Holy Grails

Every collectible genre has a "Holy Grail", some item that will be the crown of the collection. These holy grails are often known by people that don't know about many other aspects of the hobby, and are such a part of pop culture that they all have sections on Wikipedia. These items are extremely rare, but obtainable if the buyer has a big enough wallet and enough time to search.

Inverted Jenny, a Holy Grail of philately. It's cheaper than the single existing Treshilling Yellow, but on the other hand not unique.
 For Comic Books, the Holy Grail is Action Comics #1 from 1938. This may not be the single rarest or most expensive to buy comic book ever (e.g. the insanely rare ashcan edition of Flash Comics #1 has an asking price of $5 million), but it is still the most coveted comic book of all time, and it would be the crown of any collection.

10 cents well invested in 1938
Video game collecting, like most other, also have some actual unique items, such as Nintendo Campus Challenge 1991. The Holy Grail of video game collecting is however generally considered to be the 1990 World Championship game.

Gold one is about 4 times more rare than the grey.
For general collectible cards, the most coveted would probably be the T206 Honus Wagner from 1909, but you all know what I'm leading up to. Readers of this blog should be very familiar with the Holy Grail of collectible card games.

Forest, Lotus, Giant Spider, go.
That one in the picture is mine. I got it two days ago, and it's actually a pretty strange feeling. I bought it from a friend as something of a 30-year birthday gift to myself, a few weeks in advance. The borders are white, but nonetheless I now own the most famous card of all collectible games. It would have been cheaper if I got it when I got this magazine early 95:

Still wanted it 18 years ago apparently. The Lotus and Bad Moon are the ones I've circled as "wants".
Looking through the price list of that old Scrye Magazine, I found some more funny prices (these are Beta btw):

Price of Beta Twiddle: $10. Price of Beta Underground Sea: $12.75. Twiddle was not reprinted in Revised, and was actually very sought after once upon a time.
Anyway, Lotus. A rough estimate would put around 15000 lotuses in existence. 1100 alpha, 3400 beta and 15300 unlimited were presumably printed; and it's probably not an exaggeration to estimate that 25% of these have been lost to time; thrown away, ripped apart or lost in the woods. Collecting game pieces like these in 1993 would have been comparable to collecting Monopoly pieces, there simply was not a market as it is today. Magic as a hobby have increased immensely the last few years. Ten years ago, in 2003, the player base was estimated to be 6 million players by WotC; today it could probably be around triple that. That means that, using very rough numbers, there's less than one Black Lotus for every 1000 magic players. Compared to Action Comics #1, that's a lot. Compared to most other things, that's very few. It's a very small, and very nerdy, piece of history. I really can't wait to cast a first turn Juzam with it :)

Next week, after a week of work as my current summer vacation is coming to an end, I'll travel to Varberg and play 93/94 next to the Warcon Convention. There will be beer, barbecue and sweet people; join up if you have the opportunity!


  1. Very entertaining article. But I have one comment about the rarity of Black Lotus: Maybe I am strong but Isn't it correct that all vintage rares are equally rare when it it comes to print run? This would mean that there are actually the same number of Volcanic Eruptions out there as Black Lotuses. But lower demand. Anders, Bergen, Norway

  2. Thanks!
    All rares in alpha, beta and unlimited are equally rare, so there are indeed as many black bordered Volcanic Eruptions as Lotuses. Note however that two cards were accidentally left out of alpha, CoP:Black and Volcanic Island, so there exists less english black bordered Volcanic Islands than black bordered lotuses or any other rare from A/B/U.

    For the expansions, the printing sheets are slightly more complex. Instead of using three sheet (with common, uncommon and rare), they only used two sheets (common and uncommon), and printed the cards a different number of times at each sheet. E.g. for Arabian Nights, there were 8 cards in each booster, 6 from the common sheet and 2 from the uncommon sheet. The rarest cards were uncommons that only existed twice per sheet (denoted u2, examples include Juzam Djinn), and there were less rare uncommons such as Library of Alexandria and Bazaar of Baghdad (u3). The most common card was Desert, with rarity c11 (11 times per common sheet). One thing that is slightly surprising is that Maze of Ith actually was a common in The Dark btw, with a rarity of c1.


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