The Big Things: Foil Etched Divisions
A few months ago, I wrote about how the price multipliers for foil cards have shifted with time.
From their debut in
Foil Etched: Origins
Initially appearing as a specialty version of several key insert cards within the initial
When comparing foil etched cards to other premium printings, it is important to understand that specialty printings as distributed by booster products (i.e. Collector Boosters and the Booster Fun project) were still largely in their infancy, as exemplified by the short printing of Commander Legends Collector Boosters and the non-existence of Commander Legends Set Boosters. When viewed in the context of the broader market as it existed at release, foil etched cards had little comparison - more collectible than traditional foils, less so than Masterpiece Series cards.
Outside of the scarcity of foil etched cards, another key factor added significantly to their appeal: playability. Unlike modern era traditional foils, which have been notorious in recent years due to the issue of warping of cardstock, most iterations of foil etched cards have been able to avoid this problem due to differences in manufacturing. As such, many players have begun gravitating towards foil etched cards not just due to the visual appeal, but also because of their general usability.
Foil Etched: Specialty
Moving away from Commander Legends and on to the subsequent history of foil etched cards, it is at this point that Wizards of the Coast became a bit more…experimental with their development. In
These foil etched cards - those which lacked a coherent identity between releases and had set-specific designs - can be best understood as foil etched specialty cards. While they may not have a harmony to their release, their distribution sets them apart from that of the next class of foil etched cards which we’ll be discussing, the unified releases. Unlike unified foiled etched cards, the price trend of specialty foil etched cards must be understood as a set-specific asset. While Mystical Archive cards and
Looking at the cross comparison between Modern Horizons 2 and Strixhaven: School of Mages, for example, it become clear that the prices of the foil etched series within each set is more heavily correlated with the price of their compounding characteristics, whether that be the Retro Series for Modern Horizons 2 or the Mystical Archive Series for Strixhaven: School of Mages. In short, foil etched cards within the specialty category may appear visually similar (in some cases), but they should not be treated as products within the same asset group.
Foil Etched: Unified
The unified foil etched category, however, is a bit of a different series. These cards certainly have competition with other specialty products within their own sets, whether that be the borderless foils of
The first is homogeneity across printings - what I mean by this is that a foil etched card from Double Masters 2022 will look the same as a foil etched card from March of the Machine, and that is because, in each case, the foil etched treatment is the sole treatment appearing on those cards. There is no chase for a foil etched borderless card, or a foil etched serialized card. A typical card is either foil etched or it isn’t, and the hunt stops there. This increases the allure of cards within this umbrella of foil etched printings, as well as stabilizes expectations for quality across sets.
The second factor is that unified foil etched cards are solely available in Collector Booster products. Now, this is also the case with specialty foil etched cards, but the reason that this product exclusivity matters all the more here is that, as mentioned before, the etched treatment is the only specialty treatment being applied to foil etched cards in this case. Whereas foil etched Mystical Archives cards can be best understood as a premium version of an already specialty treatment which is widely available within other draft and set products, unified foil etched cards have no intermediary class outside of traditional foils.
|Sakashima of a Thousand Faces (Foil Etched)|
|Demonic Tutor (Foil Etched)|
|Scalding Tarn (Retro Frame) (Foil Etched)|
|Dockside Extortionist (Foil Etched)|
|Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer (Foil Etched)|
So, now that we understand how to classify foil etched cards into their subcategories, why does this matter for pricing? Well, as I mentioned earlier, it allows us to make better educated decisions about how we analyze the price trajectories of all the cards that come with the umbrella term “etched.” If it's a specialty card, then look to the other compounding forces - is it borderless? Serialized? Collector-exclusive? These questions can guide you towards making better comparisons with other cards in a similar class.
Alternatively, if it's a unified printing, then it becomes a question of Collector Booster supply and the innate desirability of the card, as opposed to the desirability of any other specialty promotions applied to it.
Good luck foil hunting, and may your cards never curl.
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History, Restapled: A Mother’s Love and a Land Reborn by Steve Heisler
Hidden Gems #3 - Something Colorless This Way Comes by Adam Berg
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Harvey McGuinness is a student at Johns Hopkins University who has been playing Magic since the release of Return to Ravnica. After spending a few years in the Legacy arena bouncing between Miracles and other blue-white control shells, he now spends his time enjoying Magic through CEDH games and understanding the finance perspective. He also writes for the Commander's Herald.