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What Are the Most Valuable Cards in Magic: The Gathering?

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Sometimes I reflect on how I became a lifelong Magic: The Gathering player to begin with. I know the unique art on each card initially caught my attention. The gameplay was slow to grow on me, given its complexity. I didn't know a thing about efficient deck-building, tournaments and the like, so it couldn't have been that.

I think I was hooked when I discovered that these game pieces -- these components with which I shuffle and play - also possessed value in real dollars due to their collectability! This was a new concept to me. Up until that point in life, I was used to kissing my money goodbye whenever I spent it on a game or hobby. The fact that I could spend money on cards and then get money back out of them afterwards was really enticing to me, especially at the time.

Valuable Cards In Magic

Fast forward nearly three decades, and the financial aspect of Magic continues to be one of my favorite aspects of the beloved game. Only nowadays, the numbers have ballooned to unanticipated proportions!

Thirty years ago, a $10 card was impressive and the most valuable cards barely cracked three digits. Today, some of those same cards remain the most valuable, but their price increased by multiple orders of magnitude! There are dozens if not hundreds of cards that are worth north of $100 and plenty of cards worth more than $1000. Cards like Timetwister, Bazaar of Baghdad, The Tabernacle At Pendrell Vale, and Mishra's Workshop all come to mind. You also have some classic foils such as Grim Monolith and Seventh Edition Birds of Paradise that regularly fetch four figures.

None of them hold a flame to the most iconic and recognizable card, Black Lotus. The most valuable printing of this card would have been from Magic's very first set, Limited Edition Alpha.

Today, this card's price will easily set you back $40,000-$50,000 for a played copy. Did you want something in near mint condition? Because this card is so iconic and collectable, it demands a significant premium for nicer condition copies. I see a BGS 8 copy for sale on eBay at the moment for $75,000 (that's actually a great price).

Even a BGS 8 copy is relatively affordable when you compare it with even higher grades. At the very high end, there's the recently sold CGC 10 Alpha Black Lotus, which set the record for being the most expensive Magic card every sold. It fetched a cool $3,000,000.

It may be years before this record is broken again, and it will depend on many factors involving the economy, trajectory of cryptocurrency, inflation, etc. In the meantime, we can all bask in the glory that is the pristine Alpha Black Lotus, something nearly all of us will never have the chance to own.

Tell Me Something I Didn't Already Know

When I decided to write an article on Magic's most valuable cards, I knew I had to at least acknowledge the Alpha Black Lotus. This is common knowledge to anyone who engages in Magic social media, however, so it may not come as a shock to many readers. For that reason, I want to move in a slightly different direction now.

You see, Alpha Black Lotus may be the most valuable card ever, but it's certainly not the rarest. Estimates put the total number of Alpha Black Lotuses printed at between 1,000 and 1,100. Granted, there may be only a couple left that would earn a 10 grade, but I digress.

In reality, there are some extremely expensive cards that are also significantly rarer. Off the top of my head, the first card that comes to mind is the highly coveted, 001/001 The One Ring that Post Malone purchased last year for a cool $2,000,000.

It can't get any rarer than this - when only one copy of a given card exists, you know it's uniquely special. While the CGC 10 Alpha Black Lotus recently took the crown as most expensive card ever, we can confidently say that this The One Ring is the most valuable card from Magic's modern era, and certainly the most valuable card to ever have been opened straight out of a booster pack. This card literally changed someone's life when they opened it.

Let's get a bit obscure. While The One Ring received a great deal of media attention and hype, it isn't the first Magic card to be printed as a 001/001. In fact, I can think of at least two other cards for which exactly one copy exists. Can you name them?

If you guessed Shichifukujin Dragon and 1996 World Champion, you would have been correct!

For those who have never seen these cards before, there's an explanation of these cards from Wizards of the Coast published back in 2005. In short, Shichifukujin Dragon was created to commemorate the opening of the DCI Tournament Center and 1996 World Champion is exactly what it says - the card was created as a prize for the winner of that tournament (Tom Chanpheng). I'm not sure if either of these cards have been sold before (certainly not recently), so it's impossible to place an accurate dollar figure on these unique pieces of history. Suffice to say, if these did come up for sale on the open market they would fetch a tremendous sum.

In addition to these, there are also a couple cards that were printed in extremely tiny quantities to celebrate various phases of Richard Garfield's life. These are known as "Celebration" cards. There's Proposal, celebrating Garfield's proposal to Lily Wu; Splendid Genesis, celebrating the birth of Garfield's first child; Fraternal Exaltation, which honors the birth of Garfield's second child; Robot Chicken, a successful cooperation with the creators of Robot Chicken; and Phoenix Heart, Garfield's wedding to Koni Kim.

The print run on these cards varies, ranging from single digits up to a couple hundred. Every once in a while, one of these cards is actually posted for sale, but it's tough to tie down a specific value. While browsing the vendor booths at MagicCon Las Vegas 2022, I stumbled across one of the celebration cards for sale: Phoenix Heart, with a $50,000 asking price. I have no clue if it actually sold.

Honorable Mention: Summer Magic

The other collection of cards I want to at least touch is the extremely limited, accidental release of Summer Magic cards from 1994. First, a little bit of history courtesy of Magic Librarities.

"When the Revised Edition was in production in 1994, a number of problems with the set became apparent. The colors were washed out, the picture for Serendib Efreet was wrong, and there was a growing concern with the Satanic images on some of the cards."

The answer: Wizards of the Coast intended to release a "fixed" version of Revised Edition, code named "Edgar."

There was only one problem - Summer Magic cards had their own print issues to deal with! Instead of looking faded, some of the cards looked way too saturated and dark. Serendib Efreet's artwork was fixed, but the artist's name wasn't updated (same for Plateau, which also didn't include the correct artist credit). The most famous issue of all, however, has got to be the infamous Blue Hurricane. You read that correctly. Hurricane is supposed to be a Green card, but the Summer printing accidentally gave the card a blue border.

When Wizards of the Coast discovered all these printing errors, they decided to scrap the release. The entire print run was recalled and destroyed...or was it?

It turns out a scant amount of the product did make it to the market. The story goes that shops in Tennessee, Texas, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and The Netherlands all received a small amount of product. Some Wizards of the Coast and Carta Mundi employees also received some product before it was destroyed.

As a result, an estimated 130 to 150 commons, 40 to 60 uncommons, 30 to 50 rares, and a few thousand basic lands from Summer Edition are out there. Because of this rarity, they fetch a significant premium versus their Revised Edition counterparts. A Revised Hurricane will cost you less than a buck, but the BGS 9 Blue Hurricane pictured above is currently listed on eBay with a $22,500 price tag! I suspect highly graded Summer Edition dual lands would be even more expensive. There are a couple posted on eBay for sale:

These cards are so rare that they don't exchange hands all too often, so it's difficult to pinpoint what they're truly worth. An item is worth only what someone is willing to pay for it, and these have not been purchased as of yet. Still, it's safe to say these are some of Magic's most valuable cards!

Wrapping It Up

Hopefully this was an informative survey of Magic's most valuable cards. It's by no means a complete list, but it touches on key highlights and underscores just how valuable the secondary market for Magic has become. The fact that a single card can sell for seven figures still blows my mind! That's like an entire 401k retirement fund!

As long as Magic remains healthy and popular, there will be rare and expensive cards like these. With newcomers like The One Ring, I hesitate to even say that the list of most valuable cards will never change. Perhaps a new set will introduce another unique, 001/001 card printed that will fetch an even steeper price tag.

When it comes to Magic, anything is possible! I won't be able to participate in the market for cards like these, but I sure hope I can at least sit back and watch.


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