Thoughts on the $200 Monarch Box

This’ll be a bit of a shorter piece. I talked about the soft Monarch ceiling imposed by ChannelFireball setting a $250 box price a bit over a week ago; well, we’ve had some developments since then. First, I’ve seen several people post data tracking ChannelFireballs sales numbers. This indicated a steady but not particularly high volume sales and a big dip when 500 or so boxes disappeared. Given that they limit the amount of boxes a user can buy, this would strongly suggest that these boxes were taken off of the market and not actually sold via the online stone. The implications are unclear. It could be that they’re selling slower than they thought they would so they’re creating a sense of urgency by making their stock appear lower than they already were, or maybe they cut another deal with a large buyer. We can’t really know, but the important thing to register is that they are indeed playing with their numbers and you should continue to regard them cautiously. The other noteworthy CFB development is that they made a single $200 box of first edition Monarch available to each of their Pro subscribers. The box is only visible if you have a subscription, but I’ve seen screenshots posted and had confirmation from subscribers (I don’t hold an account) that, as of the writing this article, this offer is still live.

What to Make of This?

We’ll start with the $200 box. There are multiple ways one could interpret this. While it could be viewed as a perk for their subscribers, and it’s certainly being messaged that way, I’m inclined to believe that is was a decision that was made after initial preorders didn’t knock their socks off. To the best of my knowledge, this offer was made available a few days after the initial preorders, which were, as I noted, consistent but not crazy. If they had wanted to do this as a perk for subscribers out of the gate, I don’t see why they wouldn’t have rolled it out at the same time as the other preorders. I think they took a look at their rate of sales and decided that they could potentially generate some good will and/or increase their subs while moving boxes along (at $200, they’re still going to make something like four times what they’re paying wholesale on the boxes).

Regardless of if you’re with me on the cynical take or not, if you intended to buy a $250 box from CFB, you might as well just get a subscription and take the discounted box. Worst case scenario, you don’t use the Pro service, but you’re paying about the same anyway, so you might as well give it a go. Now, should you buy a $200-250 box in the first place? Again, that’s your call, but I think the $200+ box is really something that is only likely to be good value as a thing you buy to keep sealed. If you want to open it, it’s going to be very luck based as to whether you lose a bunch of money or hit a high rarity cold foil. I also remain unconvinced that we won’t see $200 or lower boxes on the open market when the set launches. I feel somewhat bolstered in this opinion specifically because ChannelFireball isn’t burning through preorders. I still think that they have a solid chance of “selling out” (remember, they’re almost certainly reserving a meaningful chunk of their position), but when their $250 preorders dry up will matter a lot for where the preorder price lands in the weeks before launch.  Whatever the market price is going into release, I would expect a dip within the first few weeks as people take their profits and drive box prices down. I expect prices to drop for a bit, then stabilize, rally, and start to climb up like we’ve seen with the other sets.

Looking at the long term picture, a $250 or less box of MON first edition will very likely show good returns even within a one year window. I remain firm in my belief that CRU is currently underpriced at $470-500, and it should be a lot closer to $700-800 right now. If Monarch and Kingdoms do well and continue to drive enthusiasm from the current player base while attracting new people, it could be reaching a stable point at around $1000 by the end of the year. Barring another big spike (which, it’s FAB, so never rule it out), WTR feels like it’s starting to get to a stable price and will be seeing slower steady growth for a while now. ARC seems to be in the same boat, and although I think it’s underpriced relative to WTR given that they’re supposed to have the same print run, the market remains slow to close the gap. In my mind, WTR should certainly be the highest priced set as the first release, but ARC should be a lot closer to 70-80% of its value than the current sub 50%. If I was in the market for more WTR/ARC sealed boxes, I would be looking at ARC as the higher upside box in the next couple years. Looping back, if we do see a $1000 CRU box, I would put first edition Monarch between $400 and $600 Monarch first edition box in the same time period, though a lot depends on how much larger the print run for MON is than CRU.

Speaking of print runs, James White gave a talk at ChannelFireball’s Local Game Store Conference over the weekend where he mentioned that hard numbers for the first print runs of the OOP sets will be forthcoming “soon” and will be released in the order the sets were released. I will be waiting very intently for these numbers and paying close attention to the market when they do. Confirmation of the numbers close to what the community believes for WTR/ARC (22k boxes) should increase investor confidence and potentially kick off another round of price increases. If we get a meaningfully higher number, we could see some price slippage, and if we get a meaningfully lower number, I would expect a very real spike in all first edition and alpha cards and sealed boxes. The thing that I think could really shake up the market is if CRU boxes don’t catch up to where I think they should be and then we get numbers for the set and it turns out wave two was on the smaller side.  If we find out CRUs total print run was something like one and a half times WTR’s as opposed to two times or more, I would expect CRU sealed product and singles to spike very sharply. In this scenario, there will be a small window of opportunity to snatch up underpriced boxes and singles as the market adjusts. Outside of Monarch’s release, the announcement of concrete numbers for first edition print runs is one of the most important upcoming events for the FAB market, so keep your ears to the ground.

As a final note, I’ve been seeing an uptick of FAB community members talking about cancelled or reduced preorders. Messages vary by store, but the root cause it exactly what I said it would be, stores overselling preorders and then getting hit with their allocation numbers and realizing that they’re in trouble. The less shady stores are acknowledging this now and issuing refunds, while some of their more questionable counterparts will likely hold onto their free loans until the set releases and they can’t put off telling customers any more. I even saw a reposted email from one store where they tried to shift the blame to LSS’s policy of cutting out new singles stores from distro boxes as somehow at fault for their inability to fill the preorders they took, which, of course, makes no sense. Again, I’ll continue to post on these stores as they develop, but I think it’s safe to assume we’ll see more disappointed people as we get closer to release. At this point, if you’re going to pay the CFB price, you might as well pay it to CFB, they at least, almost certainly have the boxes they’re selling.

*Header Image: Monarch Key Art by Carlos Palma Cruchaga

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