Magic: The Gathering’s rarest cards are seeing a bumper year so far in 2022, with record-breaking sales for the game's legendary Power Nine - including the Black Lotus.
The Power Nine is the collective name given to nine cards from MTG's earliest Alpha, Beta and Unlimited sets, first released in 1993, so called for their powerful in-game effects. The rarest and most valuable of the group is the iconic Black Lotus, widely considered MTG’s holy grail card, which is joined by Ancestral Recall, Timetwister, Time Walk and five gemstone-themed Mox cards: Emerald, Jet, Pearl, Ruby and Sapphire.
Approximately 1,000 copies of each card in Magic: The Gathering’s very first set, Alpha, were ever printed. Almost 30 years later, only a fraction of that number have reportedly survived - regardless of condition. Card grading specialists Beckett (BGS) and PSA have respectively graded 263 and 110 Alpha Black Lotus cards in total over the years, with a combined 140 cards graded as Mint 9 condition or higher on the companies’ 10-point scale.
“These cards tend not to show up for sale often,” Jesse Craig, director of business development at auction house PWCC, told Dicebreaker. “In 2022, an authenticated and graded Alpha Black Lotus has gone to auction just four times.”
None of the Black Lotus or Power Nine sales so far in 2022 have come close to the astonishing $511,100 paid for a PSA 10 Gem Mint Alpha Black Lotus signed by designer-illustrator Christopher Rush at auction in January 2021 - the most paid for any Magic: The Gathering card. According to Craig, the start of 2021 also marked the last time an Alpha Black Lotus in Mint condition - or higher - appeared at auction, following the sale of a BGS 9 copy for $122,888.
Nevertheless, the Power Nine has been experiencing a record-breaking year so far in 2022, with a number of the valuable Magic: The Gathering cards going under the hammer for ever-increasing amounts in recent months.
122 Power Nine cards from MTG’s Alpha, Beta and Unlimited sets have been sold at auction so far in 2022 - including four Alpha Black Lotus cards - with 19 of the highest-value sales setting a new record, either for the card in a specific grade, or for the card as a whole. 71 of the cards date from MTG’s Unlimited set, with 30 and 21 copies from the earlier Beta and Alpha sets respectively.
Though no Mint Alpha Black Lotus has appeared at auction this year, a BGS 6 Alpha Black Lotus set a new record for the grade and for an autographed copy of the card signed by Magic: The Gathering creator Richard Garfield when it sold in April 2021 for $72,000.
Meanwhile, Black Lotus cards from Beta and Unlimited have similarly set new records for lower grades, with a BGS 7.5 Beta Black Lotus selling on eBay for $42,000 and a BGS 7 Unlimited copy fetching just over $34,000.
Beyond the Black Lotus, other Power Nine cards have achieved historical records. A mint-condition Mox Emerald sold in March 2022 for $29,999, marking the most ever paid for an Alpha copy of the card, while an Unlimited copy sold on eBay in June for $6,190, setting an all-time record for the card in the later set.
A Mox Ruby from Unlimited graded at PSA’s highest Gem Mint 10 condition went for $9,106 - another all-time record for the set. The remaining Mox cards - Sapphire, Pearl and Jet - also saw new grade records set across their Alpha, Beta and Unlimited incarnations, PWCC said, with an Alpha Mox Pearl the most lucrative after selling in March for $19,200.
Completing the Power Nine’s fruitful 2022 so far, mint-condition Ancestral Recall, Timetwister and Time Walk cards from the Unlimited set have broken their all-time records, with cards graded at BGS 9 and 9.5 selling for $9,757, $9,600 and $11,500 respectively. Alpha copies of Ancestral Recall and Time Walk set new grade records, with a BGS 8 copy of the former fetching $16,655 on eBay and a mint Alpha Timetwister selling for $22,800 in February.
The popularity of the Power Nine looks set to continue through the rest of the year, with a number of cards - including a Mint Unlimited Black Lotus and a Beta Timetwister autographed by designer Mark Tedin - set to appear at auction this month alone.
“The state of Magic the Gathering trading cards right now is a story of low supply and high demand,” Craig said. “For the most popular cards from the most popular sets, nearly every sale comes with the possibility of a new record.”