Ethiopian gold

I'm on a plane. If all goes well, and that is a big if, I'll meet up with my girlfriend in Ethiopia in about 24 hours. I'm going to the middle of Africa to spend a weekend with Netflix in a hotel room. If all goes well.

She's in South Sudan. It's not place one simply goes to. A month back I looked into to it at length. Even if one should manage to get a ticket and a visa, and all the clearances and vaccinations, actually landing is no piece of cake. The airport in Juba got closed yesterday due to political turmoil. It's never open during weekends. A majority of the planes that flies there are forbidden to enter European airspace due to the high risk of accidents. And if all that would work out, the country is a serious danger zone. The tribal wars isn't exactly a game of Elves vs. Goblins. Travelling in the country without soldiers looked like a bad idea. And I probably needed to to learn how to bribe.
So if I was going, I wanted to get gold. No insurance company I found would help me if I went to South Sudan willingly, so I had to make my own insurance. Gold is an universal panic button. If you have gold, you could get a ride to some sort of embassy if shit hits the fan. Or hopefully buy yourself out of unexpected situations with the military.

I got my hands on a Krugerrand from my dad in Gothenburg. Both he and mom vehemently suggested that this was a bad idea. I've done a few questionable things in the past, but this one just seemed like reckless abandon. They still helped me out with info and some research, but reached the same conclusion; South Sudan is not a country one simply goes to.
But I had my Gold. The metal in the coin was valued at $1,200 so it would be a solid get-out-of-jail-free card. This was in the end of November. December first I moved yet again, this time from the Oslo BarCode to the more bohemian Fredensborg, a place where the historically socially different east and west of Oslo collide. My new neighbours are both hipster foodies and stoned squatters. It's a good place to live if you want to get to know the town better. Rather than putting the gold straight in a moving box, I placed it safely in a wallet I rarely use.


If we manage to have enough income to keep the bottom layers of the Maslow pyramid happy, we are to face the necessity that begin where necessity ends. Luxury. All the money I've spent on 93/94, I perceive as money lost. It has never been about investing for me. It's more like drinking a rare beer or buying new shoes, once you've spent the money, you wont get it back. You got an experience or something you'll enjoy having. If I need a panic button, I have one in my cards, but I hope to never have to use it. Just as I hoped to never use the Gold.
But cards got different once I started to indulge in greed and sloth. Virtues in decadence, but vices in my collecting. I'm not a collector for the sake of collecting. When I got access to more cards than I really used, the atmosphere around them changed. There was no real joy in getting my last Taigas. They were means to an end, to complete some sort of achievement of having 40 duals. I had no deck for them. Rather than exciting me as new cards, they reminded me of what cards I didn't have; that Tropical Island, those Sylvan Libraries, that set of Savannahs. By themselves they did nothing for me.

I got my first Taiga in late 1995. Went home to an acquaintance who wanted to sell his cards to spend the money on whatever a cool 13-year old kid rather spends money on. Cigarettes I guess. I'm sure we haggled for an hour. I wanted to pay $7 for it, but he wanted $8. In the end I was defeated; he was a year older than me and I was the needy kid in the equation. That Taiga I had a relationship with. Showed it off and played a lot with with it before I traded it and another dual for an Italian Hellfire in 1996. Red/Green was never really my colors, and that Hellfire was fucking Magic. My last Taiga was more of a commodity.

What's my point? This could be one:
Matt Shields' Deadguy Ale (located in Hudson, USA)
Game drink.
That is an awesome pile of cards. They come with stories. Scrublands have been traded one-for-one for revised Tundras and hard-earned money was spent on the Thunder Spirits in the picture. Other priorities and formats were set aside to build this deck. In another year, it might look different. If Matt gets a Juzam to replace one of the Su-Chis at some point, that Juzam will be fucking Magic. Probably much more so than a Juzam bought for a binder or one to resell. They are still awesome, but they are commodities. My first Juzam from three years ago was fucking Magic. My third foiled Mind Sculptor was sweet, but not nearly the same. The Mind Sculptor has since been traded away.

