M:tG Magic Card Game Price List FAQ

Magic Card Game Price List FAQ

This is the FAQ for my price lists for Magic: The Gathering cards. It's sort of rough at the moment. If it doesn't answer some burning question you have, please email cloister(at)hhhh(dot)org and I'll try to add it in.

I do not (and will not) maintain an e-mail distribution list for these price lists, so please don't ask.

I will attempt to generate and post these lists once per week, probably on Wednsdays (historical accident; I created the first of these lists on a Wednsday).

What currency are the prices in?

> U.S. Dollars.

Where do these lists come from?

This list is generated by a program I wrote which collects all articles from the above-mentioned newsgroups for the past seven days, and attempts to intelligently generate prices for all the cards cited within those articles. The program is reasonably clever about matching card names as written with the card names as properly spelled, even taking into account misspellings and inconsistant capitalization, punctuation, etc.

I would appreciate if you would send me e-mail about any oddities you find in this list. In particular, please look for:

Problems like that can point out errors in my card name database, or strange patterns of input that confuse the card name recognizer and cause bad data to be entered for certain cards. A typical week's worth of posts generates between 300,000 and 400,000 lines of useful data. Clearly, I don't have time to check every one of those lines, so I appreciate being notified of any oddities you see in my lists as that helps me avoid them systematically in future lists. You can e-mail such reports to me at cloister(at)hhhh(dot)org.

Didn't you used to make lists for other games, too?

Yes, I did. I used to make lists for Jyhad/Vampire: the Eternal Struggle, and for Star Trek: the Collectible Card Game. I don't do those lists anymore because interest in those games (at least, on the net in the newsgroups where people buy, sell, and auction cards) declined to the point where there was not enough data from week-to-week to make decent lists.

Will I start again if that situation changes? Probably not. If a whole lot of people start asking that I do, then I may reconsider, but I'm quite unlikely to make lists for those games (or any other games) unless there is a sudden outpouring of demand for them. And even if there is, I don't promise anything.

How do I make my sale or auction work with your list?

If you want your sale or auction to be included with the data that this list is generated from, please follow these guidelines:

The requirement of a decimal point plus two digits is important; that's the only way the program can reliably find the prices on auctions that are formatted with index numbers, like this:

225. Card of Doom 4.00 12.00 20.00 someone@somewhere.com

Make sure to use one of the following three types of auction progress reporting:

card name current_bid
card name minimum_bid current_bid
card name minimum_bid current_bid buyout_bid

So long as you stick to one card name per line, you can have those pieces of information in any order. Any other text on the line is ignored.

Make sure to spell card names correctly. While the program is pretty good at matching misspelled cards with the proper names, having correct names does result in better data. It doesn't matter how you capitalize the names, however.

Repeat the card name on each line, even for multiples of the same card. If you have to differentiate between artwork variations, repeat the actual card name before the differentiating string. Like this:

Urza's Tower (in the forest) $5.00
Urza's Tower (in the mountains) $5.00
Urza's Tower (by the ocean) $5.00

Not (repeat, not) like this:

Urza's Tower
(in the forest) $5.00
(in the mountains) $5.00
(by the ocean) $5.00

Don't try to claim that this is too much effort, either, because any text editor makes doing it right easy enough with cut-and-paste features, from good old DOS' "edit" all the way to Unix's "emacs".

Label your cards with version tags

Now that Magic has so many different versions of the same card, from different printings, it is important that you label the cards you're selling with tags that indicate the version. Use the following labels after the properly spelled card name, separated by one space:

(A) Alpha
(AL) Alpha
(B) Beta
(BE) Beta
(UL) Unlimited
(RV) Revised
(AN) Arabian Nights
(AQ) Antiquities
(LE) Legends
(DK) The Dark
(FE) Fallen Empires
(IA) Ice Age
(CH) Chronicles
(4th) Fourth Edition
(5th) Fifth Edition
(6th) Fifth Edition
... et cetera.

For example:
Card of Doom (IA)

If you don't do that, my program won't know which version of the card your data is for. Data that isn't identifiable in that way is all aggregated together into a separate, non-version-specified price. Sadly, so few people actually take the bother to use these tags to properly advertize the cards they're selling that most of the entries in my pricelists end up being non-version-specified prices.

What do all the columns in the lists mean?

The pricelists have lines in this format:

cardpricestddevaveragehighlowchangeRaw N
Card of Doom 1.93 0.42 1.93 2.50 1.50 -.32 11
Card of Greater Doom 4.54 1.12 4.55 9.00 1.00 1.06 104

Here's what all of those columns mean:

The name of the card.
The average of the raw prices that are plus or minus one standard deviation from the raw average.
The standard deviation of the raw prices. average:
The average of raw (unfiltered) card prices.
The highest value within 4 standard deviations of the raw average. The idea behind using 4 standard deviations for finding the high price is to include most of the data while throwing out really bad data before calculating a high and low, since the really bad data probably isn't an actual card price.
The Low value within 4 standard deviations of the raw average.
The difference between this list's price for each card and the price for that card in the last list. A positive number indicates that the value of the card has increased, and a negative number indicates that the value of the card has decreased.
raw N:
The number of data points for the raw average.
Obviously, the "price" column is the one I recommend using. You can also look at the "average" column in cases where Raw N is small, which indicates that there wasn't much data for that card, and so the price is to be taken as less reliable than prices for cards with higher Raw N values.

As a point of interest, average/stddev is the signal-to-noise ratio for the data; I have not made a column for it since it doesn't seem all that interesting and can be generated easily enough by anyone who wants to know it.

These statistics help compensate for the fact that the program doesn't distinguish very well between print runs (mostly because people don't reliably tag the cards in their sales/auctions as to what printing a card is from) by giving you an idea of the distribution of prices. As always, use your best judgement when using this list to bid on cards or to help conduct an auction.

