I’ve gone back and forth on the idea of writing a column about MTGFinance for a long time because, to be frank, I hate it. The financial side of Magic is deeply rooted in the capitalism and greed that is rapidly destroying not only our beloved card game but also the fabric of our society. If you’re still reading this after that line, welcome to the first installment of Conjured Currency: MTGFinance for Socialists.

When I asked the community to vote on names for this column, The Professor proudly suggested Conjured Currency and the title couldn’t be more perfect. Money is, after all, a completely made-up concept, pulled out of thin air to facilitate international trade in the ancient world.

As a society we’ve had currency for roughly 2600 years and its purpose was to help commerce and trade grow beyond local economies. The barter system was great when you were trading your grain to the local storehouse in exchange for your supplies of meat, but when you were shipping it over borders and even overseas things got much trickier.

Currency became a sort of buffer system for the traditional barter system and rapidly was put into use throughout the civilized world. Paper money has been around for much less time, having originated in China roughly 1500 years ago and making its way to Europe only 400 years ago. In the barter system of days long gone, currency was a proxy for goods and services that could be redeemed at a later time.

How currency is valued has also evolved over time. In some early cultures currency was used to literally represent specific amounts of goods or livestock. As coinage became popular the value was tied to the weight of the metals used in the creation of the coins. When England began issuing permanent paper money in the late 17th century it was, of course, to finance a war against France. America would follow suit roughly a hundred years later as a means to pay off the debts of their own revolution against England and also fund their fledgling country.

45 years ago the United States went off what was known as the “gold standard” meaning the value of currency was no longer tied to how much gold a country held in reserve. This move meant that governments were now free to literally conjure currency out of thin air.

Why the history lesson? It’s important to learn where we’ve come from in order to properly discuss the Conjured Currency that is the 2.5×3.5-inch piece of cardboard known as a Magic card. Currency is a measure of value but a Magic card is something more than that because it is also a piece in a game and this complicates things significantly.

In the coming weeks we’ll begin an exploration of the role MTGFinance plays in the social fabric of our community including topics such as:

  • The Basic Supply and Demand of a Magic Card
  • How MTG Finance Warps the Supply and Demand Model
  • The Finance of a Trading Card Game vs. a Living Card Game
  • Is a Gaming Store Actually an Economically Viable Business Model
  • Gatekeeping and MTGFinance: Why Can’t Everyone Play Magic?
  • Can You Objectively Write About MTG and be Sponsored by a Singles Seller?

As a socialist you’ll find that my opinions on MTGFinance will skew very negatively against the practice of investing in Magic cards and that I’ll regularly question the motivations of anyone and everyone who gives you financial advice.

I will however close my column with my first piece of advice for anyone looking to get into investing in Magic cards for the goal of building wealth: don’t.

Rich Stein is a retired Magic player, an amateur content creator, and a Level 2 Social Justice Sorcerer. He hopes to eventually become a professional content creator and a Level 20 dual class Social Justice Sorcerer/Bard but he’s more than content to remain a retired Magic player. You can follow his musings on Twitter @RichStein13.

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