One of the hottest things going in the world of Magic: The Gathering (MTG) is serialized cards. These limited print cards come stamped with a unique serial number, making them very desirable by collectors and MTG investors alike.
Because these cards are going for big dollars online, I thought I would dive a little deeper into the world of serialized MTG cards and see if we can determine if they’re worth including in your collection or investing in for the long term.
Knowing that MTG is constantly changing, I really think it’s essential to adapt and remain up-to-date with the latest releases. And although I don’t think there’s a straightforward answer to whether investing in serialized cards is worth it in the long run, I think we have enough info and sales history to decide if it’s worth yours (and MINE) hard earned dollars.
That being said, let’s dive into these serialized cards and talk about their rarity and value as well as their potential impact when it comes to investing in MTG cards. Do you think they’re really worth the money? Let’s find out!
Understanding Magic The Gathering Serialized Cards
Characteristics of Serialized Cards
Simply put, Serialized Magic: The Gathering (MTG) cards are unique and something Wizards of the Coast (WotC / HASBRO) has recently started including as ‘chasers’ in their booster packs. First introduced in their Secret Lair: Phyrexian Praetors: Compleat Edition set as a hard to find bonus card, Magic is diving head first into the individually numbered card market with full force as just about all new sets recently have these special ‘chase’ cards.
What makes a serialized card unique is that these special cards have an individual serial number printed on the front like the one below:
It appears WotC has taken a page from the Sports Card Industry and decided to give it a try in Magic The Gathering. Serialized or Individually numbered cards have long been a mainstay in sports card wax packs and have been around since the early 1990’s. It’s a great way to drive booster pack sales and so far the allure of finding a serialized card is making Magic collectors happy to buy more packs.
Here are some key characteristics of these cards:
- Each card is individually numbered.
- Serialized cards often have unique artwork or foil treatments
- Limited print runs with cards being numbered individually out of 500 (varies.)
Comparing Serialized to Non-Serialized Cards
There’s a definite difference between serialized and non-serialized cards other than a number stamped on the front of the card. Here are the main differences:
Rarity and Value: When checking the online markets, one of the big differences is that MTG Serialized cards have higher values. This is mainly due to their limited print run of only 500 copies and the difficulty in actually pulling a specific serialized card from a booster pack.
Playability: In terms of Magic gameplay, serialized and non-serialized cards function the same way. The text box showing what the card actually does and the flavor text are the same on each version. However, due to their exclusivity, many collectors and players choose not to use serialized cards in their decks to preserve their condition and value. Not a bad idea considering some serialized cards are worth hundreds of dollars!
Collectability: Serialized cards are obviously more collectible than their non-serialized counterparts. Having a rare numbered card offers a one-of-a-kind aspect since there are no others like it and some serialized cards even feature unique alternate art or foil treatments. There’s no denying that serialized Magic cards are absolutely more collectible and valuable.
Factors Affecting Serialized Card Values
As always, and what you’ll see me preach here very often, one of the significant factors when it comes to valuing Magic The Gathering cards is rarity.
Magic cards are classified by their rarity already by Wizards so you’ll see Mythic Rare, Rare, Uncommon and Common thrown out there quite a bit. But rarity also is determined by print run and how many of those cards are actually out in the wild.
Rarity when it comes to print or production runs is extremely tough to determine, mainly because Wizards doesn’t release their numbers. It’s that ongoing mystery that no one knows how many of a single card were actually printed. Are there less than a thousand Mythic rare cards? Less than ten thousand? Less than a hundred thousand? Who knows.
So when it comes to Rarity of Serialized cards, we finally can put a number to a card. Each of the serialized cards are numbered to 500 so we know there are only 500 of each serialized card ever printed. That’s it. And I would venture to say that 500 is pretty limited when it comes to a collector and player base that spans the entire world.
Another factor to consider is the demand for a card in the market. Cards that are popular or sought after by players and collectors are likely to fetch a higher price.
As a long time player and collector, I know for sure that cards that are highly sought after by players tend to do very well when it comes to values. When the entire playing and collecting community goes after a card, that demand alone can drive prices through the roof.
So keep your eyes and ears peeled for high demand cards like these serialized ones. Demand is always high for cards that are rare and numbered and Magic’s venture into numbered cards will certainly drive people to open more packs to find these valuable gems.
Playability refers to how useful the card is within its respective format (Standard, Modern, etc.) or even how successful a card is in competitive play. A card that acknowledges powerful in-game effects or has synergies with other cards will generally have a higher value due to its playability. When a card is frequently found in successful deck lists, you can expect its value to increase.
But when it comes to serialized cards, playability is pretty much thrown out the window….to a degree. If it’s a super popular card that players and collectors desire to have in their decks, the serialized versions of that card definitely will draw more interest. If it’s just a boring card that players don’t have any interest in, there is no playability factor and you can expect values to be low.
For example, the card “Elsewhere Flask” from THE BROTHERS’ WAR set is only a $1-$2 card at best and it’s not a super popular card when it comes to playability. The Foil Serialized version (only 500 printed) goes for about $125.
But on the flip side, the Mythic Rare Legendary Artifact “Mox Amber” from the same THE BROTHERS’ WAR set is very popular amongst players and collectors and routinely sells for $20-$40 (depending on the version.) But the Foil Serialized version will cost you a pretty penny, selling for between $1,200 and $1,400 if you can find it. It’s the perfect example of a highly playable card in high demand that brings BIG dollars.
As you would expect, the condition of your cards is vital when determining their value. A card in mint or near-mint condition will command a higher price than one that is lightly played or heavily played.
