Insider: The Collector’s Mindset

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I consider myself a bit schizophrenic when it comes to my Magic habits. So far in my articles, the player and trader have had a lot of opportunity to speak; however, I also consider myself a collector.

Usually my three "personalities" are in sync and work together to improve my collection. The trader supplies the cards and makes sure we get a deal. The player ensures we can have fun with the game and identifies cards to pick up for play purposes, giving the trader input on what is good to play. Meanwhile, the collector ensures we also pick up other cards, so that the player has them available for future deck building, and the trader has long-term investments that grow steadily.

I wouldn't call this perfect synergy—the collector and player at times want to hold cards that the trader would prefer to move—but it works for me. Today I am going to try to give you some insight into the collector's mindset so that you have some idea of what to expect when you come across one of them.

There are basically two things I collect in Magic:

  • Any and all Elvish Archers with the older art.
  • A playset of all unique cards in Magic from their first non-foil English printing with normal borders (and one copy of expensive restricted cards).

As the former is much easier to show off than the latter, I will focus on that. I have taken a picture of every tournament-legal English Elvish Archers with the right art to give a bit of an idea of what such a collection would entail.

Alpha, Beta, Unlimited, Revised, Summer Edition, 4th Edition, Alternate 4th Edition, Rivals, 5th Edition and 6th Edition Elvish Archers
From left to right: Alpha, Beta, Unlimited, Revised, Summer Edition, 4th Edition, Alternate 4th Edition, Introductory Two-Player Set, 5th Edition, and 6th Edition Elvish Archers. Rivals is missing because I was not aware of it being different from the Introductory Two-Player Set at the time I wrote this, I do have a copy.

Would you have guessed that there are ten eleven different versions of Elvish Archers that meet my criteria for collecting? I forgot the Rivals one myself!

I also own Collectors Edition, International Collectors Edition, World Championship Deck and Beta/Collectors Edition artist proof Elvish Archers, which are not tournament-legal but might be considered part of the English set (I'm missing other artist proofs though). I own many duplicates, a bunch of foreign ones, and even a Reaper Miniature (sealed in box). I would guess I own roughly 200 in total and I am always looking to pick up more of them (if the price is right).

Until recently, taking this picture would have been impossible, as the Summer Edition copy recently arrived at my place. I'd been looking for one for at least a decade without ever seeing one for sale, and it's been a highlight in an otherwise fairly dark period of my life (I have recently lost my job among other things).

What made it even better is that I was able to trade for the card too (keeping the trader happy, as he certainly wouldn't have wanted to spend the $2000 ABU asked for it). In my excitement about receiving it, I posted a picture on the Magic: The Gathering Misprints and Oddities Facebook group with the text, "I collect Elvish Archers, so imagine how happy I am that this came in today." To date, 173 people have liked or otherwise reacted to the picture.

Now that the Summer Edition version is in my possession, I feel ready to start on a global set of Archers, extending my quest. This has been my plan for several years, presuming I could ever locate a Summer copy as that would be the hardest by far.


The picture above shows about as much value as a (beat-up) Black Lotus. I'm sure you must be wondering why anyone would want to spend those resources just to collect a usually near-bulk rare. The trader in me definitely agrees with you—it's madness! Yet the collector can't be happier. Let me try to explain why I feel drawn to the Elvish Archers.

  • I got the Two-Player Introductory Set decks when celebrating the birthday of Sinterklaas (somewhat like Santa Claus) back in the first month that I started playing Magic. I had barely purchased any other packs before that so it constituted a pretty significant part of my early collection.
  • The card seemed pretty good to me and I absolutely loved the flavor text. I think the art is pretty cool too, though why a card called Elvish Archers would have only a single Archer in the art confused me.
  • In the very next set, Stronghold, a common was printed that was pretty much exactly the same card (Youthful Knight—I didn't think a color shift mattered much at the time). I felt sorry for the Archers.
  • The card was a staple of my first somewhat good deck, Mono-Green Stompy. I loved playing Giant Growth on an Archers to have it take down something much bigger and live to tell the tale.
  • I learned that it was misprinted in Alpha, which added some mystique to the card for me.

My history with the card makes it important to me. I'm sure that if we ask Sig about his Jaya Ballard, Task Mage collection we'll get a similar answer. In fact, I have asked him exactly that. Here was his response:

I wanted to have something to collect—something that transcended finance and could get me excited about MTG. I chose Jaya because I always loved her quotes on some of the older cards. I also read the Ice Age set of books by Jeff Grubb and Jaya was a character in the story that had such a fun personality. Lastly, no one can argue with the sweet art.

If you know a collector like myself or Sig, and know what they are after, you can trade for it knowing you'll be able to move the card. This means that you can pick up cards that others would pass on. Your trading partner is likely to value these cards low, while your collector is likely to value them higher as they are special to them. A quick flip can be very profitable.

jaya-ballardThere are many variants of collectors. Sig and I just both happen to have a card we collect (similarly I know a retired player who still wants each and every Ball Lightning I can find for him). I also know people who collect foils, white cards, one copy of every card, Alpha, and more.

Knowing that the Alpha collector was still missing a Chaos Orb allowed me to make a very beneficial deal with him after picking one up when I was in Germany. The set collector would always overtrade for missing pieces for his collection. I haven't been able to trade with the white cards guy just yet, but if we ever do, I know which pages of my binder to point him towards.

The foil guy has gone through my foil bulk several times. He was always happy to give me double the amount in bulk for anything he picked out, letting me double up with little work. I also picked up a couple of foil Swords of X and Y that he gave me about 1.5 times my cost for, because they had been so difficult for him to find.

All this was possible because I knew these collectors' particular preferences. It's hard to predict what a particular collector will like, and it's impossible to predict what the next collector you meet will be after. But you better make sure to pay attention when he tells you—you will want to start picking it up, whatever it is!

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Niels Rietkerk

Niels currently lives in Amsterdam, The Netherlands and has been collecting, playing and trading since '97. A casual player at heart, his first official tournament was the Unhinged prerelease. You can most commonly find him playing multiplayer Commander, probably trying to talk his way to a win. He has always been passionate about trading, but these days leaves the more volatile markets to people with more time, instead focusing primarily on bulk and collections. As he's one of the most prolific forum members it should come as no surprise that Niels loves to discuss. Feel free to comment or reach out to him on the forums or through Twitter.

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2 thoughts on “Insider: The Collector’s Mindset

  1. Nice article! I know there are many collectors like us out there. I think there’s even a forum thread called “Stupid cards we collect”. Where people can see what others are after.

    In a way I’m fortunate Jaya was reprinted as a promo multiple times. It makes collecting her far cheaper! 🙂

    1. Thanks!

      We actually have a subforum under single card discussion for it.

      I’ve seen many who collect a specific card, there’s even a global collectors FB group. I think that next to misprints it’s the most popular way of collecting. I stayed away from misprints in my article because it’s hard to estimate value and I have never met collectors like that in person.

      Mostly you’re lucky that she doesn’t have some super special rare version. The Archers have been part of many extra rare sets: Alpha, Beta, Summer, Alt. 4th, but also Korean 5th and 7th for Foils (though fortunately I don’t really care for that art, but getting a 7th Foil in all languages would likely prove to be a bit of a challenge).

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