Magic Cards Worth Money: The Most Valuable MTG Cards

Magic: The Gathering is not just one of the most popular and enduring trading card games of all time – it‘s also a serious collectible with some of the most valuable individual cards in the entire hobby. Savvy collectors have been investing in Magic cards for decades, with the rarest and most desirable cards reaching astronomical prices.

Whether you‘re a player looking to cash out an old collection or an investor interested in diversifying your portfolio with alternative assets, this comprehensive guide will teach you everything you need to know about Magic cards worth money. We‘ll break down which sets and cards command the highest prices, how to determine accurate values for your collection, and the pros and cons of investing in Magic cards.

The Most Valuable Magic: The Gathering Sets and Printings

Magic has released over 100 different expansion sets since its debut in 1993. While almost every set has at least a few cards that are worth good money, the most valuable cards tend to come from the earliest and rarest sets, especially those on the Reserved List (cards Wizards of the Coast has promised never to reprint). Here are the most iconic and valuable Magic sets for collectors:

Alpha and Beta (1993): The very first printings of Magic‘s original 295 card set, known as Limited Edition. Alpha was a very limited print run of 2.6 million cards with more rounded corners, while Beta‘s 7.3 million cards have standard corners. Both are extremely rare and valuable today.

  • Top Cards: Black Lotus, Mox Sapphire, Ancestral Recall, Time Walk, Timetwister
  • PSA 10 Gem Mint Alpha Black Lotus: $511,100 (2021)
  • Sealed Alpha Starter Deck: $132,000 (2020)
  • Sealed Alpha Booster Box: $250,000-$300,000 (estimate)

Arabian Nights (1993): Magic‘s first expansion set and the oldest with no reprints. Just 5 million cards were printed, making any Arabian Nights card very sought after.

  • Top Cards: Juzam Djinn, Library of Alexandria, Bazaar of Baghdad, Serendib Efreet
  • PSA 10 Gem Mint Juzam Djinn: $18,600 (2020)
  • Sealed Arabian Nights Booster Box: $90,000 (2020)

Legends (1994): The third Magic expansion is famous for introducing the Legends creature type as well as multicolored cards and some of the most iconic cards in the game.

  • Top Cards: Mana Drain, Moat, The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale, Chains of Mephistopheles
  • BGS 9.5 Gem Mint Mana Drain: $7,200 (2020)
  • Sealed Legends Booster Box: $41,302 (2021)

As you can see, cards and boxes from these earliest sets are worth enormous sums, and their prices have only gone up over time as the supply dwindles. A Black Lotus graded PSA 10 is considered the holy grail for Magic collectors, as fewer than 1% of the roughly 22,000 Lotuses ever printed would likely receive that perfect grade. Even in light or moderately played condition, the cards are still worth thousands.

Modern Staples: While more recent Magic sets don‘t reach the same heights as those earliest printings, many of the game‘s most popular tournament staples can still command high prices, especially foil and alternate art versions. Here are some of the most valuable modern cards:

Card Set Foil Median Price (02/2023) Non-Foil Median Price (02/2023)
Tarmogoyf Future Sight $400 $180
Snapcaster Mage Innistrad $125 $80
Uro, Titan of Nature‘s Wrath Theros: Beyond Death $215 $80
Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer Modern Horizons 2 $290 $95

As with any collectible market, Magic card prices are ultimately driven by supply and demand. Prices on modern staples tend to fluctuate far more rapidly than Reserved List cards based on the card‘s current playability in tournament formats. A card can spike overnight if a new deck using it wins a major tournament, so it‘s important for collectors and investors to stay on top of metagame trends.

How to Determine Your Magic Card Values

So you‘ve got a stack of Magic cards – how do you figure out what they‘re actually worth? The first step is identifying exactly what you have by crossreferencing the card name, set symbol, and collector number with an online resource like Scryfall or Gatherer. With thousands of unique Magic cards out there and many reprints, it‘s important to know which specific printing you have, as that can make a huge difference in value.

Once you‘ve ID‘d your cards, it‘s time to research some prices. Online price guides like TCGplayer, Star City Games, and Card Kingdom collect sales data from their marketplaces to provide average selling prices for each card printing. You can search for your card, see its price in different conditions, and check price history charts. Here is a breakdown of card conditions used by most vendors:

Card Condition Grade Description
Near Mint (NM) / Mint (M) Card is perfect or nearly perfect with no visible wear or damage
Lightly Played (LP) Card shows minor shuffling, play, or storage wear but no major defects
Moderately Played (MP) Card has more noticeable edge wear, scratches, or scuffs but is still sleeve playable
Heavily Played (HP) Card is significantly worn with creases, whitening, or damage but is tournament legal
Damaged (D) Card has major damage like bends, tears, or heavy staining and may not be tournament legal

As you can see, card condition has a major effect on value. A Near Mint Unlimited Black Lotus might be worth around $30,000, while a Damaged one may only fetch a few thousand dollars. If you plan on selling your collection, it pays to be realistic and honest about your card conditions.

For higher end cards, you may want to consider getting them authenticated and graded by a respected company like Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) or Beckett Grading Services (BGS). These companies assign an objective grade from 1-10 based on the card‘s centering, corners, edges, and surface. While grading costs money, it can more than pay for itself in higher resale value, as collectors put a premium on verified, graded cards.

