A Brief History of Serialized Cards

While Fallout previews are going on in full force, I can’t help but be underwhelmed by the choice to make the bobbleheads the serialized cards for this set. We’ve got a wide range of legends to choose from in here, and I think this was a miss.

I got to thinking about what the prices on the serialized bobbleheads will get to, and then I realized that we need to examine the history of these cards and see where prices might go. There’s SO MANY factors at play when it comes to these cards, so let’s open up the vault and take a look.

The first serialized cards were the Retro Frame artifacts in The Brothers’ War, a subset abbreviated BRR. There were 500 of each of these, and the playability for these cards resulted in a very wide range of prices, a theme which we’ll see more of. The serialized cards had the same art as the Retro Schematic frame, just with a new foiling method called the Double Rainbow. None of the cards were completely unplayable, but there’s a heck of a gulf between the decks that will run a Bone Saw vs. how many run a Chromatic Lantern.

As a result, the early prices were absolutely wild. Collectors (and these are definitely collector items, not player pieces) were caught up in a frenzy, with several going for more than a thousand dollars. Weirdly, even though they were all equally rare, the ones marked as mythic tended to be sold for more money than the ones marked as rare. That trend has flattened out, thankfully.

The next set of serialized cards came from March of the Machine, where we are given the five flip Praetors, also in a set of 500, but most importantly, the serialized cards have new, original, exclusive art. These five cards are still quite expensive, and it’s not due to playability. It would appear that the combination of iconic characters, flipping into powerful Sagas, and one-of-a-kind art has allowed these prices to stay in the four figures.

This is notable, because as we’re going to see, comparatively speaking, the Praetors should be cheaper than they are. 

March of the Machine also gave us the Multiverse Legends sheet, which contained xxx/500 versions of assorted legendary creatures in a frame that reflected their home plane. One of the quirks of printing and packaging meant that it was possible to open a Collector Booster that had a serialized Praetor and also had a serialized MUL card. Infinitesimal odds, but still possible.

The MUL cards have a wide range of prices, but consistently lower than the Praetors from the same set. 

Ragavan is the most highly-played creature from the set in both Commander and Constructed, and those serialized cards are available for around half the price of Jin-Gitaxias. Ragavan is in four times as many Commander decks as Jin-Gitaxias is, they are even in the same Collector Boosters, and have the same number of serialized versions.

I have to think it’s the art, the feeling that those 500 copies of Jin-Gitaxias are truly unique, whereas there are thousands of copies of Ragavan out there that look the same as a serialized version only without the xxx/500 printed on there. If you’ve got other interpretations, please, let me know in the comments or in Discord.

The other legends from this subset also have a wide range of prices. Many of these have come down to under $200, though relatively few are close to the $100 price. The best predictor is EDH use, especially since these are all legendary and likely to be Commanders for decks. Why not splurge on a serialized for the lead singer of your deck?

After this, though, came the greatest triumph: Universes Beyond: Lord of the Rings and the four different serialized cards. Wizards pulled this off perfectly, giving us 900, 700, and 300 serialized versions of the same card (again with different art, and with the non-serialized, nonfoils still a difficult pull) they gave us the first 1 of 1 card in Magic’s history, opened by a player in Canada and famously sold to Post Malone for $2 million.

Sol Ring has more premium treatments than any other card, has been reprinted more than any non-basic land, and has three accessible serialized versions. If you’re willing to shell out more for a Sol Ring than for a Mox, the Elf ring is for you. This entire endeavor was well-planned and carried out well, resulting in LTR being one of the best-selling sets in Magic’s history.

They weren’t done, either: they told us that reprints were coming in a Holiday edition and those reprints included serialized psychedelic poster versions of cards and serialized versions of the Realms and Relics. These, however, were limited to just 100 of each, and that combined with the power of these cards has made them pricey indeed.

I like what they tried in the WHO expansion from Universes Beyond, where The First Doctor is xxx/501 and The Thirteenth Doctor is xxx/513, but the demand for those cards as Commanders hasn’t materialized. I thought there might have been enough whales/collectors who wanted a complete set, but the pricing doesn’t back that up.

The next entry in the Serialized saga is from Ravnica Remastered, where all 64 serialized cards are reprints, in the retro frame, with known art. In other words, the most basic version possible. As a 25-year-veteran of Magic, I like the retro frame, but I want something special and unique! Unsurprisingly, the shocklands are near the top of this list, with none being under $100 and very few being over $300. That price range, dependent on the number of decks demanding the card, seems to be the default setting for serialized cards that share art/frame with another card in the set. 

Most recently, we got xxx/250 for seven guild leaders in MKM, but none of their prices are outstanding. All the cards are solid, playable, potentially cornerstones but even a lowered rarity wasn’t enough to keep the price high.

Fallout went for serialized Bobbleheads, and there won’t need to be a lot of collectors who need the entire SPECIAL set of seven for these prices to be higher than expected. The cards themselves are underwhelming for what they are and what they represent, so I’m expecting them to average nearly $200 apiece as well.

Today we were told of the Assassin’s Creed set, which will feature serialized versions of historical figures. Most importantly, these cards will have new art, a borderless frame, and be printed in a non-English language.

I don’t have details for this yet but I expect these to command hefty premiums. This one, with a half-done Mona Lisa especially but the AC series takes us to a lot of figures and a lot of landmarks/historical artifacts. We’re going to see some awesome choices and these serialized cards will be notably more expensive. I’m hoping the preorders are lower priced for these cards but since most big vendors won’t do a preorder, I might have to settle for jumping on the first couple of listed copies.

Cliff (@WordOfCommander) has been writing for MTGPrice since 2013, and is an eager Commander player, Draft enthusiast, and Cube fanatic. A high school science teacher by day, he’s also the official substitute teacher of the MTG Fast Finance podcast. If you’re ever at a GP and you see a giant flashing ‘CUBE DRAFT’ sign, go over, say hi, and be ready to draft.