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Insider: Investing in a Long-Forgotten Set

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It’s time to play a guessing game. I am going to rattle off some characteristics of a set and I want you to try and guess which set I’m referring to. Trust me, this has financial implications, so just stick with me for a moment.

Hint 1: It is the set with the most all-time highs on MTGStocks.com (18 in the past five days).
Hint 2: The set is nearly sold out of every relevant card on TCG Player and eBay.
Hint 3: The print run for rares is larger than Alpha and Beta but far less than Unlimited.
Hint 4: The set was released in December 1993.
Hint 5: About 15,000 of each card in the set were printed, though I suspect a good amount have been lost/damaged over the years.

Did you guess it yet? The answer is…

Collectors’ Edition / International Edition

Worth a Second Look

According to MTG Salvation Wiki, “The Collectors’ Edition of Magic: the Gathering was released in December 1993. Approximately 9000 sets were printed for the U.S. and Canada (CE) and another 5000 were printed for international release (ICE)…The faces are identical to the Beta printing, but have square corners. The Reverse side has golden borders around the edges and gold printing saying either “Collector’s Edition” [sic] or International Edition.”

You may be thinking, “Wait a second…do you really expect me to read an entire article dedicated to a set that isn’t tournament-legal?”

Yes. At least I hope you will read it all because there are some financially relevant things going on with this set that merit a closer look. I posted about this in the QS forums and not many people responded. That’s okay. I didn’t expect a lot of interest in this post at first. I even indicated in the post that I would do some more digging to report back on whether or not this set should be looked at more closely.

It is.

Over the past week I began searching the internet for Collectors’ Edition and International Edition cards and I discovered a pretty relevant fact: there are very few out there! I mean, extremely few. Often times there would be one or two copies on eBay, one or two on TCG Player, a few across the largest Magic vendors, and that’s it.

Let’s use Disrupting Scepter as an example.

How much do you think this card is worth? How many are on the market? Here are the quantities I could find between CE and IE:

TCG Player: 0
eBay: 18 (All from a single seller with a $9.98 price tag)
Star City Games: 0
Card Kingdom: 0
ABU Games: 15 ($6.49 for CE, $11.50 for IE)
Card Shark: 0

It appears only two sellers have copies available, at price tags far higher than the other vendors. Want to know why? It’s because all the cheaper copies have sold! This isn’t just laziness on a few vendors’ parts here. There is real demand for these, hence the nonzero buylists and the eBay completed listing from last week.

Sold

If only one recent completed listing isn’t inspiring, then check out what shows up for Chaos Orb. (Disclaimer: one of these completed listings is a copy I purchased.)

Sold2

Did you expect to see such high prices on non-tournament-playable cards? I sure didn’t.

Now I understand why Star City Games is paying $30 on Near Mint CE Chaos Orbs and $40 on Near Mint IE copies. There is real demand here.

Where is this Demand Coming From?

One answer, two words: Old School. While the format’s founders never supported the use of Collectors’ Edition and International Edition cards in ‘93/’94, many play circles have relaxed the card set restrictions to enable more players to get involved. It would appear that some communities stateside formally allow the use of these square-cut cards.

Technically speaking, the official Old School site states that Eternal Central rules allow for CE and IE cards.

Eternal Central

At last, there’s a reason to sleeve up CE and IE cards. And honestly, when double sleeved these cards are sufficiently indistinguishable that it really doesn’t matter. And if you follow the honor system and shuffle as usual, a card’s corners are irrelevant. Will these ever be allowed in a WOTC sanctioned event? Perhaps not. But the goal of the Old School player isn’t to play in sanctioned tournaments anyway so this doesn’t factor into the equation.

Bottom line: these are playable. By the way, I personally would rather play a CE/IE copy of a card than a Revised copy. Aesthetically speaking the black border and bold colors are far more attractive than the white border and washed-out look of Revised. I’m sure many would agree.

OK… So What?

My usual PSA for buying Old School cards holds true here. Please do not go and buy the market out of CE and IE cards. For one, it’ll take you forever to move them for profit (buylists have been increasing over time but the movement has been extremely slow).  The one seller with 18 eBay copies is experiencing this firsthand. I don’t know where they got that many copies, but it looks like they’ve sold five so far over the last month or so. I’m sure if he dropped his price 50% he’d see faster velocity, but I’m guessing it won’t leave him with much profit.

Secondly, we really want these cards in the hands of players and collectors, not speculators. If you buy up CE and IE cards it prevents players from entering the format in a budget-friendly manner. That said, I definitely encourage buying up copies that will be useful for play now or down the road. They’re not printing more of these things, and as long as Magic remains healthy these cards should gradually increase in value over time, just like any collectible card from around Magic’s inception.

Those disclaimers aside, let me flag a trend worth noting. Everyone already knew that CE and IE Power and dual lands were already expensive. Many players use these in their cubes as budget replacements for the real thing, so the fact that Moxen are already $100 isn’t surprising. What is surprising is that many Old School-playable cards have moved quite a bit as well.

