Misprinted Magic cards have become popular with collectors over the past few years as more and more sets are printed by WOTC, but are they a good long term investment? Read on and I’ll tell you why I don’t think you should be parking your long term money in Magic card errors or misprints.
What are Misprinted Magic Cards?
You don’t see them often but occasionally you’ll come across a Magic card in a pack that was miscut in some way. Normally they’re off-centered right to left or top to bottom and those are the most common error cards you’ll find in the world of Magic: The Gathering.
Modern Magic sets often include foil cards that have been misprinted in some way. Many times the misprints are slight variations of foiling such as lightness in color, foiling in areas that shouldn’t be foiled, or simply just missing the foil all together.
Magic: The Gathering misprints often include cards that are crimped in some way by a machine. The crimping damages the card a bit, but many collectors feel like they are rare enough to add to a collection.
So in all there are many different variations of misprints out there in the world of Magic. Whether it’s a foiling issue, a crimping issue, or the more common miscut card, all of these are considered misprints and do you have some collectibility and value to them.
Very Small Market for Misprints
When it comes to talking about MTG as an investment, I believe there is a very small market for misprinted Magic cards. As with anything there is a group of people out there that tend to focus strictly on errors and misprints. But when you look at the entire population of Magic The Gathering collectors and investors, the market for errors is relatively small.
Because the market is small that also means the values of misprinted Magic cards will not be as strong. In my research of error cards I have found that most of them are very inexpensive and can be found for less than $25-$50. On occasion you’ll find a more popular Magic card that has been misprinted and brings more money, but for the most part the common and uncommon errors will not bring very much money at all.
For instance, if you had a Magic Alpha Black Lotus that was off centered or miss cut, that card would probably be worth many many times more than a normal Black Lotus. It is just such a popular card that finding one that was misprinted would be almost like finding the Holy Grail. However most of the original Magic cards from the 90’s were well printed with very few errors so you will not normally find such an animal. Most of the misprints nowadays are more modern cards and there are just very few collectors out there today in the market willing to spend money for those misprints.
The biggest reason the prices do not rise very much is because of demand. Although it’s nice to have a card that has been misprinted and is unusual and rare, there are just not enough people out there that are willing to pay to have it in their collection. These types of cards are usually not playable and Magic is a game to be played so most collectors steer clear.
Prices Tend to Fluctuate and Stay Flat Over Time
Another reason I’m not a big fan of misprinted Magic cards is because prices tend to fluctuate all over the place. Because there are not very many people involved in collecting them, prices are normally not written in stone and stable. One day you’ll find a card that’s $20, the next day it’ll be $50 and then you’ll find it for $10. There is simply no price guide out there that would guide anyone to the values of these cards and that doesn’t lead to long term stability in prices.
I am a firm believer of letting the market dictate pricing but when there are very few people collecting a certain type of card, it’s very hard to determine what the market value really is. That to me is a big enough reason to stay away from errors and misprints because you will never fully know what the value is because the price changes so often.
When you compare the historical values of misprints with other “normal” Magic cards that rise in value over time, you’ll see that misprints and errors tend to stay flat (much like the example graph below) while other normal more desireable cards tend to rise steadily over time. As an investor, I would rather have that steady upwards trajectory when it comes to my card values, not flat and uneven which is often seen with misprinted cards.
Most Misprinted Magic Cards are Modern
As I mentioned before, most misprinted Magic cards are modern and we all know that modern cards are normally printed to oblivion. That being said there are fewer collectors out there willing to put lots of money into more modern cards these days because we don’t know what values could look like in the future.
If you’ve read any of my other posts you’ll know that I’m a big proponent of investing in older and rare Magic cards. Although that can include more modern cards I believe investing in Magic cards should be centralized on the golden era back in the 90s. Because there are a few misprinted Magic cards from that era, I’m not a huge fan of putting money into modern cards that have low sales numbers and marginal demand. Especially ones that are considered errors and do not have a lengthy history to determine value.
Long Term Outlook for Misprinted Magic Cards
I think the long-term outlook for misprinted Magic cards is questionable. I have a lengthy background in the sports and non-sports card industry so I have seen many different versions of errors and misprint in my lifetime. There are a few that stick out to me that will always be in demand such as the T206 Magie error, the 1989 Fleer Billy Ripken FF error and even the 1977 Star Wars C-3PO error. But I have yet to see one specific Magic error card out there that even compares with any of these very popular ones.
Because the majority of collectors of error cards are not searching for one very specific misprinted Magic card, their focus is on a number of random errors. That to me does not bode well for the long term. Again if there was a super popular rare Magic card from the 90s that was printed in error and later fixed and there was a population of these errors in the market, that might be something to look for to add to a collection. However there is no such animal at this point which makes the long-term outlook very bleak on investing in these types of cards.
I guess it’s easy to see that I’m not a big fan of misprinted Magic cards. I do honestly think that they are a terrible investment and I would be very hesitant to add any such cards into my collection. If I found one in a pack I would probably end up advertising it online as an error and selling it for as much money as I possibly could. If someone were to offer me $10 or $20 for a modern card I pull it out of a pack it was miscut, it’s all yours. I have no faith in the long-term prospects of such a card.
Remember that this is about investing in Magic cards and I’m not saying you should never ever collect misprinted Magic cards by no means. If this is something that you really enjoy doing I absolutely encourage you to search them out and add them to your collection. As long as you don’t pay big dollars for these cards and you are happy having them in your collection, more power to you. That’s honestly great and I’m happy that you are happy having cards like that in your collection. I just don’t want you to expect anything when it comes to long-term value as I fully believe that a $20 error card today is probably going to be worth no more than what you paid for it (maybe even less) years from now.
As always, best of luck in your collecting, be careful about what you buy when investing in Magic cards and most of all have a ton of fun doing it. Take care everybody.
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