Yes, the title is correct and I should probably make an admission. What I am suggesting is either pure brilliance or complete lunacy. I get that. However, I think it is an option worth exploring to alleviate the supply of certain cards for eternal formats. As far as I can tell, this option hasn’t been discussed or explored in depth. I did some searches on the topic in forums and other places and came up empty. I proposed the question on the mtgsalvation forums, but that conversation went nowhere. Maybe that is a good sign? Before we begin, let’s ensure everyone is on the same page. Gold-bordered cards are cards printed that have never been tournament legal. To ensure they never entered the secondary market, they were printed with gold-borders. Many of these sets were like buying Commander or precons were people knew which cards were in those collection of cards. For many years later, most of these cards were considered worthless. Some bought these cards in the early days for collections, but once more educated players and tournaments became more of a thing, many players avoided them like the plague. They were basically considered worthless by many except for only the most hardcore of collectors.
The Financial Aspect
As with all basic economic models, let’s start with the supply. There have been in part four basic groups of gold-bordered cards. The first set of gold-bordered cards was the Collector’s Edition released domestically in December of 1993 (Beta had been released that August). Internationally, there was an International Edition released that same month. The only difference was the International Edition actually had “International Edition” stamped on the back. Now, these sets contained one of every card from Unlimited Edition Beta (or simply known as Beta) which included a set size of 302 cards. Approximately 13,500 sets were made of the Collector’s Edition and only 3,500 sets for the International Edition. That means if every Black Lotus had survived from those sets; this would mean 17,000 Black Lotuses. This also means about 5.1 million cards total being added to the supply if we include all the cards from those sets.
To put this in perspective, the print run for Beta was 7.3 million cards (others sources site 7.8 million). About 3.31 % of that was rares which equates to roughly 241,000 rares for that run. With 117 rares in that set, this means there were about 2059 Black Lotuses printed (other estimates are roughly 3,300). To paint a full picture, the Unlimited Edition had been estimated at 35 million cards printed and Revised with a print run of 500 million. Unfortunately, Revised did not include much of the Power Nine like Black Lotus. Estimates for Unlimited are about 18,000. Nobody for sure knows the exact amounts out there in the wild. We don’t need exact. We just need context. If we rounded up all the Black Lotuses ever printed, it would add up to about 22,000. Adding these vintage gold-bordered cards would almost double the supply on the market. It may seem like a lot until we consider all things collectible. Many of those gold cards have not survived the years. Remember, those cards for many years were considered worthless. Many found their way into a garbage, fire or other destructive end.
Let’s talk about the demand. Before you think you have the opportunity to speculate here, think again. The market for these cards is already there and buying in cheap won’t exactly be cheap. These cards can already be found on various sites like tcgplayer, starcitygames, channelfireball and a few others if you know where to look. What do you think a gold-bordered Black Lotus is running? It is already running at $400 U.S. dollars. They are cheaper per se, but not that cheap and this includes all the other chase cards. It’s still going to cost you $100 dollars for a gold-bordered mox. People are already buying and collecting them regardless of being banned from tournament play. Stores are already buying and selling them regardless of this slight technicality. This brings me to one of my first points. Legalizing them isn’t going to suddenly flood the market with 50 cent Black Lotuses. The market is already primed for the legalization of these cards. If anything, the market is already ahead of our current thinking. It reminds me of something on of my favorite economists just recently talked about. The market place should never be dictated by politics. Politics goes against the nature of the free market. Let the market dictate itself.
The other gold-bordered cards include the Pro Tour 1996 Collector’s Set with a small print run of 20,000 of these sets. The other is the World Championship Decks that were printed from 1997 to 2004. The print run on these is more difficult to find actual numbers and suggested numbers found are questionable. Regardless, they appear to be printed in small numbers as well. There is very little to be had by cracking open a The 1996 Pro Tour Collector’s Set. The item itself is probably worth more unopened than cracking it for the individual cards since a set is selling roughly for $300 dollars and up. The same is true for most of World Championship Decks. However, a few of them do have some Legacy and Vintage Staples. These include cards like Force of Will ($30), Gaea’s Cradle ($50) and Wasteland ($5) with a few other exceptions (I’m not going to list them all). Many of these would help alleviate the supply of these format staples. Legalizing these cards would likely have the same impact as the Collector’s Edition and International Edition.
I can’t speak for the retailers out there, but I am guessing they would welcome the legalization of these cards. For one, they are already selling them. The biggest of the retailers can be found already selling them. Legalizing them would only increase their value and help to move the product. The big downfall is that it would drop the prices of already existing cards. I doubt it. The gold-bordered cards are still in relatively short supply compared to the demand. Besides, most retailers by now are used to cards deflating to some extent due to reprints like Modern Masters. Most retailers by this day and age are used to certain reprints. It’s not like the days of Chronicles. If I worked at Wizards of the Coast, I would talk to the biggest retailers and my hunch is that I would get the green light from them. I suppose there would be some sense of relief as well to be legitimizing the cards they are selling.
Let’s play pretend for a moment and they were legalized. The doomsayers may decry the devaluing of their cards. There is no fiber in my body that believes this to be true. Sure, there may be an initial dip in the prices of certain Eternal staples, but that won’t last long. The demand is just way to high and the influx is supply is low. That isn’t my main point. There is a stigma with bordered cards. Consider white border cards. There are some well-known people who commonly baulk at certain Legacy players from playing with white-bordered cards. If there was a sudden legalization, this wouldn’t reduce the stigma of gold-bordered cards. Everyone will still want an Alpha or Beta Black Lotus over a gold-bordered Black Lotus. My hunch it will take some time to get over this stigma.
