A Most Expensive Card Game

Many of Glue’s readers probably have fond childhood memories of collecting and playing with various trading cards at the school playground.

Wizards of the Coast’s Magic: The Gathering (MTG) is not one of those games. While it’s not always expensive, some players and collectors can spend in the tens of thousands of dollars on cards.

Gillian Morgan, from Wizard’s Tower, a major part of Ottawa’s MTG community for years, says that the most expensive card they have in stock is selling for about $1,400, even in its heavily damaged state.

“It’s got damage around the corner, it’s been blacked out, like people put permanent marker around the edges to fix the damage, there’s been scratches and gouges and it’s messed up as hell, but it’s $1,400.”

But why do these small pieces of printed cardboard go for so much?

Former MTG judge Ted McLuskie says that, like with any other commodity, it boils down to supply and demand. He says that if everyone is after one rare/specific card, then “they end up costing more, because there’s not enough out there.”

Charles-André Clément from Carta Magica, another Ottawa store specializing in MTG, agrees. He says that the reason some cards go for thousands of dollars is because the prize pool at some MTG tournaments can be very high, so people bring appropriately valuable cards.

“Let’s say a pro player that everybody knows is going to be playing a certain card, then everybody is going to be playing this card, meaning the amount of people looking for this card goes up, meaning the value goes up.”

Personal pride can also play a factor. McLuskie explains how Wizards of the Coast maintain something called the Reserve List. This list contains the names of cards Wizards of the Coast has said they will never reprint. Owning one of those cards, especially one that was rare in its heyday and in perfect condition, is quite the trophy.