The Foreign Black Border Upswing

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Remember the days when Old School cards were inexpensive and undesirable by most players? At GP Vegas in 2015, I remember walking around from vendor to vendor asking for cards like Juzám Djinn, Chaos Orb, and Beta Mind Twist. Nearly every vendor at the show didn’t bother to bring such illiquid, hard-to-sell cards.

Nowadays, between the explosion of Old School’s popularity and the advent of the “Reserved List buyouts of 2020”, these cards are readily available. The only catch is they’re more than ten times their 2015 pricing!

The result: many popular Old School cards, especially those that also see Commander play, have gotten away from many in the community. Prices have become so prohibitively expensive that the community has begun reaching for budget alternatives. Unfortunately, this has driven up the price of the budget black-bordered options as well!

Everyone knows about cheaper alternatives like Italian Legends, so I won’t dwell on those kinds of options. Instead, this week I’ll examine other black-bordered budget printings for Old School / Commander, discuss pricing, and talk about where one can buy or sell some of the more obscure options.

Copy Artifact: A Case Study

While browsing MTG Stocks Sunday morning, I noticed Copy Artifact was on the climb—it’s a likely buyout candidate but also sees significant play in Commander.

In 2015 during Grand Prix Las Vegas, as I was hunting for Old School cards, Revised Copy Artifact was $5. Today it shows as $66 on MTG Stocks and its market price is $50. That’s 1000% in price appreciation in just five years!

Obviously more prestigious printings from Beta and Alpha are even more expensive. Beta Copy Artifact’s market price is nearly $600 and Card Kingdom is completely out of stock, with $650 as their near mint price. Black bordered copies are simply out of reach, right?

Not necessarily! There are Foreign Black Border (FBB) options as well as Collectors’ Edition, for those not worried about tournament legality. Surely, those are going to be significantly cheaper, right?

That depends on how you define “significantly”. There was a time not too long ago (maybe ~2017-2018) when these would have been dirt cheap. In fact, Collectors’ Edition Copy Artifacts were under $10 in through 2017—a great budget option for players! Today’s price: nearly $50! In fact, it’s cheaper to purchase a heavily played Revised copy than it is a Collectors’ Edition copy!

FBB options have also jumped in kind. Market pricing on TCGplayer is $60—I am not sure what the price was in 2017, but I’m pretty confident it was a lot less! Perhaps the most budget option is the Foreign White Border “FWB” printing—good luck finding cheap copies outside of Europe, though. A quick search on TCGplayer and eBay suggests HP Revised is still cheapest. ABUGames prices FWB at about the same value as Revised, so all copies have climbed up in price in step.

Suddenly, budget options—especially with black borders—aren’t so “budget” anymore.

The Rise of Foreign Black Border

Copy Artifact may be special because it’s on the Reserved List, but it’s certainly no exception. Even non-RL cards popular in Old School and Commander have gotten pricey lately, lifting FBB and CE/IE versions. The result: some surprisingly expensive cards!

Looking up pricing on these cards can be tricky. Often times, popular FBB cards are too few in stock on TCGplayer and eBay in order to determine an accurate value. Card Kingdom doesn’t buy or sell FBB cards. Star City Games does, but their buy prices are significantly below market value.

Your best bet for pricing out FBB cards is ABUGames. If you don’t want to see inflated sell prices, you can examine what they’re willing to pay in cash. Here’s an example: Mana Vault.

Star City Games pays $20 in cash for FBB 1994 German Mana Vault—that’s less than they pay for white-bordered Revised copies, by the way ($30). ABUGames also pays around $30 cash for Revised Mana Vault. But their buy price for FBB 1994 German copies is $88.74 cash! That’s more than four times SCG’s offer! Honestly, this is a much closer approximation to this card’s value, driven by Commander demand no doubt.

These once eschewed printings have truly surged in price, often eclipsing their Revised counterparts. The demand for black-bordered printings of these cards is real.

Here’s another example: FBB German 1994 Mind Twist can be sold to ABUGames for $33.66! Compare that to their buy price on Revised copies, $2.64. Clearly the black-bordered printing is driving up price—it’s good to know there is an attractive buylist outlet in case you have some copies you want to sell and are having difficulty moving them.

