Print Run Calculations

From the start this site was intended to be a single point of reference for a variety of information related to the early days of Magic the Gathering.  Presenting information which was available elsewhere in a more concise and accessible manner.  Many sites list the rarity of each card in the original sets, and many sites have print run estimates, but this site was intended to combine the two without the need to cross reference between two sources of information.  For that reason I never felt the need to explain the background for print run calculations, as that information is widely available elsewhere.  However recently the site has received skepticism regarding its print run information, so in the same spirit of providing information in a single location, I will now breakdown step by step how the print run information has been calculated and what sources the information is derived from.

The numbers below will not match precisely with the numbers in the print run tab, as I would like to preserve the historical estimates which were widely used for over 20 years.

Also as a disclaimer, I would like to point out that my estimates may not be the same as other estimates which are available elsewhere, as I have made some of my own assumptions in the calculations.  Whenever I have made a judgment call in my calculations I have noted it.

Alpha

On March 6th 2021 Peter Adkison the former CEO of Wizzards of the Coast posted information  on social media regarding the print runs of Alpha and Beta.

He had recently contacted Luc Mertens who was a sales executive at Carta Mundi throughout the 90’s dealing specifically with MTG, and asked him what the exact purchase orders made for Alpha and Beta were (first and second print runs of Limited Edition).  Luc corresponded with Peter de Weerdt (a current WOTC sales executive), who helped check the archives and found the following numbers on alpha and beta print runs from 1993.

The alpha print run for Magic: The Gathering was 26,000 60-card starter decks and 70,000 15-card boosters, which would equate to 2.61 million cards.
 

The beta print run for Magic was 78,000 60-card starter decks and 210,000 15-card boosters, for a total of 7.83 million cards.

We can use these numbers to calculate the print runs for Alpha.

26,000 60-card starter decks each contain 2 rare, 13 uncommon and 45 commons
70,000 booster packs each contain 1 rare, 3 uncommon, 11 common

 

This gives us a total of 122,000 rares, 548,000 uncommons and 1,940,000 commons


Cards are printed on sheets of 121 cards.  So we need to take the total number of each rarity, and divide them by 121, to find out how many of each rarity was printed.  This leaves us with:

Rare: 1,008
Uncommon: 4,529
Common: 16,033

 

Beta

When confirming the Alpha print run, Peter Adkison also confirmed the beta print run. 

78,000 60-card starter decks each contain 2 rare, 13 uncommon and 45 commons
210,000 booster packs each contain 1 rare, 3 uncommon, 11 common


This gives us a total of 366,000 rares, 1,644,000 uncommons and 5,820,000 commons


Cards are printed on sheets of 121 cards.  So we need to take the total number of each rarity, and divide them by 121, to find out how many of each rarity was printed.  This leaves us with:

Rare: 3,025
Uncommon: 13,587
Common: 48,099

 

Unlimited

The Duelist Complete Magic Card List (1995) and The Official Encyclopedia (1996) both list the print run of unlimited as 35 million, so that is the number we will use.

Regarding the split between Starter Decks and Booster Packs in Unlimited, there is less information available so an educated guess must be made.  When Alpha and Beta  were printed 27.1% of the cards were printed in Starter Decks and 72.9% of the cards were printed in booster packs, but it is generally recognized that WOTC decided to change the allocation between starters and boosters at some point due to the much higher demand for boosters.  We do not have definitive information on how much this was adjusted.  Some estimates assume as low as 16.7% allocated for starter decks, and some estimate as high as 33.3% allocated for starter decks.  Given the information recently released by Peter Askison, I think it is safe to assume 33.3% is too high as that would be even higher than the allocation in Alpha and Beta, and I believe 16.7% is too low, as this would leave us with much less that 1 starter deck for every 10 packs printed, and WOTC was still trying to actively grow the player base at this point (players which would have needed starter decks).  The number we will use for our calculation is 25% allocation to starter decks.  This figure is in-between both of the most popular estimates being used, and I believe to be the best guess possible.  This gives us the following numbers:

145,833 60-card starter decks each contain 2 rare, 13 uncommon and 45 commons and

1,750,000 15-card booster packs each contain 1 rare, 3 uncommon, 11 common


This gives us a total of 2,041,666 rares, 7,145,829 uncommons and 25,812,485 commons


Cards are printed on sheets of 121 cards.  So we need to take the total number of each rarity, and divide them by 121, to find out how many of each rarity was printed.  This leaves us with:

Rare: 16,874
Uncommon: 59,057
Common: 213,326

 

Arabian Nights

Every source of print run information available including The Official Encyclopedia, places the print run at 5 million.  This number is not contested, and there is no known disagreement with regard to this figure at the time this was written.

