This week, blue latex gloves, and X-Acto knives, and a pair of (initially) steady hands undertook a delicate operation live on the Internet. With the attempted care of a surgeon over a human brain or archeologist above the Dead See Scrolls, one man with a camera cut the cellophane off of a boxed set of cards. Then he opened the box, cut the second cellophane wrapping off of the cards, meticulously flipped over all 60 cards, and freaked the heck out. It’s infectious, hilarious, over 9,000 on the geek scale — and it deserves your respect and admiration.
About two days ago, YouTuber (and owner of what I’m approximating to be about one metric f-ton of unopened Magic the Gathering cards) Openboosters made the find of a lifetime while pulling a mint Alpha deck on his web show. Alpha is the earliest set of the well-known and landmark fantasy trading card game, and the single most valuable card in that set, and in the game’s history, is the Black Lotus. Any boy or girl geek who played the game for any amount of time, anyone who played long enough to know what it means to tap a land for manna or build a deck, will confirm this fact for you — Black Lotus is legend. Only about 1,100 of this card’s alpha version were printed and it has been the most valuable and rare Magic card for pretty much the entire history of the game. It was when I was playing in middle school a decade and a half ago, I’ll tell you that. In a recent eBay auction, the card fetched $27,000.
And it was, as only the design of fiction and chance of reality can so well place it, the last card of the deck that Openboosters was showing. Let’s be clear — as enthusiastic as Openboosters’ reaction is, it is actually beyond reasonable. That man manages to keep his language G to PG upon finding the equivalent of tens of thousands of dollars on the ground. I couldn’t do that, and I doubt most people could. His follow-up video analyzing the printing flaws of the card (common at the time, as this was the alpha set of the game) is down right sober. But here’s the thing — as lucky as he is to find the card, he’s a thousand times luckier that he loves his old hobbies, cares about his past times, and wants to share that love with anybody else he can. He’s lucky he’s a total geek, a giant nerd, and smart about being one. Because while this likely isn’t the find of the most valuable copy of Black Lotus ever, it is almost certainly the most valuable find of a copy of Black Lotus ever.
As a lifelong nerd and former MtG player, I can truly appreciate this guy’s joy in pulling an Alpha Black Lotus in as close to mint condition as possible (he explains in his follow-up video that printing and packaging processes used in alpha, which were not yet perfected, will probably stop the card from getting the highest-quality grade possible, though by strict definition, the card is “mint,” seeing as it came out of the package two days ago). However, calling this guy’s video “cute” or “nerdy” fully fails to embrace the brilliance of geekdom in this day and age. He’s inarguably made the most valuable MtG card find in history based on one simple fact:
He found his Black Lotus in a live (i.e. unedited) commercial YouTube video.
His videos have a single pre-roll ad — probably the most common YouTube format — which, these days, earns you a few dollars per every thousand views (somewhere between $2 and $7 based on my research, including past interviews with YouTube producers and articles on celebritynetworth and elsewhere). In just over two days, his video of pulling the Black Lotus starter deck has garnered about 1.5 million views and nearly 3000 new subscribers (ironically this video was made to celebrate his 5000th subscriber, which is a milestone that I think he will quickly double or triple). Being as conservative as possible, finding a Black Lotus and posting a video of it has already earned this guy $3,000 and maybe as much as $10,500. And that’s in two days.
Make no mistake, this video’s going to continue to go viral — motivated by geekdom, arguments over whether or not it’s authentic, re-blogs, and general internet spread. And it should, because it captures the joy and enthusiasm of discovery, and the love of a game and hobby that defines the things we call geeky and nerdy. Every view the channel and video get, every cent that ad revenue earns — all of that has to be added value to what that little piece of card stock is worth, and only time will tell how much that will be.
Openboosters purportedly found all these unopened decks and boosters in his attic while trying to clear house. Rather than sell them or throw them out, he started a YouTube channel meticulously opening the cards, and sharing his reactions and enthusiasm for his old hobby as he went with anybody who’d want to see. That’s not just nerdy, or geeky, or funny — and it’s most certainly not sad — it’s awesome. The guy’s sharing something he loves with the world, and there is no fault that.
Well done, man. Well done.
A final postscript: Like I mentioned, some have been challenging the video’s authenticity. As a filmmaker and a nerd, I’m personally of the opinion that the video’s authentic, as the process of creating a double-sealed alpha deck of this high production value or effectively tampering with one to the point of creating the illusion of it being fully real would take a level of skill and work that would probably deserve the same reaction or an even better reaction if he did.