A Survey of Magic’s Oversized Cards

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My two children were on their Spring Break last week, so my family decided to take a family vacation somewhere different. We’ve done the East Coast, we’ve done the beach, we’ve visited family—this time we wanted to go somewhere affordable, yet a little less traditional. After much debate, we netted out on a trip to Houston, Texas.

While in Texas, we did a variety of family-friendly activities. We went to the beach (Galveston), explored a rainforest exhibit at Moody Gardens, visited NASA’s Johnson Space Center, went to Houston’s impressive art museum, and even attended a Houston Astros baseball game. Throughout the entire trip, the same amusing phrase kept running through my mind:

“Everything is bigger in Texas.”

When considered in the literal sense, this is probably hyperbole. However, I observed different ways the expression rang true throughout the trip. This begs the facetious question: what about the Magic cards? Do Texas players shuffle up oversized decks at their local game shops? Despite how ridiculous the idea sounds, it served as the inspiration for my article this week!

Oversized Cards: A Very Brief History

I've not written an entire article on oversized cards before, but I've touched on them a bit in the past. In December 2019 I wrote an article about cards that aren’t tournament legal, which of course includes oversized cards. Earlier that year, Adam Yurchick mentioned Vanguard in a finance piece. When I went further back, to 2017, I found an article I wrote on domestic arbitrage. Oversized cards were a part of the broader strategy.

A quick Google search doesn’t yield an obvious, definitive first oversized Magic card. The Magic Librarities site has a section devoted to oversized cards and shares what in their estimation are the earliest ones. They list Hurloon Minotaur and Serra Angel as two of the first, given as an attendance bonus to Wizards of the Coast Caravan Tour attendees back in 1995 and 1996.

Then beginning in 1996, various oversized cards were included with contemporaneous magazines about Magic and collectibles: InQuest, Scrye, and The Duelist. The famous Black Lotus oversized card, one of the most valuable to date, was included in issue number 15 of Scrye magazine, July 1996.

Additional oversized promos were handed out as part of the Arena League in the late 1990s and were discontinued by 2000.

Then there are the game-impacting oversized cards, such as Vanguard cards. These cards are larger than a standard Magic card but have an impact on a game when playing with their custom rules. For example, Titania, the most valuable Vanguard card, grants its owner the ability to play an additional land each turn. The numbers in the bottom left and right corners indicate the owner starts with a maximum hand size of nine and starting life total of fifteen, respectively.

Since then, numerous additional promos, Commanders, and other giveaways have introduced many oversized cards to the market. A filter for oversized cards and Vanguard cards on TCGplayer yields over 500 results!

Noteworthy Oversized Cards: Older

I would quickly run out of space if I attempted to cover every oversized card. Seeing as this is a finance column, I’ll try to touch upon some of the most financially interesting oversized cards.

I've already mentioned Black Lotus. Damaged copies of the card can be had for around $100, but a nicer copy will cost you over $200.

Other older oversized cards don’t appear to be as expensive, which is somewhat surprising. Chaos Orb, for example, can be had for around $35. I would think this card would be more valuable, given the meme potential. Flipping a giant Chaos Orb to jokingly destroy many permanents in a game of Old School sounds hilarious, but I guess that joke is overdone. Juzám Djinn, one of the most iconic cards in Magic, can also be purchased for under $30.

This begs the question: what are the other more valuable oversized cards?

A copy of the oversized Vesuvan Doppelganger, given out as a second-place prize during Arena Summer League Season Two, recently sold for over $400 on TCGplayer. That makes it the oversized card with the highest TCGPlayer market price.

However, I believe other cards from the Arena League could be more expensive if only they actually sold—volume on these cards is extremely limited and copies rarely trade hands. Supply is certainly going to be constrained (how many people came in second place during the Arena League that season?), and demand for such cards must be sparse in kind. It looks like the oversized Library of Alexandria, Wheel of Fortune, City of Brass, and Blacker Lotus are also pretty expensive.

