have any thoughts or data around price premiums, send me a message or post a comment. It would be interesting to hear your thoughts and perspectives.
*The information in this article is of my own knowledge and opinion. It is meant for informational purposes only. I am not a registered financial professional or trying to act as one.*