Tag Archives: chronicles

How to Tell How Old Your M:TG Cards Are

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.

limitededitionalpha-2

Alpha

  • Heavily-rounded corners (compare to modern card and see the difference)
  • Black borders
  • Big rules text
  • No copyright date
  • No set symbol
limitededitionbeta-2

Beta

  • Normal rounded corners (same as modern-day cards)
  • Black borders
  • Big rules text
  • No copyright date
  • No set symbol
unlimited-2

Unlimited

  • White borders
  • Normal corners
  • Big rules text
  • No copyright date
  • No set symbol
revised-2

Revised

  • Card colors look lighter overall–light print run
  • Smaller rules text
  • White borders
  • No copyright date
  • No set symbol
4thed-2

4th Edition

  • Copyright 1995 on the bottom of the card
  • White borders
  • No set symbol
5thed-2

5th Edition

  • Copyright 1997 on the bottom of the card
  • White borders
  • No set symbol (except for the Chinese release which had a Roman numeral V)
classic6thed-2

6th Edition (aka “Classic 6th Edition)

  • Set symbol: VI (but see note about early set symbols and card rarity, below)
  • White borders

Chronicles Reprints

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:

legends
Original Legends printing
chronicles
Chronicles reprint

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:

exodus_symbols

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

Gatherer (card images)
EssentialMagic.com’s Card Sets List (some set information)
CrystalKeep.com’s Symbols List (Exodus symbols)