The card game Magic: the Gathering is known for its dedicated fanbase – a community who gather together to play during Friday-night basement matches or during lunch period.
The game involves casting spells and using creatures to attack your opponent but players can only gain those abilities from collecting a big variety of cards. That means it’s also a big trading business, with a reported 40 million people playing the game annually. That community drives a healthy resale market, where rare cards and memorabilia can go for thousands of dollars.
Now, players have a mystery on their hands, one that’s almost as spellbinding as the game itself: how did at least $100,000 worth of valuable Magic cards end up tossed in a Texas landfill?
A Reddit user who goes by the handle LATIN0 first saw six discarded pallets and thousands of Magic cards during a routine trip to the landfill, where he goes to drop off trash from his trailer. “I saw Magic cards close to where I was dumping, looked for the source and took a pic,” LATIN0, who did not respond to a request for comment, wrote.
Workers at the landfill said rules prohibited people from taking anything, so he left the cards where they were. According to his post, LATIN0 thought the story ended there. It did not.
People quickly began speculating in the comments section: how much could these cards cost? Many spotted rare cards in the rubble and speculated that the haul could be a secret goldmine worth between $100,000 and $250,000.
Magic: the Gathering, now owned by the Hasbro subsidy Wizards of the Coast, released its first cards in 1993. Thirty years later, the nerdy hobby has become a pop-culture phenomenon. Not all 40 million players splurge on pricey decks, but Magic’s surge in popularity has also driven a rise in the cost of cards.
Sought-after cards are considered valuable and subject to official authentication. Sometimes, a card is considered rare because it’s out of print, or boasts popular old artwork. Packs are sorted into four “rarities”: common, uncommon, rare, and mythic rare. The cards that are considered highly rare are more useful in the game and can help bulk up the “power” of a user’s deck.
In 2021, a card depicting a black lotus flower that was signed by its original designer sold for $511,100 on eBay, setting a record for the most expensive ever sold.
“Magic exists as both a game and a collectors’ item,” said Steve Jozef, the managing director of Brooklyn Game Lab. “It’s such a bizarre thing the way that Magic players value cardboard.”
Jozef, who plays the game with friends, uses “proxy cards”, or clearly fake versions of high-value collectibles. They can be printed at home, or hastily drawn on paper. His friends honor the proxies when playing together, but it’s also normal to see competitors toting decks worth thousands of dollars.
“When you buy Magic cards, it half feels like you’re engaging in a hobby and half feels like you’re making a financial investment,” he said. “I have one co-worker who has this blinged-out deck, and I once asked him, ‘Is this your retirement fund?’”
So for Jozef, seeing LATIN0’s landfill discovery kind of stings. “I had this sinking feeling in my heart knowing that these have value to so many people,” he said. “This is heartbreaking for someone who plays.”
Sam Ariyevich, a political science major at the University of Washington and member of the campus Magic club, has been a fan ever since his friends gave him his first deck during a middle school lunch period. He built it into a collection that’s worth about $4,000.
“I would have lost my mind if I found those cards,” Ariyevich said. “It’s a dream come true for a Magic player to stumble across a goldmine like that. So it hurts to see that many cards go to waste.”
How can the Magic-obsessed explain the significance of this find to someone who’s never played the game? “Think of it like finding piles of money in various denominations,” said Eildh Lonie, a Magic content creator and commentator who lives in Alberta, Canada.
It’s not uncommon for Magic players to make surprise scores on cards where they least expect it. A friend of Lonie’s recently rediscovered a valuable foil Mox Diamond (market price: $807) among some cards she had bought in bulk on the cheap. She’s heard of people stumbling into “the right place at the right time” – a game store that’s closing down, for example – and rolling away with thousands of cards for $25.
“If you played this game when it was released and you still have the cards somewhere, say your parents’ house, for example, you could have a small fortune just sitting there,” she said.
It may be too late for LATIN0, who posted that he had returned to the landfill but could not find the pallets. “I do have two unopened from a special edition called secret lair, found it where I walked around the area where I was last time,” he wrote. “I’m keeping them to remind myself of a woulda-coulda-shoulda moment of my life. Probably worth little but will mean a lot to me.”
Jozef, who teaches Magic to children, thinks the story ultimately has a happy ending. LATIN0’s co-worker, who was present when he first went to the landfill, took one box of cards home as a gift for his kids – and they have no idea how much they’re worth.
“When we play with kids, they marvel a bit when we tell them about how much the cards cost, but for the most part they’re just happy to play the game no matter the value,” Jozef said. “I think it’s easy to lose sight of that as adults when we get caught up in economics. But at the core that’s why we got into Magic, too: because we love the game.”
#Magic #Gathering #fans #heartbroken #worth #cards #Texas #landfill #Texas