Last updated on April 1, 2024

Mox Pearl (Ultra Rare Cards) - Illustration by Raoul Vitale

Mox Pearl | Illustration by Raoul Vitale

Post Malone’s two million dollar The One Ring made people take notice of Magic finance who never really had before. And although individual cards can go through the roof, we thought a look into the prices of whole Magic sets would be interesting.

When I first started playing in 1995, I knew people whose goal it was to own a copy of every card in each set, to have a complete collection of Magic. When browsing bulk bins, I’d see people getting really excited about some worthless common that just happened to fill a slot in their binder. Those days are long gone, although in the early days of Magic Arena I would see posts on blogs and reddit about how to most effectively complete your Arena collection for each set. Although I don’t really see that so much these days, that impetus is deep in the history of Magic, and we’ll revisit it here today.

There are over 100 sets of Magic cards, depending on how you define that, with Outlaws of Thunder Junction set to be the 100th expansion. Let’s look at the top quarter of that, with the 25 most expensive Magic sets.

What Determines a Set’s Value?

Dockside Extortionist - Illustration by Forrest Imel

Dockside Extortionist | Illustration by Forrest Imel

A Magic set’s value is determined by the secondary market of Magic players and collectors, investment/finance folks, and the game stores, online and brick & mortar, that price according to the actual demand from people and the expected future demand.

Diving a bit deeper into that picture, a Magic set or card’s value has no fixed referent. Even commodities with clear levels of use-value demand like gasoline, eggs, or palladium fluctuate in price for similar reasons, a combination of demand, investment speculation, and, if not always nostalgia, at least some form of emotional connection to a product that seems stronger than its value in use or consumption. And a gallon of gas provides a fixed amount of energy. For a Magic card, really just a small rectangle of cardboard, the demand is even more subject to change, at least theoretically.

But take the most expensive card in Magic, an Alpha Black Lotus. Various forces work to keep demand on a more predictable rising path. There’s scarcity, nostalgia, and a growing casual player base. The other piece of the pricing puzzle for most Magic cards is the strength of a card in the formats it’s legal in, which makes Sheoldred, the Apocalypse almost $100 while it’s in Standard. Once the card rotates out of Standard it’ll drop in price, but the amount of that drop is relative to how playable it’ll be in formats like Pioneer, Modern, and Commander going forward. The Meathook Massacre’s $80 price was cut in half after its Standard banning, but it has hovered around the $40 level since.

Okay. In terms of Magic sets as a whole, we’re often talking about a critical mass of powerful cards that have not been reprinted. Without that, almost regardless of age, the lowest priced sets tend to hover at around $100, like Fallen Empires and Dragon’s Maze. Sets in Standard tend to hover more around the $275 mark, dropping by about half as they rotate, with some, like War of the Spark, having a bit of staying power. For example, The Lost Caverns of Ixalan has the most value, coming in at $296.

All that said, I’m sure you can guess the top three sets, right? But there are some surprises, at least to me, in this list of most valuable Magic sets. We’re going to value these based on the total value of single cards from each set, including only the regular printings of cards in each set for some long term consistency, not including booster fun like foils, special treatments, etc. There are many sites that compile this data, but we’ve used MTGGoldfish. We’re also not going to rank based on sealed product, which is even more determined by the speculative market and the presence of a few high ticket cards.

#25. Tenth Edition, 2009: $448

Just beating out War of the Spark, The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth, and Modern Masters is Tenth Edition. Instead of a few heavy hitters, Tenth Edition holds up on the back of a lot of $5 and $6 rares that haven’t seen a reprint since, like Root Maze and Mortal Combat. Seedborn Muse and Crucible of Worlds are the top values in the set at just under $20.

#24. Zendikar, 2009: $450

Fetch lands, of course, but original Zendikar also gets value from cards like Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and the almost $70, never reprinted Mindbreak Trap.

#23. Mirrodin, 2003: $463

Mirrodin gets a lot of value from the almost $100 value of Chrome Mox, but Chalice of the Void is no slouch, either. There are a lot of rares holding value above $2, like Quicksilver Fountain and Blinkmoth Urn which isn’t typical of sets this old.

#22. Modern Horizons, 2019: $547

Designed to be filled with valuable Modern staples like Yawgmoth, Thran Physician and Wrenn and Six, most of the value in the set is now from Commander cards like The First Sliver, Sword of Truth and Justice, etc. But Modern Horizons’ value is holding up from valuable uncommons and commons, like reprints of snow-covered lands, Ephemerate, Carrion Feeder and the talismans.

#21. Modern Horizons 2, 2021: $577

You already know what’s good in MH2! Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer is off its high but still over $40. Then there’s the ubiquitous Urza's Saga, the evoke elementals, and cross format staples like Esper Sentinel and fetch lands.

