Insider: The $30 tickets in Magic (that aren’t Magic cards)

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There's a lot to Magic that's worth cash beyond just the cards themselves. There are promotional items, oversized cards, optional expansions and more. While you and I don't chase these things down most of the time, there are collectors who want these items and they're willing to pay some serious cash for them. This week, we're going to look at good trade-worthy items in Magic that are not strictly legal things in themselves.

The Planechase Planes

Planechase is an optional expansion for Magic. The Planechase 2012 set came out recently, so you probably know a little about it. In short, people make decks of planes that they use alongside their regular deck. It's a fun and casual sort of thing. The whole collection of Planes, minus the one I'm about to talk about, retails for about $120-140. That's a bit of cash, but it's a serious ordeal to actually get those cards assembled. The one that's worth looking out for, especially because it's hard to find in trade binders, is Tazeem:

It's that second line that you really care about. In Planechase, you have the possibility of rolling a die and activating that ability. The more mana you have, the more rolls you can make. Later in the game with enough lands, you're pretty locked on being able to roll a die and get that super-draw. You might see 8+ cards from the ability, which is pretty good for Planechase.

Tazeem was a promotional card and wasn't available in any of the precons. Thus, the price of the card is directly related to the fact that most people forgot about their Tazeems when they got them or lost them. This sort of thing happens more than you'd think. In other games (Fantasy Flight's line comes to mind), they occasionally release little promos with convention goodie bags - those promos, which sometimes are no more than a few extra item cards, can fetch $100+. Tazeem isn't that expensive, but it does go for a cool $35.00 on eBay. I don't think you'll get many Planechase cards in trade, but they're great to look for if you're scouting out collections to buy.


The Vanguard Superstars

Vanguard was, like Planechase, another alternate way to play Magic. Instead of making a deck full of cards that you'd randomly planeswalk into, though, you could choose one Vanguard and have them act like an Emblem on the battlefield. It would affect your starting/max hand size and life, and the better ones usually really punished you on those two factors. Several sets of Vanguard came out, and the sets tend to go for $20-30 apiece. Completed sets of all of Vanguard go for over $200. This is all despite the fact that I've never seen someone actually play Vanguard. The superstar of Vanguard, though, is Titania:

So you get to start with Exploration in play AND you get two extra cards! No wonder people want to play with Titania. I can't think of a deck that would rather have any other effect, be it the token-making of Sliver Queen, the recurring monsters from Gix or the No Mercy effect of Ashnod (and all of those are $10 Vanguards). Titania is so insane, who cares if you get 5 less life? Again, this is a card that you're going to see in collections instead of binders, but it's worth keeping an eye out for. Titania readily sells for $45.00 on eBay.

Solid Gold-Bordered Cards

For about a decade, Wizards of the Coast would print the World Championships decks in collectible form. They had gold borders and non-standard Magic backs. To everyone, it's apparent that they aren't legal Magic cards. However, they are playable in a sleeve and a lot of EDH groups and casual circles will allow the gold-bordered cards to creep in. After all, why pay $240 for a set of Force of Wills when you can get a stack of gold-bordered ones for much less? Despite being unplayable in tournaments, these cards command a non-zero value.

Most gold-bordered playable cards tend to be worth about $1-4. There's a threshold where they tend to be worth significantly more, though, and most are valued at about 20% of their real value. So a card like Force of Will still sells for $10 in its golden format. Cards like Gaea's Cradle have been creeping up near $13 or more lately because everyone wants them for EDH and nobody wants to buy the regular version. Since it's on the Reserved List, the gold-frame card is the only discount you're gonna find. People tend to have these kinds of cards in their binders and it's worth seeing what they'll let them go for. Wasteland, Force of Will, Rishadan Port, fetchlands and more can go for $5-$12. These are another literal gold mine in collections if the person had the right promotional sets.

Just don't lose out like this guy and sell 27 Cursed Scrolls for $10.00!

The Duelist Abacus

Duelist was the official Magic magazine and it was a heck of a read. It was around for the first few years of Magic and featured behind-the-scenes interviews, set building articles and the killer decks of the day. It invented terms like "moxen" and "Mr. Suitcase." Duelist folded, like Scrye and Inquest, when the Internet killed slow magazine-format Magic writing.

