Trading Card Grading And Collection Dos And Don’ts That Could Mint Millions

The recent 30 June find of The One Ring – a one-of-one trading card sent seismic shockwaves throughout the universe of trading card collectors. This 1:1 card is the rarest in the entire release of trading cards from The Lord of the Rings-themed Magic: The Gathering Tales of Middle-earth IP crossover with Lord of the Rings. Hasbro – the owners of the trading card franchise and publisher Wizards of the Coast – stated in Wall Street Journal that the chances of finding this specific card were 0.0003 per cent.  

And just like its namesake – the One Ring – this card was intensely coveted, with rapper Post Malone (a big Magic: The Gathering fan) becoming the eventual buyer of the card. He purchased it direct from Canadian forklift operator Brook Trafton who had the grand luck to pull The One Ring card from a collector booster pack and immediately sent it to the Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) who graded it a nine (considered mint) on a 10-point grading scale. A 10 is very difficult to achieve due to foil cards’ proclivity for curling. 

As for the price that Post Malone paid?  A representative for Trafton confirmed to Polygon that it was sold for US$2 million. This price puts it in a rarefied pantheon of cards which have achieved phenomenal prices, from the rare baseball, basketball and hockey cards as well as a US$5.2 million Illustrator Pikachu Pokemon card sold in 2021.

Back in Malaysia, a pristine 10 Charizard VMAX Ultra Rare hologram trading card sits at the Premier Card Grading (PCG) facility, located beside card and hobby store Invictus Forge at the second floor of Tropicana Gardens Mall. Estimated to be worth over RM5,000, this single card has undergone an exhaustive battery of checks by PCG the only licensed outlet in South-East Asia.  It proudly sports a coveted PCG gold-plated metallic label for achieving perfect 10 scores on all its subgrades, a rarity in the world of trading cards (some cards receive an overall 10 score but only 9.5 on the subgrades and hence, receive a black label). 

For Invictus Forge’s co-founder Alvin Khaw, the rare cards usually get graded and ‘slabbed’ in plastic cases as soon as they are discovered. “Slabbed cards are worth more because they are preserved.”  Khaw describes the four subgrades namely; centring, corners, edges and surface which contribute to the overall score of the card. The lab in which PCG operates has a certain clinical mystique to it, with UV lights and other apparatus that are used to evaluate and grade the cards, including one which sonically seals the cards. 

Most of the cards that pass through PCG will usually start from a 9 to 9.5 score, anything less only happens for sentimental reasons. “Maybe because it’s very old and no longer in print, misprinted or signed,” Khaw says. The keystone to the entire grading process which PCG employs is the comprehensive PCG manual which accurately determines the scoring on the various subgrades, describing defects and fluffiness which affect the scoring.  

Here at Invictus Forge, the Flesh and Blood trading card game by Auckland-based Legend Story Studios received plenty of gameplay and is one of the most popular trading card games in the market now. Desirability for its rarer cards are also defined by the publisher’s concise release of editions. The trading cards’ high print quality – in which printing is done layers upon layers – means that counterfeit cards are easy to spot. “Zooming in will reveal differences between the Belgian and Japanese inking, and usually, the good trading card collections offer tell-tale signs such as a pinpoint dot for Magic the Gathering – this occurs due to a printing process, that regular printers are unable to replicate,” Khaw says. 

Those looking to get into trading cards are encouraged to do their research. “It can be very intimidating when you’re looking to collect with the idea of investment, but there will always be cases where the trading cards are worth the premium – buying specific singles instead of taking a chance in cracking a new pack,” Khaw points out. He cites the discontinued first edition Flesh and Blood as a good example. For a collector, the cold foil (application of a metallic foil to cards) and rainbow (holographic) foil first editions are the most desirable. “Cards get destroyed and the population of gamers will grow so hunting down cold foils will become an ever-increasing trend.” 

At Invictus Forge, there will be occasions where fairly rare trading cards in top condition are seen. A cold foil Braveforge Bracers card graded as Pristine 10, originating from the Alpha Flesh and Blood collection, makes an appearance, with its current market value hovering at approximately RM60,000. “Flesh and Blood is in a good place right now – we are waiting to see the transition,” Khaw notes. ““If you’re lucky, a case of cards (RM1,800) may result in you hitting a rare Fabled cold foil that can be worth up to RM3,000.”

For those who still remember Magic: The Gathering fondly from 30 years ago when it first debuted in the market, the word of advice from Khaw is to go for the older cards like Alpha, Beta and Unlimited or sealed boxes. “Buy and hold those, especially those by the late Christopher Rush such as Lighting Bolt,” he says. Rush also illustrated the Black Lotus card which has continued to outperform itself in auctions, with the most recent sales netting US$540,000 in March this year, surpassing the earlier 2021 sale price of US$510,000 of another Black Lotus card.

You can call or Whatsapp Invictus Forge at +60 16-502 7809

Invictus Forge

Photos: Marcus Wong/ MV Perspective

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