Magic: The Gathering Card Values

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This guide is for those of you who purchase Magic: The Gathering cards and want to avoid overpaying for them.  Beware of an auction purportedly selling cards from the Antiquities, Arabian Nights, Legends, or The Dark sets.  Whether it's an auction listed by an uninformed seller who didn't do the research before buying the cards from someone else or a seller who purposefully misleads prospective buyers, you may very well be bidding on a card from the Chronicles set.

What's so bad about that, you ask?  Whether you're purchasing to resell or you're purchasing to build your deck, there won't be a difference in mana cost, mana converted, power, and toughness; however, there will be a big difference in the actual cash value of the card.  For instance, if you're looking to bid on a card entitled Jeweled Bird from the Arabian Nights set, retail cost for a mint/near mint card is approximately $5.00 - if it's actually from the Arabian Nights set.  The Jeweled Bird card from the Chronicles set, however, has a retail cost of approximately $1.50.  Both cards bear the Arabian Nights expansion symbol, the same picture, and basically the same text.  What makes two cards, with an identical picture, different from the original set and the Chronicles is the placement and/or size of the text and sometimes the wording.

In addition, the Anthologies set contains cards with no expansion symbol or the expansion symbols from Alliances, Antiquities, Arabian Nights, Exodus, Fallen Empires, Homelands, Ice Age, Legends, Mirage, Portal, Portal: Second Age, Stronghold, Tempest, The Dark, Unglued, Urza's Saga, Visions, and Weatherlight.  Many Magic players rely on the expansion symbol when purchasing cards not in original retail packs or boxes.  Unfortunately, the symbols can be misleading.

Before you bid, make sure to message the seller and ask for a scanned picture of the actual card, not a stock photo.  There are several web sites which retail Magic cards and have the pictures and text of each version of card.  Use your search engine to find these retailers and compare the scanned card to each version available.  This measure also applies to cards issued in sets which have no expansion symbol: 4th Edition, 5th Edition, Alpha, Beta, Collector's Edition, Collector's Edition - International, Revised, and Unlimited.  The backs of most cards (Collector's Edition and Collector's Edition International excepted) are exactly the same.  Some differences in the card faces are subtle, but most are very apparent.  It's too easy to end up paying way more than a particular card is worth if you don't do your homework and don't ask questions.  Legitimate sellers should guarantee that a card is from a specific set and have no problem emailing you a scanned picture.

Caveat emptor!  As with any purchase on eBay, communication, education, knowledge, and research are your primary tools to getting great deals on any kind of merchandise or service.  Happy - informed - buying!

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