CGC Trading Cards Certifies the Incredible Joel Mick Collection of Magic: The Gathering Cards

Posted on 2/25/2021

Joel Mick was instrumental in the evolution of Magic from a niche strategy game to a global phenomenon, as reflected in his beyond impressive collection.

CGC Trading Cards has certified the Joel Mick Collection, an incredible group of more than 200 early Magic: The Gathering cards. A true legend in the world of Magic, Mick was involved with the game’s development from the very beginning, first as a playtester, then as lead designer and finally as business manager. Indeed, if not for Mick, Magic would not be the game that it is today.

Mick's collection includes Magic’s greatest hits, deep cuts and every creature, artifact, land and enchantment in between.

For many, the Power Nine are the holy grail when it comes to collecting Magic cards. These rare cards from the Alpha, Beta and Unlimited sets printed in late 1993 to early 1994 are generally considered to be the most powerful cards ever produced — so powerful to be deemed “broken” or overwhelmingly powerful. A highlight of the Joel Mick Collection is a complete set of Alpha Power Nine cards in Near Mint/Mint+ to Gem Mint condition.

Click images to enlarge.

CGC Trading Cards’ team of experts assigned an overall grade to each card as well as sub-grades for centering, surfaces, corners and edges. The cards were then encapsulated in the protective CGC Trading Cards holder with a label bearing the Joel Mick Collection pedigree.

The entire collection was imaged in high-resolution and is now published in a free online gallery for collectors to enjoy. To view the Joel Mick Collection Gallery, visit

“I entrusted CGC Trading Cards to certify my collection based on the passion and knowledge that were clearly evident from my first conversations with the graders,” said Mick. “The value provided by their services, their ability to preserve my collection’s provenance and the opportunity to showcase my collection in an online gallery is exactly what I wanted. I am thrilled that my collection is now publicly available, and I hope it inspires others with an interest in collecting trading cards.”

Balance is one of Mick's personal favorites from the Alpha set. He would run four copies in the deck before the card was eventually restricted to one per deck for being so powerful.
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Mick’s story is one where the stars aligned so that he was at the right place (the University of Pennsylvania) at the right time (the dawn of Magic). He was born in Philadelphia and grew up in South Jersey, just outside Philly. At a young age, he was drawn to strategy games, such as chess and Stratego, as well as card games like hearts and bridge.

While still in high school, Mick started taking math classes two days a week at University of Pennsylvania and was eventually permitted by U-Penn to drop out of high school to attend college fulltime. He received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from U-Penn in 1983 and later attended law school there, earning his Juris Doctor in 1993.

Throughout college, Mick continued playing cards: he was in the U Penn bridge club and enjoyed playing poker. With his poker winnings, he was able to support himself and even pay for law school. He also recalls playing a lot of Cosmic Encounter.

It was during the end of law school that Mick was introduced to Magic and became a playtester. Richard Garfield, the creator of Magic, also played bridge every week at the U-Penn bridge club, and he tagged Mick to help get the Alpha card set and game rules ready for public consumption.

Mick and his fellow playtesters found Magic to be absolutely captivating. They spent the majority of their free time playing Magic, trading cards and discussing deck building strategies, the strength of various cards and the existence of some of the rare cards. These rare cards might have only been seen by a couple of players, as the complete card list was not known to the playtesters at the time.

This Taiga from the Alpha set is one of the finest graded cards in the Joel Mick Collection.
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Despite Magic’s allure, Mick was not especially optimistic about the game’s success. He expected it to have a niche following among hardcore strategy gamers and perhaps among science and math majors in college. For him, the game seemed too complicated to achieve the broad appeal it has today.

Then, in 1994, Mick accepted a job at Wizards of the Coast, the producer of Magic cards, as lead designer for Magic. He worked for Wizards of the Coast through Spring 2000, spending the last few years as business manager for Magic.

Joel Mick when he started working for Magic at Wizards of the Coast and today.

Over the course of his career, Mick feels his greatest accomplishments — and the ones that Magic players can still see today — are twofold. First, he limited the complexity of individual cards and promoted the design of simpler, more elegant game mechanics in order to broaden the appeal of the game. Second, over a fair bit of resistance and objection, he implemented foil cards, as well as rarity symbols and card numbers.

“Most people who love playing games hate learning the rules to a game, which for Magic includes the rules text on individual cards,” explained Mick. “There were many cards in early Magic, for example Ice Cauldron, that had great flavor but simply far too much rules text. My goal was to keep the flavor and trim the fat.”

More than three decades since he first came under the spell of Magic, Mick still enjoys playing the game. His favorite formats are Legacy, Old School, Alpha 40 and draft.

Jalum Tome is named after Joel Mick, whose initials are JLM, or "Jalum" when pronounced. He also modeled for Unglued's Jalum Grifter.
Click images to enlarge.

“CGC Trading Cards is honored that Joel Mick chose our team to certify his beyond impressive collection,” said Matt Quinn, CGC Trading Cards Grading Finalizer. “As a Magic enthusiast myself, it was incredible to see all of these early and rare cards together, and I am thrilled that we are able to give fellow collectors the opportunity with our online image gallery.”

To see the complete Joel Mick Collection certified by CGC Trading Cards, visit the Joel Mick Collection gallery at


CGC Trading Cards provides expert and impartial authentication, grading and encapsulation services for virtually all Pokémon TCG and Magic: The Gathering cards. Its graders use a highly accurate, industry-standard 10-point grading scale and evaluate cards using advanced equipment, including devices that perform ultra-microscopic inspections and precisely calculate centering. After cards have been authenticated and graded, they are encapsulated in the CGC Trading Cards holder, which combines crystal-clear optics and advanced archival materials for the best in display and protection. Learn more at

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