The older the card the more lenient I am when it comes to condition because some cards are just really hard to find. In those cases I’ll take just about any condition I can find.
However when it comes to serialized cards, the only condition problems we’ll see are direct from the printer. If a card comes out of the pack with a bend or chipped corner, that condition alone will affect values dramatically. No one wants a new card these days unless the condition is MINT or NEAR MINT. Can you blame them?
Take proper care of your cards to maintain their value. Here are some key factors to consider:
- Avoid bending or folding the cards.
- Keep them in protective sleeves to avoid scratching.
- Store them in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight.
If you’re fortunate enough to land a serialized Magic card right out of the pack, immediately put it in a protective sleeve and top loader to preserve the condition and thus the value.
Investment Potential of MTG Serialized Cards
I think when it comes to a long term outlook on Magic’s serialized cards, we have to look at history. Since this concept of numbered cards is fairly new to the Magic The Gathering world, it’s best to look at other industries to see how serialized cards have fared.
The sports card industry has had a long history of numbered insert cards and it has been successful for many years now. I don’t know how many packs of cards I’ve ripped in my day just looking for that numbered autograph or special insert. It gets addicting for sure.
Numbered sports cards have traditionally done very well over the years but have been ‘overprinted’ for at least the past 2-3 years in my opinion. Many times you’ll find football or basketball serialized cards that have ten or twenty variations which can get confusing to collectors and also devalue the cards.
Check out the video below that illustrates the overprinting issues in the sports card industry.
The good news is that Magic cards don’t have that problem, at least yet. A serialized card only has one variation and there are typically only 500 of that particular card. Because those cards are limited with only one variation, the long term values I believe will be stable with gradual growth over time.
Numbered/serialized cards are here to stay in my opinion and it definitely promotes pack sales. That is obviously what Hasbro wants to do here. The more special cards like these they can come up with, the more boxes and packs they can sell. Another reason why long term these serialized cards make a decent investment.
Selling and Trading Opportunities
Another aspect to consider when investing in serialized Magic cards is the selling and trading opportunities they present. With a unique serial number on each card, collectors and players alike may be more interested in acquiring these versions due to their exclusivity. The secondary market for Magic cards can be quite profitable, and having the ownership of rare serialized cards may give you the upper hand in negotiating trades and sales.
Remember, though, that the value of a card can fluctuate over time, and there’s no guarantee that your investment will pay off. It’s essential to keep an eye on market trends and act accordingly.
- 8 March of the Machine Set Boosters—the best MTG boosters to open just for fun
- 1 traditional foil alt-art promo card—Ghalta and Mavren
- At least 1 Multiverse Legend card in every Set Booster
- 40 basic land cards (20 foil + 20 nonfoil), 1 Spindown life counter + card storage box
- Battle the Machine Legion as Phyrexians invade planes across the Multiverse
Popular Serialized Cards MTG Cards
Notable Magic: The Gathering Serialized Cards
When collecting Magic: The Gathering cards, you’ll come across some highly sought-after serialized cards that are well-known within the player and collector community. Outside of the very popular Mox Amber from MTG The Brothers’ War set, here are a few other notable cards that you might want to keep an eye out for:
- Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer – Multiverse Legends from the recently released March of the Machine Set – Numbered 1/500 – This card, which was serialized #1, sold for an astounding $6,500 just a few weeks ago. That goes to show that if you can find a serialized card that has a specific number (like 1 out of 500 such as this one), the value could be exponentially more than if you found another number.
- Staff of Domination – Retro Artifact from The Brothers’ War set – Numbered out of 500 – This card is another high priced serialized card bringing big money. Estimates are between $500 and $750 if you can find this rare card.
- Gilded Lotus – Retro Artifact from The Brothers’ War set – Numbered out of 500 – This card recently sold for $550 on eBay.
- Yargle, Glutton of Urborg – Multiverse Legends from the recently released March of the Machine Set – Numbered out of 500 – One of the highest dollar sales of the last month for Serialized MTG cards, selling for $1,025!
- Elesh Norn – Legendary Creature / Phyrexian Praetor from the recently released March of the Machine Set – Numbered out of 500 – Easily one of the most popular creatures as of late for both MTG collectors and players. This serialized card recently sold on eBay for $1400!
Remember, when it comes to collecting Magic: The Gathering serialized cards, doing your research on the rarity, card value, and scarcity of certain sets and cards can pay off greatly in the long run. Hit one of the cards above and you’re doing AWESOME!
Final Thoughts on Magic The Gathering Serialized Cards
So all in all, I like that Magic is starting to get into inserting Serialized Cards into their products. Wizards of the Coast has been doing the retro frame, foil and showcase thing for quite a while and although I like those variations, adding chase cards like these serialized ones is a great way to drive interest in new sets.
What no one is telling you is that the long term outlook on investing in serialized cards is still up in the air and that chapter has yet to be written. However, based on how well the idea has worked in sports cards I would venture to say it’ll work with Magic The Gathering too.
What I would caution is to be careful on how much you spend on a specific serialized card. As new sets come out, there are only so many serialized cards on the market because not enough of the packs and boosters have been opened. So the prices may be temporarily high because few of a specific numbered card have been found.
So again, be wary about spending too much on a single card unless you just gotta have it and you can live with price fluctuations. Otherwise, keep hunting them down in packs and best of luck finding them.
All for now…keep collecting and investing in Magic cards and hope to see you back here soon!
Brian CooperBrian is the founder of Magic Card Investor and has been collecting and playing Magic: The Gathering since 1994. His mission is to bring the nostalgia and joy of collecting trading cards to everyone and to help people learn about (and maybe even profit from) this fun and rewarding pastime.
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