Can You Actually Make Money from a MTG Booster Box?

If you’ve been hanging around the MTGFinance thread on Reddit for too long, you know dollars and cents count for a lot in MTG. There are those who make money, and lots of it, just by selling either sealed products or high-value singles. What about mere mortal players such as myself – is profit even possible?

Can You Actually Make Money Selling Singles from a Booster Box?

You can make money selling off single cards from a booster box, but there are some stipulations that help make that happen. First, cards have to be sold early, because when a new set has just been released, card demand is high and the supply (obviously) hasn’t peaked. Players are thus willing to pay a premium to get cards first and early.

Next, the set must have some desirable cards for it to be worth speculating. Thankfully, card previews and spoilers start showing up around 2-3 weeks before release. From there you can evaluate if the expected value of that set is higher than the list price. There are many scientific methods on calculating expected value, but I often go by the principle of “worst-case scenario” – that is, if I was unlucky and opened the lowest value Mythic Rare cards, how much would I earn or lose?

Let’s peel back the layers of this real-life case study. All prices are in local currency (S$), but I will also convert some of the final values into US$ for easy reference for all readers.

Our Test Subject: Commander Legends Booster Box

To fuel this experiment, I took a painful plunge into the deep end, purchasing a box of the new Commander Legends set. I’m a believer of buying singles to stave off the gambling habit and also to keep the cost of playing MTG as low as possible.

Can you make money selling singles from a booster box?
A box of Commander Legends, priced at S$155.

But the biggest motivator for speculating on Commander Legends was the new card Jeweled Lotus – touted as the Black Lotus for Commander. It certainly ‘commanded’ a high price, and there was certainly debate on how good the card would actually be. From a financial standpoint, if you were lucky enough to open one, it would pay for 60% of the box and you would definitely make money.

The box has 24 packs inside (unlike the usual 36 from a Standard format set), and it also costs more – $155! As I made the preorder early, the box also includes the Buy-a-Box promotional card – a foil Mana Confluence.

So let’s analyse the cards of value from Commander Legends. While there are lots of Rares that are worth less than $1, there are plenty that are in demand, such as the 5 Bond Lands, Hullbreacher, and Opposition Agent.

A large pool of 24 Mythics also doesn’t help the expected value of the booster box, but opening any of the top 4 cards – Jeweled Lotus, Mana Drain, Vampiric Tutor and Scroll Rack – would mean a high chance to make money. Let’s take a look at what cards were pulled and how much were they sold.

Cards Sold, Prices and Profit Analysis

One very important note is that these are not theoretical values or listed prices that many other box-opening videos often show. Prices on paper don’t mean much if don’t actually sell it.

All of these cards were also sold within 5 days of the release date, and it’s worth pointing out that generally prices tend to drop as time passes. If I had sat on these cards from months, the prices would be quite different.

A little more context: because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the depressed economy, the market is less willing to purchase cards at their listed prices, so a discount is sometimes needed to make a sale.

Opposition Agent is the highest value rare in Commander Legends, and opening it in a booster box means you're likely to make money
“Opposition Agent” by Scott Murphy

Here are the cards I actually sold and their prices:

As you can see, I got (very) lucky with the Foil Vampiric Tutor, and we ended up with a total sale of $245! I didn’t open the coveted Jeweled Lotus, Mana Drain, or Hullbreacher, but I was lucky to hit many high-value Rare cards (especially that Opposition Agent).

Profit: $245 – $155 = $90

or US$67 (58% Rise)

Just to be clear, the prices of cards sold do not include delivery fee, and any delivery and service charges were added on for the buyer.

Suppose I didn’t open that nice Foil Vampiric Tutor. We would have still broken even with $157 in sales. That means that all of the cards that were not sold have now essentially become…free.

The Cards We Kept (for Free!)

Selling off those 9 most valuable cards meant I technically got to keep a lot of cards for free! That is, honestly, the best part about turning a profit or breaking even about selling singles from a booster box. I love the idea of playing Magic for cheap or free, so who wouldn’t be happy?

Here’s a shortlist of the more prominent cards I got to keep for free:

End Step: Would I Do It Again?

It’s certainly tempting, especially when the mind dwells on the 58% profit and how much that would be if I multiplied that by 10 or 100 boxes. Realistically, I would not attempt this again with Commander Legends.

“Jeweled Lotus” – the most expensive card in Commander Legends – by Alayna Danner

The obvious reason would be my luck would just not be able to hold out after such a splendid first booster box. What can top a Foil Vampiric Tutor? A Jeweled Lotus yes but those are very hard to get as well. More likely another box would result in lacklustre Mythics and cheap, bulk Rare cards.

By now, more packs have been opened and the market is starting to saturate. I would have to offer even lower prices to make an actual sale in this economy. So if you’re thinking of following my path and make money, please don’t. At the very least, wait till the next set arrives and then decide if it’s worth the gamble.

If you’re curious, check out our other article about how viable it is to make a living from being a full-time MTG trader.

Ted

After playing from Tempest to Urza's Saga block, Ted took a 20 year break from the game before returning to the classic Plane of Dominaria in 2018. His favourite formats are Commander, Draft, and, grudgingly, Standard.