Today, in the first in a new series article about collecting, I’ll be sharing my knowledge and passion on managing a Collectible Card Game (CCG) collection, with a focus on graded slabs. I hope to shine some light on the secretive – and sometimes inaccessible – world of card grading. Hopefully I can answer some questions like “should I grade my cards?” and “why is there a $250,000 difference between two similar looking Alpha Black Lotuses on eBay?”
Over time, I plan on going over grading costs, teaching you to train your graded eye and helping you achieve a positive return on your investment. Most importantly, the goal here is to have fun! I truly enjoy the nostalgia of looking at Magic cards from my childhood as well as the beautiful new artwork from up-and-coming games like Flesh and Blood. If you pursue collecting with the goal of having fun and learning, you’ll always come out on top!
Just like water exists in three states, so does each CCG product – either solid, liquid or gas. Whereas water takes the form of ice, water and steam, CCG products are either sealed product, raw singles or graded slabs, with each form exhibiting similar attributes.
Sealed product is solid, not only as a block of unopened, factory-sealed mint cards, but also as a sturdy financial investment. Sealed has been compared to mutual funds, fixed income investments and market index ETFs by multiple community personalities. However, nearly all parties agree that sealed is the safest and steadiest of CCG assets throughout the past 25-plus years. As long as the underlying CCG remains popular, your sealed items will steadily increase, even outpacing most equities as long term assets while experiencing lighter and less frequent volatility.
Nearly every CCG product starts in a sealed state, and outside of being the least risky and stable financial investment, it also makes for a memorable experience when valued friends come together to crack, draft and enjoy this product.
Just like water covers 75 percent of the Earth’s surface, raw singles are the most prominent, with 75 percent or more of nearly all print runs being eventually opened. Once a pack is opened, the raw singles can be dispersed into decks, binders and boxes, along with a plethora of other ways in which they’re appreciated.
While it’s nearly always true that the cumulative value of the contents of pack-opened raw singles will never exceed the expected value (EV) of their sealed counterparts over the long run, you have to remember the core purpose of sealed product – to have fun! The chase cards of each CCG are extremely sought after, transacted the most often and, as a result, people will chase the adrenaline and/or dopamine high that comes along with discovering a chase card. In the end, many enthusiasts ultimately convert solid assets into liquid as sealed product becomes raw singles.
Graded slabs truly take on the characteristics of gas because they have the capacity for exponential expansion (of value). An Alpha Black Lotus just sold for over $511,000, an Alpha Lightning Bolt BGS 10 is being listed and considered at $55,000 and many Quad to Black Label commons have been exchanged for thousands! Graded Slabs are also simply “gas” in other ways because they’re a combination of a preservation piece, a highly collectible piece as well as an aesthetically pleasing display piece.
It also doesn’t hurt that the most pristine copies of certain high-end cards are publicly recognized to be valued at 1000 percent to even 5000 percent-plus when compared to a card in its near mint, raw state. This is the area that contains the most opportunity for future speculators, but it’s also the area that requires the most expertise, attention to detail and research.
I personally have migrated over 50 percent of my collection value and collecting preferences to graded slabs, and welcome each of you to put pen to paper or get on the Facebook groups, Discords or forums and do your homework! anyone can utilize their graded skillsets to create staggering gains with the proper amount of work, dexterity and know-how and have their holdings in graded outpace their returns in sealed.
So there you have it, a summary of solid, liquid and gas as it applies to CCG collecting. While it’s a progression that’s basically a one-way street, it presents a very rare opportunity to be able gain the full benefit of a product (cracking sealed) while still having the ability to recoup your entire investment and perhaps even enjoy a gain with some luck and practice. I hope some of you are interested in taking this journey, as I’ll be starting from the basics and bringing all aspects of this craft to light!