Hey there! I'm sitting in the Chicago airport while my flight to Grand Prix Las Vegas is delayed, so let's talk Magic finance. By the time you're reading this Vegas will be done and over with, but thankfully the information presented will be mostly timeless. I'm approaching the one-year anniversary of writing with TCGplayer, and we've talked a lot about the financial aspect of Magic cards in that time. When do you buy Cyclonic Rift? How does a Masterpiece Sol Ring sustain $350+? How do we dissect the price graph of a Standard All-Star planeswalker? Even my articles focused on common and uncommons and hidden gems have always focused on one common denominator. They're all talking about Magic cards.
That seems kind of obvious when I state it outright, though TCGplayer does offer Yu-Gi-Oh! content for those of you who dabble in both games. What I meant by my previous statement was that pretty much all my content was focused on the cards themselves. While Magic at its core is a card game, there's a ton of financial relevance to the collectables and trinkets of Magic that aren't cards. Have you ever wondered if your extra spindown dice had value? What about those empty fat pack boxes? This week, we're going to discuss some of the factors that can make these accessories be worth money, and how you might go about selling or trading them off for something you'd get some utility out of.
It's a well-known fact among the competitive crowd that you shouldn't be using a spindown die at a sanctioned event. They're too easily bumped and knocked around to be used as life tracking tools, and they're not truly random for the purposes of determining who goes first (or for your Sword of Dungeons and Dragons, for example). Spindowns have been around for almost 20 years now, originating with the Beatdown Box Set and Apocalypse. The only block without them was Ravnica: City of Guilds back in 2005. So if they're not competitively optimal, why does Wizards of the Coast continue to give these out at prereleases and fat pack boxes, and how do you make the most of them?
The primary reason these still exist is to help provide less competitive players with an easy route to do those two things we just talked about not doing at sanctioned events. While you can't break out a spindown at Grand Prix Las Vegas to keep track of your life total, a spindown will be more effective than a "standard" D20 for Johnny and Timmy playing at their kitchen table with unsleeved decks. Similarly, a spindown can be summarized as "random enough" to determine the play and draw of a super casual game between two players who are building with what they open from a fat pack. While it might be easy to look at spindowns from the lens of a more competitive player who's looking to perfect their game, there's still an important role that these dice fill.
"Okay, but how do we turn them into money?" For those of you looking to cash in on a box of spindowns that you've been collecting since you started playing, there's a very distinct marker that helps you figure out if your spindown is worth something, and we're going to refer to it a couple more times throughout the article. Innistrad and Return to Ravnica mark an important point in the game's history, when the player base grew incredibly quickly in a short period of time. RTR was one of the first sets since the early days of the game where product was completely sold out, and players had to wait until distributors had access to additional waves of product weeks down the road. Up until these blocks, Wizards of the Coast hadn't been printing nearly as much product, and that's evidenced by the simple discrepancy in the price of sealed booster boxes. You can still find Return to Ravnica boxes for under $100, while Innistrad will run you….. $400. While a part of this is due to Snapcaster Mage and Liliana of the Veil headlining the latter set, the massive difference in supply lingers to this day.
We can scale that down from booster boxes to spindowns. If you have a spindown from after that mark, the supply is going to be significantly higher. Completed listings for the Theros spindowns only average $3 plus shipping, while Return to Ravnica and Innistrad are at least double that. But what, didn't I say that RTR was the first set to experience the huge increase in supply? Well, those spindowns are closer to the same price because there's always only one print wave of prerelease kits and fat packs. While Wizards can crank out more booster boxes to meet the demand of distributors, Fat Packs/Bundles have always been limited to the first print wave.
If you have a Khans of Tarkir block spindown, it's not worth much. Time Spiral though? Definitely worth looking into. If you've been playing for a decade and simply tossing your prerelease/fat pack spindowns in a box for all this time, you probably have a solid chunk of change in that box that you can turn into that last Commander staple you need. Thankfully they're pretty easy to sort by date, considering that they'll always be marked with a set symbol. As far as I can tell there's no difference in price between colors of the same set, so your red Khans of Tarkir die is going to be worth the same as the white or green.
I've only sold a handful of older spindowns through local channels in person, but most of the ones that I've unloaded have been to players who want the spindown from the set that started them on their journey into Magic. The reason I started this entire article is because I was trying to find a trio of those Ravnica spindowns, because I started playing during that block. It turns out that while spindowns don't exist, Wizards tried something different with these plastic life Trackers that I already owned! I just didn't know that they were considered the replacement for the spindowns that block. If you have some of these lying around, you can expect to get anywhere from $5-8 a piece on the secondary market. If you're interested in collecting every spindown out there or just want to have a reference for what variations exist, I found a comprehensive list here. Happy hunting!
Maybe you've been buying collections like myself and have accumulated a healthy number of fat pack boxes. While they have their uses, they can easily start to pile up and take up space after a while. It's hard to get an effective reading on how much individual fat pack boxes are worth, but you can use the same general rule that I explained for spindowns to assess whether or not you should be treating the empty boxes differently. Age is going to be the predominant factor, with anything dating back to pre-RTR having an increasingly higher pedigree the further back you go. Again, your target audience for selling these is going to be people who want specific artwork on their fat pack boxes because they have a sentimental attachment to them, or because they're going the catch 'em all route by assembling a one-of collection.
Unfortunately, fat pack boxes aren't nearly as easy to sell or ship as spindowns because of their bulky size. While more recent fat pack boxes from Battle for Zendikar or Theros are going to be excellent ways to pack up buylist orders of 500+ cards, you might end up having to sit on the older boxes for an extended period of time before you're able to find a buyer. Personally, I just stash my pre-Innistrad fat packs down in the basement with the rest of my bulk common and uncommons, and have sold one every couple of months or so when I have friends over for cube. Our own Corbin Hosler managed to sell a huge lot of them to a local buyer, so it's worth reaching out through various channels such as your LGS or Facebook group before tossing them all in the garbage.
Before we close out for the week, I want to bring up one more item that usually gets tossed aside into the bulk pile. For those of you who went to the Dragon's Maze prerelease, you might remember getting a "token" associated with whatever guild you ended up as. They looked like this, and a lot of them ended up getting discarded at the draft tables, or taped to binders as decorations.
While these are currently unable to be listed on the TCGplayer marketplace, I'm hoping that they get added in the near future. I've sold them for around $1-2 a piece on the secondary market in the past, for the two core reasons we've gone over twice now. Collectability and nostalgia. In fact, with the upcoming return to return to Ravnica this fall, I'd guess that the collectability of things like these and the prerelease stickers would slightly increase as newer players come into the game and look for "merchandise" that lets them display their personal favorite guild. If you find these while going through bulk common/uncommons, I recommend squirreling them away with your other speculations and seeing what happens when we visit the plane of guilds this fall!
- DJ Johnson