The weekend before Christmas, I went to Gothenburg for a family Christmas dinner. I met up with Honka and Rafiki the evening before to grab a few beers and catch up on anecdotes. For this story, we should note that I don't use a wallet in Norway. There's really no need for cash as all payments are made with plastic. I do have one for when I'm in Sweden though. One of my favorite pubs in Sweden only accept cash, and I need some additional cards for public transport and such, so the cell phone case don't cover it.

The three of us and a friend of Rafiki spent a long evening at Brewer's Beer Bar, had our laughs and our whining, and didn't leave before closing time. Rafiki and Honka had some plans of going deeper into the night, but it was time to call quits for me. It had been a long day of travelling and I yearned for the embrace of sleep. When I walked down the foggy streets of Gothenburg in search for a transport, a trio of beggars approached me. It was a rare event for me to actually carry a little bit of cash, so I gave the first a small bill. I had a small bill for the second as well, but when the third came up I was out. Rather than giving nothing I emptied whatever was in the coin compartment into her dirty paper cup. A few crowns at least. It was dark.
It wasn't until two days later when I was back in Norway that I realized I had lost the Gold. First I panicked. It wasn't even mine to lose, and it had a price of the nominal GDP per capita of South Sudan. It was three months rent in my old apartment in Gothenburg. I slept pretty badly, but when I woke up I could only laugh. I could always budget to buy one to replace it. So I won't drink a few micro-brewed beers, go to a fancy restaurant, travel down in Europe to play Magic or increase my collection of duals this month. I have to pull back on the luxury for a while, or use some money from my savings. Big deal. The beggar would use it much better than I ever could. Maybe she gets to try some rare luxury for a month or two instead, or help her family. And the coin had already filled the purpose I got it for; it had now become a simple commodity. I knew I wouldn't get into South Sudan at this point. I couldn't get a visa. It looked like Øyann could get out of the country for a few days though, so we were to try and meet up in a neighbouring country. Ethiopia was the best option, so now I'm going to Ethiopia. I'm still not sure if she can make it here. I'll know in a few hours. It has been a roller coaster, but it's a point of no return now. Hopefully I'll see her soon.


  1. That was an awesome story! and not what I was expecting to find tonight in the blog zone. I originally found this site after reading that 93/94 was a format actually being celebrated, played and seemingly acknowledged by a quickly growing audience. I browsed the website often (and often more than once a day) looking at photos from tournaments. I got nostalgic. I got hopeful. I got thirsty. I am now currently collecting again and doing so at an exponential rate. This also put me in the "panic button" zone if need be, but I hope it does not happen and the money gone is money well spent for the savory joy of the game; the filet please, rare with a bottle of your best aged cabernet with the faded label and brittle cork.

    There are only a few people left that I know that would appreciate a hand that puts out a first turn Juzam or one that would love to tap it down a couple turns with a Telekinesis. Even less people I know would trade Show and Tell into an Eldrazi over sacrificing said Juzam to Diamond Valley just to boost a Khabal Ghoul.

    What I am trying to say is, Thank you. Thank you for hosting this site and posting it in English. The reality that there are more people than me and the small circle of Magic players I know who want to keep the Old School cards tapping is enough to keep me working on completing a deck that brings together my competitive edge and my happiness finding value in casting cards like Forcefield again.

    Incidentally, or coincidentally I currently have friends from Gothenburg visiting. They only have a slight clue what Magic is but I do not hold anything against them for not knowing more and they in turn do not call me a dork, nerd or roll their eyes for asking. I have not shown them the website yet but I get the feeling that if I do they will probably recognize someone in a photo. They actually want me to visit them this coming summer. So, perhaps if my panic button has not been hit I can visit ground zero of 93/94 magic and maybe even find a game.

    Thank you again from someone who appreciates this website and the revival of the early years of this game.

    Aloha from Hawai'i

  2. ^^^ I completely echo the appreciation for the site. Good luck with the trip! And thanks for posting my deck!