I have noticed that adding the one-standard-deviation filter typically lowers the prices. This is because errant data points tend to be on the high side rather than the low side. I'm not sure why that is, but be aware of it.

Probably the most important thing to be aware of when reading this list is to note that the program makes no attempt to differentiate between print runs or different versions of a card except by means of the version labels discussed earlier. This is because there is no reliable way of determing what print run a card is from just by looking at the line of text that has the card name and price on it. So if you're looking for an Alpha or Beta printing of some card, expect to pay more for it than the price in this list. Conversely, if you're looking for the same card from a more recent printing, such as 6th edition, you can generally expect to pay a little less.

How should I interpret the "high" column in your list versus the "price" column?

As described above, the "high" column just lists the single highest plausible number that my program found for each card during a given week. People often ask why some otherwise ordinary card, such as Fireball, happens to have a particularly large "high" value during some week.

Such values typically represent one of two things. First, it could be bad data. My software is imperfect, and does sometimes let bad data through. However, take heart in knowing that the "high" data points themselves are outside what my software considers the "normal" range of prices for the cards, and so the "high" (and the "low", for that matter) values are generally not included in the calculation of the "price" column itself. The exception to that is when there isn't very much data for a particular card, in which case sometimes the "high" price does fit within the criteria for data that is used to calculate the price. See What do the columns mean? for specifics on how the high, low, average, and standard deviation columns relate to the price column.

Second, unusually large "high" values often represent individual specimins of a card which have some special quality that makes them more valuable than they would otherwise be. For example, a mint-condition Fireball from the Alpha edition might, to a collector, be worth much much more than a 6th edition Fireball. Or, perhaps the card is signed by the artist, or has some type of unusual printing error. All those sorts of factors can work to increase the value of individual specimins of a card far beyond more ordinary copies of that card.

Relatedly, if you find that a sale or auction quotes prices from my lists, but when you check for yourself you find that the seller or auctioneer has quoted the number from the "high" column rather than the "price" column, you should stop to ask yourself why. Common explanations include: If you think any of those situations is true, then please attempt to clarify the situation yourself, by contacting the seller or auctioneer first, before asking me about it. I have no desire to police the world's magic card market, and as always, buyers should exercise caution before concluding any transactions over the Internet.

How are the lists organized?

Alphabetically. The cards in the list used to be ordered by card type, with lands followed by artifacts, legends, and then the five colors. But now that there are over 3000 cards in M:tG, I've switched it to a plain old alphabetical list. This is much easier for me to maintain, and since people primarily look for cards purely by card name, I think it's a good system for everybody.

Why is Mountain so expensive?

It's not a bug, it's an Arabian Nights card. Most people forget (or weren't aware) that the AN expansion printed a regular old Mountain card, the one with the greenish sky, but with the scimitar symbol on it. Those Mountains are quite collectable, and have been the most highly valued basic land ever since I've been making these lists.

Why do the prices for basic lands vary so much from week to week?

Several reasons. The first has to do with their names. "Island", "Swamp", and "Mountain" are all substrings within other card names like "Island Sanctuary", "Sol Kanar the Swamp King", "Magnetic Mountain", etc. Mangled versions of these other cards often cause my program to treat the citation as one for a basic land, and this invariably throws bad data into the pot for those lands. I do my best to fix this sort of thing every week, but with the amount of data I'm dealing with, I'm bound to miss a few.

The second reason has to do with rarity. As time goes on, Alpha and Beta prints of lands are actually starting to become worth something. Some weeks there are a fair number of these on the market, and that will push the average price up. Other weeks there aren't, and the price is lower.

The third reason (and, IMHO, the most annoying) is that sometimes basic land names are used to differentiate between artwork variations on wholly unrelated cards. For example, I often see things like:

Urza's Tower (Forest)

That in itself isn't so bad, because I've programmed around it. But couple that phenomenon with people who like to put the main card name on one line, and the differentiation and prices on following lines, like this:

Urza's Tower
Forest 5.00
Island 5.00
Mountain 5.00

and it's pretty obvious why my software gets confused. If you're running an auction, please don't do that. See How do I make my sale or auction work with your list? It's really not hard to do, so please do.

also, people occasionally sell several lands for a combined price, as in:

Island (lot of 10) 2.00

I try to catch those cases and edit them down to a per-card price, but I don't always catch them all.

Finally, and by far the more influental, is that alpha and beta lands are starting to command respectable prices. Especially for cards in mint or near mint condition, prices of one to three dollars are not unusual.

Why have prices been dropping lately?

Obviously, the number of questions of this type that I get varies a lot with time, but the most likely answer over all is that the card was of print for a while, but has come back into print with some recent edition. This trend started to show some prominence with the release of the Fourth Edition cards, and will probably continue so long as Wizards of the Coast continues to print new editions. It most noticeably affects higher-valued rare cards that get re-issued.

What else should we know? (a.k.a. "disclaimer")

I do not consider this program to be finished. There are several improvements I want to make, including:

If you have further suggestions as to how this program could be made better, please don't hesitate to send e-mail to me at cloister(at)hhhh(dot)org.


I am not a perfect programmer, and there may be bugs in my program that result in incorrect prices. These problems are typically caused by people not spelling card names in their sales and auctions the way they are really spelled on the cards. Please help by spelling card names properly.

This list is in no way official. It represents the current state of what people on the rec.games.trading-cards.* newsgroups are willing to pay for these cards, and nothing else. Neither Wizards of the Coast nor any other trading card game manufacturers sanction this list (yet, anyway). I do not expect anyone to rigorously adhere to the prices in this list; they are here just as a guideline. As with everything that is bought and sold, its value is nothing more than what the buyer is willing to pay for it.

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