Duelist also ran promotions, and one of the most interesting ones was for an abacus that you could use to keep track of life totals. Back at the beginning of Magic, people would use d20s, flat marbles, pen and paper and more. There were no spindowns or tracking apps. The abacus was, and still is, a very cool way to track your life total; I'm surprised that nobody has recreated it. Here's what they looked like:

They came in all the colors of the mana; this one is red. Duelist made and sold these for awhile, but when the magazine disappeared, so did the abaci. You could get these for $20 on the secondary market for a long time, but demand has gone up and nothing has risen to meet it. These sell for $65-75 on eBay right now, with fierce bidding. This is a real gem to find in collections; I've seen otherwise-terrible collections with three of these in them sell for 200+. Definitely an item to keep an eye out for.

Squirrels on your Mat

Grand Prix: Lincoln featured a hugely-popular playmat with Magic's favorite tribe prominently featured:

No, not werewolves, squirrels! This is a well-known expensive item, but it's worth mentioning anyway. These had a price high at about $125, but they've settled down to about $70 on eBay. That's still an absurd amount for a playmat, but I think it's a fine reward for someone who had to travel to Nebraska for a weekend to get it...


That wraps up my brief tour of the ephemera that surrounds Magic and that you can sell. If you know something that I missed, chime up in the response thread! While misprints are a well-known and mostly-misvalued treasure, so are these sorts of things. They are the marshmallow center that makes a boring collection amazing; they are the gem in the store's junk bin. Happy hunting!

Until next week,

Doug Linn

Douglas Linn

Doug Linn has been playing Magic since 1996 and has had a keen interest in Legacy and Modern. By keeping up closely with emerging trends in the field, Doug is able to predict what cards to buy and when to sell them for a substantial profit. Since the Eternal market follows a routine boom-bust cycle, the time to buy and sell short-term speculative investments is often a narrow window. Because Eternal cards often spike in value once people know why they are good, it is essential for a trader to be connected to the format to get great buys before anyone else. Outside of Magic, Doug is an attorney in the state of Ohio.  Doug is a founding member of Quiet Speculation, and brings with him a tremendous amount of business savvy.

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16 thoughts on “Insider: The $30 tickets in Magic (that aren’t Magic cards)

  1. Funny you should mention the gold cards considering we buy every single copy we see if it's of a card over $5. Bushard is convinced they will be legal some day. I am convinced that I feel silly buying fake cards with real money.

  2. I'd expect them to legalize (international) collector's edition before the world championship decks to reduce entry cost to Vintage and Legacy. I'm with you, I would not buy those world championship decks expecting them to become legal.

    I like how the Black Lotus D20's are a fairly expensive commodity that few know about. Some set binders can be expensive. There's this Time Spiral box set with a T-Shirt, necklace and some other stuff that goes for about $50 despite containing only 3 boosters. I've even seen empty booster and starter boxes being offered online.

      1. In the oven. I had a scratch in the plastic on mine. and I thought it was that same sort of plastic that is used in the stained glass window kits you can get at a craft store. Well, it isn't. It is hard as rock epoxy.
        and that pewter abacus gets very soft at 170°F and it's a little melty looking now.

    1. They're bound to go up and at some point they will go beyond the value of the singles. Most duel decks do too and these decks are better than them. I think holding on to a few of those could be a great spec.

        1. I think the Commander decks are better*, so more likely to rise. The Planechase decks have soem cool new cards though, several seeing play in Legacy. I don't think they're a bad investment.

          * I actually manage to win games with unmodified Commander precons in my regular EDH group. I haven't played them all that often yet, maybe 20 games in total across all 5. I just can't win with Kaalia, but the others stand a pretty good chance in my hands. I've won every game I played Zedruu and most of the others have won more than they lost. I have to work a lot harder at winning when playing them, but it is certainly possible to actually beat decently constructed casual decks with them.

  3. Great article, older D20's like from odyssey, torment, etc. Go for around 40-50 bucks, also old fat pack checklists can be worth 10-20 bucks as well. Most people trade those away for next to nothing.

  4. Thanks Pi

    The problem with sealed products is that the shipment to the buyer (Ebay) is needing more attention so that it will arrive in a more or less mint state. Or do you sell them to vendors like SCG,NM?

  5. I would try to sell in person ideally. One reason I stay out of sealed product is the reason you mention, another is fewer large shops in these parts. Which doesn't mean there's no profit to be had. You just have to take it into account. Count on about 14 euro in shipping, 7 to get it, 7 to move it again. if (sellprice-buyprice)<14 euro, don't get in. Obviously your profits will be great every time you can then manage to sell in person.

    Earlier I didn't remember you were also from NL. That also explains which shop you are referring to with the acronym NM ;).

  6. Haha , I live in Ireland now where it seems I have to buy up some LGS here. Guess I will speculate on this sealed products and decide later ( >x year(s)) whether to open them or not. Currently there is 0 spread on it so basically I only lose money due inflation

    Thanks again

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