Last updated on July 12, 2021
Shahrazad | Illustration by Kaja Foglio
Magic cards have been a collectible for a long time. Some players spend absurd amounts of money to own specific cards. Anyone who’s played MTG for almost any length of time has heard of the OG cards. The ones that were the most powerful back in the day, along with being some of the rarest.
This still applies to today since these cards will never see another printing thanks to Wizard’s policy on the reserved list. With Modern Horizons 2 and, more specifically, Garth One-Eye, the community is finding that we can still play with some of their effects, even if it’s not in their original form.
Few players today will own some of these cards on paper, but how much would it cost you to become one of those people? Let’s take a look at some of the rarest cards that money can buy, and a couple that it can’t!
1. 1996 World Champion
1996 World Champion takes the top of the cake in terms of rarity, because only one of them will ever exist. This card was presented to Tom Chanpheng upon beating Mark Justice with a severely weakened deck. He was forced to remove and replace some cards with lands because of technical and in-game issues. In an after-game ceremony, the extra printed copies and printing plates were destroyed so that this card could never be replicated.
In the early 2000s, Chanpheng sold the card to a private collector for $17,500, sealed in a trophy. The card hasn’t been seen on the market since.
2. Shichifukujin Dragon
Much like the previous entry, only one Shichifukujin Dragon has ever been printed. In 1996, Magic was beginning to make moves into the Asian market and saw a great increase in success. The DCI Tournament Center was being built in Tokyo, Japan with the card game’s rising popularity. They asked Mark Rosewater and artist Christopher Rush if they could have a unique card created for the event.
While they agreed, they also wanted to make something that was symbolic in Japanese culture. “Shichifukujin” are the seven gods of fortune. With the center just opening, it seemed like a nice sentiment.
In terms of rarity, the Dragon is only second to the 1996 World Champion on a technicality. While the extra copies were destroyed, we have no idea if the printing plates were archived, so technically another one could be printed up. This card has never been sold on the market.
When the center closed, the card was moved to the Hobby Japan Head Office where it can still be seen today.
When Richard Garfield was planning on proposing to his then-girlfriend, Lily Wu, he wanted to do something special. He approached production manager Dave Howell and Quinton Hoover about making a special card to propose with.
Dave created the cards, and Richard added them to a deck he play tested with Lily. On the fourth game, he finally drew and was able to play the card. Lily and Richard did get married, and the deck is apparently still intact. Eight more copies of Proposal were printed and given to family members as well as Dave and Quinton.
Quinton Hoover’s copy was apparently stolen on a trip to Japan and has never been recovered. A copy did show up for sale in 2017 in Paris at Magic Bazar for $50,000, but the webpages about the posting have been closed and whether or not it did get bought is unknown.
4. Splendid Genesis and Fraternal Exaltation
Much like Proposal, Splendid Genesis was another card made to celebrate something happening in Richard Garfield’s life. This time, it was the announcement of their first child. Wizards did a print run of 110 of these cards to be handed out to family members and important Wizards employees.
A few years later, when the Garfield’s welcomed their second child to the world, Fraternal Exaltation was created. Wizards printed 220 to once again be handed out to family and important Wizards employees.
Because of these cards’ rarities, their price tag is on the level of Black Lotus. One copy of Splendid Genesis emerged on the market and is currently up for sale for $30,000! So, get in line for that one, I guess.
5. Phoenix Heart
As with Proposal (are you seeing a theme emerging?), Phoenix Heart was created to celebrate Garfield’s second marriage to Koni Kim in 2015. Less is known on this card but, given the previous details, you can assume that 330 cards were printed and given to family members and important Wizards employees.
At least one was put up for sale, but the only records I found were one being sold for $15,000 and another for $13,500. They do pop up now and again as people who were invited may not have been interested in MTG and didn’t realize that they were given an awfully expensive invitation.
6. Foil Intuition
Intuition is a tutor card from Tempest that lets you search for three different cards. Its main punishment is that your opponent gets to decide which one you get to put in your hand and which two go to the graveyard. That alone makes the card worth from $130 to $175.
However, they’re not rare in the same sense as the other cards on this list. What makes Intuition special is that it wasn’t originally offered as a foil, but a foil variant was introduced as a Judge Promo in 2003. This caused the price to shoot up to between $800 to $2,000 depending on condition. Not as much as the other cards so far, but its rarity puts it so high on this list. Only the Judges of sanctioned tournaments got these, so supply is much lower and there’s no possible way to get this in a booster or starter pack.
