State of the Market: End of July 2021

by Ada Korman 3rd August 2021 11 : 26

I was going to say this has been one of the most boring months in post-spike FAB history, but we got a nice injection of Tales of Aria news last week that has livened things up. Compared to previous months, July didn’t have any major market shakeups. If there was a “big thing” that happened, it was probably the market stabilizing overall, and Monarch finding its floor. Outside of that, players have been cracking ARC unlimited with abandon – mostly in search of Skullcap and Command and Conquer. Non-Cold Foil Crucible of War singles fell fairly steadily in anticipation of unlimited, which is a trend that will likely continue. It’s also starting to look like, outside of the very limited quantity Rainbow Foils from the first couple sets, the FAB market as a whole isn’t overly enthusiastic about buying RFs or first edition non-foil versions of cards when they can get cheaper unlimited non-foil versions. This is sort of an emergent trend, so I don’t want to make any hard claims on it, but it’s definitely a thing to keep an eye on as more sets roll out.

Monarch Floor Located (with some help)

Monarch First Ed Copy

Last month, the story was Monarch cases dipping to $1000 and Cold Foils from all sets plummeting from their highs. Since then, CF prices have remained largely flat, with a couple individual cards moving up or down and Monarch CF C’s overall ticking down a little. Monarch first edition cases, meanwhile, have had a good couple of weeks. We saw them get as low as $750 on the Facebook market pages before Alpha Investments stepped in and offered to buy any quantity of sealed cases at $800 apiece. Since then, cases have moved back up to $1000-1100 on private sales, with eBay and TCGPlayer rebounding to $1200+. I don’t think we’re going to see huge spikes on these in the near future, but it does seem like we’ve hit the bottom of the market; I wouldn’t expect to see them that cheap again.

In terms of singles, both first edition and unlimited Monarch remain very soft. There’s been some slight upward movement from the frankly dismal prices of last month, when there wasn’t a single first edition Majestic meaningfully over $10. Now we have a couple in the $12-17 range; however, the vast majority are still below $5.

Additionally, people are not buying 1st edition versions at a premium in any meaningful quantity. When you look at sold eBay auctions and completed TCGPlayer sales, most of the first edition copies of Majestics are moving when they happen to briefly be the cheapest available copy on the market or very close to it. My read on this is that the market has largely abandoned non-limited print (cold foil or extended art) cards as a place to invest. Despite plenty of people listing rainbow foils at high premiums, the ones that are actually selling are generally only modestly over the non-foils, and there is often little to no difference between first and unlimited RF sale prices.

If this sort of behavior becomes the norm, it means that first edition product will rely almost entirely on higher rarity cold foils and extended arts for its value. If you plan on opening these products, you’ll want to be doing it in quantities where you can be confident that you’ll be opening these cards, as opening a single first edition box and getting a CF Common will likely be a losing venture even at MSRP in the near future.

Monarch Unlimited is Still Bad Value

Last month I said that Monarch Unlimited was not a product I would want to buy boxes of due to the low value, and that remains true this month. The average L value has dipped a few dollars from last month, and now a full half of the Legendaries do not pay for a box at MAP, with Doomdsday sales going as low as $50 on the secondary market. If you want Monarch cards for play, which is presumably why you’re buying unlimited, singles are definitely the way to go.

If you really want to open boosters of an unlimited product, ARC/WTR remain the superior value options. ARC has Skullcap selling at $250, and Command and Conquer is a Majestic that will still pay for more than a box at $85. Additionally, MON-U is still under MAP whereas ARC and WTR aren’t, even if some sellers have gotten creative and started bundling MON-U and ARC/WTR in order to functionally sell if for below MAP.

Crucible's Collapse

Alright, this section is titled a little more provocatively than it probably needs to be. However, Crucible singles prices headed down all month (though boxes remained stable) in anticipation of the unlimited printing. This makes total sense. The singles prices were incredibly inflated for Majestics because there simply weren’t enough out there. This meant we saw things like $200 Courage of Bladehold, $100 Gambler’s Gloves, and $90 Spoils of War. Now that people can readily buy MAP-priced CRU unlimited, get ready for a vastly lower floor on all of the Majestics- and given the behavior we’ve seen so far, you can expect the first edition versions to continue dropping for a while yet. I would use Monarch Unlimited as my guide for where prices can be- where the (presumably) short-printed Luminaris is considered a 'big hit' for unlimited Ms at $20. Even if you triple that to $60 for Courage of Bladehold, it’s still half of the current price. There is a lot of room to fall here, and you’re rapidly running out of time to move first edition CRU Ms if you’d planned to.

