Magic: The Gathering Alpha And Why It's Special

Magic: The Gathering Alpha And Why It's Special

Magic was originally released in 1993 and was initially called “Magic: The Gathering” (MTG). The first sets of cards are commonly known as Alpha and Beta sets. They were actually both called “Limited Edition.” Alpha” is the first round of card printings, while “Beta” is the second of this very first set of cards ever printed for Magic: The Gathering. The Alpha set contained 295 cards, which included artifacts, enchantments, lands, and sorceries. Below, we will discuss just what makes the Alpha set so special. 

What Are Alpha MTG Cards?

If you’re a fan of Magic: The Gathering, then you know that Alpha cards are some of the most valuable and sought-after cards in the game. But what exactly are Alpha cards, and what makes them so special?

blue mtg alpha card
Image: Wizards of the Coast

Alpha was the first printing of Magic: The Gathering and was released in 1993. Alpha cards are distinguishable from other printings by their black border. Beta cards also have a black border, with white borders being introduced with Unlimited; the third Magic: The Gathering set ever released. Because Alpha was the first printing, it contains many of the game’s most iconic and powerful cards, which have been reprinted in later sets. Many of these cards are now worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars each. Some are valuable simply because they are so rare, even if the card itself isn’t very powerful.

So why are Alpha cards so special?

In addition to being the first printing, Alpha cards also have a much lower print run than subsequent printings. It’s estimated that there are only around 10,000 complete sets of Alpha in existence, making it one of the rarest sets in Magic history.

If you’re lucky enough to own any Alpha cards, be sure to hold onto them tightly! They’re sure to continue increasing in value as time goes on.

How to Tell if a Magic: The Gathering Card is from Alpha

One of the most highly sought-after items in the Magic: The Gathering community is an Alpha edition card. These cards are definitively the oldest in existence and were only printed for a very short time. Consequently, they can be quite valuable. But how can you tell if a card is Alpha? 

Here are some things to look for:

  • The font used for the card text is different on Alpha cards. It is thinner and less sharp than other versions.
  • The corners of Alpha cards are more rounded than those of other versions.
  • The back of Alpha cards is a slightly different shade of black than on other versions.
Image 1
Image: Wizards of the Coast

Keep in mind that these are just some general guidelines. There are always exceptions and counterfeits to watch out for. But if you keep an eye out for these things, you should be able to spot an Alpha card when you see one!

What’s the Difference Between Alpha and Beta?

If you’re a fan of Magic: The Gathering, then you know that the game has been through many changes since it was first released in 1993. One of the things that the designers of the game couldn’t have predicted, though surely they hoped, was how quickly the game became popular. Two months after the first print run of Magic: The Gathering Limited Edition hit shelves, the designers released a second print run under the same name, Limited Edition. The first print run has come to be known as Alpha and the second print run, as Beta.

The primary difference between them is that Beta had seven more cards than Alpha, 295 versus 302. These added cards were two cards that had been left out of Alpha by accident (Circle of Protection: Black and Volcanic Island) and five additional arts for the game’s basic land cards. There were also several cards, thirteen in total, with formatting errors printed in Alpha that were fixed in Beta. One was so significant it caused people to stop playing the affected card due to the mana value having been misprinted much lower in Alpha than was intended.

Trivia aside, there are a few other differences between Alpha and Beta, one of which can be used to tell them apart. The first is that many more copies of the cards were printed for the Beta release of the game due to the already burgeoning popularity of Magic: The Gathering.

As mentioned above, the other key difference is that the corners of Alpha cards are slightly more rounded, by about 1 mm in radius than both the Beta print run and all subsequent Magic: The Gathering cards. This difference actually meant that Alpha cards weren’t allowed in the first tournaments unless your entire deck was made up of Alpha cards so you couldn’t use them as marked cards.

Why Are Alpha Cards So Expensive?

One of the most popular questions we get is “Why are Alpha cards so expensive?” To understand why we have to first understand a little bit about the history of Magic: The Gathering. 

Alpha was the very first printing of Magic cards. It was released in 1993 and contained 295 cards. Because it was the first printing, the number of cards printed was relatively small, with some of the rares, like Black Lotus only having 1100 copies. Since there were so few cards printed, and so few were kept in good condition, Alpha cards are extremely rare and valuable. In fact, some Alpha cards can sell for thousands of dollars! 

If you’re looking to start collecting Magic cards, Alpha is definitely a great set to start with. However, be prepared to pay a pretty penny for those rarer cards.

What To Do If You Have Alpha Cards

If you have Alpha cards, the first thing you should do is take a look at the card and determine if it is in good condition. If the card is in good condition, you can then decide if you want to keep it as a rare collector’s item or if you want to sell it. You may even want to get it officially evaluated. Cards that have been certified by an expert as in good condition are called “High-Quality Graded” cards, and this designation can increase the value of a card significantly. This can be done by PSA and/or BGS, the same companies that grade sports cards.

There are many places where you can sell Alpha cards, but the most popular places are and sometimes eBay. You can also find buyers for your Alpha cards by searching for “Magic: The Gathering Alpha” on Google.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to Magic: The Gathering, the Alpha set is definitely something special. It is also expensive. While it may not be the most powerful set out there, it holds a lot of sentimental value for many players. After all, it was the first set ever released for the game! 

For anyone who loves collecting cards, the Alpha set is definitely a must-have. Even if you’re not a huge fan of the game, the Alpha set is still a great piece of gaming history. If you can get your hands on a copy, it’s definitely worth checking out!

Author: Oliver CopelandOliver has been collecting Pokémon cards for a long time. He had a crush on Misty when he was 10.