The Reprint Policy/Reserved List
This battle has been ongoing forever. The point here today is that legalizing these cards does not violate that policy. Many of these cards were already printed before that policy even existed. The argument against this would be the intention of these cards. These cards were never meant for tournament play. While this caveat is true, the same can be said for the Portal sets. For the longest time, Portal was banned from tournament play. The thought process was that these cards were not accessible to the majority of the population. They too were not meant for tournament play. After the game has matured over the years, the decision was made to eventually allow players a simple fact; just let players play with their cards.
The whole problem with the reprint policy is “supposedly” there are two different kind of Magic enthusiasts out there. The one is the tournament player. Tournament players want cheap cards who want the reprint policy revoked. The other is the collector who does not want the reprint policy revoked. The legalization of gold-bordered cards satisfies both parties. Tournament players get an influx of cards into the Eternal formats. The collectors see an increase in the value of their collection. Now, I want to point out something. If you don’t have gold-bordered cards in your collection, you are a tournament player. True collectors already have these cards.
Let’s play pretend again and legalize these cards. If people suddenly complained about the sudden rise of gold-bordered card prices, I don’t have any sympathy. These cards have been out there for over many, many years. They were practically worthless. Everyone for the most part has had a chance to collect these cards. They were there for the taking. If you missed out on the gold-bordered card speculation, sorry, that was your mistake.
An important aspect is legalizing these cards is that there is already a strong precedence to do so. If you haven’t been around this game forever, Chronicles was banned from tournament play for what seemed like forever. Legalizing a former set is nothing new. It has been done before. This was true for other sets like Portal. Certain box sets like Battle Royale were banned. I don’t remember the article, but I do remember the spirit for why Wizards of the Coast justified the legalization of these cards. Basically, it was let the players play with their cards. I believe the same philosophy can be expanded to gold-bordered cards. Why have exceptions?
At one time, I the alternative backs on some of these cards would have been a sticking point. I would have had to bow politely to that argument. This is no longer the case. We have these things called double-faced cards. Sure, there are card backs designed for cards like Delver of Secrets. However, not everyone uses them. It depends. I see some players used them while others simply prefer to just have Delver of Secrets in their main deck. Sleeves are now ubiquitous. If we are honest, many of the cards in the Eternal formats have to have sleeves. The wear and tear on many of those cards have marked them. Marked cards are illegal. Thus, those cards have to be sleeved for sanctioned tournaments in order to be legal.
In today’s world, we also have the Eternal exception for products like Commander and Conspiracy. Adding the gold-bordered sets to this list would not be a new thing. This rule already exists. Gold-bordered sets just aren’t on that list. Unlike those products, gold-bordered sets don’t include unique cards. It’s the reason this rule was made. However, this may be a good thing. There is no card like Imperial Recruiter that only exists in sets like Portal. If gold-bordered cards were legalized, there isn’t this one exception the keeps people from playing a new card because it only exists in these particular sets. They are simply cards that already exist.
Time for Change
Like with many things in this world, sometimes all we need to do is wait for the right time. I believe that time has come. Just like Chronicles, I believe it is time for the neglected gold-bordered cards to join the rest of the real world of Magic. Some parts to be me feels like this would be like righting a mistake. Printing of these cards may have been a mistake. Legalizing them would be like righting a wrong. I find some peace of mind with the idea that all cards are simply legal. Why not?
While this may not be a perfect solution to the reprint policy and it is simply a bandage for a bleeding wound, it is at least a step in the right direction. Frankly, it appears like a win-win for all parties. We get more cards into the environment for tournament players. Collectors see an increase in the value of their collections. Retailers have more product to sell. Wizards of the Coast “technically” is within the confines of the reprint policy and maybe even in line with the spirit of that agreement. Not to mention, they don’t even have to spend a dime. It costs them literally nothing and I mean this in a strict monetary sense. They don’t even have to fire up the printing press. Those cards already exist. All they have to do is make an announcement. Bing, bang, boom, done. Everybody happy.
To be perfectly honest, this would be a great testing ground for dissolving the reprint policy. While this article isn’t an attempt at that process, gold-bordered cards represent a great opportunity. Let’s state a fact; these cards already exist. Allowing them to be legal in formats like Legacy is a simple rule change. If I worked at Wizards, I would promote it. Why? We can always and easily reverse that ruling. When making that change, we should be very honest. Explain to our player base that we are simply trying this and may reverse it if necessary. Then, make the change. If there is a total outcry, change it back. If the vast majority of the populace is happy with the change, just leave it alone. Let the gold-bordered cards get absorbed into the market and continue quietly on with life. It is a good test. You just don’t know what happens to the market until you test the market. It could very well be extremely good for the game. My gut tells me that few people would get up in arms about it. The biggest hurdle wouldn’t be the players themselves. It is the technical questions of things like square corners, sleeving and etc. that would need addressing.
On one last note, I am very curious about your thoughts. While I will appreciate any critical feedback, I am also curious to how you would feel about this change. I say feel because this may be more important that anything logical argument to be made for this suggestion. If the majority of the Magic populace could care less, that to me is an extremely good sign to move forward. Remember, the reprint policy was created out of anger from its fans. It didn’t matter what kind of logic could be put forth. What mattered is that players, customers and retailers were angry. Apathy or even enthusiasm for this change to me and possibly Wizards of the Coast is more important that logic.
Derrick Heard aka Meyou
*Disclaimer: My idea and suggestions in this article is purely a suggestion and not meant as Magic speculation. In essence, I’m not suggesting that you rush out and buy gold-bordered cards. While I am optimistic about this eventual change (possibly decades from now), this may certainly never come to pass. What is more important and the heart of this article is the legalization of these cards and for you to voice your opinion. If you want this change, voice it here and to Wizards of the Coast and send all your opinions to Mark Rosewater since he personally handles all the internal workings at HQ. If you disagree, that is equally important as well.
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