Arabian Nights only had booster packs, so all the cards would be in 8 card boosters.
There were only two print sheets, photos of which can be found easily online.  That gives us the following:

625,000 8-card boosters each containing 2 uncommon, 6 common.

My math is a little different than how other people have approached this, but the end result is the same.

This gives us a total of 1,250,000 uncommons, and 3,750,000 commons

Cards are printed on sheets of 121 cards.  So we need to take the total number of each rarity, and divide them by 121, to find out how many of each sheet was printed.  This leaves us with:

Uncommon Sheet: 10,331
Common Sheet: 30,992

Because there were multiples of each uncommon and common on each sheet, we then need to multiply this base number by their classification (U2, U3, C1, C4, ect).  This leaves us with:

U2: 20,662
U3: 30,993
U4: 41,324
C1: 30,992
C4: 123,968
C5: 154,960
C11: 340,912

 

Antiquities

Every source of print run information available including The Official Encyclopedia, places the print run at 15 million.  This number is not contested, and there is no known disagreement with regard to this figure at the time this was written.

Antiquities only had booster packs, so all the cards would be in 8 card boosters.
There were only two print sheets, photos of which can be found easily online.  That gives us the following:

1,875,000 8-card boosters each containing 2 uncommon, 6 common.

My math is the same as for Arabian Nights, a little different than how other people have approached it, but the end result is the same.

A total of 3750,000 uncommons, and 11,250,000 commons

Cards are printed on sheets of 121 cards.  So we need to take the total number of each rarity, and divide them by 121, to find out how many of each rarity was printed.  This leaves us with:

Uncommon Sheet: 30,992
Common Sheet: 92,975

Because there were multiples of each uncommon and common on each sheet, we then need to multiply this base number by their classification (U1, U2, C1, C4, ect).  This leaves us with:

U1: 30,992
U2: 61,984
U3: 92,976
C1: 92,975
C4: 371,900
C5: 464,875
C6: 557,850

 

Legends

Every source of print run information available including The Official Encyclopedia, places the print run at 35 million.  This number is not contested, and there is no known disagreement with regard to this figure at the time this was written.

Legends only had booster packs, so all the cards would be in 15 card boosters.

This gives us a total of 2,333,333 rares, 7,000,000 uncommons and 25,666,630 commons

Cards are printed on sheets of 121 cards.  So we need to take the total number of each rarity, and divide them by 121, to find out how many of each rarity was printed.  This leaves us with:

Rare Sheet: 19,284
Uncommon Sheet: 57,851
Common Sheet: 212,121

Because there were multiples of each uncommon and common on each sheet, we then need to multiply this base number by their classification (U1, U2, C1, C2).  This leaves us with:

Rare: 19,284
U1: 57,851
U2: 115,702
C1: 212,121
C2: 424,242

 

The Dark

Information from 1994 and 1995 placed estimates at 62 Million cards.
Sources include The Duelist as well as official press releases made by WOTC representatives.

However more recent research has been conducted and estimates the print run at 75 Million, based on comments made by Tom Wylie (an early WOTC employee).

The figure we will use is 70 Million cards, for the following reasons:
Estimates place the print run somewhere between 63 and 75, so selecting 70 will allow us to have at least a 10% margin of error on both sides.  Additionally the print run of the preceding set (Legends) is estimated to be 35 million, and previous WOTC behavior showed a propensity to have sets preceding one another to be multiples of their predecessors.  Beta is three times the size of Alpha, Antiquities is three times the size of Arabian Nights, so I think it follows logically that the Dark would be two times the size of Legends (given that three times the size was never an option).  WOTC was still a small company at this stage and the final decision on print run size would have ultimately have been made by one or two key individuals in the organization.  This estimate is the largest unknown of all the numbers provided, so hopefully someday we will get additional information to help with this calculation.

The Dark only had booster packs, so all the cards would be in 8 card boosters.  There were only two print sheets, photos of which can be found easily online.  That gives us the following:

8,750,000 8-card boosters each containing 2 uncommon, 6 common.

My math is the same as for Arabian Nights, a little different than how other people have approached it, but the end result is the same.

This gives us a total of 17,500,000 uncommons, and 52,500,000 commons

Cards are printed on sheets of 121 cards.  So we need to take the total number of each rarity, and divide them by 121, to find out how many of each rarity was printed.  This leaves us with:

Uncommon Sheet: 144,628
Common Sheet: 444,884

Because there were multiples of each uncommon and common on each sheet, we then need to multiply this base number by their classification (U1, U2, C1, C3).  This leaves us with:

U1: 144,628
U2: 289,256
C1: 444,884
C3: 1,334,652


 

Published
January - 2022