Players who started their journey in the realm of Magic: The Gathering in the past five years or so are used to Wizards releasing all kinds of new products throughout the year. Many of us Old Fogeys though, grew up with just four releases a year (once per quarter), and we liked it!
Nowadays we have new Commander decks with every set release, Secret Lair Drops, Masters sets, Horizons sets, Collector Boosters, Set Boosters, Pioneer Challenger Decks, Standard Challenger Decks; basically if you can come up with a product idea, Wizards will probably release one within the year.
It wasn't always like this. For much of Magic's history, these kinds of specialty products were few and far between. The very first specialty product Wizards produced though, was actually in the very first year of Magic's existence.
Collector's Edition/International Edition
Collector's Edition was a full-set reprint of the original Limited Edition Beta Core Set, but with square corners and gold borders on the back. 9,000 of these sets were printed and released, and the demand was extremely high. So high in fact that Wizards ordered an additional print run of 5,000 sets for non-US distributors and called it International Edition. Unfortunately, one of the big issues with these cards was that some unscrupulous people would buy the boxes, "peel" the card images of the rares and glue them onto Beta common cards and try to pass them off as Beta's. This was especially true of the Power 9 copies from these sets. The sets had an MSRP of $49.99 when they were released in 1993. Currently, the only sealed copy I can find online has an asking price of $34,999.99. For more information on the set check out the MTG Wiki page.
Pro Tour Collector's Set
The 1996 Pro Tour Collector's Set, commemorated the very first Magic Pro Tour. 20,000 copies of the set were printed, with an original MSRP of $125. By the time 1996 rolled around, many of Magic's most broken cards were no longer legal in Type 2 (what we now call Standard), which was the format of the first Pro Tour, so no Moxes or Lotuses here. Looking over all the decklists though, there are many cards like Balance and Strip Mine that are too powerful even in the current Standard. This reprint set again featured gold borders, this time on the front of the cards, eliminating the risk of rebacking. Finding prices for these decks is difficult, but a current listing on eBay has an asking price of $988.24.
The cards of note from this collection, separated by deck are:
- 1x Land Tax ($20.11)
Shawn "Hammer" Regnier
- 3x Land Tax ($20.11)
Released in late 1999, Battle Royale was the first specialty set that had tournament-legal borders. Because it was a set of reprints, the borders were white, which was Unfortunately a policy at the time for all reprints. Battle Royale's notable cards include Reanimate, Land Tax, and Wrath of God. It looks like you can currently buy a completely sealed box for around $250. This product was meant to encourage more multiplayer games, which at the time were not all that common outside of very casual circles, such as the one I played in.
World Championship Decks (1997-2004)
For eight years Wizards made a supplemental gold-bordered product of the top 4 decks from the World Championships for each year. As such, there were a total of 32 different decks. These decks serve as a fun way to look back at what were the best decks of the time and compare them to what we see nowadays. More critically though, similar to how many of the high dollar Reserved List cards from the previously mentioned Collector's Edition and International Edition sets are worth a considerable amount, there are desirable Commander staples included in many of these decks that are worth a good bit. These decks range in price considerably depending on their contents, from a few hundred, up to $1,000 or more. Take note that in addition to the gold borders on the fronts, the cards in these decks do not have normal Magic backs, and are not tournament-legal. Here are some highlights of the contents of these decks, with cards that have a TCGPlayer Market price of $10 or above:
1997 - Janosch Kuhn (Red/White/Blue Speed Control)
1997- Paul McCabe (Red/Blue Aggro Control)
- 4x Force of Will ($35)
1998- Brian Selden (Cali Nightmare)
1999-Kai Budde (Red/Artifact Wildfire)
- 4x Grim Monolith ($47.5)
- 4x City of Traitors ($33.53)
- 3x Ancient Tomb ($26.75)
- 1x Karn, Silver Golem ($15)
1999-Mark Le Pine (Sped Red)
- 2x Ancient Tomb ($26.75)
1999-Matt Linde (Mono-Green Stompy)
- 4x Gaea's Cradle ($199.88)
1999-Jakub Slemr (Mono-Black Control)
- 1x Volrath's Stronghold ($33.53)
- 1x Hatred ($32.33)
- 1x Sphere of Resistance ($14.99)
- 1x Vampiric Tutor ($59.99)
- 3x Yawgmoth's Will ($98)
2000-Jon Finkel (Mono-Blue Tinker)
2000-Tom van de Logt (Replenish)
2000-Nicolas Labarre (Chimera)
2001- Tom van de Logt (Machine Head)
- 3x Phyrexian Arena ($16.66)
2001-Alex Borteh (Merfolk Opposition)
- 4x Static Orb ($15.26)
2003-Daniel Zink (White/Blue/Green Wake)
2003-Wolfgang Eder (Goblin Bidding)
- 4x Bloodstained Mire ($18.24)
2003-Peer Kroger (Reanimator)
2004-Aeo Paguette (Affinity)
- 4xChrome Mox ($18.25)
2004-Manuel Bevand (Myr Incubator Combo)
2004-Gabriel Nassif (Blue/White Anti-Affinity Control)
- 4x Flooded Strand ($18.28)
Deckmasters Garfield vs Finkel
This was a very interesting product as it was created in 2001 and was dubbed "The Creator" vs "The Champion" where both Richard Garfield and Jon Finkel crafted a deck. Based on some of the cards, it seems that they were limited in their choices. That said, a sealed copy of this boxed set goes for about $550, and there are three cards of note from this specialty product:
- Necropotence ($126.05) - The only foil version with the original art (currently)
- Sulfurous Springs ($13.30)
- Underground River ($12.75)
Throughout Magic's history, Wizards has made some interesting supplemental products. It's pretty clear their original idea was to reprint valuable and powerful cards but do so in a way that wouldn't make them tournament legal, thus protecting the value of the originals. When I started this article I didn't realize that Collector's and International Edition were printed the same year as Alpha and Beta. It was surprising to see Wizards jump on the specialty set bandwagon so quickly. Obviously, there are plenty of other supplemental products that Wizards has released over the years like the From the Vault series, Duel Decks, and so on. My focus today was on the earliest ones, some that you may have never known existed.
It surprised me how many of the World Championship cards had a TCGPlayer Market price above $10. I knew about the copies of Reserved List cards that are highly desirably in Commander, but there are a surprising number of these cards not on the Reserved List over that mark. There are quite a few others that are close enough that in another year the list might grow by a good bit.