This past week, as I am sure you are all aware of by now, the market was turned upside-down over the revelation of a Chinese printing scam set to introduce a set of high-end fakes into the existing card pool. I was more disappointed in the players’ response than I was to the act itself, as the market has many times been through similar dilemmas. The truth is I am not here to regurgitate last week’s news, as you can find any other financial writer out there to do that for you; instead, I am here to talk about exactly what this means as a player and to warn people against pushing their collections in fear of these counterfeits. If you have not seen the news or do not know exactly what I mean when I reference fakes, you can find more information here. Now that we are up to speed on the actual recent incidents, let’s take a look at a few times this has occurred before, and you will begin to understand why I am slightly less worried the sky is falling than most.
This DailyMTG article is the first Google hit when you reference counterfeits in the game, and as you can see, there was a fairly large distribution back then as well. Those fakes were significantly easier to spot—they lacked a blue line among other distinguishable features—but that does not mean the market reacted any differently to the fakes hitting the market. As time goes on and fakes become better, the game will adapt to the point of security again—as we are already seeing with the announcement of the new borders coming with Magic 2015.
Another very well-known set of fakes are referenced as Dark Beta, and unlike the Chinese distribution we have seen multiple times, these were produced domestically. Similar to the recent fakes, these will pass almost every test the financial community holds to in the industry standards. That does not mean the cards are indistinguishable from regular printings, it just indicates the level of care you must take when looking at older cards. This is something the industry has been fairly bullish on anyway, so I do not expect this to push any vendors into pushing these cards out at reduced rates, and neither should you!
As with power or any high-end card, you should always have someone who is trusted to spot fakes look over any high-end purchases you desire to make. This is now more relevant, as the cards being printed are less valuable, and the discrepancies are perhaps things most people would have overlooked before due to how commonly they are seen. This should be less of a scare and more of a revelation to the community about how much of a commodity Magic is becoming. The industry as a whole has always been aware of fakes and takes its greatest effort in spotting them, and that process weeds out many of the copies, but those that do hit the general public and never see the eyes of a vendor will still be floating around.
So, onto what I actually want to cover this week in light of the recent fakes: Many of you have probably considered selling your cards that have been confirmed as part of this print run, and all I can say is please consider again. As it has happened before, the retail market will not budge, as they know how to weather such a storm. Where you will really see movement is in the public market, whether it be an auction site or TCGplayer. Though you certainly need to be able to spot these fakes, that does not mean I would hesitate to buy these cards if you need them—just be cautious and choose stores you trust. We will see the public market probably take a 15% to 25% hit over the next month or so before those seeking to fire-sale their cards have finished. This is not enough of a margin to be able to make much from a financial standpoint, but you may be able to find some local deals if you find your local market is fearing a possible price drop.
For those neither looking to buy nor sell, just consider this a good lesson about how to spot fakes, and allow yourself to become more educated so the potential for fraud does not happen to you. I have accidentally purchased a few fakes online, and any retailer or public auction site usually has parameters in place—though they are inconvenient, they are set to prevent such fraud. The more educated the public is and aware that the cards they hold and collect are worth money—not just relative to their views, but on the open market as a whole—will be much better off down the road. I promise this is not the last time we will see the game we love in peril, but don’t let this occurrence scare you off from playing or collecting, the market will readjust; I just hope it does not drive prices even higher in the future due to people’s fears.
Keep in mind also that it is a readily-available service at most major events that vendors will inspect cards for you to spot fakes. As part of the financial community, I am happy to investigate anything people may feel is counterfeit in order to not only put them at ease, but also to weed out the fakes before they dig too deep into the market to track. This is not just me, as I imagine almost any major vendor that has experience dealing with fakes will be more than happy to take a look for you—it is, after all, our livelihoods that are affected by this in the end, and it holds much more weight to us than it does to most players.
As always, thank you for reading. I truly hope this could be informative, as I have had a ton of e-mails over the past week asking many of the questions I attempted to answer here. If I managed to miss something, please let me know by leaving a comment below or by e-mailing me directly. I am here to help, as anyone who writes about financial Magic should be during times like this. I hope to see less of a market move this time, as I have before, but as I said: For those keeping a level head, consider this a good time to get into some of those Legacy staples you may have been holding out for, as there will probably never be a better time.