#20, The Dark, 1993: $697

The Dark has a decent number of Reserved List cards and is old enough for the nostalgia to be real. Although it was much smaller than Fallen Empires a year later, with its 350 million print run and sealed booster boxes that were still selling for just over $200 until 2019, The Dark’s 65 million print run was dwarfed by previous releases. That plus its lowish power level means that its price is depressed for the era, even with about two dozen Reserved List cards. The top cards are pretty cool, with Blood Moon, City of Shadows, and Goblin Wizard all at over $50.

#19. Onslaught, 2002: $813

Onslaught‘s original fetch lands are the ticket here, with Polluted Delta clocking in at almost $90. And there’s a bunch of cards that surprised me here, like Goblin Sharpshooter at $26, Cover of Darkness at $51, and uncommon Chain of Vapor at $10. There are a lot of cards over $2 that are key in someone’s best Commander deck, like Brightstone Ritual, True Believer, and Artificial Evolution.

#18. Commander Masters, 2023: $859

Commander Masters didn’t quite inject enough supply to get Jeweled Lotus below $100, and with The Great Henge at $50 and Fierce Guardianship and Doubling Season at $40, there’s some top end value here. There are a lot of cards at the $3-$10 range, including uncommon Commander staples like Ashnod's Altar and Lightning Greaves.

#17. Eternal Masters, 2016: $865

Mana Crypt alone is almost $200 of Eternal Masters‘ price, with Chrome Mox, Force of Will and Vampiric Tutor as runners up. And there’s just a solid roster of cards over $20, like Wasteland, Sensei's Divining Top, and Winter Orb, all the way down to a flock of $1+ uncommons like Wirewood Symbiote and the Honden shrines.

#16. Ultimate Masters, 2018: $868

Ultimate Masters has Ancient Tomb at just over $90 and more cards in the $30 range than most sets, like Phyrexian Tower, Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre, and Demonic Tutor. There are a lot of cards above $2, but less than most masters sets on this list.

#15. Exodus, 1998: $936

One of the most top-heavy sets on this list, two-thirds of Exodus’s value is in two cards: the almost $400 City of Traitors and the just shy of $200 Survival of the Fittest. There’s a few other notable cards, like Recurring Nightmare and Mind Over Matter, but the value drops off steeply after that.

#14. Mirage, 1996: $1,040

Mirage is pretty deep, with lots of unreprinted cards holding in over $2, like Kukemssa Pirates and Mangara's Tome. But the big news here is Lion's Eye Diamond with half the set’s value. The $100 Phyrexian Dreadnought is followed by other combo pieces like Shallow Grave and Final Fortune.

#13. Double Masters 2022: $1,082

Dockside Extortionist is king in Double Masters 2022 at $84, followed closely by Imperial Seal at $76. And there’s a bunch of $40-$50 cards, all Commander staples, like Teferi's Protection and Mana Drain. There are more cards just under $1 than usual, and those usually find themselves over the line soon enough. So we’re looking at Wall of Omens and Villainous Wealth in that space.

#12. Tempest, 1997: $1,170

There are a lot of cards here in Tempest at the $10-$30 range, like Living Death, Lotus Petal, and Mirri's Guile. The medallions are in that range, as well. And that’s topped off by Intuition at $150, Earthcraft at $113, and Ancient Tomb at $93.

#11. Stronghold, 1998: $1,251

Stronghold’s value is mostly the story of the $650 Mox Diamond and the $300 Sliver Queen. After that it’s like most sets from the era, tailing off quickly after Volrath's Stronghold to a lot of bulk.

#10. Double Masters, 2020: $1,602

There’s a good range of cards in Double Masters, from the top end with Mana Crypt at $188, Chrome Mox at $100, and Mox Opal at 83. But the set’s value is in a larger than usual number of $30 cards, like Avacyn, Angel of Hope and Darksteel Forge, as well as a good number in every price band down to $2.

#9. Urza’s Saga, 1998: $2,342

Urza's Saga has a lot, actually. Gaea's Cradle is almost $800. Gilded Drake and Serra's Sanctum are in the $250 range, Yawgmoth's Will at $169, and Time Spiral and Tolarian Academy over or near $100. There’s also a deep roster of cards at the $2-$5 range, including Priest of Titania, Attunement, (Shivan Gorge, and Planar Birth.

#8. Revised Edition, 1994: $5,636

Original dual lands are the stars here, from Underground Sea at the top for $846 to Savannah at the bottom for $320. Wheel of Fortune comes in at $300, but the card value for Revised Edition spins down from there pretty rapidly.

#7. Antiquities, 1994: $6,223

Antiquities was a very small set of 100 cards, but only 17 of those are below $1. So it’s packing a punch. Clearly Mishra's Workshop is the star at an astonishing $2,600, followed by Candelabra of Tawnos at $825 and Transmute Artifact at $365. Various versions of black bordered Mishra's Factory and Strip Mine command prices across the $40-$150 range. It’s really the rarity of these versions as collectibles that’s the thing for a lot of these cards, like this $137 first printing of the otherwise bulk Triskelion.

