Six months ago I was looking for a new MTG group in my area. After a post on Nextdoor went up, I replied with my interest. There was a little chatter in the thread, but nothing really came of it.
Fast forward 6 months, I receive a direct message asking me if I could help evaluate some Magic cards.
So, I run a site called SellMyMTG.com and get these kinds of emails all the time. People have Magic cards from when they were kids or a relative passed away, and they just need some guidance on what to do with them. I help provide fair prices for the cards and about half the time also end up buying some cards.
Occasionally people tell me they have super rare cards, but when meeting in person, these cards are either fakes or the wrong edition. (Too new and not considered highly valuable) So naturally, I was skeptical about the claims from the above person. A Black Lotus is considered to be one of the most rare and valuable cards in all of magic. In fact, one had just sold on Ebay for $166,000. So having two of them and a beta starter deck box is just unheard of.
So Al texted me and told me the cards are not actually his. Ah, a flaw in the story already and leading to less credibility of the cards actually being real. But then he sent me the following picture.
This is an unopened box of Beta Starter Decks from the second print run of Magic in 1993. These are so rare it’s hard to even find a picture of them on the internet. In fact, in this condition and unopened, there are maybe 10 in the world. They are extremely rare.
At this point, I was super skeptical, but damn curious to see if it could possibly be true. I agreed to meetup in person to see the collection and help evaluate the cards. We picked a location nearby and Al introduced me to his friend, Gary. Gary pulled the following out of a Trader Joe’s bag.
I was absolutely flabbergasted. I stumble for words. “How is this possible?” Gary replies, “Oh, these are my dad’s. Steve Wozniak.” Ummmmm, yeah, well that would make perfect sense.
We pulled out the cards and in addition to the unopened boxes, there was a full set of Beta and almost full set of Unlimited. All in beautiful condition, absolutely real and untouched for 24 years.
I started off by helping them understand just how rare these cards and boxes are. We went over the prices for the items to get an overall idea of what we’re working with and it was substantial. I helped them sort through boxes of cards to find the most valuable ones and made piles of cards that should be graded.
As we wrapped up and the elation of holding these astounding pieces of history wore off, Gary mentioned he wanted to get some value right away. I went over options for selling individual cards (eBay, card store, buylisting, auction house), but I also offered to buy some of the cards in person. I encouraged him to keep the Beta set together, so he agreed to sell the unlimited cards.
In my early days of collecting, I had been personally scammed by someone who knew more than me. I was over-eager and not careful enough. And as these things go, ultimately I got burned. It’s an awful feeling and something I would never wish on anyone. So to ensure fairness, I encouraged us to lookup the prices of each card using Ebay Sold listings as well as a few buylists. After quite some time, we mutually came to a deal and I got that much closer to my Unlimited Set.
Then the question of the boxes remained. Although I was tempted to buy some, they were just simply out of my price range. In addition, I felt such rare pieces deserved a bigger audience to help ensure the right price was paid.
I followed up by texting Gary the emails of the “high rollers” in the the Magic community. Once again there was a lot of skepticism on the part of these buyers. This kind of thing doesn’t happen every day. But within 24 hours, a deal was made to purchase all the boxes in a face-to-face exchange with Steve Wozniak. And by generous offer of Gary, he invited me to join the exchange.
A few weeks later, the day had come. I headed downtown to see the exchange with Steve and the buyers. I had no idea what to expect, but brought a few decks just in case.
As I arrived at the hotel, I saw Steve in the lobby and said a quick hello. He was delightfully warm, but reserved to start. When Gary arrived, we went up the elevator to the suite where the buyers and card graders awaited. The moment we walked through the door, Steve lit up and entranced the whole room. He began telling stories, cracking jokes and showing of his famous $2 bills. As we settled in, Steve signed the boxes being sold, as well as a few playmats.
He regaled us with the story of where the boxes had come from (a little card shop in Los Gatos) and how he purchased them to make his decks better. To cap off the afternoon, the buyers offered Steve a Beta starter pack to open. We watched carefully as he revealed each card, culminating in the final rare.
We spent the rest of the afternoon playing Magic, talking about the “old days” and taking a few photos. In short, it was nothing short of a magical afternoon.