Insider Trading – Fifteen Fun Facts About Foils!

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Friday, February 13th – Why are some foils worth double the value of their non-foil counterparts, and why are some worth ten times as much? What’s the hardest foil set to put together in Near Mint? What are your chances of pulling that foil Path to Exile from a pack? Find out Fifteen Fun Facts about Foils in this week’s Insider Trading!

Hello everyone, and welcome to Insider Trading! In today’s column, I’m going to go over the world of foils – those premium cards that you find once out of every few packs you open of them Magical cards! I have fifteen fun facts about foils to share. Do you like foiling out your cube? Just want to have the most elite Vintage deck on your block? Is your EDH deck shiny enough to blind other generals? If so, this week’s article is for you!

1) The first full-on foil set released was Urza’s Legacy. The first publically-release foil card was the Lightning Dragon Urza’s Saga prerelease card. When Urza’s Legacy was first released, the most highly-desired foil card was Ring of Gix – at the time, it was fetching the upwards of $50. Now, the highest priced Urza’s Legacy foil card is Goblin Welder (at $90).

2) Wizards screened multiple different types of cards before deciding on the current foiling process. Several early test-foiled cards, such as Oath of Lieges, City of Traitors, and Pygmy Hippo, can be seen at the Magic Librarities site here. Other interesting versions, that did not end up making it out of the testing process, are the holographic Dragon Whelp, and the metallic Fork.

3) Magic Online has made it easier to complete foil sets, thanks to set redemption. However, some of the early Magic Online sets are extremely rare in foil (as redemption closed very quickly on these sets). Factory-Sealed foil Invasion, Planeshift, Apocalypse and 7th Edition sets sell for a high premium beyond a hand-collated version of the same set (double to quadruple the value). Other factory-sealed foil sets do not command that high, or any, premium.

4) Foils are notoriously harder to keep in Near Mint condition than non-foil cards. They tend to collect dirt easier, creating a “cloudy” look on the front of the card. They can also have more noticeable print lines (especially on foils made pre-8th Edition, when they changed the foiling process), tend to warp a lot easier (especially for those who live in warmer climates), and don’t shuffle as well (and tend to pick up creasing a lot easier when shotgun shuffled).

5) Speaking of creasing, foils do not pass the bend test! If you bend a non-foil Magic card corner-to-corner (or top-to-bottom), it will not crease, and will return to its original state. This is one way in which people test for counterfeit cards. However, because foil cards have metal on the front, they crease when bent, no matter what!

6) According to Crystalkeep.com, there’s a 1/12 chance of getting a foil Common in a pack of Conflux, 1/18 of an Uncommon, and 1/36 of a Rare. That would average 6 foils per box (3 Commons, 2 Uncommons, 1 Rare). Foil Mythic rares appear about one out of every 216 packs, or once per Case. So if you wanted to open up a Foil Mythic set of Conflux rares, without duplication, you’d statistically have to open a minimum of 2160 packs (or 60 boxes of product!)

7) We sold out of a not-insignificant quantity of foil Path to Exile at $17.50 per card, within 5 days of release. There was a lot of discussion on MTGSalvation about whether this price was too high or too low.

The chances of opening a regular (Non-Foil) Path to Exile is 1 in 13 packs (three uncommons per pack, 40 uncommons in the set). To get a playset of Path to Exile, you’d need to open approximately 53 packs (or One Booster Box and Seventeen Booster Packs).

The chances of opening a FOIL Path to Exile is 1 in 720 packs (two Uncommons per box, 40 Uncommons in the set). You would need to statistically open TWENTY booster boxes to get a single foil Path to Exile. To get a PLAYSET of Foil Path to Exile, you’d need to open Two-Thousand, Eight-Hundred and Eighty booster packs, or EIGHTY booster boxes!