"I only recommend grading Magic cards worth at least $1000 raw, as the fees and shipping costs can eat into your profit otherwise," advises Daniel Chang, a high end Magic collector and vendor. "For your Power Nine and other heavy hitters, grading is a must. Serious collectors want that peace of mind."

How to Safely Sell Your Magic Cards for Cash

Once you have an idea what your Magic cards are worth, it‘s time to cash out. You have a few different options when it comes to selling:

Sell to Your Local Game Store: Most game shops that host Magic tournaments will also buy cards from players to stock their inventory. This is the fastest and easiest way to unload your collection, as you can just bring your cards in and walk out with cash or store credit. However, you‘ll only get around 50-60% of the retail price on average. Stores need to cover their overhead and still make a profit on resale.

Sell on the Facebook Marketplace: There are many dedicated Magic trading groups on Facebook where you can list your cards for sale or trade. Because there are no seller fees, you can get closer to full retail price by selling directly to other players and collectors. Look for groups specific to your geographic area to avoid additional shipping costs.

Sell on eBay: The biggest marketplace for Magic cards is on eBay, as you can set your own prices and open up your listings to a worldwide buyer pool. However, eBay does take a 10-15% commission on sold items, and you‘ll have to handle the shipping and payment processing yourself. For the best results, make sure to take clear, well-lit photos and price competitively based on the sold listings for similar cards.

Sell to an Online Buylist: Big retailers like Card Kingdom, Star City Games, and ABU Games have an online buylist where they post real-time buy prices for Magic cards they need for inventory. The main benefits are free shipping (you just print out a label) and guaranteed sale prices without haggling. However, buylist prices are typically only 60-70% of retail price.

Sell at a Grand Prix or Convention: For those with larger, more valuable collections, it can be worth waiting for a nearby Magic Grand Prix or convention like Gen Con to sell in person. Dozens of vendors set up booths and bring massive buylists, creating a competitive open market to get you the most value for your cards. You can shop around to different buyers to find the best offer.

Consign to an Auction House: For your five and six figure cards like Power Nine, consider consigning to an auction house that specializes in collectibles like Heritage Auctions or Pristine Auction. They handle authentication, professional photography, and attracting the right wealthy buyers to maximize your item‘s value. Of course, they also take a significant cut of the sale price as commission, but you likely won‘t find a bigger stage to market your Magic treasures.

Is Investing in Magic Cards Right for You?

Over the past decade, many investors and speculators have turned to Magic cards as an alternative asset class similar to comics, coins, and artwork. With a relatively finite supply and a rabid global fan base, Magic certainly shares many properties with other collectible markets that have seen astronomical growth.

According to the alt asset advisory firm Altan Insights, Magic cards have greatly outperformed the stock market, with some indices showing 10-year returns of over 500% compared to 200% for the S&P 500. The Power Nine index has been an especially strong performer, appreciating from $258,164 in 2010 to $2,183,322 in 2021.

However, like any unregulated collectible market, Magic investing carries significant risks. Prices are highly volatile and dependent on overall player interest. And just because prices have gone up in the past doesn‘t mean they always will.

"I‘ve made a good amount of money investing in Magic over the years, but I‘ve also taken some big losses," said Aaron Koenig, a long-time Magic financier. "You have to do your research, diversify, and understand cards can go down as well as up. Trying to predict the next big spec is very difficult."

Chart showing growth of Magic card investing index vs S&P 500 over 10 years

Some other important things to keep in mind before investing in Magic:

  • Counterfeits: As prices for Magic cards have skyrocketed, so too has the counterfeit market. Be very careful buying high end cards raw, and consider sticking to graded copies. Learn how to spot fakes and always be skeptical of deals that seem too good to be true.

  • Liquidity: Magic cards are much less liquid than stocks or crypto. It takes more time and effort to find a buyer and complete a sale. This is especially true for niche cards that have low demand. Make sure you‘re not investing money you can‘t afford to have tied up.

  • Market Manipulation: Because the Magic secondary market is unregulated, it‘s possible for collectors and stores to manipulate prices through strategic buyouts. Be wary when a card spikes dramatically in price without a clear catalyst. Don‘t let FOMO (fear of missing out) drive you to make risky purchases.

All this being said, many collectors have built very successful investment portfolios with Magic cards. Just make sure you‘re going in with eyes open to the risks as well as the potential rewards.

Wrapping Up

Whether you‘re sitting on a shoe box full of old cards or looking for alternative investments, there is serious money to be made in the world of Magic: The Gathering. As we‘ve shown in this guide, some of the rarest and most powerful Magic cards are worth more than a brand new car, with the most iconic cards even approaching the price of a house.

The most valuable Magic cards tend to be on the Reserved List from the earliest 1993-1994 sets like Alpha, Beta, Arabian Nights, and Legends. Popular tournament staples and foils from modern sets can also be worth a pretty penny. But to get the most value out of your collection, you need to learn how to accurately assess condition and determine fair market prices.

Thanks to online price guides, marketplaces, and auction houses, it‘s never been easier to research Magic card values and cash out your collection. But like any collectible market, it takes time and experience to master the nuances and avoid overpaying or getting ripped off.

Ultimately, Magic is a beloved game first and an investment second. The best collectors tend to be the ones who understand the game and have a genuine passion for the art, story, and mechanics behind the cards. Not every card in your collection is going to pay off your mortgage, but by researching and staying engaged in the hobby, you can build a collection that brings both joy and financial rewards for years to come.

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