Long term, I think that CRU Majestics have some potential to hold higher values than Monarch Ms because CRU lacks value outside of the M slot. Remember, you’re only opening a Legendary in every 240 packs instead of every 80, meaning the Majestics have some room to carry more weight than they did in Monarch.

In good news for players, we’re headed back to sub-$200 for the cheapest Tunic with CRU-U becoming widely available.

On the other end of Legendaries, Shiyana had a brief debut at a really high price. She is really one of only two chase cards in unlimited CRU. I think Shiyana has the highest ceiling of any of the current unlimited Ls. I’d expect that she will hold at over $300 for months to come, and could stick as high as $400-500. Does that sound too bold? Well, consider that the total value of the Ls in WTR or ARC added together are over $600 per set. Then remember that each individual L in CRU is just as rare as each individual L in ARC/WTR, so you’re opening one L per four boxes of ARC/WTR and one per ten boxes in CRU. This means that more value is concentrated into fewer cards, and Shiyana is the only exclusive L in the set. If we speculate that the L slot can support $600+ in value with boxes readily available at MAP (WTR/ARC are doing it and they’re available below MAP) and unlimited CRUnic settles at $200, that would leave $400+ for Shiyana.

One detail to be aware of with CRU-U is that there are rumblings of a staggered release. I’ve heard from several retailers that their initial orders of Monarch unlimited were allocated with the expectation that this would sort itself out over the following weeks (LSS makes note of this). What this means for buyers is that we might see a short period of 3-6 weeks where CRU unlimited boxes pop up over MSRP and singles hew closer to current first edition prices. If this happens, it should be temporary, and you shouldn’t buy at those prices unless you need the cards immediately.

Tales of Aria

Now for what I assume people are most excited about.

Quick Note: I wrote a piece over on my site a couple weeks ago about my thoughts on TOA preorders. It’s about as long as this entire article, so while I’m going to repeat some key points here in addition to some updated thoughts, I don’t have the space to cover everything I did there.

At MSRP, I think TOA is a no-brainer. If you have access to MSRP first edition via a local store or other source, it’s very low risk with solid upside, and conservatively, you’ll probably be able to double up within a year. If you have access to MSRP boxes, congratulations, go lock those down now. However, for most people, you’re playing with higher prices from big online stores, which means there’s actually some thought required.

Toa Fb Post Width 800

The big preorder debut was at $150 from Channel Fireball, which has since been incremented a few times up to $175 and subsequently matched by Star City Games. At this point, it is very hard to determine what is or isn’t a good/bad price due to a lack of critical information. Instead of giving a strict “X is good; Y is bad” number, I’m going to go over the main factor I’m considering and walk through a couple potential scenarios. 

If you had to base your purchase on one thing, print run size would be the go-to. Unfortunately, LSS isn’t going to tell us what that number is until long after first edition has launched. So, it’s speculation time.

  1. We know that LSS has contracted with additional printers. The first batch of Japanese cards have recently hit the market via a wave of WTR unlimited (and the initial rounds of CRU); Tales of Aria first edition will be the first time we get to see what the US printer quality is going to look like. In the abstract, this is exciting because, after the first wave of CRU 1st edition, Cartamundi’s quality control became pretty questionable. For TOA specifically, this means a potentially larger print run than Monarch. Given that LSS specifies that TOA first edition is being printed at the US printer, one can infer that unlimited is perhaps being produced at one or more of the other printers (Cartamundi would be a good guess). Given that, available printer space is unlikely to be a constraint on LSS if they wanted to increase the print run size. 

  1. Unlike previous sets, I haven’t seen a clear statement from LSS in terms of when they made the order for TOA. That makes it hard to pin down when they picked their run size relative to the bear market, but my assumption is that TOA will at a minimum be the same size as Monarch, with decent odds that LSS has made it somewhat larger. It’s very unlikely that they decided to make it smaller. If you agree with that take, then the price of a MON first edition box should be the absolute ceiling on what you would pay for TOA. For me, I would rather err on the side of caution and assume a modestly larger print run, which means my ceiling on TOA would be modestly below what MON is selling for.

  1. With Monarch preorders, we saw prices climb from MSRP to $300, get pulled down to $250, then down again to $200 before climbing up to $500-600 right before release. They then fell continuously until a couple weeks ago when they flattened out at a little below $200 and have since recovered to $200-300 (individual sales have varied a lot the past two weeks).

