In the Multiuniverse, Planewalkers are powerful wizards who possess the power to cast spells that can drain the life of a foe, supplement their allies with arcane strength, and summon dragons. They fight other Planewalkers for glory, knowledge, and conquest with Mana – the magical energy of the land that fuels their powers. Mana is scarce, which means bonds must be made with various lands to gain access to the highly coveted fuel.
Thus is the life of Planewalkers, and the obsession of many collectors who have taken on the role of these magical beings by using their collection of Magic: The Gathering (MTG) cards as an arsenal.
Created by mathematics professor Richard Garfield, and introduced in 1993 by Wizards of the Coast, Magic: The Gathering is a collectable card game that has attracted world-wide interest with an estimated six-million players and collectors. The game, which can be played by two or more players, relies on various cards that carry various powers. Along with using the cards to play the game, a secondary collectible market has risen with both those who love the game, as well as those who are attracted by the colorful art.
For those who collect MTG cards, Daniel Chang is no stranger. The Seattle-based Chang, who has been involved in card collecting since he bought his first pack of trading cards in 1989, is one of the foremost authorities on Magic: The Gathering cards.
Chang was first attracted to MTG in 1994, when he noticed the amazing artwork on the cards his friends and classmates were playing with. Fascinated by the beautiful images, Chang decided to collect sets of MTG with the highest quality cards.
During his college years, at the University of Washington, Chang and a partner established an online baseball card auction business they called Teddy's Ballgame Company. For the following five years, Chang grew the business and brokered the sale of some of the most valuable sportscards in the world that sold for record prices (that to date are still unbroken).
Because of his passion and knowledge of MTG cards, Chang has sold, purchased, traded or brokered the sale of nearly every important MTG card. In 2009, he founded MTG Stores (www.MTGstores.com) of which he serves as the president and CEO. He envisions MTG Stores as becoming the worldwide authority for MTG cards and art, and a global marketplace and community for MTG collectors, players, investors, dealers and artists. He has also recently rolled out a new division of his company known as GMTG: Graded Magic Cards www.GradedMagiccards.com.
Having first interviewed Chang for our March 2007 issue, Sports Market Report recently caught up with Chang again to learn a bit more about him, his passion, and his new endeavors. We began our conversation by asking him when he was first bitten by the collecting bug.
Daniel Chang (DC): When I was a child, I played with Transformers and He-Man Toys. I loved collecting all the figures from the TV series. As I got older, I started collecting baseball cards. The first pack of cards I ever bought was a 1989 Donruss pack. Throughout my teenage years, I collected Marvel Comic cards, baseball, basketball and football cards, video games – anything that reminded me of the past. When I was in high school, I started collecting Magic: The Gathering cards. The artwork of MTG was what intrigued me the most. The detail and colors of the art is some of the best fantasy artwork ever created. I loved collecting all the various sets.
Reinventing the art of collecting are, from left, MTG Stores VP of Sales and Marketing Troy Wiltbank, Vice President and COO Debra Farmer, President and CEO Daniel Chang, Director of Sales and Marketing Dennis Joe and President and CEO of Mindshift Media Tyler Griffin. Sports Market Report (SMR): Do you still find time to collect today?
DC: I'm currently collecting signed vintage MTG cards, original MTG artwork, and other various artifacts from the game. I also enjoy collecting the original 1984 Transformers in high quality. I don't collect any sports related items any longer. That's simply because I haven't had much time. I tried to complete a perfectly centered PSA 8 or higher 1952 Topps Baseball set. That really took a lot of time. One day, I would love to return to collecting the '52 Topps set. I love the beautiful colors and history behind that set.
SMR: Do you have any favorite items in your collection – things that have a special meaning to you?
