I will never forget the feeling I had riding in the passenger seat of my friend’s car after we purchased 40 dual lands together. As we headed back to Montevideo –the seller lives 25 miles away from the capital city where we live– my hands were shaking. I felt a mixture of excitement and concern. What have I just done? I kept asking myself over and over. I could feel the small acrylic box containing 23 lands, my share of the 40, inside my right jacket pocket.
It was January 2021, a few days after my 32nd birthday. My friend needed a few duals to complete all ten playsets of Revised. He had also arranged to buy some extras for other people as well. I asked if I could come along. I had never owned a dual land before and thought it was an opportunity to pick up one or two for a good price. A nice weekend plan, I thought.
Warming Things Up
After chatting a little bit with our host, he went to a cabinet and grabbed a small pile of cards without any sleeves. There they were: 40 duals. The lot he was selling had 20 Revised, 19 Foreign White Border (FWB), and one Italian Foreign Black Border (FBB) Plateau. The reason the seller had so many foreign cards is because he had intentionally collected one copy of each dual land in both French and Italian. I was shocked that he kept these treasures with no sleeves at all. He did not play Magic, anymore but still had a massive collection and was definitely not a newcomer.
Taking Them All
Events escalated quickly. What was at first a friendly trip to purchase a couple of duals soon turned into a negotiation between us and him to purchase the whole lot. After an hour of checking prices and discussing payment methods, we closed a deal. The cards were worth well over $20,000 and we agreed to pay $12,000 in three monthly installments of $4,000.
I was after volume and did not mind the language at all, so I absorbed most of the cheaper FWB lands, ending up with more cards than my friend as a result. After selling 13 of them –I was financially unable to keep them all– I kept eight FWB duals, a Revised Tundra, and the FBB Plateau, a beautiful piece. One of each for my Vintage Cube was my reasoning behind what I kept, though I knew very well that I would use proxies and the real cards would rest safe and sound in my binder.
Recently, I have seriously thought about selling most of them. Prices have risen this year, and I would make a pretty good profit. I've also considered the possibility of upgrading to Revised with that money. These thoughts are what inspired this article. If you too are contemplating buying or selling, here are three considerations to keep in mind: Price, Scarcity, and Safety.
This is the most obvious comparison between Revised and FWB. We all know how picky Magic players can be about the language of their cards. I know several people in my country who would not buy a card in a language other than English. But if you're not concerned with language, you can pick up a tournament-legal copy of any dual land at a much lower price.
Let’s take Volcanic Island, for instance. Card Kingdom currently has the card listed in NM condition at $800 without stock. Their price on the single Good copy they have available is $560. In the meantime, you can pick up a very clean, EX copy of the card from MagicCardMarket (MKM) in Europe in its FWB version, for €500 (nearly $580). The card shown below is from an MKM seller. It is almost the same price, for the “same” card, but in a much better condition.
I have seen an uptick in sales of Volcanic Island. This could be due to the popularity of the UR Delver deck in Legacy, after the massive additions it received in Modern Horizons 2, among other factors. Playsets of Dragon's Rage Channeler, Murktide Regent and Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer all from MH2 feature in nearly every published list. My guess is that players are either returning to or preparing for the return of paper events and buying accordingly.
A more dramatic example of price differences would be Underground Sea, a land that is seeing far less attention in Legacy. CardKingdom has the card listed in NM at $850 without stock, with available copies in VG at $680. In turn, you can acquire an EX copy in Italian or French like the one below (again taken from an MKM seller) for €470, which is less than $550.
This price trend is true of all the dual lands if you do not care about the language. There is, of course, a difference between the foreign languages themselves. Italian is the cheapest language, due to its population, followed by French. German copies are more expensive, and the leap is even bigger when you compare FBB versions.
Also, I have been told by some German players that they do not like Magic cards in their own language because the text box becomes too crowded. The combination of these two factors explains in my opinion why the most expensive and in the better condition listed FWB duals in MKM are always, no exceptions, German.
I believe that FWB will appreciate in price in the future. This is because as high-end Reserved List staples rise in price, there will eventually be players who will not be able to afford English Volcanic Island and will necessarily have to shop for an Isola Vulcanica instead.