7. Black Lotus
We’re getting out of the personal and nearly impossible to find cards and into the commercial and very hard to find cards. Black Lotus is by far the most famous Magic card in existence, and part of the infamous Power 9. Every new player is told the story of this and it’s eight brothers from Alpha and Beta and their insane price tag. I don’t believe I need to explain why.
Getting one of these bad boys can run you anywhere from $28,000 for a heavily played copy or $44,700 for a lightly played variety.
If you look through the list of mechanics in the game’s history, you’ll occasionally see effects like Timetwister. Shahrazad comes to mind, but that’s an extreme case. Either way, cards that completely reset or change the game like this tend to come with steep price tags. For Timetwister, it’s two and a blue. For you, it’s closer to $13,000.
9. Time Walk
As the current metagame may tell you, taking extra turns can get you a lot. In today’s the case, it’s a fair bit of mana in a tier 1 deck. Back in Alpha, though, it was one and a blue at sorcery speed.
Time Walk not only goes on this list of rarest cards, it’s also on my list of cards I wish had flavor text. A Time Walk of your very own would cost you between $4,000 to $10,000 depending on the card’s quality.
10. Ancestral Recall
Well, card draw is king. Who knew?! Ancestral Recall allows you, or your opponent, to draw three cards for a single blue mana. Cheap resources truly are something to strive for.
Recalls are seen more commonly than Black Lotuses and are cheaper, but that’s not saying much here. Just one of these will set you back $5,000 for even a heavily played copy.
11. Volcanic Island and Underground Sea
I’m rolling Volcanic Island and Underground Sea into one spot because they’re on about the same level of rarity and demand. Tapping for a red/blue and blue/black respectively, I guess Grixis is the best. Or that playing Esper/Sultai/Jeskai/Temur would be just as easy. Either way, tapping for one of two colors without some sort of penalty or cost is awesome.
A legal one of either of these bad boys would cost you anywhere from $2,000 to $5,200.
12. Mox Ruby and Mox Jet
For the same reasons as the dual lands, Mox Ruby and Mox Jet seem to be the most expensive of the moxes. Getting free mana the same turn you can also drop a land is nothing to sneeze at, no matter the color.
Looking through a Vintage lens, though, red and black have been the most valued. That’s why these tend to be in the $4,000 to $5,000 neighborhood. It’s closer to $1,750 if you don’t need it to be tournament-legal, though.
The Best Place to Buy Rare Cards
Underground Sea | Illustration by Rob Alexander
This is the hard question. Any reputable seller of Magic cards would be ideal. Specifically if you can meet them and see the cards in person and they allow you verify its authenticity or provide you with authenticity verification paperwork. When it comes to these kinds of cards, getting it graded by BCA or Beckett is encouraged, but not a requirement.
Chances are you have an idea what the difference between “light play” and “near mint” is if you’re looking to buy something like this. I strongly suggest a seller with an actual storefront or one that can get it to a secure location to be viewed, like TCGPlayer or CardKingdom.
eBay is full of these cards, but it’s risky. You have to rely on written judgments from the seller’s eyes and prayers that their camera is pointing at the right thing. Sometimes that’s the only place your desired card can be found, so just take care to know your stuff and, if necessary, call for assistance. There are tons of people who can look at a card or even a close-up picture and give expert knowledge.
If you’re talking about a lot of money and a private seller, working through a middleman may be the best. Sotheby’s is an auction house but can also help with advisory, private sales, and evaluation. If you’re looking to purchase a card for more than $10,000, splurging on this extra cost to have 100% certainty in the authenticity of your purchase is pretty crucial.
Mox Jet | Illustration by Dan Frasier
Looking at rare Magic cards can sometimes leave a hole in your heart about what you wish you could play with. It won’t leave a hole in your wallet, though. In terms of the rarest cards, they’d be awesome collectibles. In terms of the less rare items mentioned, they can be awesome playthings too if you have that level of disposable income. Either way, I think we can all agree on one thing: seeing rare cards like that in person is still awe-inspiring.
If these are a little beyond your budget, you may be able to actually afford some expensive basics, perhaps?
If you want to share any decklists or thoughts on this list, we welcome them in our Discord or in the comments below.
Have a good one, and I’ll see you soon!