Card: Island | Art: Mark Poole
Basic lands are an integral part of Magic. Even the greediest manabases will tend to play a couple of basic lands. This got me thinking, what are the most expensive basic lands?
In this article, we'll take a look at which basics fetch the highest prices. Maybe you have some of these lingering in your collection? Or maybe you want to add some spice to every card in your deck. With the most expensive basic lands in MTG, you can't go wrong.
Starting off, we have a handful of lands that began the trend for unusual basic lands. These are the basic lands from Unglued. This set brought with it a whole new take on the basic land as it was the first time Magic introduced full art lands.
While we have seen a myriad of full art lands in recent history Unglued started the trend. Even to this day the unsets offer a unique take on basic lands. An Unglued Island will set you back around $8.00. Hint: Islands are usually the most expensive in any cycle. Here, though, we see the Forest also commanding $8.00 while the Plains sits around $4.00.
Unhinged also brought with it a spectacular set of basics. These resemble portraits, or landscapes, a window into another place. Unlike their older brother, these were also available in foil. This takes a $6 Island up to $50, not bad for a basic.
Unstable continued this trend, and foil treatments gave huge multipliers. The Island once again covets the prize for the biggest glow-up. A jump from $2.80 to over $75.
In more recent times we have seen the release of more and more specialty lands. Sets began to break the mold of expensive basics. In Unsanctioned's case, it functioned more like a board game. This led to greater availability as every box contained two of each full art land. Meanwhile, the other basics were more conventional in their style. Each sported a squirrel hidden in the artwork. The squirrel basics are sub $1 while the full arts command around $3.
Unfinity with its space carnival theme brought two variants of each land. One is shot from outer space and the other is on the surface of the planet. The latter appears as one in every pack while the former appears in one out of four packs instead. This gave some variety and made basics more of a chase. The outer space lands are around the $2-$4 mark. They then double or triple in price if pulled in foil, or "galaxy foil," the set's gimmick. Meanwhile, the on-planet versions of the lands cost at most $2.50. In non-foil, they are available for less than $1.
However, we are only getting started. While the un-sets have some gorgeous lands they are far from the most expensive. Let's continue our journey!
Secret Lair is another place in which flashy basic lands can be found. We have seen several Lairs in recent years that feature 5 or so basic lands for $30/$40 (non-foil/foil). That puts these lands at $6-$8 each. Some prices have stayed stable in the secondary market with some even dropping below the $6 price. These sit in a similar place as the un-lands.
Some of the lairs have had fan-favorite artists, cross-overs, and art, often leading to a secondary market price hike. The Lair featuring Mark Riddick's heavy metal style basics commands around $10 each or $25. The Godzilla lands also demand around $15 each. The most expensive Secret Lair land is currently the Island and Mountain from "Heads I Win Tails You Lose." This Secret Lair was a full 100-card Commander deck for $100. The deck came with one Mountain or one Island featuring a coin in the art. These are floating around $30. These lands are gorgeous. I wish all the basics in the deck got this treatment.
Secret Lairs are a great source of inspiration for unusual arts for basic lands. That is If you have the pocket change, or don't run that many basics, to begin with. With that said we are still far away from the most expensive basic land.
Promos & Prizes
Continuing on the quest for the most expensive land, I realized something. Everything I looked at so far was something that anyone could pick up. If I wanted something expensive maybe I should look towards exclusives! Promos and prizes for events are where you can find some pricey basics!
A recent pricey promo is the "Moonlit Lands" from Crimson Vow. These were given out by stores around the time and featured etched foil treatments. You can tell them apart from the normal VOW basics because they are completely black and white. Even the mana symbols are white on these versions. These basics sit around $15-$25 each!
An older example is the "Magic Premiere Shop" Promos. These basics could be found between 2005 and 2012 in Japanese markets. Players were rewarded basic lands in Japanese. Some of these lands such as the Ravnica versions included their guild logo and name in English. This scheme was brought over to Europe in time. This is reflected in the price.
For example, the 2005 Forest featuring the Golgari logo and name costs $50.00 in the USA but only €13. However, this trend is not true for all the lands in the series. Given there are so few of these lands on the market, prices can fluctuate. The scheme continued for another couple of years with other sets. The lands from Ravnica are the most sought-after.
Another place to look for exclusive lands is Judge Promos. These are rewards for Magic Judges. These individuals know the rules of Magic to a level where they can run events. 2014 saw the release of five foil full art basic lands. These range from $50-$130 depending on your preferred color.
BIG MONEY LANDS
Now we come to the big money. Get your bets in. What are the most expensive lands? In our final round-up, we come to Magic's beginning, Alpha. This set brought with it basic lands from some of Magic's greatest artists, Christopher Rush, Mark Poole, and more! Each land was given two variants. The cheapest forest is around $50.00 with the priciest Alpha land being Poole's Island for around $100.
Going back to regional exclusives for a moment. We also have the Asia Pacific Land Program and European Land Program promos. These lands appeared in special three-card booster packs as a buy-a-box promo-style reward. The Asian market got theirs for buying a box of Tempest. Meanwhile, the EU market could get them for buying a box of Nemesis, Prophecy, or Invasion.
The art features scenes from around their respective regions. As with the Magic Premiere shop lands, prices can vary. There is a good mix of prices with one of the APAC Forests being a humble $9.00. This illustration by Christopher Rush is inspired by China. The most expensive APAC land is a Plains for around $100.00. It depicts a field of flowers in Japan.
