The Green Goblin “Gobby” super-rare that I sold for $45 almost as soon as I opened a 79¢ Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men booster pack. The red stripe under the text denotes its rarity.
Hey kid! You want to buy a Green Goblin card and a single, six-sided die for $45? Sure, I paid less than a dollar for it … but it’s super rare! Welcome to the Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men speculation bubble. Enjoy it while it lasts.
A little more than a month ago, Wizkids Games released Marvel Dice Masters, a collectible cards and dice game that is already a smash hit at retail with a hugely speculative (and temporarily lucrative) aftermarket. With a two-player starter set and randomly packaged boosters, it’s got kid appeal written all over it. And for the comics fans, there are plenty of Captain Americas, Wolverines and Spider-Mans to go around.
Well, maybe not.
Wizkids grossly underestimated demand for the game and, as a result, the $15 starter set was sold out at the distributor level and has been more or less unavailable since the game released. Unless, of course, you don’t mind paying a 500-percent markup to grab one from a speculator or an unscrupulous game shop selling their stock on eBay rather than to customers that had preordered.
The booster packs, which sell for less than a dollar, have been more plentiful and have even been sighted in Target stores, but supplies have dwindled. Reprints are on the way, but there just isn’t inventory for retailers to sell right now. I haven’t seen anything like this since Magic: The Gathering released back in 1994. It is definitely a hot commodity right now and probably will be throughout the summer—especially with a new X-Men film in theaters and demand for Marvel characters at an all-time high.
The game itself is good and really quite innovative. Players select from their collection of cards, each depicting a Marvel hero or villain, and equip that card with special character-specific dice that come packaged with the cards. Over the course of the game, you draw dice out of a bag and roll them to get resources to claim more dice from your cards to put in your bag or to field the dice as characters to battle the other player and his characters. There’s some resource management, some luck mitigation and plenty of smash-mouth superhero showdowns.
On the left is the starter set, one of the most in-demand game products on the market today. Wizkids simply did not manufacture enough of them to go around and, until restocks arrive in the coming weeks these are speculatively selling anywhere from $25-$60. On the right is a “gravity feed” booster box of 60 packs, each containing two dice and two cards.
I think it’s a brilliant product. The $15 starter is a low-cost entry and the boosters are the cheapest thing you can buy in a hobby games store. The dice are fun—they’re all color-coordinated with their characters and you can easily tell which one is a Loki and which one is a Dr. Strange from across the table. Hobbyists will appreciate the design, which follows on from an earlier non-collectible dice pool game called Quarriors that was also a big hit. Kids and casual gamers will love the characters, the low cost and the portability of the game. If I were a 12-year-old, I’d throw my cards and dice in my backpack for Dice Masters battles in the school lunchroom. But at 38, I saw the game not only as a fun time but also as a fun way to make a little money.
I was lucky enough to find an out-of-the-way online retailer that had preorders available for the starter and a display box of boosters for preorders, so I got mine the week of release. I thought about flipping the starter, which was already fetching $45-$50 the day the game came out. But I actually wanted to play the game and was fairly excited about it so I didn’t. Out of my booster box, I pulled one of four “super rare” cards—a Green Goblin variant—and sold it within an hour for $45. I had only paid $41 for the booster box, so one card effectively bought 60 packs of cards and dice. Since I’m not a “power gamer” and I won’t be playing in tournaments or at stores, I also sold all 12 of the “rare” cards out of what I got, ranging from $8-$12 apiece.
So, from one booster box, I managed to make around a $120 profit by simply opening the packs and selling the rarer, more scarce cards at a premium to buyers who were presumably looking to complete a full set of cards and dice. I took that money and did what any enterprising person would do. I bought another box.
Any Marvel Comics fan will thrill to bring favorites like Doctor Octopus, Nightcrawler and Black Widow into battle, even in in their much less valuable common varieties.
The second box didn’t have a super rare, which are estimated to be distributed on a 1:90-booster-pack ratio, so that was like not finding a $50 bill in the box. But I did get another 11 rares and plenty of uncommon cards, and I managed to make more than $100 on the second box. These sales were all within a week of the game’s release. The aftermarket was on fire, cards were being quite frankly overvalued due to perceived rarity and the general lack of product on shelves.
And then, a couple of online retailers started posting singles for sale. One retailer had five of those Green Goblins in stock for $30 apiece. Quite tellingly, they were also sold out of booster boxes. I think they realized, like I did, that there was more money to be made from opening the packs and selling the booster boxes parceled out.
But here’s the thing: this is just another Dutch Tulip Craze. I knew from the start that this kind of wild speculation—which started quite literally when some guy posted a super-rare with a $45 buy-it-now price on eBay, thus setting the pace—wasn’t going to last. The super-rares are holding out around $35-$40 in most places, but many of the rares that I was getting up to $12 for are coming down to less than $5. The uncommons that I was getting $5 for are plummeting to $1 and $2 for some of the more desirable ones. The common cards are almost not worth the paper they are printed on.
A diagram of the Dutch Tulip Craze of November 1636 to February 1637. Google it. Believe it or not, this whole thing really relates to how Marvel Dice Masters has blown up in the aftermarket.
This trend is going to continue as more product gets to store shelves. In short, the Marvel Dice Masters market is already crashing less than a month after it started. There are a couple of underlying factors as well, such as the fact that players do not need more than one copy of each card. Multiple dice are needed to fully stock a character card, so there is some slight value there, but we’re still talking less than a dollar there. I’m predicting that the super-rares will drop $10-$20 in value by the end of the summer (after the big gaming conventions, such as GenCon and Origins) and the rares will remain in the $3-$5 range, with some spiking higher after tournament results and session reports come in.
It’s been interesting to watch the pre-release hype, the scramble for starter sets and the flash-in-the-pan speculative aftermarket. Now that the dust has cleared, I’m happy to have a big collection of the game to play with and I’m looking forward to September. That’s when the next set, focused more on the X-Men, releases. I don’t think the demand will be as crazy, but the early rush for rares and super-rares may prove profitable. And I love the X-Men!
Michael Barnes is a lifelong game player, collector and enthusiast. He has parlayed his passion for games into several successful ventures, including a retail hobby store, two popular gaming Websites, and 10 years of widely read commentary and criticism about both tabletop and video games.
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