January was an interesting month for Flesh and Blood, as it marks the longest period of relative stability in the market without major movement since the initial explosion of activity back at the end of August. While prices have moved up and down on various individual items, we haven’t seen any major across the board movement like we did in previous months. What does that mean? Well, not much. There are a confluence of factors that likely contributed to the lack of dramatic movement: January is a notoriously bad month for sales in most categories (owing largely to people stretching to buy gifts and such in December and then scrambling to cover costs in the New Year). Also, there haven’t been any major product releases. While some unlimited Welcome to Rathe and Arcane Rising continues to make its way through the pipeline (and even a couple CRU boxes), no significant amount of additional product is expected until February. Barring a big news announcement or other major event that could catalyze the market, it currently seems reasonable to assume more gradual movement and adjustment until we get closer to Monarch’s release.
Sealed product has largely stabilized for the moment. WTR alpha boxes are sitting around $3500 with fluctuation a couple hundred dollars in either direction. The general movement on these is upward, and we should continue to expect steady gains as long as the game is healthy. ARC first edition boxes spiked to nearly $2000 before retracing to around $1500 and are currently sitting around $1700, again these can move a couple hundred in either direction on a given day as there are only a few on the market at a time. CRU has moved from a high of around $600 down to a stable $500. However ChannelFireball is offering them at $460. Much like with their pricing of ARC and WTR, I think we’ll see CFB artificially keeping prices down on this set until they either run out, raise their prices, or pull their product and let the market do its thing for a bit.
I expect the variance of 10-20% on sales to be the norm from here on out for the first printings of WTR, ARC, and, increasingly, CRU. There simply isn’t a lot of the first two sets available, so data points are limited. Crucible of War seems the most likely candidate for gains in the short term. The expected value (EV) of opening a box is fairly high relative to the sealed cost, and people are very much still actively opening them, even at $500.
Unlimited boxes remain generally priced at over MSRP. Going rates on both WTR-U and ARC-U were at about $125-130 for most of the month, but they’ve cooled to $115-120 recently, although periodically the community stumbles across online stores listing them at MSRP, and local game stores (LGSs) continue to sell at similar prices in some regions. Legend Story Studios has said that we should expect an unlimited restock of WTR-U in early February and ARC-U in mid-to-late February (depending on locale). While it is unclear if this restock will be large enough to push prices back down to MSRP, anyone looking for unlimited, might be best served by waiting a few weeks and trying their luck then.
Long term prospects for all first edition product remain strong. All three sets released so far have tiny print runs relative to current demand, to say nothing of future growth potential for the game. If you’re looking to get into the sealed box investment market, I would personally target CRU as sub-$500 boxes are available. While CRU should always be expected to trail WTR and ARC in terms of price, I expect it to close the current gap somewhat over the next year. ARC also feels somewhat underpriced relative to WTR as they have identical print runs. There is certainly more unopened ARC on the market, and it will never have the premium of being the first set, but it being half the price of WTR indicates to me that, at a minimum, either WTR is overpriced or ARC is underpriced (you can make up your mind on which of those is true).
Finally, I think it’s worthwhile to address the topic of speculation and investment in unlimited edition. While I expect that we probably won’t see reliable MSRP unlimited boxes until several months after Monarch at the earliest, I also don’t see them as a particularly lucrative way to make money. If you’re buying $120 boxes with the hope of selling at $150, that profit is going to be largely annihilated by fees and shipping costs. There is definite risk with trying to flip unlimited. First, if the February influx ends up being larger, prices will drop. There might also be other similar injections of product before we hit a big reprint that reliably puts MSRP unlimited on shelves. This could help act as a stop gap to truly high priced UNL boxes ($200+). I’m not here to make a moral judgement on anyone for trying to make money off of unlimited, and although lack of available product is the game’s number one problem right now, unlimited flips remain risky at current market prices. I would highly recommend that people just avoid the product entirely for any sort of short term cash making.
Long term, I do think unlimited will be an investable product. Assuming the game continues to grow, ARC and WTR will be multi-thousand dollar boxes for years to come. Unlimited thus remains the only way to realistically draft those sets for the majority of people. When unlimited eventually goes out of print, I expect these boxes to accrue reasonable value over the following years with a likely spike in price at several years post-OOP announcement. Now, the critical point in that statement is “when unlimited eventually goes out of print”. Prior to unlimited editions going out of print, they’re going to be a poor investment, especially at current prices. You’ll likely be able to buy boxes at half of the current market rate before LSS stops ordering additional print runs (unless they significantly change their approach to the game). This means that there are a lot of other better places to invest during what will likely be a period of a few years before these sets truly go OOP. We’ll revisit this topic once Gamenerdz wants to sell us sub-$60 unlimited again.
There have been a few big movers in the singles market over the past month. The most obvious ones have been all Crucible of War cold foils, first edition rainbow foil and non-foil Majestics and Supers from all three sets, and Majestic staples from unlimited. The CRU movement is pretty intuitive; the set was underpriced compared to ARC and WTR, the expected wave two was only a tiny blip, and the market is still reacting to the OOP news. The rise in RF and NF first edition cards is likely due to increasing awareness of how scarce these actually are (while we don’t have hard numbers, Alpha RF Ms are believed to be rarer than CF Ls). The increase in price for unlimited staples are a response related to the rising unlimited box prices.
