The Black Lotus card in Magic: The Gathering costs no mana to play, but it can cost more than half a million dollars to even get the card. Yes, in Jan. 2021, a Black Lotus card sold on eBay for $511,100, a price three times that of a similar Black Lotus card that sold in 2019, Polygon reports. And that 2019 price was more than double the price of a Black Lotus card sold in 2018, meaning that Black Lotus prices have increased sixfold in three years. So, why is the Black Lotus so expensive?
For starters, the card that sold for $511,000 was graded by Professional Sports Authenticators, is in excellent condition, and is autographed by artist Christopher Rush, who died in 2016. It’s also part of the Alpha Edition from 1993, the first Magic: The Gathering cards ever printed. Plus, the Black Lotus is a powerful card. It adds three mana of any single color to a player’s choice of mana pool.
The Black Lotus card’s value has spiked in recent years
TCGPlayer writer Cassie LaBelle tracked down old issues of the now-defunct Scrye magazine, which shows that the Black Lotus card was selling for as little as $55 in 1994. That price rose nearly tenfold to $530 by 2004. A price history graph for the Black card on MTGPrice also shows that the trading card's value has risen exponentially in recent years, especially in 2021.
In 2013, the best price for the Unlimited version of the card was still under $1,200. By the end of 2015, the best price had risen to $4,000. By the end of 2020, that had risen to more than $8,000, and by mid-2021, it was $19,800. And those prices are for Black Lotuses from the Unlimited Edition, the second edition of the core set of Magic cards.
Black Lotus tops the list of the most expensive “Magic: The Gathering” cards.
Dicebreaker notes that the 2021 eBay sale makes the Alpha version of the Black Lotus the most expensive Magic: The Gathering card of all time, if not the most valuable trading game card ever auctioned off. One Reddit user called the Black Lotus the “most historic, iconic card of Magic: The Gathering.”
The Beta version of the card is the runner-up, with a peak price of $42,000, according to the site. Then come the Alpha version of Ancestral Recall ($19,999), the Beta version of Volcanic Island ($19,888), and the Beta version of Mind Twist ($18,416).
Many of the cards in that pantheon, the Black Lotus included, are on the list of reserved cards for Magic: The Gathering. “[The list’s] purpose is to keep the value of certain cards from dropping, but what it’s actually done is caused certain formats to be completely inaccessible to all but the most trust-fundy of people,” writes Dicebreaker’s Jason Coles.