This week I discovered a major blind-spot in my approach to Magic finance which has surely cost me money over the years. Simply becoming aware of it allowed me to immediately pull a ton of extra value from my bulk cards and profit from my newfound knowledge. I am sure there are others out there making the same mistake I was, so today I want to share what I learned.
What I’m talking about is basic lands, both foil and non-foil, of which it turns out many are very valuable. I always knew there were some foil lands with great art that were in high demand, but I didn’t realize just how many. There are a ton of foil lands from many sets that demand significantly more than the bulk rate, which is typically between $0.10 to $0.25 per foil basic land. Many of these lands are in high demand even for their non-foil versions, so bulk basic land boxes are worth picking through too.
My eyes were first opened up to the world of valuable basic lands when I was browsing a Facebook trade group and came across a post about a specific Foil Swamp 291 from Lorwyn, which demands $15 for mint foil versions.
I knew the art looked familiar. When I scoured my bulk foil lands I found three copies, which together are worth nearly as much as my entire box of bulk foils would sell for to a dealer. The scary thing about the situation is that I’ve been trying to pawn off my bulk rares and foils on Craigslist for weeks—if someone bought my cards they would have handsomely profited from my ignorance.
What was most startling is that even nonfoil versions of the land sells for almost a dollar, and it’s actually on buylists. An even more valuable land from Lorwyn is Island 287, foils of which are nearly $20.
Nonfoil versions of these lands can’t be had any cheaper than $1 on TCGplayer, which puts them into the realm of Snow-Covered lands, which I always treated as the gold pickings of bulk lands.
There are actually many more valuable lands, and I am sure they are sitting unpicked in countless bulk cards around the world. I recently sold tens of thousands of picked bulk cards, including a few thousand land. Now I wonder just how much value I gave away in the form of basic lands I could have sold for very significant amounts.
These Lorwyn lands are so valuable both because of their great art, but also because of their relatively low supply. Lorwyn is notorious for a low print-run, and high prices in turn, because it was released right before the massive boom in Magic that came in the years following.
This provides clues as to what lands are valuable. These valuable lands are found in old sets, starting from when foil basics first appeared—with the release of Mercadian Masques in 1999—to the beginning of the Magic boom around Rise of Eldrazi in 2010.
I’ve always known about the “Razor Plains,” Mirrodin Plains 290. But it turns out that it isn’t even particularly valuable compared to other lands, only demanding a couple bucks, and there’s a ton of lands worth more.
The most impressive basic land I came across in my bulk was Odyssey Plains 333. Another iconic Plains, this one is worth nearly $25 foil. It’s worth an incredible $1.25 for the non-foil version, and no cheaper than $0.50 for even Heavily Played copies.
I was also surprised to learn that another land in Odyssey, Forest 349, was worth over $10 for foils, with nonfoils around $0.50.
John Avon is known for his stunning land artwork, so his lands often demand a premium. A good example is Invasion Plains 331, worth $8 for near-mint foils.
When I saw Shards of Alara Plains 233 I picked it because it because it looked cool, but I didn’t expect it would be worth over $5.
It turns out that a couple other lands from Shards of Alara are valuable too, with foils of Island 236 demanding near $10, and Swamp 238 around $8. Again, nonfoils of these lands are also worth far above bulk rate.
If you look at buylist prices for basic land in various sets, you’ll be surprised by how many have a land or two that are worth something significant. If you have any bulk lands, foil or otherwise, I recommend familiarizing yourself with the valuable lands and picking your bulk.
Even easier—just run your basic lands through Quiet Speculation’s Ion Scanner, and you’ll immediately know the best buylist price available for each. Even if you don’t want to buylist the lands, it’s a great way to identify and separate the good stuff from the true bulk.