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Box to Extended – Pimped Out, Part 3


Over the past few weeks, I have discussed the world of foreign foil cards and how you can profit from knowledge of them. This week, I’m covering another aspect of pimp: promos. Promos are in a whole different league than foreign foils, and they’re easier to master, but they’re harder to profit from. The appeal of promos comes from the fact that, like foils, they are unique and harder to find than the average pieces of cardboard opened from packs. In this article, I’m covering the different types of promos available and which ones you should be seeking and which you should be staying away from. I also wanted to cover oddities this week, but given the amount of information about promos, I’m saving oddities for next week.


Starting with the most common of all promos, we have a group that includes FNM, player rewards, Arena, and prerelease and release promos. Overall, most of these promos are fairly easy to come by because of the quantity that was given out at the time of their release. This, of course, does not make these cards worthless; it just means you should be wary when looking to acquire them.

Some of the older promos from this category, such as the first batch of FNM and Arena promos, can hold significant value both because of playability and collectability. You can usually feel safe picking up any of the promos that see Eternal play, such as Eternal Witness and Mother of Runes from the new era of FNM foils. I would, however, stay away from the random cards, such as this month’s odd choice of Savage Lands. There just isn’t much of a market for random promos, and unless you have a ready buyer, you will probably sit on these cards for a significant period of time. The exception to this rule is for highly collectable cards like as Dragons and Angels. Cards such as these usually take slightly longer to move than playable cards, but rarely will you have much difficulty finding a buyer in the long run.

Textless cards are almost always safe to pick up simply because they look very cool and because they are usually highly playable in an Eternal format or Commander. When I first started entering the promo market, I studied a list of all the available promos of each type. I would suggest doing the same to anyone who is serious about working his way into this card pool. Memorize the numbers, because it is unlikely they will change significantly, and that means there’s very little upkeep. The exception to this is, of course, when a card is reprinted. Reprints actually drive the price of promo versions up because of the card’s Standard presence. When this happens, I usually attempt to unload those promos. It is unlikely that they ever reach a higher price than at that point. A good example of this is the reprinting of Dissipate in Innistrad. Getting to know this batch of promos is by far the hardest, but if you keep these general rules in mind and take the time to memorize the prices, it can be a profitable market.


The next set of promos is the harder-to-find, but still mass-produced group. This includes judge, book, Pro Tour, JSS, and full-art Champs promos. This group varies greatly when it comes to prices, but the same general rules can be applied, although with another factor thrown in. Now you also need to keep in mind how many copies of a card were printed. This requires a little research, but this explains price points on cards such as the textless Mutavault that has quickly climbed to nearly $400. If you look at a promo of this caliber and compare it to an equally played card such as Swords to Plowshares, you see a huge discrepancy. This difference is strictly because of the numbers available, and knowing facts like this allows you to make smart investments when dealing with promos.

Overall, any card in this category is a safe bet if you can manage to find it at a reasonable cost—usually between 60% and 80% of its full retail value. Getting full value from these cards is very easy because of their short supply, but acquiring them under retail value can prove to be a challenge—the prices of these cards are easily identifiable. The ideal time to pick up these cards is when your trade partner is seeking Standard cards and is willing to give you full value for them. I will usually keep a small collection of hard-to-find promos, but given how hard some of them are to come by and how difficult it can be to make good value from them, I usually stray away from these cards. The key to any promo is really just waiting for the right deals. Don’t jump on every one you see—you’ll be able to better move your cards and target cards in binders that can allow you to make true value.


The last group of promos is by far the hardest to find, not because they are extremely playable necessarily, but because many of these cards have such limited print runs. Many players have never seen the cards in this group, and although a price does exist for many of these cards, it’s unlikely you will find it on any website. These cards don’t belong to any other group such as judge promos, but they’re instead standalones.

The exception to this rule is for the JSS Japanese cards, which are equally hard to find, but which still have a category. Unlike the English JSS print runs, cards in this category were given out at only a few events and had considerably smaller attendances than American tournaments. The JSS Japanese promo Glorious Anthem is a perfect example of such a card. There is currently a signed copy on e-Bay right now for $150, which seems insane for such a low-end rare, but when you look at the number of them in existence, you begin to understand that these cards are the cream of the crop when it comes to promos. The Elvish Champion, like the Glorious Anthem, is equally hard to find, and if you can manage to, it would be wise to try to pick it up.

Unlike cards in the previous two categories, these cards are in such high demand that flipping them for a profit is almost no work at all. Even if you have to trade for these cards at full value, it’s likely that you’ll be able to turn a solid premium from a collector down the road—or at least be able to flip it for full cash value. Beyond the usual slew of hard-to-find promos such as these JSS cards, there is a totally different group that makes all of these seem like easy to find commons . . . But I am saving that for next week.

Wrapping Up

If you are interested in promos, or if you just want to familiarize yourself with what is out there, I’d suggest checking out Magic Librarities. This site has a comprehensive list of promos and oddities, many of which most people don’t even realize exist. Beyond that, I’d suggest researching both retail and auction sites to familiarize yourself with what cards are actually moving and for how much. Just remember that although promos are cool and do hold a lot of value in some cases, it’s unlikely that your trade partner will not know these values, so make sure you can move them for a solid margin before you pick them up.


Join me next week when I discuss the oddities market. This is a portion of Magic pimp that very few people look into and that even fewer know how to evaluate. Finding prices for some of these cards can be a daunting task to say the least. Next week, I will not only evaluate some of the rarest cards in the game, I will also discuss miscuts and how to evaluate prices based on a variety of factors. This is the true end-all-be-all for pimp collectors, and no matter what anyone says, if you’re looking for the hottest version of a card, this is the way to get it. Finding a buyer can sometimes be difficult, but the margins on cards like these are astronomical! I will also include some pictures of some of the cooler miscuts I own and tell you how I’d evaluate a price, explaining each detail that goes into my thought process along the way. I hope you enjoyed this week’s article on promos, and if you can take away anything from this article, remember that although promos look awesome, sometimes the lure can mislead you about prices, so always do your homework!

Ryan Bushard


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