DC: I have a Transformers AFA 90 Pre-Rub 1984 Generation 1 Sunstreaker – it's a yellow Lamborghini Countach that is one of the rarest Transformers you can find in a high grade. Mine is a 90 out of 100. I also own the original Magic: The Gathering Arabian Nights Juzam Djinn artwork. This painting was purchased directly from the artist – Mark Tedin. For those who know the game, the Juzam is one of the most iconic MTG cards ever produced. I remember always wanting that card and never being able to afford it. Every time I look at the painting, it brings back fond memories of my early MTG collecting days, and it reminds me that it was the artwork that made me fall in love with the cards. As for my favorite MTG cards – my all-time favorite cards are the Chaos Orb, Underground Sea, and Shivan Dragon cards. The artwork on those cards is so beautiful and magnetic. For me, it was impossible not to fall in love with the beauty and detail of those cards. I also own the PSA 10 Beta Chaos Orb card, which I would say is my all-time favorite.
SMR: When did you decide to transition from collector to dealer and make this a career?
DC: While I officially started GMTG: Graded Magic Cards earlier this year, I have been buying, selling, and trading cards for nearly 12 years. I was 19 when my partner and I started Teddy's Ballgame – a small sports consignment and brokerage company. For nearly five years, I had the privilege of brokering, consigning and grading some of the hobby's most iconic modern day sports rarities. After Teddy's Ballgame, I decided I wanted to take on the challenge of managing larger accounts and revenues on a corporate scale. I transitioned to doing transportation and logistics sales with FedEx and YRC Worldwide for nearly five years. It was during those years, working in corporate America, that I developed a market for collecting graded Magic: The Gathering cards on the side. As time went by, my hobby of collecting became very lucrative, and rewarding. But, it wasn't until 2009, that I seriously considered making a career of becoming a dealer of Magic: The Gathering cards on a full-time basis.
SMR: What does your company actually do?
DC: GMTG: Graded Magic Cards, LLC was officially formed in 2010, offering the Magic: The Gathering community the widest selection of authenticated MTG cards in the world. We also offer the most unique MTG collectibles, including PSA/DNA authenticated artist proofs, signatures, original art, promo cards, and altered pieces. Our Web site, www.gradedmagiccards.com offers a full suite of appraisal, consignment and estate consultation services – the first in the industry. Through our partnership with PSA, we have expanded collecting MTG both domestically and internationally. We are also offering the first ever online marketplace for Magic: The Gathering at www.mtgstores.com Unlike other online forums and auction sites, our site features a global community of MTG artists, collectors, dealers, and players. GMTG is a division of MTG Stores, powering premium services such as the online price guide, appraisal, consignment and collector consultations. Something very unique to our site is the extensive use of multimedia. Our videos are on all the major social networking sites – YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. We feature MTG grading videos and show convention footage, interviews with artists, collectors, dealers and players, and candid videos of the MTG community all over the world.
SMR: Daniel, what makes Magic: The Gathering so special to you?
DC: It's unlike any other collectible in the world. It is a collectible card game – the first of its kind. Since it's a game, unlike baseball, basketball or any other traditional sportcards, these cards represent a function of the game as well as being a collectible, and a piece of history. For every person who has ever been into MTG, they have specific memories that represent a time from their past – fond memories of intense competition, camaraderie, and endless hours of game play are forever instilled in the heart of every collector or player of MTG. And remember, MTG is only 17-years old. As time passes – let's say 50 years from now – these cards will come to represent a great time in the lives of many more people.
SMR: You are doing some really exciting things with PSA/DNA. Tell us about that.
DC: PSA/DNA plays a very important role in what we are doing. My company, GMTG: Graded Magic Cards, is working in cooperation with PSA/DNA to offer the first ever authenticated signatures and collectibles to the MTG community. PSA/DNA represents the highest level of integrity and quality for these rare collectibles, and as the global marketplace continues to explode, these unique PSA/DNA pieces will become more and more valuable and important to Magic: The Gathering collectors.
SMR: In such a competitive industry, how have you been able to distinguish GMTG: Graded Magic Cards from other dealers?