Considering all of that, I would caution people to be wary if TOA preorder prices start getting run up similarly. If we saw a $250 preorder, for instance, I would be very hesitant to buy that over just getting more MON first, which now looks a lot more like a stable product that will continue to accrue value over time. Additionally, if it turns out the print run for TOA is meaningfully larger than MON, we could definitely see the sort of price collapse that came along with Monarch’s launch.

Tales of Aria Unlimited

As noted above, I don’t like Monarch unlimited as a product, and the same goes for my early feelings about Tales unlimited. Going into Monarch, the assumption that unlimited would potentially sell out was a fairly reasonable position to take (and I’m not just saying that because it was my position); every previous unlimited release had dried up within weeks of launch. But as we’ve yet to see any shortage of Monarch unlimited, and LSS is now using multiple printers, I think it’s safe to assume Tales of Aria unlimited won’t have supply issues. You definitely don’t want to preorder it, especially after many people who did preorder MON-U ended up missing out on the promos that got added onto boxes/cases sold closer to its release.

Unless LSS has come up with a new way to inject value into TOA unlimited, I expect a repeat of Monarch, where the EV of the box plummets until boxes without an L or F are yielding 50% of MAP or less in sellable cards. If you’re not buying first edition, I would just wait until unlimited is on the market for two to four weeks and then buy singles.

Blitz Decks

Toa Mock Herodeck Box Unknown Width 10000

Monarch once again serves as our model for how we can expect a product line to perform. That said, the TOA Blitz decks are, frankly, weird. The premiere cards from the Blitz decks were the Mentor cards, which came one per deck. Since you can play two copies of them, you needed to buy two decks or pick one up as a single if you wanted a full set. This was easy for Monarch, since a display contained two of each deck. Meanwhile, TOA has three heroes instead of four, and each display has nine total decks (three copies of each). You really only want a partial display if you’re aiming for sets of each hero’s mentor (I’m assuming they’ll have mentors again). 

Given the odd deck count, I don’t think displays are a great way to buy decks unless you plan on giving a set away. Also, we’ve seen that the supply was no issue for Monarch, and prices came down below MSRP relatively shortly after launch. My advice for TOA Blitz decks is to wait a few weeks and pick them up for (hopefully) below MSRP unless you want to play with them immediately. Definitely do not buy them at over MSRP, and don’t buy them as an investment either. There are way better places to put your money. Buy Blitz decks only if you want to play with them or you want specific cards found only in Blitz decks.

Closing Thoughts

We’ll get to check in on TOA prior to launch once more. I expect the main movement between now and then to be in preorders and Crucible of War singles. If you’ve been holding off on buying CRU singles, do remember that it will take a few weeks for UNL to really drive prices down the whole way. Also, recall that Crucible was the first set that absorbed the Super rarity into Majestic. Don’t make the mistake of using ARC/WTR unlimited Majestics as benchmarks for where CRU Ms might land. Nothing should be selling for Command and Conquer money once the dust settles; in fact, they should end up notably lower.

As I said at the start, it seems like we’ve found the bottom of the bear market/crash/whatever-you-want-to-call-it for everything but first edition non-CF CRU singles (which, again, will likely keep going down for a while). That means that if there were things you wanted to buy but were waiting out, it’s probably time to consider making your moves, as we’re seeing stability or upward movement on most FAB products. Don’t overextend- we haven’t seen any hints that we’re going back to the cycle of spikes we saw before, but if you had cards or sealed product you were targeting and then pulled back during the downturn, now is probably a good time to start monitoring sales sites again.

Ada Korman

Ada (Freyja on Discord) got into Flesh and Blood a few months before it took off in the US and has been heavily involved in the financial side of the game ever since. When she’s not writing finance pieces for The Rathe Times, her FAB-related writing can be found on her blog:

Discussion (2)

Brian Utaski
1 year ago

Great personal take Ada! I'm new to FaB but not to TCGs. Finding the boxes locally seems to be a challenge, and I'm located in a big city. From what I can tell, the 1st edition is your collectors series, your unlimited is your players series. I see small challenges ahead using this model but nothing that would derail the investors or player hype. I'll keep checking-in and learning. For now, hunting a booster box of any kind just to get some play cards is my jam.

11 months ago

I recently opened a case of monarch 1st edition. I really regret not keeping at least one box sealed, but the legendary cold foil I pulled was from the last monarch box I opened so damned if I do -- dammed if I don't I suppose. I bought a few cases of tales of aria. It hurts knowing I'm paying double what the stores paid to acquire from their distributors. But it is what it js! I'm planning on opening 5 boxes of tales of aria and preserving the last 7 boxes in climate controlled storage.

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