Rishadan Pawnshop #4 Outside the Box

New players starting up in the game often ask,’Is it better to buy a box? Or just buy singles?’ Most veteran players would often reply that it is better to buy singles. That way you focus on getting what you need.

That is a very good point. When starting up, players don’t necessarily want to have a thinly spread out collection, but rather a concentrated deck. But on the lines of flat out dollars, can you get more value from buying a box than what you spend on it?

Recently, I decided to put that question to the test using M10. I know that in the past, it was possible to pull more value from the box than what you actually spent on it. When Ravnica first came out, those duals were going for $20 a pop, easy. If you got three duals in a box and a few other money rares (Char, Dark Confidant, etc.) then you made your money back on the box. If you pulled a foil dual, then the rest was icing on top! There was also a lot of money in Time Spiral. Not so much with the individual cards, but more so with the fact that you could pull double or even triple rares in a pack if you got a foil. Lotus Bloom and Akroma in the same pack? Cha-ching! Ancestral Visions, Foil Serra Avenger AND an Avatar of Woe? Nice pack! However, M10 isn’t Ravnica. M10 isn’t Time Spiral. There aren’t money cards oozing out of the wrappers and into your wallet. One thing that I did notice though is that M10 is very well spread out across the board. Could a well-balanced set like this pull your money out of the box? Or would it end up being the big hits and huge misses that other Core Sets in the past have been? Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you ‘the Real Financial Value of M10.’

Let me start off my explaining my process. When Superstars recently cracked M10 for their store inventory, I was invited to join. This would be a good opportunity to get some raw data for this exercise. I opened a total of ten boxes. I felt that though I could have opened more to get a more extensive data set; ten boxes would not only give me a good range, but an amount of data that was small enough that I could do all the research and number crunching I needed to in the amount of time I had.

When opening the boxes, I made several notes, taking into account as much significant information of the box that I could. First, I noted all of the money rares that I opened. This included cards like Ajani Goldmane and Garruk (sorry I forgot you the first time around, buddy), but also cards like Coat of Arms, Siege-Gang Commander, and Twincast. Essentially, anything worth around $3 I noted individually. Next, I tallied all of the mid-level rares. This included low-end Mythics like Sphinx Ambassador and Xathrid Demon, but also Ant Queen and Cemetery Reaper. Third, I tallied all of the bulk rares. As fun as they may appear, cards like Hive Mind and Indestructibility aren’t going to be on Luis’s Top Eight videos anytime soon. Last, I took a tally of all the power uncommons and power commons. Though they’re not worth a lot individually, when combined, they do add value to the box overall.

After taking all of this into account, I added up the values of each box as follows:
– Money rares = Market value
– Mid-level rares = $1.00
– Bulk rares = $0.30
– Tier One Uncommons/ Commons = $0.50
– Tier Two Uncommons/ Commons = $0.25

As you can see, I was extremely conservative in my valuations. For the money rares, I used an average of the most current eBay auctions to determine the value (Magictraders.com didn’t have the M10 values at the time). There were several mid-level rares that may actually be worth closer to $2 than $1, but taking down and looking up every single one would be too much work for this simple exercise, so I set the value at $1, a very fair estimate. Also, though many stores sell bulk type rares for $1 or so, I didn’t want to cheat you as far as the true value was concerned, so valued them all at a very conservative $0.30. Power uncommons and commons are $0.50 and $0.25 each, though store values would likely be closer to $2.00 and $1.00. Basically, I used the real life cash value of the cards. If you opened a box and wanted to sell every single card on eBay, this is the value you would get from the box. Store credit values and different store retail prices all vary, so I figured cash on eBay (aka the free market) is the best guide. Here is how the boxes ended up breaking down, plus a few highlights from each.

1) $117.00 (Highlights: Ajani, Silence, Birds of Paradise, 3 Dual Lands, Foil Glacial Fortress)
2) $122.00 (Highlights: Ajani, Silence, Honor of the Pure, Ball Lightning, Birds of Paradise, Darksteel Colossus, 3 Dual Lands)
3) $109.50 (Highlights: Garruk, Jace, Silence, Birds of Paradise, Pithing Needle, 2 Dual Lands)
4) $111.00 (Highlights: 2 Silence, Pithing Needle, Birds of Paradise, Dragonskull Summit, Foil Ball Lightning)
5) $123.00 (Highlights: Baneslayer Angel, Honor of the Pure, Jace, Elvish Archdruid, Ball Lightning, 4 Dual Lands, Foil Hypnotic Specter)
6) $114.50 (Highlights: Garruk, Silence, Birds of Paradise, 2 Dual Lands, Foil Chandra, Foil Overrun, Foil Doom Blade)
7) $104.50 (Highlights: Garruk, Silence, Birds of Paradise, 2 Dual Lands, Foil Duress)
8) $106.00 (Highlights: Elvish Archdruid, Darksteel Colossus, Ball Lightning, Birds of Paradise, Pithing Needle, 2 Dual Lands)
9) $134.50 (Highlights: Garruk, Silence, Ball Lightning, Birds of Paradise, Pithing Needle, 2 Dual Lands, Foil Birds of Paradise, Foil Time Warp, Foil Llanowar Elves)
10) $103.00 (Highlights: Elvish Archdruid, Jace, 4 Dual Lands)

Now, I was never a Mathematics major, so please bear with me if I get any of these terms or definitions tangled up. When all ten boxes are taken into account, the average value is $114.50 with a standard deviation of 9.87. However, if we pull the outliers from the data set (the highest and lowest values), we get an average of $113.44 with a standard deviation of 6.92. The smaller standard deviation says that the overall group is tighter, meaning whatever random data point you pull is likelier to be closer to the mean average. Basically speaking, when you pull out the freak box (with the Foil Birds, a card that makes up more than 25% of the retail value of the box) and you pull the wiener box (with only six solid money cards, none over $10), what you have is a higher chance of pulling $113 from your 36 packs. A few interesting things to note on the side, each box had around $11-13 worth of power commons and uncommons, and around $18-20 worth of mid-level and bulk rares. This means that generally more than 70% of the value of the box is carried by tradable rares.

One hundred-thirteen dollars might not seem like a lot. We’re not breaking the bank with $100 foil duals (when they first came out) or multiple packs with over 10x retail value here. However, first consider that most stores sell their boxes for $99. Next consider that my valuations were very safe and conservative. Also consider that the value of each box, if you were buying the cards as singles from a store as opposed to selling them for cash on the internet, is likely to be much much higher than listed out here (partly due to the fact that I did not factor in eBay shipping costs, nor discount the common retail markup). If you asked me if I could trade you my single Benjamin Franklin for a Benjamin Franklin, three George Washingtons and an Alexander Hamilton, I’d say yes, that’s definitely something I’d be interested in.

So, to answer the question, ‘Is it better to buy a box? Or just buy singles?’ I would have to say that it very much depends on the set. For M10? If you have the money or store credit and are looking to build up your trade binder, I would definitely recommend that you buy a box or two.

Hope this week’s piece was informative and helpful. Let me know what you guys think in the forums and the comments! Do you want to see more stuff like this? Any topics in particular that you would like me to touch on? Did I miss something crucial or did you totally agree with everything I said? Let me know! Come back to the shop next week when I discuss the Nationals effect on our market this summer. (And no, I’m not talking about Nick Johnson on the trading block). Thanks for stopping by!

Jeremy Fuentes


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