What’s up with Post Malone right now?
Great question. He’s a busy guy! Post just released his latest album, Austin, which debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 chart (just behind his friend and fellow Texan Travis Scott’s latest effort). His face glowers down on us from Raising Cane’s billboards (and at least one actual restaurant), imploring us to visit the chicken-fingers joint and receive a collector’s cup emblazoned with the Grapevine-raised pop star’s tattoos, visage, or caricature. Most recently, the 28-year-old born Austin Richard Post spent the weekend playing two nights of concerts in Dallas, and his acting career continues apace. He stars as the voice of Ray Fillet in the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, which opened last week. He also continues to climb the Spotify charts to new heights—he’s currently the streaming platform’s tenth-most popular artist of all time.
Hey, good for him! Thanks for catching me up.
Oh, and he just spent $2 million on a Magic: The Gathering card.
He did what?
Bought a Magic card. For slightly less than the price of a 6,500-square-foot mansion in Post’s hometown. We all celebrate our successes in different ways. Post Malone, apparently, chose to revel in his by buying the most expensive card in the game’s thirty-year history.
Wow! It must be really old. Did whomever he bought it from find it in a box in their mom’s attic or something?
Nope. It was printed in June.
Sorry, I’m going to need some more context here.
Magic: The Gathering is a collectible card game that launched in 1993. (It made its debut, in fact, at the Origins Game Fair in Fort Worth that summer.) New cards have been printed regularly in the thirty years since. Until now, the most expensive cards were the oldest, rarest, and—because Magic is a game—most powerful pieces. Before Malone’s purchase, the most expensive card ever sold at auction was a mint condition Black Lotus from the game’s 1993 Alpha run, signed by the artist. That one went for $540,000 in March. The print run that included the Alpha Black Lotus was extremely limited, as no one knew at the time whether the game would find an audience, let alone become a thirty-year cultural phenomenon. Only an estimated 1,100 copies of the card were ever printed, most of which are nowhere near the “gem mint” condition of the copy that sold in March.
The card that Post Malone bought is both newer and rarer. This summer, Magic published its second-best-selling set of all time as part of its thirtieth anniversary celebration: a crossover with the Lord of the Rings called Tales of Middle-earth. And—appropriately, if you’re familiar with the source material—the set included a special, extremely limited version of the card representing the “one ring” from which the series draws its name, which Frodo takes to Mordor. That copy of the card is pretty nerdy, even for a Magic: The Gathering card based on the Lord of the Rings—the text is in Elvish, and the card is coated in gold foil.
That’s, uh, cool?
I mean, if you’re in the overlap of the Venn diagram between Magic cards, Lord of the Rings, and absurd wealth—which, as it happens, Post Malone is—it is a pretty unique thing.
How did the person who sold the card to Post Malone get it?
Ever see Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory? It’s basically like that. Magic cards are sold in booster packs—think baseball cards—and the ultrarare copy of the One Ring was inserted at random into one of those. Brook Trafton, a 37-year-old Magic player from Toronto, was the lucky fan who bought a pack containing the $2 million card.
Even before the set was released, collectors had placed standing offers for the card, with the largest one topping out at two million euros. That’s actually slightly more than the sale price to Malone, but Trafton said that when he opened the pack, the pop star was the only buyer he had in mind. “I just really hoped it would go to someone who would appreciate it as much as I do,” he wrote in the caption of the TikTok video he posted of himself and Malone making the deal. Trafton described the sale as “life changing.”
Is Post Malone really that into Magic: The Gathering?
Is he ever! In an unlikely twist for a nerdy pastime largely enjoyed in dank game shops, one of the world’s biggest pop stars has signed on as the game’s primary ambassador. He helped the game’s publisher restart in-person play as it came out of the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, he wore Magic-themed pajamas on Late Night With Seth Meyers, he offered $100,000 to a player who could beat him in a match, and he made headlines last year for buying a special artist’s proof of the aforementioned Black Lotus for $800,000. He just really seems to love the game.
I know he’s a big star, but can Post Malone really afford all of this?
The music industry may be a tough place to make a living as a small or even midtier artist, but when you’re a Post Malone–size superstar, things are different. In addition to royalties for his music, the secret to his success is brand partnerships. He’s got the current campaign with Raising Cane’s, and he’s previously collaborated with Bud Light, Crocs, and Doritos. Those deals tend to be wildly lucrative, and they trade on Malone’s image as a fun-loving goof, which gets enhanced by publicity stunts such as buying the most expensive Magic: The Gathering card ever printed, creating a cycle that makes all of this make a little bit more sense.
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