This morning, I woke and did my usual scanning of social media sites to see what had developed over the weekend. My e-mail boxes were more or less dominated by Magic: The Gathering Universes Beyond - Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle Earth Collector Box openings and influencers submitting their opinions on the million dollar offer on The One Ring 001/001 card (see "First Million Dollar Card"). However, the inspiration for this column happened when I saw a few of the Serialized Ring cards go right from YouTube to the high end card Facebook groups at fairly high prices. I saw these listings, and decided, "It's now time to have a little chat with retailers about handling Magic's Middle-earth."

I've seen a lot go down with collectibles throughout my 25+ years in the games industry. I have been lucky enough to see the initial rise of Magic, its explosion into the mainstream markets, and the Billion Dollar Brand Age of the game (see "Wizards of the Coast"). However, I can clearly say that I have never seen anything like what I have simply dubbed Magic Middle-Earth-a-Mania. The sheer excitement behind the Tales of Middle Earth set is both astonishing and welcomed, but it carries a couple of caveats that retailers should be aware of. Hence, without out further ado, here is The One Ring Retailer Chat:

Caveat #1: Serialized Cards are Relatively New to Magic Fans and WotC

The One Ring 001/001 is something that really worries me because it's WotC's first time in this rodeo. By "first time in this rodeo," I mean that sport cards companies like Topps, Upper Deck, and Panini have all been making 1/1 serialized chase cards for a while now, and they do things a little differently. They usually don't include only one 1/1 card in a set, and they make sure that those 1/1 cards are primarily included in their premium sets with lesser print runs (like Panini's Immaculate Collection and Topps' Definitive series). These sports card companies handle 1/1 cards like this for a very good reason: they know the odds and they know the disappointment it causes amongst fans if the 1/1 cards don't actually ever get cracked out of packs.

Let's look at WotC's first attempt at a 1/1 offering. The odds of being the lucky soul that breaks open a Collector Booster and gets The One Ring 001/001 is less than 0.00003%, according to WotC's product information. People have tried to backward engineer the number of Collector Boxes that will be printed to get a better grip on the odds, but that really does little good because the Collector Boosters are also included in the Gift Bundles (see "Wizards of the Coast Reveals Product Line Deets"). Basically, there are two different SKUs that could contain The One Ring 001/001 and the odds intangibly get worse for finding this card because collectors have to search two different product types to find it.

On top of that, there are sealed product investors that will make pulling The One Ring 001/001 out of Collector Packs in a timely fashion even more difficult by sitting on product. There are plenty of retailers, private investors, and fans that buy and hold onto sealed product for a while to sell later and make a profit. What happens if The One Ring 001/001 ends up in an investor's hoard of unopened products and just sits there for a decade on pallet in some Raiders of the Lost Ark-like warehouse? That scenario sure makes Dave & Adam's million dollar offer (which needs to be cashed in by July 17, 2023), look like a great promotion that may never need to be paid out (see "First Million Dollar Card").

The summary of this chat is that retailers need to be aware of the possible "phantom lottery ticket" nature of this product. Once the Collector Boosters hit the street, if the 001/001 card is found, or if the offer to buy it for $1 million expires, there's a good chance that aftermarket prices will decline.  I can almost confidently say that most FLGS will make more money selling the Collector Boosters sealed than they will opening them in search of singles (leave the search for singles to card houses). Sure, there are some other fairly expensive Serialized Rings in this set, but the same factors mentioned above apply to getting them from packs as well. Think like the state lotteries do: sell the dream and ring the register.

Caveat #2: The Print Run on this Set Will Likely be Massive
This caveat goes out for the retailers who hold singles in inventory and do mass box openings (but aren't large card houses) to make an extra dollar or two. Be aware that the Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle Earth set technically has two releases this year: one in June 2023 and one in November 2023. The second release comes in the form of a Special Edition, and includes many of the same cards as the first release (see "'LotR' Holiday Release Product Deets Revealed").

Like Cavaet #1, this is essentially a "strike while the iron is hot" warning. Retailers that open some Draft or Set Boxes for singles in the first week or two for players as a service likely won't kill the bottom line. However, mass openings of these boxes of cards beyond the initial drop is a risky call as the standard-framed mythics, rares, and most of the traditional foils look like they will be abundant on the marketplace all the way into 2024. The secondary market will likely age poorly for the non-Serialized, non-special card treatment cards based on the massive amount of boxes of product that will be printed and opened.

Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favor (Oops! Wrong IP; but possibly in the future?)   

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of