Super Secret Tech | Illustration by Dan Frazier

Super Secret Tech | Illustration by Dan Frazier

Every Magic player and collector has that one dream of sifting through MTG cards at a garage sale and stumbling across some slightly worn Power Nine that’s been sitting in a box collecting dust for ages. That sort of thing never actually happens, but it’s the dream that counts. People love rare and valuable cards, and it doesn’t get much rarer than 1/1 cards.

Magic dipped its toe into the 1/1 game in 2023, but it’s not a new concept for trading card games, with other TCGs experimenting with these ultra-rare collectibles from time to time.

But how valuable can a one-of-a-kind card actually be? Turns out, the answer’s a bit complicated.

What Are 1/1 Cards?

The One Ring - Illustration by Veli Nyström

The One Ring | Illustration by Veli Nyström

1/1 (sometimes stylized as 1:1) notes a one-of-a-kind, completely unique item in a collectible category. In terms of collectible trading card games (TCGs), only one copy of a 1/1 card exists. These are almost always associated with some sort of promotional event, tournament, or unusual circumstance leading to the card’s creation.

1/1 cards represent the height of collectability in card games, originating from early sports cards and occasionally cropping up in popular TCGs like Magic, Yu-Gi-Oh!, etc. They’re highly sought after (mostly by people with lots of money), and their prices boil down to who’s willing to dish out the most scratch to claim themselves the owner of that item.

Some clarification: We’re not talking about misprints or serialized cards here. Misprints have their own collector’s market and can be seen as one-of-a-kind cards to some extent, but there’s a difference between a factory error producing a unique card and a card game publisher intentionally releasing a 1/1 card. Serialized cards are similarly, technically unique, but they exist more as a collection of equally rare items than an actual 1/1 product.

The One Ring

The One Ring 1/1 Elvish Card

The One Ring was Magic: The Gathering’s first true 1/1 card. No, not The One Ring, The One Ring. You know, the one that ended up in Post Malone’s hands.

Released as a promotional part of 2023’s The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth, this unique version of The One Ring was hidden in a Collector booster that was eventually opened by a player from Toronto, Canada, and subsequently sold to singer/songwriter/Magic player Post Malone for a reported $2.6 million dollars.

WotC confirmed that this card was found on June 30th, 2023, opened from a booster pack sold at Maximum Cards and Collectibles in Ontario.

Toshiyuki Yamaguchi No. 2 Trainer

Toshiyuki Yamaguchi No. 2 Trainer

No. 2 Trainer hails from the Pokémon trading card game and was awarded to a player by the name of Toshiyuki Yamaguchi after winning a series of Japanese Pokémon TCG tournaments throughout 2000. His likeness is used in the art of the card, though images of the card didn’t even surface until the 2020s. The card was sold on July 7, 2023 via Heritage Auctions for $137,500.

Tyler the Great Warrior

Tyler the Great Warrior

Tyler the Great Warrior is a 1/1 Yu-Gi-Oh! card created as part of the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s collaboration with Tyler Gressle, a patient who had been diagnosed with a life-threatening disorder but was eventually treated and went on to live a healthy life. The card was made with input from Tyler while he was a child patient and takes the likeness of a Dragonball character.

Tyler remained in possession of the card until 2023, when it was sold through an eBay auction for $311,211.

Sports Cards

In many ways, sports cards are the progenitor of 1/1 collectibles in trading cards. Sports cards have experimented with 1/1 collector’s items for quite some time, with the value of individual cards directly correlating to the popularity of the athletes depicted on those cards.

#161 Patrick Mahomes II JSY AU

For example, the autographed 2017 National Treasure Patrick Mahomes II card sold in 2021 for a staggering $4.3 million. That’s the highest-selling NFL card of all time, but it just goes to show how much some people are willing to pay to have a one-of-a-kind piece of history.

How Do You Know if a Card Is 1/1?

This changes on a card-by-card basis; sometimes the card’s uniqueness is marked on the card itself (for example, the 001/001 on The One Ring), sometimes there’s no real indication at all outside of just knowing that you’re looking at a 1/1 card. For example, Yu-Gi-Oh!’s Tyler the Great Warrior card contains no text indicating that it’s a special card.

Of course, the odds of stumbling across a 1/1 card in the wild without knowing what it is are about… well, let’s just say the odds certainly aren’t 1/1.

How Are 1/1 Cards Priced

The funny thing about one-of-a-kind cards and collector’s items in general is that since there’s nothing on the market to compare them to, their price is almost entirely determined by how much the highest bidder is willing to pay for them. If a 1/1 item is sold for two million dollars, then that sets the value of that item at two million dollars.

As seen with The One Ring in MTG, once announced, the price of the card became an immediate bidding war between celebrities and companies with expendable money. Essentially anyone who didn’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars on hand could forget about owning the card, and it really became a contest of which wealthy collector/celebrity was willing to throw the most money at it.

Should You Get 1/1 Cards Graded?

Short answer: Yes. If you’re in possession of a 1/1 card from just about any TCG imaginable, you should secure it as best as possible and find the nearest and easiest way to get the card professionally graded. The funny part about this is that even a slightly damaged, creased, or scratched 1/1 card is still 1/1, so it might not actually affect the overall price someone’s willing to pay for it. Still, assuming you had any intention at all of selling the card, whether right away or in the distant future, preserving it and keeping it in close-to-pristine condition is a favor to yourself and the eventual would-be owner of that item.

Wrap Up

Big Score - Illustration by Gaboleps

Big Score | Illustration by Gaboleps

1/1 cards are a bit more prevalent in the world of trading cards than the few entries here would have you believe. They’re some of the biggest story-moment cards in their own individual spheres, and there’s always a rush to discover one when a company announces the release of a new 1/1 card. Of course, there can be only one eventual owner of a 1/1 card, and that usually involves copious amounts of money, but it’s still fun to dream.

Do you have any experience with 1/1 cards or other collectibles? Do you actually own any yourself, or have you ever been in possession of one? Let me know in the comments below or over in the Draftsim Discord or on Draftsim's Twitter/X.

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