Sygg, River Cutthroat and tangential theory (Jan 29, 2014)


He finally exploded!  I saw this coming months back, but it seemed like a slow enough ascent that I didn't end up buying more than a couple of these.  I know I've sold a playset in past, but I think I bought a slew at some point.  These have been very hard to find in the past 11 days or so.  This must be for Commander decks, it makes good sense, Sygg River Cutthroat has a very powerful, triggered ability, and it requires just one color.  Merfolk also seem to be surging lately, I don't keep good enough tabs on the metagame other than through card prices, but Merfolk of the Pearl Trident, Silvergill Adept, Sygg, Cursecatcher, all seem to on the rise.  I just bought the last 3 'undergathered fruit' copies for $1.56 apiece with free shipping, so now I have at least 4.  Wish I saw it a few days ago, I could have cleaned up. 


a very long view, back to June 2012.  

I first noticed these back in March 2013, I already had a few, didn't buy many (or any?).  I made the right call for the moment, but I should have paid attention to it (in-stock volumes), cause I got the gut feeling that Sygg had legs and would jump in the foreseeable future.  

Zoom of the middle-past of this card. Data goes up until about a month ago, before the jump.

That wild variation in the amazon price (light blue) during April -> November, especially at so low a price per card, tells you that the market's geometry is shifting, reorganizing; in this case, shallowing.  Shipping costs are a large part of the cost of small value cards.   To see such fine-grain but constant amplitude oscillations (+- 0.75 or so per card) is likely a manifestation of a characteristic market shift.  But do you see that patern elsewhere?  Noted.

The light-blue Amazon prices are my favorite.  They are very dynamic, they have lots of crazy behavior that can you suppose about.  They are much more approximate that eBay prices, due to higher (and variable) shipping costs.  Along with eBay, they are the only true marketplaces shown in these plots.  Although mtgprice has the link to and "lowest" price from (where I buy most of my cards - also a true-ish marketplace), it doesn't graph it.  eBay and Amazon usually signal bottom-up price surges best.  They can't be manipulated by a single entity (at least not easily) and have almost certainly the highest sales volume.

Also, to clarify:  the images I include in all of these posts are, by default, showing only the marketplaces/stores that currently have at least one of the card in stock.  So, right now, most retailers are sold out of the Sygg, River Cutthroat.  In the graph below, I manually reclicked the boxes for the vendors that are currently sold-out, in the same timeframe.  

Mid-range zoom with all vendors shown.

Comparing this to the last plot, you can see where the market got carved out.  I'll bet we could develop some probabilities about which vendors typically don't sell out during a price spike, and which are typically the first to sell out.  So if we see the fifth-most-likely-to-be-last-in-stock-vendor go out of stock right after the sixth and seventh and right before the third,  we can perhaps deduce the direction of the price shift from in-stock data alone, or use it to supplement price data.

Graphing data the right ways can reveal more than you need to predict prices of semi-stable commodities like these.    

You can almost see two populations of cards in the eBay (golden) prices, starting in August.  They bifurcate, one firmly planted at $1.50 (probably a single seller with a high shipping cost [not considered in these prices] and a large inventory) and the truer price concave-downing up to $2.50.  That type of effect can be misleading, as a single seller can bottom-out his/her marketplace with a high shipping cost and sit without selling for weeks and weeks, masking the real behavior in that market.  

A better representation of the data from marketplaces (as opposed to vendors) would be to plot not just the lowest price in that market, but every price in that market and their relationship to each other.  That is, representing markets with a time-lapse of an in-market card-price histogram would be another way to see the market evolve. 

Note to self: start archiving these data (as only paying members get an additional 2 years (or something) of data.  Consider even taking your own data.  Maybe archiving sucessfully "completed listings" of eBay buy-it-nows over $2.00 with mtg in title, for analysis a posteriori.  It would be a lot of data, but it would fit.  Don't worry.  It will help to gain insight into similar events in the future. 

Having been watching these graphs for over a year now, I have a feeling for the characteristic shape of each data-feed.  eBay (the reasonable one) will usually herald a spiking card, closely followed or preceded by Amazon (the twitchy one).  The yellow data are from Troll and Toad (the clunky one).  Strikezone is dark purple (the bottom-feeder).  Troll and Toad have an awkward, clunky feeling about their pricing strategy.  I'll try to start noticing faux paus in pricing commited by websites (I'm sure Troll and Toad has had some, I very nearly buy them out a lot, and do sometimes). 

I intended to add a bunch more picks to this, but egad it's almost 2:00 AM.  Check back soon for more anthropomorphization of commodity markets!

All charts courtesy of