Magic: The Gathering Black Lotus card sells for record $540k at auction

A Black Lotus card from Magic: The Gathering — considered to be the most sought-after card from Magic, and perhaps from any trading card game — has sold at auction for a record $540,000, the highest ever bid for a Magic card. It’s an impressive figure, albeit one that suggests the market for collectible trading card game cards has stabilized after years of explosive growth.

An almost identical example of a Black Lotus sold two years ago for $510,000. Like the card in the present auction, it was given a perfect Gem Mint 10 rating for its condition by the Professional Sports Authenticators, and its case was signed by the card’s illustrator Christopher Rush. Only six PSA 10 Black Lotus cards exist.

Photo: PWCC

There’s been a small increase in value, then — but nothing like the threefold increase in the value of the Black Lotus that happened between 2019 and 2021, as the popularity of trading card games boomed during the pandemic. Some market observers might conclude Bank of America was right to complain that Hasbro, owner of Magic publisher Wizards of the Coast, was printing too many cards and devaluing them. Packs celebrating the game’s 30th anniversary controversially included reprints of rare cards, including the Black Lotus.

The Black Lotus, which dates back to Magic’s first Alpha printing in 1993, is famed for its rarity (it had a print run of around 1,100) and its power. It costs no mana to play but adds three mana of any color to your pool, so it’s a great shortcut to casting powerful spells early in the game. It’s one of the “Power Nine,” a set of cards that has been banned from most formats of competitive play for their overwhelming power.

“This record sale reinforces the Alpha Black Lotus as an investment-quality asset, fortifies its claim as a true work of art, and shows exactly how important Magic: The Gathering is to the culture of gaming and trading card games,” said Jesse Craig, vice president of sales at PWCC Marketplace, which conducted the auction. “It’s extremely unlikely we see one of these signed copies available for purchase again in the near future. They are crown jewels for a collection. They will remain under lock and key and treated as the museum-caliber pieces they are,” Craig said, perhaps with only slight overstatement.

The values of Magic cards are only matched by those of the Pokémon trading card game, which have also broken well into six figures. Last year, a Pikachu Illustrator card from 1998 sold for an astonishing $900,000 (although it should be noted this is a rare promotional card, and not actually playable in the game).

Just to put these prices into perspective, the highest price ever paid for a trading card of any sort is $12.6 million, for a 1952 Mickey Mantle baseball card, in 2022. In that context, half a million for a Black Lotus looks like something of a bargain.

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