While not tournament legal, Collectors’ Edition copies of these popular black-bordered cards have also climbed drastically in the past couple years. If you’re looking to price these out, there are more references. TCGplayer usually has at least a few copies of each CE/IE card in stock, so that could be a good first choice. But unlike FBB, many vendors will pay up for CE/IE printings nowadays. Card Kingdom has a fairly robust buylist for CE/IE. Even Star City Games is in the ballpark of the other two (though still not the best option).

If you really want to a challenge, you could deal in FBB printings from Japanese Chronicles and Renaissance sets. It turns out Star City Games has buy prices for these as well, though again I wouldn’t use their buylist to unload these obscure cards unless you’re absolutely desperate to liquidate.

While receiving $5 for a Japanese Chronicles copy of any card other than Blood Moon may seem attractive, I assure you the card is worth significantly more. Unfortunately, we can’t use any other vendor to estimate pricing—even ABUGames doesn’t have these printings listed on their buy list. So in this case, we have no choice but to rely on TCGPlayer and eBay.

See what I mean when I say Star City Games’ buy prices are only last resort? Why sell for $5 when you could sell for $35 on TCGplayer? The cheapest Renaissance copy for sale right now is MP, $38.75.

Japanese Chronicles are cheaper—the lowest price on TCGplayer is $11.99 for a moderately played copy (eBay is consistent in price). Still, that’s more than double SCG’s offer of $5, and a far better option to try and sell these cards.

In my opinion, if you’re looking to maximize value from your cards and move them with fairly reliable liquidity, you should check out the Old School Discord. I’m seeing frequent sales posts there recently, containing FBB and CE/IE cards, and they always seem to sell for more than I anticipated they would.

A Nod To Collectors’ Edition

I’ve written about Collectors’ Edition and International Collectors’ Edition in the past, so I won’t dwell long on this bucket of cards. But to complete this week’s article, I need to at least mention how these budget black-bordered alternatives have also climbed steadily in price over the past couple years.

The most desirable cards from these sets—Power, duals, etc.—have really become expensive of late. Nice CE moxes, for example, readily sell for $450 nowadays and someone is always looking to buy in the Old School Discord. But even the less-than-playable CE cards, such as Dingus Egg, can be buylisted for a couple bucks nowadays. In fact, Card Kingdom has 270 Collectors’ Edition cards listed on their buylist—almost any CE card is worth at least something nowadays! Even lowly Rampaging War Mammoth can be buylisted for $0.23!

Clearly, these rectangular, black-bordered cards are worth digging out if you’re sitting on any. While they’re not tournament legal, they still hold some allure for players seeking budget black-bordered options for their Old School / Commander decks. These cards have done nothing but appreciate in value over the past couple years. Consider how CE moxes were just $100 three years ago and now they have gone up fivefold!

Wrapping It Up

When the Old School format took off, many once-forgotten cards suddenly surged in price. There was a window of a couple years when budget black-bordered cards were available at a significant discount to their English counterparts.

Now, with Commander and Old School prices soaring again thanks to the daily Reserved List buyouts, players are reaching for these once-inexpensive alternatives for their decks. But unlike a few years ago, this time FBB and CE/IE options are not nearly so cheap. Many have taken off in price, and are often more costly than Revised or Chronicles alternatives.

I believe this trend will continue. Other budget options are also likely to see gains, such as Gold-Bordered cards and Foreign White Bordered (FWB) printings. But just because this trend exists doesn’t mean it’s easy to profit on it. These cards are a little tougher to sell, and buylists are sparse (ABUGames is probably your best bet). Luckily as this market heats up, these cards are suddenly more liquid than ever before.

One look at the Old School Discord, and I’m confident these cards are suddenly desirable. Thus, I wanted to highlight this trend—this way, players now aware of the trend can dig out their FBB cards and help bring them to the market, making a few bucks along the way and helping out some players who are trying to navigate a volatile market filled with buyouts. After all, this new trend seems like it’ll be around for at least a bit longer.

One thought on “The Foreign Black Border Upswing

  1. Lightning Bolt from Alpha was selling for $25 and Unlimited Black Lotus for $1,500. Huge windfall. The most sought after cards at the time? Tarmogoyf and Delver of Secrets.

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