Most of us Magic: the Gathering players began our collections with a fairly random assortment of cards, a mix of the most current booster packs plus some donated cards from other players’ collections. Because of this, sometimes it can be hard to know exactly what value your cards have, or even what set the cards are from in some cases.
So I compiled this handy little guide, with the help of my awesome boyfriend (who’s been playing Magic since Revised came out), to help all of us know what sets some of those unidentifiable “old cards” come from. Who knows, you might be sitting on a small fortune and not know it!
For these illustrations, I used the card “Healing Salve,” which was printed from Alpha all the way through 8th edition–it shows how the early sets changed and varied.
The set called Chronicles, which was released in July of 1995, was a set made up entirely of reprints from older sets–a mega Core Set, if you will. However, for each reprinted card, Chronicles used the card’s original set symbol instead of the Chronicles official set symbol.
The only difference between an original printing and a Chronicles reprint? The border color. The original sets all used black borders; Chronicles used white. See the example below:
Original Legends printing
The Chronicles reprints are worth less, usually, than their original-print counterparts. Be wary if someone claims to be selling original prints of these cards–check the border color before you buy it at top price!
Set Symbols and Rarity
Unlike modern sets, many older sets either did not have set symbols at all, or only had a black set symbol for all cards, no matter what their rarity. In June 1998, Wizards of the Coast released the set called Exodus, which introduced the color-coded rarity system: black for common, silver for uncommon, and gold for rare, as seen below:
Be sure to look up the real value of older cards with no color-coded set symbols–what everyone else thinks is a “common” card (because of its black symbol) may in fact be a rare!
Useful Resources/Credits for Card Information