Having studied economics as a major it has always intrigued how the eb and flow of a market can change and evolve over time. The ways in which we as consumers choose to act ultimately defines the price which producers or in this case boardgame publishers choose to assign to a given product. Over the last few weeks, I have been playing close attention to the secondary market and focusing my eye on two products. These two products have been widely enjoyed and purchased by a large portion of the Arkham Horror community but have recently been marked as out of print on the FFG website. The culprits in question are of course Barkham Horror and The Night of the Zealot return to box. Now I know that much debate can be made of this topic so I’m going to try and provide my best and most unbiased view of the pricing related to these products on the secondary market while simultaneously explaining my view with an academic approach.
To start us off we need to meet the products in question. First off, the return to the night of the zealot was a product many called luxury and not particularly necessary at its first inception bar that of providing better storage for your campaign cards. The product was designed to fix errata on since revised cards, rejuvenate the otherwise short campaign and add new player cards which attempted to make once unplayable cards now playable. Over the years this product was portrayed by various Arkham Horror content creators as a luxury product which was not necessary for the average player. Likewise, there was a strong encouragement for the purchase of other products such as new expansions in the form of cycles or standalone scenarios. In a similar way Barkham Horror an April fool’s joke turned hit product made many an investigator chase their tails off trying to find a copy. Barkham horror was released after the night of the zealot but was a limited print run with much lower numbers of printed copies in circulation than that of the return to box.
Having met our two culprits what is all the fuss these past few months over the price of them on the secondary market and what can we expect in the future moving forward. First things first we need to understand two basic principles of economics: 1- Supply and demand & 2- Monopolies. Supply and demand is a basic economic principle which sets the price for all products in a free market. Looking at the chart below you can see two lines.
The demand line and the supply line the axis indicate the price of the good and the quantity available in the market of that good. Basically, this chart shows the following: as demand decreases supply increases and thus the price falls. In a similar way when demand increases and supply decreases prices rise. There is a magic point Q which is where these two lines meet called the market equilibrium where there is perfect supply for the given demand. This equilibrium is almost never reached and is always some form of variant on high demand or low demand combined with high or low supply. In basic terms we as consumers are the price setters because if we don’t choose to buy a product then the demand falls and the price will similarly fall. It is not the person selling a product which chooses the price but rather us as Arkham horror fanatics who choose to pay the market price for them. The second economic principle we need to understand is that of monopolies and how they make markets fail. In the world we live in markets exist in all forms but for our purposes we are going to simplify them down to their most basic forms. In essence markets thrive when the following factors are met: 1-There is a free flow of information with no company knowing information that others don’t leading to a market advantage. 2- Reduction of government intervention relating to price setting. This leads to a price being set and no competition in the market existing thus not allowing the price to ever fall below the set point. 3- Free trade between parties involved in trade. These factors along with many more contribute to markets operating effectively and allowing for supply and demand figure out a fair market price for a product. Enter monopolies (dun dun daaaaaaaaaa)……. In all seriousness monopolies are where one company holds a 100% share of the production or distribution of a product. In this case the monopoly is held by Fantasy Flight Games who has the sole right and ability to print and produce the products in question. This monopoly leads to a market failure in which market equilibrium cannot be reached as supply will never be able to meet demand due to FFG announcing they will not be printing these products again. By FFG not printing the products demand will always rise and supply will remain the same thus price will inevitably increase.
Right, now we have the boring stuff out of the way lets get stuck into the current cost and market trends of Barkham Horror and the return to the Night of the Zealot products. Looking at Barkham horror first there is a current market value of approximately $100 AUD and 300 AUD ($66-198 USD) while this value may shock some it’s not totally unreasonable considering the print run and current availability. Looking at past Ebay sold listing from this year alone we can see a median price of about $285 AUD ($188 USD).
This does not even account for shipping which if coming to Australia from the US or the UK is often at least another $30-40 AUD. With the current trend we can most definitely expect prices to rise even if it is not as rapid as in the past 5 months. As I have already stated this product is out of print and with FFG holding its monopoly we will likely never see another reprint resulting in ever climbing prices. Personally, I purchased a copy last month for $250 AUD from a local Melbourne Australia based seller which had free shipping. When compared with how much others have been paying, I believe that’s on par and more than an acceptable price. We must now examine the current listing for Barkham horror which is a sight I didn’t want to see. Currently there are 2 listing for a copy one sealed and the other opened and sleeved. The sealed one is $200 AUD ($132 USD) and the opened one is a whopping 347 AUD + $30 AUD postage to AUS ($250 USD total). This is frightening as with such few listings and there being a current surge of popularity these prices are now firmly set as acceptable. Most listing only last a week or two on Facebook they last only a day to a few hours. The most recent copy on Facebook sold for $150 USD which is a well on par for the current prices and market trends.
Looking at the return to box for night of the Zealot on eBay we can see that the price varies quite a lot between sealed and unsealed copies.
Prices range from $150 AUD to $ 300AUD ($100 USD - $200 USD) This does not take into consideration he is shipping which will vary but here in the land of OZ its going to run you about $60-$100 AUD for shipping due to the length of the box ($39-$66 USD). Currently there is only one copy actively for sale on eBay for $416 AUD + Shipping ($275 USD). Although this copy does not have any active bids, I’m sure that it will soon be sold as the price for its owning bid is about par for the current market trend. It’s interesting to see that overall, less copies and available of this product when compared with Barkham horror when there were far more printed copies of the return to box. I recently purchased a copy of return to night of the zealot last week and paid about $300 AUD ($199 SUD) all up including shipping which I believe is more than fair considering the lack of available copies and the extreme demand for it in recent months.
In conclusion there are a few things we can learn from this current market environment. 1- Prices will continue to rise until they find a happy equilibrium with how much players are willing to pay. 2- people for the most part are not price gouging when they list at prices mentioned above as they represent fair market value. 3- If you want a copy buy one now! Prices are not going to drop the products are out of print and are not coming back. If you can afford either of these products and have been waiting to decide, do it now. I do have to admit I find it quite interesting that people have been claiming that sellers looking to offload copies of Barkham horror and the return to box are being named scalpers and price gougers. This is not the case if they are selling for the prices I have mentioned above as they most definitely represent what people are willing to pay. There is never pressure for individuals to buy it. In the end there is always someone who is willing to pay what they think is a fair price for the product and thus sellers should look to sell at prices which reflect such demand.
Let me know what you think down below in the comments. 😊