Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Counterfeiting Magic

A few weeks back, Wizards of the Coast, the folks who print Magic: the Gathering introduced a new design for their cards. They changed the border, the artist credits, and added a holographic seal to rares and mythic rares. The announcement was almost prophetic because that same week, images surfaced on reddit of high quality fakes being printed in China.

Newer Magic cards will be safe because the fakes aren't perfect and the holographic seal is going to harder to spoof. The most expensive cards in Magic were printed in 1993 though. It was a dark time, when both Wizard's budget and printing technology were far less impressive.

The value of these cards is determined by the secondary market. Wizards no longer makes them so their value is a function of their rarity (collectors), their power (vintage players), and how much the other two are willing to pay (speculators). In fact, Wizards maintains a Reserved List of cards they will not reprint in order to protect the value of cards already owned.

There are two reasons to counterfeit Magic cards. The first is selling them to unwitting Magic players for profit. It's cheaper than printing counterfeit bills: legal authorities don't care as much and whether it's a $50 bill or a $50 Tarmogoyf, you're still up $50. The second reason is leveraging improved, illegal access to rare cards in order to win thousands of dollars of prizes at tournaments. Both are deceptive, motivated by profit, and injurious to people who like playing Magic.

The only point of high-quality fakes is deceiving others about their authenticity. If you really want to just play rare, expensive cards for the fun of it, download Magic Set Editor, get some sleeves, pile up your junk commons, and get to shufflin'.

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