Legends was the set that got Italy hooked into Magic: the Gathering. The general consensus is that it had a much higher print run, with some users on Reddit and other informal sources stating that it was between three and six times more printed than its English counterpart. This is pure speculation of course. No one knows for sure. It would be a great, though highly unlikely, service to the collectors' community if Wizards of the Coast published this information.
Italian was historically regarded as the “poor man’s” version for people who could not afford copies of the cards they wanted in English. The difference in price in high-end Legends cards in English is substantial: Card Kingdom currently has six listed copies of The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale in EX for over $4,000. However, across the ocean, you could buy the EX Tabernacle in Italian shown below for less than €2,300, nearly $2,650.
Though it hasn't been updated since January 1996, (exactly 25 years before I bought my dual lands!) The Crystal Keep is generally regarded as the Holy Bible of information on early English set print runs. According to it, 18,500 of each Unlimited dual and 289,000 of each Revised dual were printed. This gives a ratio of over 15:1. Information on Foreign Magic: The Gathering print runs is much, much obscure. I could not find a source like the one cited above for comparison, and not everyone accepts these numbers as truth.
As one user on Reddit stated while challenging the Crystal Keep data: “We only have confirmed numbers for very few sets (…). Everything else is speculation. I can't stress this enough. If someone tells you one of the more popular myths about print runs like for example that there are about 300k (or 289k) copies of each Revised dual land out there or that Italian Legends had a print run three times as large as English Legends then that's a completely random guess based on no actual information. And it's almost certainly a very wrong guess”.
So the best we can do is make educated guesses, really. Revised was released April 1st of 1994 and Legends followed two months later. Almost a year later, on January 1st of 1995, both FWB and Legends in Italian were released. The game was quickly expanding –In Uruguay the first well-known set was Ice Age, released in early June 1995– so I think it is pretty safe to say that the population of FWB duals is bigger than the Revised one; assuming the Crystal Keep numbers are close to reality, all it would take is less than 100.000 copies of each dual land in French, Italian and German. Seems reasonable.
A small note: I have also read on Reddit that there are similar amounts or even less FBB rares than there are Unlimited rares. Again, this is pure speculation, but it certainly makes me look at my FBB Altopiano (Plateau) with different eyes.
Counterfeit Magic: the Gathering is definitely an issue. All you need to do is Google “counterfeit Revised dual lands” in order to get a massive amount of articles and videos, either of people who sadly got scammed or people trying to help other players and collectors avoid this issue.
When we bought our dual lands in January 2021, we were absolutely sure that all the dual lands we were purchasing were authentic. The seller was a very well-known and reputed member of our local community, even having represented Uruguay in the Magic: the Gathering World Championships. We didn’t run the usual tests to check the authenticity of the cards. There was really no need at all.
One thing that he said during the course of the negotiation that I thought was very clever was “Back in the day, some players would prefer to buy a FWB over a Revised dual land, not only because it was cheaper, but also because it was a way to make sure that the copy you were purchasing was authentic”.
I believe some people will find this combination appealing: lower prices for 100% legitimate cards in better condition. I have not found a single article online about fake FWB cards. Why would you bother to counterfeit a card in French?
As I stated before, for many players, English is their top choice when purchasing cards, and this is no secret to counterfeiters. Despite this, you should never think of a card as authentic just because it is in a foreign language. These are expensive cards we are talking about and one must still do all the proper checks when purchasing. For less experienced people, however, this tip could help them buy into duals with more confidence.
Let's face it: despite Ben Bleiweiss' fantastic article, and how we as players and collectors might feel about the Reserved List, it isn't going anywhere in the near future. Partly because of this, I believe that in the years to come the market will appreciate foreign dual lands more, especially the FWB duals, as Revised (not to mention Alpha, Beta, or Unlimited for that matter) will go out of range for a majority of players and collectors. At the very least, foreign duals are an alternative worth exploring. After all, they are still tournament-legal, unlike Collectors Edition or International Edition dual lands. We also can't forget the cool factor of having a card like Mangrovensumpf (yes, that is German for Bayou) in your deck.