DC: As MTG's premier grading authority, we are the leaders in the authentication of MTG collectibles. Our niche is focused specifically on the MTG collector. The majority of MTG dealers focus on the player – where cards are primarily in the modern age. Our focus is in the vintage market. As time passes, the vintage MTG cards will only expand as collectibles, and the modern cards will become vintage. At GMTG, we believe that collectors will eventually go beyond cards and desire the next challenge of collecting – owning the collectibles that started it all. Take for example, my love for the 1952 Baseball Topps set. I wasn't even born when it was released. But what makes it so special, besides the set and composition, is that it represents an iconic part of baseball history. It was the challenge of owning and searching for pieces of a part of history that kept me motivated in trying to complete the set – even though the battle was always uphill. I see the same thing every day in the world of MTG. You find young players who finish college and start their first job. The pieces that eluded them financially when they were kids, they are now able to purchase. I recently sold an array of vintage MTG graded PSA collectibles to an ex-MTG player. I asked him: "Why collect the vintage cards, if you are a player?" He said: "The foundation of the game's evolution is represented by the vintage cards. The artwork has also evolved. To own the original, is like owning a piece of history of my past. Now that I have a career, I don't have as much time to play the game, but the vintage cards bring back memories of playing with my friends and work colleagues."
SMR: What is it about this business that you enjoy the most?
DC: It's my passion. My passion for collecting, and for everyone involved in the world of Magic: The Gathering. That's what keeps me motivated each and every day. For me, it's beyond just a business. It's hearing everyone's story. For example, the other day, a player told me about a strategy they had with one of their play sets. As we were talking, he told me he is collecting every single example of a particular card. The card is the Counterspell that was reprinted several times throughout the history of MTG, in multiple foreign languages. Not only was it one of his favorite cards in game play, but he also loved the evolution of the card's artwork. Hearing his story, and thousands of others like it, is what this all means to me – that the most important part of life is enjoying what you do, and living life with passion. My business is my passion – it's my dream – I love every moment of it.
SMR: Are there certain areas of the MTG hobby that you think are untapped, or certain types of collectibles that have been overlooked?
DC: Absolutely! Autographed cards, artist's proofs, foreign graded cards – and that's just to name a few. Then, there will be an entirely new line of items available when PSA and PSA/DNA's MTG collectibles surface in the market in the near future. MTG continues to evolve being as that the market is intensely internationally influenced. With MTG cards printed in Chinese, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, Japanese – collecting has never been so diversified. We also believe that every MTG collector, player or dealer should have their cards and collectibles authenticated and graded. At MTG Stores, we offer all the resources regarding grading through our grading and business centers. We want everyone to receive the facts and tools to understand the importance of grading, and with our partnership with GMTG, our vision is that every MTG community member will be exposed to grading and its benefits by the end of 2012. As time passes, every collector will have their own objective. Some may want to pass their collectibles down to their children. Some may want to sell them as an investment. Regardless of what they choose to do, authentication and grading is relevant for any situation.
SMR: How do you see PSA's involvement in the world of Magic: The Gathering?
DC: MTG Stores and GMTG: Graded Magic Cards has partnered with PSA and PSA/DNA for the August 2010 Gen Con Indy – the world's largest gaming convention in the world. At that event, MTG Stores, GMTG and PSA were at center stage to a crowd of nearly 30,000 attendees. At our booth (#1925) we accepted submissions, provided appraisals, and offered consignment and consultation services. Both Mark Tedin and Anson Maddocks, two of the original Magic: The Gathering vintage artists were at our booth to meet with collectors and sign cards and collectibles. MTG Stores also showcased a PSA 9 Beta Black Lotus that will be given away to a lucky owner just by registering on www.mtgstores.com by January 1, 2011. This Black Lotus is valued at over $3,500 and has been signed on the case by the original artist – Christopher Rush.
SMR: It sounds like the future is bright for MTG and its collectors.
DC: The future is extremely bright. And again, it's important to remember that MTG is only a 17-year old game. With so many players starting at a young age, the growth of MTG collecting will only continue to expand. Also, keep in mind that MTG is an international game – similar to soccer – where there is an enormous global following. As time goes by, the nostalgic memories people will have of the game will get stronger, and they will have great interest in collectibles that pertain to the game they fell in love with.
SMR: It's been a few years since we sat down with you last. Besides the new professional endeavors, what has changed with you personally since we last talked?
DC: Life is going great! I am traveling quite a bit more, but I love it. I really enjoy meeting fellow artists, collectors, dealers and players from all around the world. I now also have three dogs, and they are a lot of work. I also just turned 30, although I don't feel a day over 20.