    I'm a bit shamed that so much of the pile is Unlimited. In fairness, I've only been working at it for a couple months. The Scrublands (3, not shown) should be en route to me next week, and I've upgraded to Beta basics since snapping the pic. The StPs and Mind Twist were hard to find, and I lucked out on them a little. Definitely proud of the black-bordered Angel. It was actually graded (BGS 9) when I acquired it, and I broke it out of the case. Much of the deck was gotten through trades. I'm fortunate to have built up a solid Legacy and Modern collection over the years, so have had expendable pieces to part with. The cards in this deck will likely stay with me for a long, long time - at least, the ones that don't get replaced with Beta.

    I also own an Italian Hellfire. Got it a few years ago for EDH. It's not fucking Magic for me, at this point, but it's cool.

  3. Wow, such a great post, and such a great first comment as well - I can't live up to that, but I wanna join in and say a big "thank you" to MG. Without this blog I think there would have been no 93/94 bugs in Germany, and I wouldn't have so much fun with all these old cards regularly.

    The format provided me with a complete reboot of my interest in Magic, and I am playing more and (most importantly) more fun Magic than in the last five years. Thank you so very much!

    Best regards,
    Marc "Twiedel" Lanigra

  4. Be safe, Mg. Hope it all works out -- Netflix in Addis Ababa sounds sweet -- equal parts exotic and mundane.

    As someone who is slowly buying into the format from scratch -- I returned to the game in 2014 with nothing, i.e. no Modern or Legacy collection to trade out of -- I echo the comments above and I appreciate the notions of luxury and loss.

    I can kid myself when I impulse buy a virtual cart full of Alpha Wild Growths, Arabian Nights Kird Apes, Legends Blood Lusts, and a CE Mox Ruby (legal here in the States) and say these are "investments," but I know that's not really true. I won't be hitting the panic button -- there's no need, as is always the case with luxury. It's a place to sink some disposable income. Now, if I could only find some more people to play with and a bar to do it in...

  5. Ok...let me get this straight...

    deck history
    lost gold

    ant the previous commenters didn't even identify that you lost a $1200.00 gold coin?

    That really sucks.
    You should stop drinking so much.

  6. Thanks for the comments and the appreciation! Very nice to read :) Everything did work out well in the end btw and I'm with good company in Addis Ababa right now.

    @Swishy: If you were to visit your friends in Gothenburg, go right ahead and send me a message before you come and I'm sure a few of us can meet up for a some games and beer:)

    @Matt: Thanks for sending me the deck! I think that there are, usually, even more charm in a deck that isn't completely optimized or pimped out than in a bb copy of The Deck. It's more personal, tells another story, and if we go for nostalgic/old school value, it was rare to see power even back in 95. Nice story with the Angel :)

    @Twiedel: Very glad to hear it! And great job with organizing events in Germany.

    @Bard: Yeah, I know that feeling of trying to rationalize the spending ;) Best of luck with building your deck.

    @Anonym: I think everyone identified that I lost the coin, but that in the end it didn't really matter. The gold wasn't that important anymore, and it was a loss of some future luxury at the expense of, perhaps, giving someone else a small Christmas miracle.

  7. I really like this post. Nothing else to say about it. /Åland

  8. I just read this, and I FELT every word. Thanks for writing it, thanks for sharing it, and I am happy to read from your comment that things worked out. Much love Brother,

    Shaman Ben

  9. Among your best posts yet, really enjoyed the read!

    /Martin "fluffy"

  10. Just discovered this page recently. Awesome post, on many levels.

    1. Thanks man! Glad you enjoy it.

  11. your article was great. I was only once at Juba (one week before of the start of the Civil War) I know the airport with the wooden counter for the passport control and the few "hotels" available. my room was like a dungeon and with a big blanket ¿?. I enter to read thinking you have found a place to play MTG at Addis Ababa, but not. MTG is almost inexistent in Africa except South Africa, and even in South Africa you can find only Modern / Standard (I heard of a place in Cape Town where you can play unofficial Legacy [with proxies]) Congrats for your article and if possible stay away of gold in Africa (a lot of bad histories about) SANTI


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