Collector numbers are part of the information below the text box on a Magic cards. They tell you where the cards fall in the set. They first appeared on cards in Exodus at the same time when color-coding of the expansion symbols was added to easily determine rarity. They were pushed through by the then Magic Brand Manager Joel Mick. Nowadays, collector numbers are assigned by a script that is run when a set is handed off.
The first number represents the card's number in the series, the second number represents the total number of cards in the set. The numbers have no effect on game play.
A star (★) next to the collector number is used to indicate a premium printing of a card.
|“||When I assign collector numbers to a card set, I start by grouping the cards by color. All the white cards are together at the beginning, followed by blue, black, red, and green, and finally multicolored cards. (The 'WUBRG' color order is pretty standard. It mirrors the pentagon of colors on the back of every Magic card that puts 'friendly' colors together.) After the colored cards come artifacts, nonbasic lands, and basic lands. Then I alphabetize the cards within each of these nine groups by their English card names (a card has the same collector number in all languages). Once the cards are in order, I start at the beginning with 1 and number from there. The second number printed on the card is just the total number of cards in the set.
If you use three-ring binders to store your Magic cards, collector numbers are a good way to stay organized. All your red Mirrodin cards, for example, will be in one place, and it's easy to see which cards you're missing. Many players don't keep basic land cards in binders, though, which is why basic lands are numbered separately from nonbasic lands and put at the very end.
What if a card falls into multiple categories? Well, until the Mirrodin block introduced artifact lands, that wasn't possible. We decided to bundle the artifact lands with the other nonbasic lands for numbering since most players putting together Constructed decks would expect to find these cards in the land section of their binders."
Card numbering has always been divided less by color than by card frame. That's why all the multicolored cards get grouped together, for example. Colorless creatures and spells, like those in Rise of the Eldrazi are numbered first before the colored cards, then the artifacts, nonbasic lands, and basic lands.
As of Ikoria, the following pattern holds for card numbering.
- Inside Set Numbering (takes the form of a fraction: 10/250 for instance, where this is card 10 of the main set of 250 cards)
- Outside Set Numbering (given the above example of 250 cards, these cards start at number 251 and go up, indicating that they are 'outside' the core set of cards). Recent sets have these 'outside' cards in different orders, but they include:
- Borderless cards
- Alternate art cards — cards with the same name and function as the cards in the set, but with totally different art (i.e. Nethroi, Apex of Death)
- Extended art cards — cards with the same name and same art, but where the art extends to the edge of the card (i.e. Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy)
- Decorated border art cards — cards with the same name and same main art, but with decorations of the border (i.e. Migration Path)
- Showcase cards — both alternate art and alternate card frame.
- Original cards not in the main set number - (i.e. Elspeth, Undaunted Hero does not appear inside the main Theros: Beyond Death set)
Note that the collector number does not change for some promotional cards, which have dates or the magic logo on the card. So there are variations in cards, that are not tracked by changing collector numbers.
It is also possible to have alternate art cards that have the same collector number as the original art card. This was the pattern in War of the Spark for the Japanese Anime-style art (i.e. variations of Karn, the Great Creator) are all listed as card #1 of 264)
- Collector Number
- A number printed on most cards that has no effect on game play. See rule 212, “Information Below the Text Box.”
- Ted Knutson (October 21, 2006). "Anatomy of a Magic Card". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Mark Rosewater (August 17, 2009). "In My Day". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Mark Rosewater (June 06, 2018). "At what point to collector numbers get "locked in"?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
- Del Laugel (July 19, 2004). "Ask Wizards - "Q: "What determines the card number...""". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Mark Rosewater (February 8, 2016). "Odds and Ends: Oath of the Gatewatch, Part 2". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.