Vanguard Cards

I want to briefly discuss the Vanguard cards. These date back to before 2000 and can carry some value. The most valuable is Titania, but don’t be misled by TCGplayer’s numbers—Card Kingdom has 14 EX copies in stock at just $59.49. Gix is the next most expensive at $54.99. Card Kingdom is sold out of those, however, so you’ll have to buy your copy elsewhere. Sliver Queen, Brood Mother, Urza, and Selenia round out the top five (according to Card Kingdom), though a good bit cheaper than the top two.

If the Vanguard format were to see a modern resurgence, I suspect these would spike in price. They must be relatively rare given their age. Alas, the Vanguard format never really gained much traction, thus the prices of the cards are stunted greatly by the lack of demand. I still think they’re pretty cool!

Noteworthy Newer Oversized Cards

My bias steadfastly remains toward the older cards, and oversized cards are no exception. In fact, writing this article has increased my desire to obtain one of the classic oversized cards just to have it on display—it’s probably the only way I’d allow myself to purchase a Juzám Djinn anymore!

However, I cannot ignore a couple of noteworthy, valuable oversized cards that came out this millennium.

According to ABUGames, which isn’t the pricing authority on Magic but does at least have a reasonable set of listings for oversized cards, the foil oversized Gisela, Blade of Goldnight is the most valuable (around $250). There’s only one copy available on TCGplayer, and it’s listed as moderately played for $175 plus shipping.

Where did these come from? According to Magic Librarirites, “For Avacyn Restored prerelease, WOTC sent out approximately 6,000 Helvaults globally for this exciting and unique Prerelease event… 'of the roughly 6,000 Helvaults we [Wizard of the Coast] sent out, we selected 30 Helvaults to get this special treatment. We picked randomly from our Advanced level WPN stores and sent the Premium Helvaults to their new home.'”

These Premium Helvaults, of which only 30 were made, contained 54 Foil Oversized cards of Avacyn, Angel of Hope, Disciple of Griselbrand, Sigarda, Host of Herons, Bruna, Light of Alabaster, and Gisela, Blade of Goldnight.

You can do the math quickly—30 Premium Helvaults, 54 foil oversized cards in each. These are rare. Like, Alpha rare-level rare. ABUGames is sold out of all the angels, with prices starting north of $100. They do actually have a played foil oversized Disciple of Griselbrand in stock, listed for $93.49. I couldn’t find a copy for sale on TCGplayer to price compare, but I did find two copies on eBay listed in the $100 range. Perhaps with store credit, that ABUGames copy isn’t such a bad deal.

The last modern-day oversized card I want to shout out this week is Sliver Queen.

You may be wondering why I’m mentioning another Reserved List, pre-2000 card in this section of the article. Well, the original printing of Sliver Queen may be over 23 years old, but this special, oversized version wasn’t printed until 2012 when it came out with the Commander’s Arsenal product.

Market price on TCGplayer is a hair above $100, so these $120.99 copies from ABUGames are definitely a solid pickup when using trade-in credit. I would just caution against going crazy on these for arbitrage purposes simply because demand for this oversized card can’t be huge. It may take a long time to sell through four copies at $100 each. That being said, if you’re in the market for a copy or want to sit on one for a long-term hold, I’d get it here.

An Oversized Topic

I now realize I’m only scratching the surface on a fairly broad topic. For example, I didn’t even mention the puzzle piece cards that could be assembled to build a super-oversized Chaos Orb (the majority of value to these lies in the one ultrarare piece, see image below).

Then there are the oversized cards that can currently be acquired with tickets at large Magic events—some of these are surely rare and quite valuable.

This is a lucrative space to explore if you know your way around the values and rarities of each! I can’t pretend to be an expert, but I must say I’m surprised by how much value lies in these oversized cards.

The most popular of the bunch appears to be the Black Lotus, which comes as no surprise. An eBay completed listings search shows that this oversized card, along with the Scrye magazine it came in, is the most sold of the bunch. Perhaps this is an interesting oversized card to speculate on if you were truly interested in picking one up. The demand remains relatively strong, so even if supply is larger than, say, the Helvault foil promos, at least there will always be steady interest in any version of Magic’s most iconic card.

Wrapping It Up

In the end, that’s what I love most about these oversized cards—they offer you a chance to own something iconic, classic, and rare without having to sell a kidney. Now if only I can figure out a way to shuffle one into my normal-sized deck…

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