Much like their boxes, I think we’re starting to see stable pricing with a gradual upward trend for most WTR/ARC cold foils. Prices have fluctuated up and down in the same range for a bit now with the most positive movement coming in the CF Common category where most cards are at or trending towards $200+. Crucible of War Majestic and rainbow foil Majestics are still sorting themselves out. While Spoils of War saw an early spike and retrace to a fairly stable price of around $100 for an RF copy, Plasma Purifier took off a couple weeks later and is currently right on Spoils’ heels. Expect some movement on other cards that have high play utility (I’d be looking at lists from this weekend’s Aukland Calling to see what cards some of the best players in the game are using in their blitz decks).
This last point, is, I think, illustrative of a larger issue in FAB: the market as a whole has not yet really priced play value into cards properly. There is some vague sense of things being good (Enlightened Strike, Command and Conquer, etc.), but the fact that Plasma Purifier sat around as a sub-$10 foil for as long as it did is a good indication that all of this is still being sorted out by the community at large. There is an opportunity for good pickups here.
While I would expect singles and cold foils from the aforementioned sets to continue to rise, I want to emphasize that I see unlimited singles as a bad investment at current prices. With boxes selling for double what they were in November, we’re living in a bubble for the unlimited market. Given that LSS’s goal is to print enough unlimited so that it’s sitting on shelves for players to buy, we should expect to see box prices come back down at some point. Unless you believe that LSS will put unlimited OOP without ever meeting demand, supply will eventually catch up and the bubble will pop. What should unlimited prices look like? I base my assumptions on the last time we saw adequate supply relative to demand (back in August). At the time and Alpha Enlightened Strike would run you $30-35. Right now an unlimited Enlightened Strike runs $60-65. With that in mind, I would avoid unlimited singles unless you actually need them to play right now.
Of course we’ll be rounding this look at the market out with the hottest topic in FAB, first edition Monarch. The recent announcement that unlimited Monarch will follow three weeks after the first edition release date and the skyrocketing pre-order prices for first are a good indication that first edition will be sold out prior to release outside of a scant few LGSs who decide to hold their product for local customers only. The biggest recent event in pre-orders for me was Miniature Market briefly opening up additional pre-order for MON at $225 a box on Jan. 26 before immediately selling out at that price. They’ve since relisted at $350 with stock available. I have no idea how many they had on offer at $225, but I think this probably sets a new floor for online MON pre-orders. To get an idea of how precipitously these prices have risen, they were selling boxes at $78 on Dec. 22.
I focus on MM in particular because they are a large volume retailer that has been conservative in how many pre-order they’re taking. While some people were buying a half dozen cases from stores offering $100-125 a box, many of these stores were doing so prior to knowing how many boxes they were going to get. Confused? Well, for many table top products, distributors take orders from stores for whatever number they want, then, later on when they know how much they’re actually going to have, they allocate the product out to the accounts that ordered them, usually through some method that offers preferential treatment to older and larger accounts. What this means is that people who opened stores to sell FAB post-Crucible and said they ordered 200 cases, likely will not actually receive 200 cases. They might receive 20 cases, or 10. However, some of these retailers have taken preorders on their initial order number. That means that at some point they’re going to have a lot of very upset/disappointed customers and will need to issue refunds. How they determine which customers get their much lower actual allotment will vary from store to store. This is why I’ve long advocated buying from stores that either have a direct business relationship LSS or from stores that wait to post their allotment, even if it’s at a higher price. At the end of the day, a $200 box you actually get is a better deal than a $100 box that turns into a refund four months later.
With $225 being an instant sell out on preorders, I would not be surprised if we saw $250-300 as the minimum day one price of first edition Monarch. Given that, it seems very likely that unlimited Monarch will also be selling over MSRP. Current WTR and ARC prices are a good guideline so $125-150 could realistically be what you expect to pay for unlimited MON a couple weeks out. If you’re a player or a collector/investor who uses unlimited editions for play, I highly recommend keeping your eyes open for stores listing MON unlimited preorders at MAP to MSRP. I’m sure some stores, like Team Covenant will offer MSRP or better MON-U even if other stores open up their unlimited with market pricing.
Additionally, the Monarch frenzy could have ripple effects on extant products. For instance, if a Monarch box is still being valued at $300, that $500 Crucible box looks underpriced, especially if Monarch’s first edition print run is substantially higher than CRU’s (let’s hope that’s the case). Monarch is going to be a very weird launch – and I think we’ll likely continue to revisit the topic as we go forward. Overall, I feel like FAB remains in a strong position as a collectible through Monarch even with an expected rocky launch. My main concern and complaint remains LSS’s general lack of communication on how they expect to rollout first editions going forward. I know I’m a broken record on this, but right now, Monarch first edition is effective a Magic Collector’s box, only stores are getting wildly better margins on them, but, for a consumer, it’s pretty much the same thing. Is that the intention for how sets are going to work, or is that a weird quirk of the confluence of crazy demand and COVID printing constraints? I don’t think a lot of these questions will be answered until we see how Kingdoms is being handled. So, in short, the market is enjoying an unusually stable period after a little over five months of incredible volatility. There isn’t really anything to worry about short term, and you should probably stream the Calling coverage to see if any undervalued CRU M’s are seeing play.
*Header Image: Reinforce the Line by Shen Fei