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The Gamer & his cards
Gamers Path owner Lucas Howard shows Magic: The Gathering cards that he sells at his Manteca shop. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL

Baseball cards. Snow globes. Porcelain figurines.

They’re all collectible and at one time they were all wildly popular.

But for gamers – the misunderstood kids with the vivid imaginations and the quick instincts – there’s a whole assortment of things that can not only collect, but utilize as well.

Take, for example, “Magic: The Gathering.”

It’s the most popular card game of all time, and with nearly 30,000 playable cards in print, it’s entirely possible to spend nearly all of your time just collecting the cards, let alone actually playing them.

Lucas Howard, the owner of Gamer’s Path in Downtown Manteca, is in a unique position. Not only does he play the game – as well as a handful of others – but he also trades in the cards with those that frequent his shop. That means that every card that comes across one of the gaming tables has not only value in a game, but behind his counter as well, and he gets the opportunity to trade for an even stronger deck.

His fascination with the game, however, extends far beyond its gaming and commercial appeal.

A handful of the cards – known as “The Power Nine” which were printed in the first three runs of the game almost 20 years ago – are worth thousands of dollars because of their rarity. And they’re almost purely collectible – their strength precludes them from being used in tournament play, and those lucky enough to get their hands on them have them rated and cased by the same people that assign grades to rare currency and unique sports cards.

The work that goes in to creating each of the cards also piques Howard’s interest.

“There’s an amazing amount of artwork involved,” he said. “Some of the earlier stuff that you see is pretty rudimentary, but you’re talking about a collection that includes between 25,000 and 30,000 cards – they came out in 1993 – and there are a number of those that are incredibly well detailed and amazing when you stop and look at them.”

Value, however, isn’t necessarily clear-cut.

Sports cards have long been assigned values on a monthly basis by catalogs such as Beckett, but no such publication exists for Magic cards. Howard is forced to look at websites that deal specifically in the cards, as well as eBay, to determine a ballpark value for those that he puts in his display case.

But like any true gamer, Howard’s interest doesn’t just lie with Magic cards.

The shop sells Warhammer miniatures – which, he says, are technically collectibles because people have to build and paint them themselves – as well as Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon cards.

His doors have only been open for a year so some of the other trading is still getting off of the ground.

“There is the opportunity with some of these things that you can literally collect the cards forever,” Howard said. “I think it’s about the fun and camaraderie and the ability to work together. It’s a continuous adventure no matter which route you take.”

Gamer’s Path is located at 234 W. Yosemite Avenue in Manteca. For additional information, call (209) 239-8573.

209 staff reporter