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Matt's "Magic: The Gathering" Card Database and Price Guide

I recently got back into a fantasy trading card game that I dropped when I was in college called "Magic: The Gathering". A lot has changed since I was an undergrad. Back then, the primary place for trading cards was the card shop. Nowadays, there are numerous online vendors and many card stores regularly accept online orders, mailing cards to distant locales. However, the navigation method for many of these sites is clunky, and browsing through all the cards that meet a qualification set like: "show me all enchantment cards that have 'zendi' in the title" would be difficult. Additionally, in order to figure out if an online vendor, or someone on Ebay, is trying to rip you off, you have to browse to half a dozen sites and muddle through each of their clunky systems to find the true value of the card you're looking for. To address these issues, I created this site: http://mattsmtg.com/.

You type in a search key, and a Google-style drop down menu will appear with database matches against what you've typed. The icon beside each item indicates which set a card belongs to. This is important, since the same card can exist in many sets, (e.g. search for "Cancel"). Finding a specific card, or group of cards that share the same name and characteristics, is no longer difficult. Once you have that list of cards, viewing them full-size is easy: simply click on a card image, and a full-size image of the card loads, complete with navigation buttons to allow you to look at the other cards you found in your search. You can also narrow your search results by selecting filters from the selection boxes at the top of the screen.

In addition, my software tracks a number of online vendors of cards, and gets updated prices from those websites every day. By clicking the blue arrow in the price display, you can see a graph of the changes in that card's price from each vendor over time. Many of the common and uncommon cards experience very little change, making their graphs rather boring, but to really see the capabilities of the software, search for "Jace, the Mind Sculptor", "Abyssal Persecutor" or "Chandra Ablaze".

The site is programmed in PHP, the database is MySQL, and the interactions are handled with jQuery. The full-size card displays are achieved with Lightbox for jQuery, and the graphs with Flot (another jQuery plugin). I'm hosting the site on Rackspace Cloud. The websites that have the prices are mined with PHP scripts I wrote, and run automatically via cron.

I'm looking forward to getting feedback on this small project. Thanks in advance!

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Comment by Drubage on March 17, 2010 at 6:32am
Hi Matt,

Saw the post, I was working on something similar and was wondering if you wanted to collaborate at all. I was hoping to get ebay results in there also (I've come up with some way to get some) and also was looking to get some top decks in there too so you can add popularity of cards to the search. Let me know, my email is drew@drew-michael.com. I know some of these sites have affiliate programs so we could even earn enough money to at least support hosting :)
Comment by Gus Higuera on February 23, 2010 at 10:42pm
Very cool man, never was into magic but being a comic book geek I always saw the cards at the shops. Site needs a little design love though =)
Comment by Matthew Buscemi on February 18, 2010 at 2:42pm
Thanks for the comment, Dave! 1996 or 97 sounds about the time I started playing too. Unfortunately, my old collection got sold off. Glad to hear you kept yours. Hope your son will be enjoying the game too, soon enough.

I'd like to get some of the older sets in the database too, but finding full-size pictures for those cards will likely be a more daunting task.
Comment by Dave Zuls on February 18, 2010 at 11:43am
I still have about 50 pounds of those cards left over from about 1996 or 1997. I haven't played since then. I kept the cards anyway in the hope that one day I'll have kids and I'll be able to play cards with them. Now I have a 6-year old boy. I'll give him about three more years before I show him the collection.

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