Bad Financial Advice from 1995

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I recently attained some copies of old MTG magazines. For those of you who grew up with Scrye, Inquest, or The Duelist, you understand the nostalgia involved here, but for those of you too young to remember paper magazines, allow me to explain. You see, back in the day, we didn't have Daily MTG or Quiet Speculation or basically any Magic websites at all. We certainly didn't have easy access to pricing through Trader Tools, TCGplayer, or whatever. What we had were monthly magazines, and they were glorious. They had price guides and articles, the same thing you're used to now, except that we only got them once a month, so they were about 30 times as special as the articles you read on a daily basis (not to downplay my efforts too much or anything...).

I'm going to be writing up the periodic post about what I find in these old magazines, so let me know: what do you want to see? Old articles? Decklists? Pricing? All of the above? Misconceptions about how good a bad card is or how bad  good card is? Typos? There's some great comedy and historic gold in these pages, but there's so much of it that I need to know what you, the readers, want to see. Tweet at me or let me know in the comments.

Today, let's take a look at some of the awesomeness contained in Scrye #10, published in 1995 (but oddly, without a publication month apparent anywhere in the issue).


First, let's take a look at how MTG finance worked in the early days of the game.


Have you heard of any of the cards M. Dwyer called out? I have not, but let me tag them for you here: Ebon Praetor, Breeding Pit, Hand of Justice.

I have to admit, Ebon Praetor has some fantastic art, and I am quite sure I've never seen the card before now. On the other hand, I did remember Breeding Pit once I saw the art. If Dwyer liked this, I wonder what he thinks about Awakening Zone! Hand of Justice... meh.

As for the advice to buy Fallen Empires boxes for $40: this was obviously correct. I mean, it is a 20-year-old set, but take a look at the current eBay listings! A clear double-up opportunity was missed by all those stupid dealers who didn't want to hold their boxes.



This is interesting for two reasons:

1. Even back in 1995, people were complaining about speculators being more important to Wizards than players. Some things never change.

2. Chronicles and Ice Age were two of the most overprinted sets in history. Their cards are worthless today because there are so many in existence. Yet Scrye was talking about shortages. It just goes to show how misperceptions, misinformation, and rumors can impact the game.

The issue featured some awful custom card designs, with this one taking the cake:


I, for one, am glad that Aaron got the WOTC development job over his brother, Steve.

And then we have prices. The price guide itself is interesting, but I'm ignoring that for the advertisements. Seeing what "deals" some places were offering is pretty insane:


What do you think? Would you rather buy a set of Revised for $400 or Ice Age for $500? Maybe an Antiquities set for even less?

Take a look at what Ice Age singles were going for:


Icy Manipulator is an uncommon, but nobody knew which cards were which rarities, so they have it listed here as a rare and for nine dollars. Jester's Cap was the most expensive card in the set, selling for $24.


Meanwhile, Necropotence, the set's clear winner as far as power level, is sitting at only $7. Go figure.

Here's some more crazy prices from a different store:


Yes, Fork was the most expensive card in Revised. Look at all the bad cards that cost more than Demonic Tutor. Did nobody know how to evaluate cards or what? And this shop is selling Icy Manipulator for $12! The craziest part about this list is that many of these cards are straight-up bulk now. People talk about how Shivan Dragon was the most expensive card back in the day, but here we see it illustrated. People, Sylvan Library was in Fourth Edition. It's not even listed here!

I could probably write another few thousand words on all of the information we could glean from this issue, but I'm going to leave some of the greatness for y'all to pick out. Comment below with your favorite observation from these photos. And again, let me know what you'd like to see from these old magazines! This is but a small sampling of the hilarious nonsense and interesting history I found in this issue, and I've got a bunch more to go through. Until next time!

13 thoughts on “Bad Financial Advice from 1995

  1. This is a fun article and nice look at the past. The utility land would not be so op if a complete cycle of them were to be introduced: 1) a land that taps for red mana that has: (tap) deal three damage to target creature or player 2) a land that taps for green mana that has: (tap) add 3 colorless mana to your mana pool. Use this only to cast creatures. 3) a land that taps for white mana that has: (tap) put a 2/1 soldier token on the battlefield under your control 4) a land that taps for black mana that has: (tap) destroy target non black creature. As for what you should share out of these, you are already doing a great job and I’m sure whatever piques your interest will be interesting to your readers too.

  2. Cloister’s trading card price lists started in ’94, that’s probably the earliest card pricing was available through the world wide web.

    There were shortages back in the day, Wizards underestimated demand and probably didn’t have a good enough distribution network. Probably Wizards printed too much in response to the demand.

    One of my first packs was an Ice Age one with both an Icy and a Cap! 🙂 By that time rarities were known, but, Icy was always an uncommon priced at rare level (also note several Revised uncommons in the later ad).

    I’d actually like to read the magazines themselves, but barring that, some of the stories, such as the ’96 Duelist article that has formed the basis for Commander. You might like to get people who were around during that time to review what you write (I’ve been around since ’97 myself, I’m sure people who were around back then would have even more to comment on).

  3. I started playing in 1994 so I can confirm that supply was an issue. I remember our LGS having to ration packs and there would be times where stores just Didn’t have packs. Getting 4-of for a deck was difficult because stores had low singles inventory so you had to open or trade for almost everything. Due to this, most decks were terrible or built suboptimally. People played lots of 1-of cards because they wanted to show them off and ot because it fit with their deck theme.

  4. I remember the first time that I saw Deflection in 1995 watching some older kids play in our high school cafeteria, I thought that was the coolest card ever. It’s got such badass art and turning a giant fireball back to their owner? It’s a Counterspell + Fork rolled into one, what could be better! Definitely worth its price as the 3rd best card from Ice Age after the ridiculously bomby Jester’s artifacts.

  5. Hindsight is 20/20 and you obviously didn’t play in 1995! I got 2 Moxes for a Balduvian Horde(!). And yes, people were terrible at card evaluations then as they are now. Because there was NO internet. Now people are actually worse at card evaluations because they’re told and SEE what’s good, yet they still refuse to believe it. Proof; Card spikes.

  6. If you didn’t play back then, and you obviously didn’t, then you can’t begin to understand all the changes that have come down since. Limited card pool, no internet to hive mind every card, and deck building truisms we follow today at not even been invented yet. No mana curve; no aggro vs. control vs. midrange vs. combo archetypes; not even automatically playing 4 of all your best cards. And yes, Icy Manipulator was a bomb card that could tap the elusive and unstoppable Serra Angel or your opponents City of Brass (and for damage no less). In fact I once set up at a local convention as a dealer of comics and traded an unlimited Icy straight across for a Mox Sapphire. After the guy talked me into it cause he had extra Moxes but really needed the Icy to play in a tournament. Context is what you are missing when you read those old magazines. Very cool article and I look forward to seeing what else you can pull from the past.

  7. If you have any Inquest top ten lists, those are always great. I remember Necropotence being named the worst card (or worst rare?) in Ice Age and Balduvian Horde being ranked over Force of Will in Alliances.

    On that note, in the mid-to-late-90’s, I’m pretty sure I traded a Force of Will for a Chronicles Erhnam Djinn–they were about the same price in Inquest, and I figured the deck I was using didn’t have enough blue cards to make Force of Will worth playing. Oops…

  8. I really enjoy these old-school articles. I was a sportscard collector who was drawn to Magic in the mid-90’s in part because I could actually use and enjoy the cards rather than just look at them. Scrye and Inquest were like the Beckett price guides of the CCG world and the excitement and anticipation that preceded each monthly issue is unmatched in today’s on-demand information society. Thank you for the blast from the past.

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