8) Take a look at #7, again. By every discussion that I’ve had with Pete Hoefling (the owner of StarCityGames.com), and other people who deal in Magic, foil cards are probably relatively underpriced compared to scarcity. To get a playset of foil Nicol Bolas (remember, statistically we’re talking 1 in 2880 for a foil playset of any given card), you’re looking at 8640 booster packs of product, or 240 BOXES! If you opened 240 Booster of product, that is what you would statistically need to get a full foil playset of Conflux. At $80 a box, you’re looking at $19,200 worth of boxes!

Mythic rares appear every 8 packs, so you’d open a regular Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker about once every 80 packs (1/80 shot). Foil Mythic Rares, as stated above, are once every 216 packs, so with 10 Mythic rares in the set, you’d need 2160 packs (1/2160 shot). This makes a foil Nicol Bolas TWENTY-SEVEN TIMES more rare than a non-Foil Nicol Bolas.

A Foil Nicol Bolas is worth roughly triple a non-Foil Nicol Bolas.

9) Given the math in #8, why aren’t foils worth more? First, many Magic players just want cards to play with, and since foils come with an attached premium, they are shunned. Second, foils tend to warp/damage easier (#4, above), and can become marked more easily. Third, a lot of players just don’t like the look of foils. So demand is repressed significantly for foil cards, but they are scarce enough that those who do want to get foils have to pay some premium over normal cards.

10) The hardest foil set to put together is 7th Edition – not many were redeemed online, and not many people bought the base set for drafting/cracking for singles. By commonality, the highest price 7th Foils are:

Common: Tie, Counterspell and Duress ($12.50)
Uncommon: Goblin Matron ($50)
Rare: Birds of Paradise ($70)

11) The foil process has not always been the same. The first foils (which have a shooting star in the lower-left-hand corner of the card) started with Urza’s Legacy. The new foiling process (which eliminated print lines) started with 8th Edition. There have been different foiling processes used for release cards (which creates a diagonal-slant effect), From The Vault: Dragons (double-foiled), store-foils (Wal-Mart Jaya Ballard), Prismatic Foils (certain JSS cards, such as Whirling Dervish), among others.

12) There are just over 300 unique English foil Promotional cards, with more being added every month thanks to FNM, player Rewards, Gateway, Judge rewards, Prereleases, releases events, and other promotions from Wizards. By contrast, there are only 125ish non-foil Promo cards. Combined, the two still have fewer cards than 5th Edition (which clocked in at a monstrous 449 cards!). Sometime next year, there should finally be more English promotional cards than cards from any other “set” if you count Promotional cards as a set. It should take around five years before the foil “Promotional” set is the largest Foil set in Magic (which is currently 10th Edition at 383 cards).

13) Foreign foil cards tend to fetch a premium over English versions of that foil; Japanese cards are the most valuable, followed by Chinese, and then German. There are no regular-issue foil Korean cards, as Korean was discontinued at Urza’s Saga. If Korean had continued into Urza’s Legacy, it would likely be the #2 most-valuable foil language behind Japanese.

14) There are quite a few cards that are altered between their foil and non-foil versions. The most common are from Unhinged (which had extra jokes thrown in on the foil layer) and 10th Edition (where they added flavor text and removed reminder text to many foil versions of cards). The most famous change, though, is the Embermage Goblin from Onslaught. The foil version has what LOOKS to be a, well, male private part coming out of the goblin’s loincloth. This was edited out of the non-foil version, but apparently slipped through the cracks for the foil version.

15) There has been one foil Token creature (Marit Lage, the Coldsnap release card). The first Russian card in Magic was the foil Torment prerelease card (Laquatus’s Champion). The first foil card, alphabetically, is Abandoned Outpost from Odyssey (not counting ________ from Unhinged).

I hope you all had fun with these facts about foils! I had intended to write this week about Grand Prix attendance, but it’s taking me a little while longer than I had anticipated to play around with the numbers I’m doodling with. Stay tuned next week when I give you enough stats about Grand Prix attendance to make your eyes bleed with happiness! Until then, have a happy Valentine’s Day, and see you in seven!

Ben Bleiweiss