In March, Magic: The Gathering publisher Wizards of the Coast announced a splashy promotion to support its first set of cards based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings: A singular card representing the One Ring has been hidden among thousands of packs of cards. The promotion encouraged at least one reseller to place a multimillion-dollar bounty on that card. As of Friday — launch day for The Lord of The Rings: Tales of Middle-Earth — boxes of cards are selling for a whopping $518.45. That’s roughly twice what past sets of cards have cost per box. So... how did it come to this?
In January 2019, Wizards released a new kind of booster pack with its Ravnica Allegiance set. Known as Collector Boosters, these packs include more rare cards than any other kind of booster pack. They are also priced much higher than other packs, with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $12.99 for 15 cards. Then, one month later, Wizards of the Coast stopped listing an MSRP for its products. The reasoning that the company gave at the time was to simplify international pricing.
“We’re making this change to streamline our communications around new products,” wrote communications director Blake Rasmussen. “MSRPs are not favored in many parts of the world, which led to some confusion among our global player base. As Magic becomes more and more global, it makes less and less sense to suggest a retail price.”
But that change in policy also enabled the increased commodification of Magic cards — especially unopened boxed product. Now it’s easier than ever for would-be investors to purchase boxes of booster packs and either cellar them, waiting for their price to go up after a set launches, or quickly flip them on a global secondary market.
Of course, individual investors aren’t the only ones interested in this price fluctuation. Online retailers like Amazon have algorithms that are very good at monitoring and adjusting prices in real time based on consumer demand. It’s no wonder, then, that the world’s largest retailer has opted to let market forces decide how much a new box of Magic cards should cost. And so, with the increased popularity of this particular set of cards, that retail price has gone sky high — roughly double the cost of previous Collector Booster boxes.
There are some important caveats to this situation, however. The singular One Ring card can only be found in Collector Boxes sold at launch. Therefore, prices of other Magic products have been far less impacted by the quest for the Ring of Power. For instance, the prices of Draft Booster Boxes (which cannot contain the singular Ring card) are pretty much what they have been for past sets. But the success of this set — and the unique card itself — will likely embolden Wizards to try similar promotions in the future in the hopes of artificially inflating the retail price of its cards at launch.
Finally, if the One Ring isn’t discovered in a timely fashion, the price of these Collector Booster Boxes could actually go even higher on the secondary market. While Wizards would not directly benefit from that, it would reward investors who chose to pack away unopened boxes for a rainy day... not unlike a dragon hoarding treasure in its lair.
For more on The Lord of The Rings: Tales of Middle-Earth, check out our beginner’s guide.