On the European front Island takes both the top and bottom spots. At $11.00 an Island depicting icy mountains can be yours. If your pockets are even deeper then you can pick up an Island depicting Venice, Italy. An aerial shot depicts a small island off the coast. It depicts the iconic St Mark's Campanile bell tower. This piece will set you back around $170.00. These lands are all beautiful and unique as they bring our world into the world of Magic. Being from Europe myself, I can't help but feel a little nostalgic looking at these lands.
Jumping up to $190 we have the Mountain from Arabian Nights. This is a strange one. In the early days of Magic, it was assumed players would have basics from back in the day of Alpha and Beta. Arabian Nights was an expansion with all new cards so they decided there was no need for basics. However, Magic cards are printed on large sheets and then cut to size. The designers noticed they were one card short of a full sheet. To fill the gap and not waste paper they decided to put a basic mountain in its place. The art is the same as that seen in Alpha, but now sporting the Arabian Nights set symbol. This little oddity is what led to it commanding a high rarity and price.
Finally, we come to the most expensive official basic lands. These are the Guru Lands. Back in 1999 Wizards revealed the Guru Program. The plan was to reward experienced players for teaching new players. The Guru received points for doing that which could be redeemed for prizes. Notable prizes, in this case, were the Guru Lands. The scheme stopped accepting new Gurus in October 2000 and the whole thing was closed down by February 2001.
The short window of opportunity combined with the workload led to small numbers. On some websites, there are as few as one or two copies listed. At best, you will find low double digits of each. These lands are highly coveted. They will run you anywhere from $500 to almost $1,000 depending on your preference. The art is a beautiful eclipse that gradually moves between the pieces. The geometric lines in the background give these lands a distinct look.
There is only one other type of land that can fetch a price higher than the Guru lands. These are the lands Wizards of the Coast don't want you to see. Let's wrap up this article by looking at the strange world of misprints. These are any cards that come with some sort of factory error or defect. These cards are supposed to be destroyed. They are not supposed to make it into boosters.
However, some slip through the cracks. Before diving into some examples I would like to thank the folks over at the #MTGRarities: Major Misprints, Test Prints, Oddities Facebook group. They are a fantastic source for buyers, sellers, and misprint enthusiasts. I would encourage you all to give the page a look.
In terms of price, misprinted cards are hard to evaluate. Most misprints are one of a kind. This leads to auctions being the most common way to sell misprints. Given these cards are defective they are often not tournament legal. Therefore it is a mix of the right time, place, and buyer being the ultimate decider on price. Two factors tend to crop up with misprint pricing. The value of a "normal" version of the card, and the type of misprint.
Miscuts occur when a card is cut off the center. You might even have some miscut cards at home. You may notice the border on your cards is thicker on one side than the other. If the miscut is incredibly off-centered you get these Unstable basic lands. You can see these are so cut off that you can see another card on the left-hand side bleeding into them. The bidding began at $25 and was still ongoing as of this article. See the original thread here.
Another beautiful misprint is this Island from Jumpstart. Here the Island was printed twice. It received its normal Island artwork, then it got Thriving Isle printed on top of it. Also, notice the pink haze that takes over the bottom of the artwork. This pink effect is not seen in the original artwork of Thriving Isle or Island. This has created a truly one-of-a-kind piece thanks to the misprint process. Bidding for the island started at $150 and finally sold for $300! In the same thread, the seller also had several other Islands with a subtle pink hue to them. They are not to the same extreme as the one discussed prior. These started at the modest $10 mark. The original listing can be seen here.
The next thread is a whole slew of misprints. We see a familiar face here. The Guru Island we discussed prior makes a return. This is the "drowning man" print. On the left-hand side of the art, you can make out a little shape that resembles a man. In the original thread, some commenters point out why this might have occurred. They suggest the card went to get its set symbol stamped on but it went in backward. Another commenter also suggests the stamping tool itself was inserted upside down. Regardless here we see an already expensive card jump in price thanks to a misprint. In this case a bid of $2,000! The full thread has many more misprints including a Black Lotus, Tropical lsland, and more. There is also a wide variety of misprints in this lot. I thoroughly suggest you give it a look to see everything from minor to major misprints. The comments are also full of additional context and information. See the full thread here.
Getting to the top of the price mountain we have some beautiful 4th edition lands. These are bizarre cards. The lands are missing their 'tap add' text. Additionally, some of them are ink-stained. Who knows what caused this? Perhaps a leak in the factory printing press? Regardless of how it happened, a misprint like this is exceptional. Bidding started at $900 for the Plains and $1,500 for the Island. All of these sold for between $1,300 and $2,700! The misprint market shows off the price ranges in something as simple as a basic land. You can see the full thread here.
With that, I hope you enjoyed this look at the most expensive basic lands in Magic. Whether you are a collector of the finest cardboard, or blinging out your Commander deck, let us know what are the most expensive basic lands in your collection! If you enjoy this kind of article examining the weird side of Magic let us know in the comments. We would love to hear your feedback.
Once again I would like to thank the misprint community for their assistance. The community is a fantastic source for all things weird and wonderful in Magic. They have four groups: major misprints, minor misprints, other, and accessories.
MTGRarities: Major Misprints, Test Prints, Oddities
#MTGRarities: Minor Misprints, Off Center, NFC, Sheets
#MTGRarities: "The Other Group" - Serial Cards and other Nonsense MtG Magic
#MTGRarities: Accessories, Memorabilia, Marketing, Play Mats
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