I already mentioned Disrupting Scepter and Chaos Orb, but Jayemdae Tome has also moved quite a bit lately.

You’ll also see noteworthy price movement on Birds of Paradise, Wheel of Fortune, and Sol Ring. Naturally the more overlap between Old School and Cube, the more demand there will be for the card. But just because a card isn’t used in Cube doesn’t mean it can’t be valuable. Even Disenchant buylists for above bulk prices because of its utility in ‘93/’94.

Basically, anything that has gotten very expensive in Alpha and Beta is worth looking at in Collectors’ Edition and International Edition printings. They offer up attractive alternatives to their far more expensive black-bordered counterparts. Those square borders are unfortunate, but they aren’t completely prohibitive to play. You can detect cards with more ‘93/’94 demand because the A/B/U printings will be vastly more expensive than any other printing.

Whereas budget cubes have used these for the longest time, I believe the incremental buyer comes in the form of the Old School player. If you’ve felt that Old School was too expensive to get into, I strongly encourage you to consider picking up some CE cards as a way to get into the format in an affordable way.

I myself am picking up some CE and IE cards for a second semi-competitive deck so that I can share the format with a friend if they’re interested. These forgotten sets open up these doors to players who enjoy variety but don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on a second, third, or fourth decks.

Wrapping It Up

Well, was it worth reading through the whole article? Are you better off now knowing that a non-tournament-legal CE card such as Copy Artifact buylists to Star City Games for $6 and that copies start at $9ish on TCG Player? I suppose if you had zero interest in classic formats then perhaps not.

But if you ever buy up older collections or trade with older players at your LGS, it may be worth knowing a thing or two about this. If nothing else, the information will help round out your MTG finance knowledge and make you a better trader.

But I hope something here resonated with you. Personally, I’m inspired by these price movements. Think about it: these cards, which have historically had no utility other than at kitchen tables, can finally have their chance at being shuffled up for play. That’s the beauty of Old School---those cards we used to play as kids can finally become relevant again. What once was simply a collectible set has become a real source of playable cards at a discounted price. This sounds to me like quite the boon.

So next time you have some store credit or you are looking at picking up an older card for investment or play, consider the CE and IE printings. They will offer you the same beautiful aesthetic, playability in Old School, and a budget price versus their Alpha and Beta counterparts.

To me, this is an ideal combination. I suspect others will start to discover this as well, so I plan on acting on this instinct and buying up what I want to play with now. I would strongly encourage you do the same---just don’t go overboard.

Sigbits

  • Since managing to dodge numerous reprint opportunities, Leyline of Anticipation has recently notched new all-time highs. Years ago Star City Games liquidated numerous copies as part of a $1 sale. Now this enchantment is listed at $9.99 and Star City has just one SP and one MP copy in stock. Foils are even more impressive, retailing for $24.99!
  • The new BR Legacy Reanimator deck is still driving demand for once-forgotten cards. Reanimate just hit its all-time high and Star City Games has zero Near Mint copies in stock from either Tempest or Archenemy with a $17.99 and $19.99 price tag, respectively. Between played copies from both sets they have only seven total copies available, so it seems they’ve been having a tough time with getting new copies back in stock. I suspect a price adjustment may be on the horizon.
  • All classic printings of Balance have really gotten a bid lately. SCG has just one MP Alpha copy in stock for $299.99, one SP Beta copy for $199.99, three Unlimited copies for $49.99 (NM) or $29.99 (MP), and zero CE/IE copies at $2.99. Of all these printings, the CE/IE copies are most likely to go up in price in the near future. But this is an iconic Magic card with a lot of utility in Cube or Old School, so I don’t expect price drops any time soon!

6 thoughts on “Insider: Investing in a Long-Forgotten Set

  1. I think these cards will always be in demand because people use them to make re-backed power.

    I watch echomtg.com every day, and I have been noticing for the past year that these two sets constantly have cards up-ticking.

    1. Yeah, the re-backing is definitely going to be there unfortunately. But even beyond power and duals, it’s amazing how costly some of the smaller CE/IE cards have become. I’m glad I’m not the only one who noticed this upward trend lately. I think Old School demand is truly pushing prices higher.

  2. Also, the square cornered Chaos Orb is apparently easier to flip and land on the table accurately! I’ve been thinking about picking one up along with a Sapphire for my old school deck U/Artifact Time Vault deck, and this article has convinced me that now is the time to make my move. I play in NorCal and the community here is VERY accepting and even encouraging regarding CE cards because it helps get more people into the community without having to break the bank. Thanks Sig!

    1. Ben,

      Thanks for the tip! I had no idea Chaos Orb is easier to control with CE cards. I DID hear once that Alpha Chaos Orb was the hardest to flip…I wonder if anyone has ever done a study on this! 🙂

      I’m really happy to hear your community is accepting of CE cards…to me, having more people to battle with is preferred, so if CE enables more entrants to the format then by all means let’s open the flood gates. Not everyone feels this way, but I feel people are gradually warming up to the idea. Thanks for sharing the story, and nice pickups!

      Sig

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