In the 90s, long before any whiff of butterbeer or chocolate frogs were on the horizon, you had Magic the Gathering. A wicked fast and thought-provoking tabletop card game, Magic the Gathering was the first of its kind. Thousands of decks were sold those first few years, with cards like Black Lotus becoming so infamous even non-players knew of their mythical powers. You, too, can tap into those rare cards' powers by exchanging them for thousands of dollars to one of the serious (and seriously wealthy) collectors around the world.
Extremely Valuable Magic the Gathering Cards to Collect
|Most Valuable Magic the Gathering Cards||Recent Sale Price|
For almost 30 years, new MTG cards have found their way into decks around the world, but it's the original decks released in 1993 that get serious MTG players and card collectors' blood pumping. Both the Beta and Alpha series are valuable in their own right, with Alpha surpassing Beta by a few thousand dollars each time, and the Unlimited series taking up the rear.
These cards are easy to spot because of how different they look from the newest MTG cards. With fewer bells and whistles on them, these cards definitely look like they'd be right at home with bold 90s web design and inflatable chairs. With a name, type, description, and artwork, the most valuable MTG cards aren't particularly special at first glance. But the momentous launch they represent and how hard it is to find some of them in a good condition makes them worth the extra zeros at the end of their price tags.
You can't get more valuable than the Alpha Black Lotus MTG card. Despite being worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in some cases, the card is banned in a lot of gameplay because of what it can do. When pulled, the card gives the player three extra mana - a resource that's needed to complete many different actions in the game - and potentially devastate their opponent(s) way earlier than they'd normally be able to.
Although you won't see one of these in the wild when you're competing, you can find them on the collectors' market where people pay top dollar for them. Cards in a pristine condition frequently sell for over $100,000, like this artist signed card in perfect condition that sold in 2021 for $511,100.
A pretty artifact card, the Mox Sapphire grants players one blue mana. It's one of the most valuable vintage MTG cards. Alpha editions of the highest quality are worth just a bit more than their Beta counterparts, but you see Beta cards come to auction more often. Usually, you're looking at payouts in the $10,000-$20,000 range. For example, a gem mint 10 (perfect condition) Beta card sold in 2020 for $16,200.
Ancestral Recall is another original Beta and Alpha card that lets players pull three cards in exchange for one blue mana. The antiquated soldier in the artwork with his devastated look has the right idea since this card can be used to get a serious advantage on your opponent. Both Alpha and Beta cards come to auction regularly, with the best-looking ones selling for about $10,000 each. For example, an ungraded Alpha pair sold for $10,510.
Typically, an Alpha card would've sold for more than your average Beta card (especially two of them!), but this is where card grading comes in handy. Having a professional grader vouch for your card's condition will show collectors how valuable (and maybe rare) your card is. Best of all? It makes them shell out the big bucks.
A close sister to the Mox Sapphire card, Mox Ruby is also an artifact that gives the player mana, though red instead of blue. Interestingly, though it does the same thing that the Mox Sapphire card does, it's not quite as valuable, selling in the best condition for $10,000-$25,000. For example, as recently as 2019, a perfect mint card from the Alpha set sold on eBay for $24,200.
Another of the original 1993 cards is Time Walk, known as one of the "Power Nine" aka the nine most powerful cards in all of MTG's catalog. Despite how powerful it is, you won't see many people wielding this card in the wild, since it's banned in almost every game format. But that doesn't mean it's not an expensive card to own. Alpha Time Walk cards in nearly perfect condition frequently sell for about $15,000-$20,000 at auction. Most recently, a gem mint copy sold for $29,100 on eBay, making this card a must-have for serious MTG collectors.
The original Timetwister card is a sorcery card that, when pulled, lets the player and their opponent shuffle their deck and draw an entirely new hand. Basically, if things are going badly, you can wipe the board clean and start over. It's a seriously useful card to have, and players love collecting the original Alpha series in higher mints. Most recently, an almost perfect Alpha Timetwister sold for $10,655 on eBay. Just like most of its fellow Alpha series cards, Timetwisters are worth around $10,000 each.
Mox Jet is the black mana version of the other Mox artifact cards from the first few decks released in 1993. Comparable in price to the Mox Ruby card, you can find Mox Jet cards from the Alpha, Beta, and Unlimited series for sale in the thousands. You really want to look for those in peak condition without any damage because they typically bring in about $10,000 at auction. For example, one Unlimited card in perfect condition recently sold for $10,975.
What Makes Magic the Gathering Cards Valuable?
Just like any other trading cards, not all MTG cards are worth their weight in gold. Only a handful of them continue to rake in thousands of dollars. Thankfully, we know the reasons they do, and they are characteristics that you can be on the lookout for, too.
Made in 1993
Cards from the first few decks released in the game's initial year hold a special place in players' hearts and are the most valuable. Be on the hunt for either Alpha, Beta, or Unlimited cards, each of which has their own unique designs.
- Alpha - This is basic card with very little information (artwork, title, description, etc.), but with about 2mm rounded edges
- Beta - Almost identical to the Alpha card, Beta cards have a slightly less rounded edge that you can't really see with your naked eye.
- Unlimited - Unlike Alpha and Beta cards with their black borders, Unlimited cards have a bright white border but share all the other same features.
Condition is of the utmost importance for card collecting. When you're looking at two cards from the same deck and year, the only thing that can differentiate the two is which one is in a better state. Professional graders, like PSA, assess trading cards and give them a grade for how good their conditions are, with near mints, mints, and gem mints (8-10) being the most valuable. So, if you've got a card in a really great condition, it's worth having it graded because that paperwork will let you sell it for double your money.
It's Magic, You Know
Like Rocky Horror Picture Show, Magic the Gathering is a cult classic, and it has an eager fanbase that continues to scour the internet for new and old cards to collect. While you might not have picked up any MTG cards in years, those early ones you played with as a kid just might be worth hunting down and selling today.