Why Magic: The Gathering's 'The One Ring' Card Is Worth $2 Million Play4ever

Post Malone bought a unique Lord of the Rings Magic: The Gathering card for $2 million earlier in August, leaving many wondering how a piece of shiny cardboard could ever be worth so much.

Wizards of the Coast announced The One Ring card in March, revealing a special version would be printed in Elvish as a “one of one” copy in Magic’s Tales of Middle Earth set. The internet immediately erupted in excitement at the real-life Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket moment, while collectors struggled to fathom what the first of its kind card could be worth.

“My estimation on price was very low ball compared to where it ended up,” Magic: The Gathering YouTuber PleasantKenobi told IGN. “The most expensive card I knew about was Post Malone buying [a unique] artist proof Black Lotus for $800,000. I didn’t imagine it would get anywhere near that, and suggested conservatively $50 to $100.

“Once offers started to come in from collectors with money, like Cassius Marsh I started to think it was the real deal.”

Marsh, the owner and CEO of trading card buying and selling company Cash Cards Unlimited, was among the first to put significant money behind the card, placing a bounty of $500,000 on it. This was soon doubled by rival Dave and Adam’s Card World, however, which raised the stakes to $1 million.

Trading cards have previously sold for several hundred thousand dollars but few have broken the million mark. The most expensive piece ever sold (at least on record) is a mint condition Japanese Pokémon card called Pikachu Illustrator — originally given away to just 39 art contest winners in 1998 — which is valued at $5,275,000.

Its high price tag comes as a result of the low number available, which similarly affects The One Ring card.

“The value from The One Ring comes from the uniqueness of the item,” said PleasantKenobi. “Not only is it a ‘one of one’ serialised Magic card, it’s the first time Magic has ever done this. Tying it into a collectible product like Lord of the Rings was genius because it brings a load of collectors from outside of the game to the party.

“Beyond that, we have to respect the current climate. We are in the post-lockdown boom era of trading cards, with Pokémon collectability still looming large in popular consciousness. This, and the rise of new social collecting, trading, and selling communities and platforms means that ‘expensive collectibles’ have a lot of visibility right now.”

The value of trading cards has also made the news through the number of thefts of them. $300,000’s worth of Magic cards were stolen earlier in August, while a heist was launched against a game store last year that saw $250,000 worth of Pokémon merchandise stolen. Suggesting these incidents (and therefore the value of cards is on the rise), Tokyo police reported an unprecedented number of trading card thefts in the latter half of 2022.

This increased public awareness of the potential value of trading cards all added to the value of The One Ring, PleasantKenobi explained. “Auction houses that usually dealt in high-end goods but never with trading cards before wanted in,” he said. “It’s a wild time to be a card collector considering the amount of mainstream buzz in the air when it comes to expensive cardboard.”

Post Malone explained his purchase on the Call Her Daddy podcast, though maintained he had no regrets. “I like Lord of the Rings and Magic: The Gathering”, Post Malone said when asked why he spent $2 million on “a f**king card”.

A lot could have gone wrong on the way to The One Ring being sold too, which only added to its value. Unlike, for example, the Pikachu Illustrator card, which was handed safely and securely to competition winners, The One Ring was essentially shuffled into a random pack of Magic: The Gathering cards and shipped across the world, to any potential location.

It may never have been opened at all, sitting sealed in a warehouse somewhere if the Lord of the Rings set didn’t prove popular for one local seller. Perhaps even worse, it could have been opened by a random child who likes The Lord of the Rings but has no concept of what Magic is. The One Ring could have been opened with Cheeto-laden fingers, put unprotected into a backpack, and thrown around the playground.

Being found by someone who was aware of the value was therefore somewhat of a miracle in itself, but even then the $2 million wasn’t guaranteed. “There was always a chance that companies didn’t go through with their offers,” said PleasantKenobi, noting that some stores also offered the $2 million but ultimately didn’t have the cash to pay for it.

The One Ring was found by someone who understood its value though, in the form of Toronto retail worker Brook Trafton. As reported by the BBC, Trafton opened the card and immediately called a game store to ask how to get it appraised officially, only to be hung up on because the staff thought it was a prank.

Trafton called a bank to store the card and retained a lawyer the next day. “I find it was even crazier than the lottery,” he said. “I wanted to tell everyone, but I couldn’t. I had to keep it a secret. I didn’t even tell my dad.”

Post Malone eventually got in touch and asked to meet Trafton, and though it was initially meant to be just a meet and greet, the rapper took one look at the card and asked to buy it. “As soon as he saw [the card] he said yes. I said ‘pardon, like, what do you mean?’ He’s like, ‘yes, I will take this card.'”

Whether or not The One Ring is ever be sold again remains to be seen, but its value will only go up over time.

Ryan Dinsdale is an IGN freelance reporter. He’ll talk about The Witcher all day.

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