#6. Portal Three Kingdoms, 1999: $9,004

Portal Three Kingdoms, a set designed around Chinese history intended for the Asian market, did not have a large printing. It was also never really distributed in Magic’s other areas, so the cards have remained difficult to find and sought-after by collectors. Even the basic lands are a few bucks and everything is over $1. There are 27 cards over $100 in the set, including a lot of legendary creatures that have no real play value like Lady Zhurong, Warrior Queen. That, plus the top end of an almost $1,000 Imperial Seal and a $500 Zodiac Dragon, and you’ve got a set for the investors!

#5. Arabian Nights, 1993: $15,255

With almost 20 cards over $200, Arabian Nights is a collector’s item that benefits from its smallish print run of 5 million, which was even smaller than the quickly sold out Beta. The cheapest card, the unplayable Hasran Ogress, is still $4. And at the top end we’ve got some bangers: Bazaar of Baghdad for almost $2,500, nostalgia captain Juzám Djinn for $2,150, and Library of Alexandria for $1,700.

There are plenty of Reserved List cards in this set, but fewer than The Dark, with its larger print run and less than $1,000 total cost.

#4. Legends, 1994: $15,686

There are a ton of terrible cards in Legends, and a fifth of the set’s cards are under $1. But the top end is real, with The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale at $3,850, Chains of Mephistopheles (whatever that card actually does) at $1,127, and Moat at $1,025. There are 11 cards between that price and $100, ranging from The Abyss at $699 to Field of Dreams at $102.

#3. Unlimited, 1993: $86,560

You knew the top three would be the first three releases, didn’t you? Maybe you read our piece on the best cards from 1993. Still, seeing the last “real,” and thus most affordable printing of Black Lotus clocking in at $17,600 will give you pause. Man. I remember when LGS’s were selling these for under a thousand bucks. It was a long time ago, but we’re talking early Obama years, not when Friends was a new show!

Not to be confused with Revised, Unlimited has got the rest of the Power Nine, ranging from the top, with Time Walk at $7,800 to Mox Pearl $4,250. Then you’ve got the dual lands from $300-$950 and a pile of cards holding value at three digits. You can still pick up a copy of Shanodin Dryads for less than 50 cents if you want a piece of the action.

#2. Beta, 1993: $207,140

Beta‘s price is likely higher by about $40k, given that the best number I could find lacks Mox Pearl, Mox Sapphire, and Underground Sea. Generally, things are about twice as expensive as Unlimited, with Black Lotus clocking in at $31,500. Your cheapest Beta card is Death Ward at almost $6.

#1. Alpha, 1993: Almost a Million?

I mean, Alpha is probably not that much. Probably. Pricing here is tough, as these cards are not often sold, and lack of liquidity distorts pricing info. has the value at north of $300k, but that’s not including a lot of valuable cards they don’t have data for, including half the Power Nine, and the ultra expensive Black Lotus. It’s similar at other sites. The last Alpha Lotus sold for $540,000, but that was autographed by the artist, so that changes the value. Cards like Tropical Island are between two and three times the Beta price, while as we slouch down toward Armageddon, it’s still 1.5 times the Beta price.

Good news for me! The only Alpha card I have is Terror, which I picked up in a bulk bin during the first Kamigawa block, and that’s almost $60 now! If you want in on the manic, Circle of Protection: Green is your best deal at just under $15.

Wrap Up

Yawgmoth, Thran Physician - Illustration by Mark Winters

Yawgmoth, Thran Physician | Illustration by Mark Winters

If we included all the special printings of cards, some sets like The Lost Caverns of Ixalan would be up over $2,000, with more than 500 different foils, Japanese alternate arts, special editions, etc. But it’s more interesting, I think, to get a snapshot of the base sets, so that we’re comparing apples to apples with the original sets from the 90s.

Of course, we knew what would be at the top, but I’ll bet you didn’t have Tenth Edition on your bingo card!

Collectibles are incredibly volatile spaces to invest in, as anyone who was collecting comics in the 90s can tell you. So don’t take any of this as investment advice, please. I myself do not do Magic finance stuff. It feels super risky. It looks great now with everything having gone up so steeply since 2019, but you know what they say about what goes up. It seems like someone bought a Beta Lotus in 2022 for around $80k, and I imagine there’s a lot of regret there!

This is a fascinating snapshot into the collector’s markets and the price we put on nostalgia. There were a few surprises for me, but how about you? Any surprises? Let us know in the comments or on Discord!

Sleeve those good cards, folks, and be sure to ditch any remaining rubber bands!

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