MTG Alpha – Magic's First Set

Limited Edition Alpha

The Outlaws of Thunder Junction will be the 100th expansion of Magic: The Gathering. With so many expansions, sets and promos being added to the game every month, it's important to look at where it all started. 


It all started, of course, with the Limited Edition Alpha. 


Now we want to give new and experienced players an overview for collecting the iconic first set. We'll aim to answer a few very important questions:

  • Why is Alpha so valuable?
  • How to distinguish Alpha and Beta?
  • What are the most expensive cards?
  • Graded vs. ungraded cards?
  • What misprints to look out for?
  • How to spot fake Alpha cards?
  • Where to buy Alpha cards? 


Set Information: Alpha

The Limited Edition Alpha was released on August 5, 1993. It consisted of 295 cards and the rarity distribution was as follows:

74 commons, 95 uncommons, 116 rares and 10 basic lands.

How much was the print run of Alpha?

The print run of Alpha was roughly 2,600,000 cards. Estimations suggest, that every rare from Alpha has been printed 1,100 timesTo put this into perspective, modern era sets are argued to have a print run of about 2.5 billion, with each rare being printed 2.75 million times. Unfortunately, this is only speculation.

Basic Lands on Rare Alpha Print Sheets?

Different print sheets (common, uncommon, rare) were used for each rarity in Alpha. Each of the sheets included different basic lands, but the rare sheet had only five copies of Island. That means the chance of getting a basic land instead of a regular card would be different for each rarity: 4.13% for rares, 21.5% uncommons and 38.84% for commons (Source).

Imagine getting an Island instead of a rare in your Alpha booster! Although even Alpha Islands do have a high price nowadays.
Alpha was only sold in 15-card booster packs and 60-cards starter decks. Both of these sealed products are desirable collectables and investments, since either one of them can contain any of the 295 Alpha cards, even a Black Lotus.

Card Description: Alpha

Alpha cards have a certain look to them. If you don't know what to look for, you could easily mistake a Beta card for an Alpha card. Here are a few tips on how to distinguish a Limited Edition Alpha card from the rest:

  • Alpha cards have rounder corners. They are corner radius is 2mm instead of 1mm, as is now standard for all tournament legal cards.
  • The cards have a slightly darker tone. You can recognize this by comparing Alpha and Beta directly, it's even recognizable on the back of the card!
  • The text on the card is not as sharp as on other versions of the card. 

Most Expensive Cards: Alpha

The most iconic and also the most expensive card from Alpha is the Black Lotus. None other TCG card is as famous as the beloved Black Lotus, and this is reflected in its price.

Most Expensive Magic Card Ever Sold?

One of the most expensive Lotus has been sold for over half a million dollars on eBay and this is not an exception. Only recently, the famous rapper Post Malone announced that he bought an artist-proof Alpha Black Lotus signed by Christopher Rush for roughly $800,000
The Black Lotus is part of the Power Nine. The group is called like that, because they are considered the most powerful (and expensive) cards ever printed.

Who Are The Power Nine?

Black Lotus
Ancestral Recall
Time Walk
Mox Sapphire
Mox Ruby
Mox Pearl
Mox Jet
Mox Emerald

    In general, depending on their conditions, these cards will always be the most expensive Alpha cards you can find. Only a few cards from Limited Edition can get close to the price point of the Power Nine.

    What Are Expensive Non-Power Cards?

    The most prominent one of them is Chaos Orb. It can get really close to the price of a Power Nine card when you look at Cardmarket prices here in Europe.

    Other very expensive Limited Edition cards are Wheel of Fortune, Birds of Paradise and Shivan Dragon, which can all be sold for prices around €4,000.

    Another category to keep your eyes on when hunting for cards are the Dual Lands. Especially the Duals from Alpha and Beta are highly desirable, due to their black borders. Underground Sea, for example, can sell for as much as the cheapest Power Nine card!

    Graded vs. Ungraded Alpha Cards

    Alpha has been released in 1993, which means all these cards are now 30 years old. Back in the days, people played without sleeves and many of these old cards weren't stored properly. They got damaged over time by humidity or other external effects, simply because nobody knew the cards would get this valuable.

    The Impossible 10/10

    For some cards, it is literally impossible to find a perfect 10, since they always have a small misprint on them. An example for this is Pirate Ship.

    Therefore, it is pretty rare to find cards from Alpha that are in Near Mint condition, and it is even rarer to find cards that a graded a 9 or 10. That means the prices for such cards jump immensely in price

    You might be able to get a Played Black Lotus for €30,000, but a Near Mint BGS 9 can easily be worth ten times as much!

    Important Alpha Misprints

    Alpha has been riddled with many different mistakes during production and printingFor example: They forgot to print Volcanic Islands and Circle of Protection: Black, which means you will never find any of these two cards in Alpha.

    Wrong Names on Alpha Cards

    Other common mistakes are the misspelling of artists' names or the miscrediting of some artists. They also continuously forgot to print the mana symbols instead of the letters, representing the mana needed. 

    Most of these are design failures and not actual misprints. Alpha as some very collectable misprints, though!

    Alpha Black Back Error

    The most famous one is the Alpha Black Back (also known as "Additional Ink Error"). The back of these cards looks especially dark and can easily be identified as such.

    (Source: CGC Cards)


    How to Spot Fake Alpha Cards?

    In general, Alpha cards (and all other cards from 93/94) are harder to counterfeit than modern cards. There are certain tricks people used back in the days to make their cards look like Alpha cards.

    What are Clipped Cards?

    One of these tricks was clipping Beta cards. Since the corners of Alpha cards are rounder than Beta, some people tried to make their Beta cards look like an Alpha card and therefore increasing the value. Or, of course, decreasing the value once someone detects the scam.

    Inked Alpha Cards

    Another very popular trick was inking. The idea was to color the frame of an Unlimited card black with a sharpie, thus giving it a black frame. Now, if you didn't pay attention, the card could be mistaken for an Alpha or Beta card. This would of course easily be distinguishable from a real Alpha card, since the corners are still not as round. Inking was therefore also used on real Alpha cards to "fake" a better condition.

    If you would like to know more about how to spot fake cards in general, we have a great article about the topic on our website! You can find it here.


    Where to Buy Alpha Cards?

    You got the extra cash and decided that you want to start collecting Alpha cards? Well the first and objectively the best place to get started is right here in our webshop! Here you can find all our High-End Alpha cards such as Power Nine, Dual Lands and other rares. 

    Then you can also hop over onto Cardmarket, if you are in Europe, or onto CardTrader if you are located outside of Europe. Here you can find literally all our Alpha cards, even the High-End cards from our web store are also located here. 

    The next thing you need to do when hunting for Alpha cards is:

    Subscribe to our New Arrivals Drop

    Every Wednesday, each week of the year, we get new High-End cards. That includes new Alpha cards, and you'll be the first one to know when the cards you are looking for are available!

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