CGC Trading Cards Grades Coveted Beta Black Lotus a Pristine 10

Posted on 11/16/2022

Valued in the six figures, this is the first Beta Black Lotus certified by CGC Trading Cards with a grade this high.

The CGC Trading Cards grading team was excited to receive a submission from Seattle containing a Limited Edition Beta Black Lotus in incredible condition. The card ultimately received a CGC Pristine 10 grade — the highest-graded example of this particular card in the CGC Trading Cards Population Report. In fact, out of more than 6,000 cards that CGC Trading Cards has certified from the Limited Edition Beta set, only five have received a grade of CGC Pristine 10; none are graded CGC Trading Cards Perfect 10.

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Released in 1993, Magic: The Gathering’s Limited Edition Beta set fixed a few small errors and added two cards: Volcanic Island and Circle of Protection: Black. Otherwise, differences from the Alpha set (which came out earlier that year) were intended to be indiscernible.

During the manufacturing process for Beta cards, the largest difference that was not intended was the corner cutting process. The Beta cards were meant to receive the same broad corner cut as Alpha cards, but instead they received a tighter corner. These new corners ended up being favored and were used with later sets.

Beta, much like Alpha, sold out incredibly quickly, with a print run just three times the size of Alpha. This equated to roughly 3,300 copies of each rare being printed, including the coveted Black Lotus. Locating high-grade examples of any Beta rare is a daunting task with the cards now being three decades old. Attrition is another important factor in the quality of those remaining as well. Very useful cards in gameplay, including Black Lotus, were used frequently in decks during a time where sleeving the cards was not practiced.

Black Lotus is the crème de la crème for Magic: The Gathering players, combining age, power and beauty. The card is a virtual auto-include in any deck it would be legal in because it generates a massive resource advantage when played in the early phases of a game. Several other cards draw lineage to the Black Lotus, with nearly 20 other cards having been printed throughout the history of the game that contain the word Lotus. 

In the early years of Magic, Beta cards once pulled a sizable premium over their rarer and older Alpha counterparts. This was again due to the largest difference between the sets: the corners. Alpha cards, for a time, were banned in tournaments as the corners would make them "Marked," or too easily identifiable. A common tactic was to use only Alpha cards for the lands in a deck. This price difference narrowed over time, with Alpha eventually surpassing Beta with the advent of opaque sleeves for gameplay and the higher demand for the rarer Alpha version in collecting circles.

“This Limited Edition Beta graded CGC Pristine 10 is a sight to behold,” said Matt Quinn, Vice President of CGC Trading Cards. “The crisp color and surfaces are both perfect and the centering sublime. The corners are as nice as can be expected for a Beta card with a pleasing natural flip present on all four. Just a touch of a factory cutting issue is the only flaw observed with this card which kept it from attaining the coveted Perfect 10 grade.”

CGC-certified Pristine 10 cards must have perfect centering and no evidence of any manufacturing or handling defects. Corners must appear perfect to the naked eye and Gem Mint under 10x magnification. Meanwhile, the surface of the card must be free of print spots while displaying perfect gloss. A CGC Pristine 10 grade is not easy to accomplish, especially for cards that are over 25 years old. This card received subgrades of 10 for Centering, Surface and Corners, and 9.5 for Edges. To learn more about the CGC Trading Cards Grading Scale, click here.

Check out the top Black Lotus and more of the most expensive Magic cards ever sold in this article.

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