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I played Magic The Gathering for probably around 2.5 years…
When I tell people who now play that I used to play, they usually scoff a bit…

Until I tell them I played from 1993-1996 and stopped buying cards in 1996.

Magic The Gathering

For the uninitiated, Magic The Gathering is a collectible card game. Your goal is to wage magical war against your opponent and drop their life points from 20 to 0. You do this by casting spells, pummeling them with creatures, and wreaking whatever havoc the cards let you wreak. In order to use those havoc causing cards, you use “mana” (land cards). There are five different lands and each have their own unique set of properties (example: fire generally does a lot of damage quickly while the white plains are known for their healing properties). Each card you play that can do damage (or heal you or whatever) has a mana cost designated in the upper right hand corner. Building a deck that lets you get to enough mana so you can play your damage inducing cards fast enough is a tricky business and the sheer breadth of cards available (especially knowing the game is now 20 years old) is mind-boggling.

For years I’ve been saying I should dig out that old shoebox in my closet & take it somewhere to get sorted & appraised. I’ve recently been hanging my board gamer hat at Wanderers’ Refuge. I LOVE IT HERE. This has to be one of the most friendly game stores on the planet.

The amazing Aileen of Wanderers’ Refuge in Chicago coordinated a date and time with a couple guys she knows and trusts. Michael & Ben showed up on time and they even brought their friend, Walter, and these guys went. to. town. Seriously, they blew my mind with their knowledge and enthusiasm for the game. To put into some context… They were 3 years old when I stopped playing. Some of those cards are as old as they are.

They immediately sat down and made quick work of emptying the shoebox and within seconds were oo-ing and ah-ing over their finds.

The Guys

From left to right – Walter, Ben, & Michael

Let me tell you, not much seemed to stump Michael, Ben, and Walter and, not to beat a dead horse here (and this is totally unsolicited love & praise), I really cannot thank the good folks of Wanderers’ Refuge enough. They let me hook into their (not actually for the public) WiFi so the guys could pull up sites to verify card editions and pricing.

The Guys 2

Walter, Ben, & Michael get excited about some of the rarities they found.

Imagine an avid baseball card collector getting a chance to dig through a box that might have a Babe Ruth card… Ben gave me card protectors for a handful of the most valuable cards (as you’ll see in the pictures) and watching these three handle my cards with such care after I had shoved them in a shoebox for a decade was rather humbling.

In the end, I didn’t find any $300 cards or even $100 cards but I definitely have stuff worth putting in card protectors.

So onward to the awesome finds! Here are some of the fun things found in order from “kind of cool” to “whoa! awesome!”….

Unholy Strength

Unholy Strength Before After

On the left you have the original artwork before puritanical “we see the devil in everything” jerks got their panties in a twist. After is the artwork that makes no damn sense whatsoever.

Swords to Plowshare

Swords to Plowshare

I was told these are still highly playable and popular cards. I have 4 of them circa 1994-ish (4th edition, I believe) and they’re each worth around $4.

Dark Rituals (over time)

Dark Rituals over time

This is just a neat example of the way the artwork changed over even just those few short years. They’re all worth about $1 each and I have a ton of them.

Random Beta Cards They Liked

Other Stuff They Liked

Michael really wanted that Karma card to be worth something. All of these are worth $2-4 each. 🙂

Now we get into the really cool one-offs.

Stasis

Stasis

While not worth a lot monetarily, this is a rare card.

Didgeridoo

Digeridoo

A rare artifact out of the Homelands expansion. This one’s worth around $4 and the guys said “it’s the only card out of Homelands worth anything.” Considering how few Homelands I bought, that’s pretty lucky on my part.

Regrowth

Regrowth

Sadly, this is 3rd edition/Revised and is only worth about $3. Beta editions go for $30 but the guys were still enthusiastic.

Bad Moon

Bad Moon

Another 3rd edition/Revised version that’s only worth a couple bucks but could have been worth a whole lot more. Doh!

Howling Mine

Howling Mine

Believe me, I’ll take the “$2-$3 here & there” approach to this shoebox but I shook my fist at yet another 3rd edition/Revised when I knew how much those damn Betas were worth. 🙂

Fastbond

Fastbond

Now here we go… this is a rare 3rd edition/Revised card worth around $5. Mine is in near mint condition.

Fork

Fork

The guys got pretty excited about this one. It’s a useful card and it’s worth around $4 even in it’s moderately played state.

Wheel of Fortune

Wheel of Fortune

This card was another one that really got the guys buzzing. This is a 3rd edition/Revised rare card worth around $15 in its near mint condition.

Island of Wak-Wak

Island of Wak-Wak

The very first expansion ever for Magic The Gathering was the Arabian Nights, designated by the little scimitar symbol on the right hand side under the artwork. I thought I had more of these buggers but, alas, I had just one. That’s okay though… because even in its moderately played state it’s valued around $30.
I know. . . right?!

And now for the card that REALLY had the guys crazy excited:

Sinkhole

Sinkhole

This is a beta edition Sinkhole. This heavily played card is so rare it’s still going for around $35 on most websites and most of them are heavily played because it’s a pretty awesome card. 🙂

These were really just some of the biggest highlights. I have a pretty good sized stack of other cards worth $1-$2 a pop and a lot of Beta edition basic land cards with gorgeous artwork in that stack.

Collectible card games are a lot of fun but they require a lot of investment and effort to learn the cards and deck building strategies. I’m so glad I played Magic back in its infancy. I’m amazed at what it has become and love that a new generation of players were so enthusiastic about my old shoebox of cards.

I’m still not sure what I’m going to do with them. What do you think I should do with them? Sell them? Frame them? Build the greatest throwback deck there ever was?

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