@Ked I think I'm willing to acknowledge that. The collectibility of the game was a big part of its initial growth. But largely I think that's a piece of good marketing more than anything. Collectible... like able to be collected? Baseball has collectibility, in it's memorabilia. There are people who collect coins, and stamps, and rocks, and little statues of cats. Just about anything you can hold in your hand can be collected.
But collectibility did play a big role in Magic's rise. In fact Magic came out at the perfect time, right at the beginning of the halcyon days of collectible non-sense. Remember Beanie Babies... Remember Pogs? Remember Tulip Bulbs in Holland in the 1630s?.... (Ok, I'm going to assume that's no to the last one.)
The point is that collectibility isn't a static feature of objects, it's a static feature of humans. Humans like to get stuff. They like rare and beautiful things. The separator for magic is that the game is great! (Compare back to the mindless smashing of disks that is Pogs.) There is actually real value to this game, and to the cards in it therefore. I would argue that there is real value to say... baseball. The game. It does things collectively for communities. It reaches a level of sophistication that allows it to transcend just leisure time activity. It connects generations of people, and allows people from across the globe to share a common experience. So what is Babe Ruth's rookie card worth... well really it's just a piece of cardboard, so a good argument can of course be made that it's worthless.
But that's crazy. It's crazy in a practical sense, as in, seriously dude don't throw that away, people will pay a lot of money for that. And it's crazy because it willfully disregards that the card is mainlined to the cultural and historical significance of Baseball itself, which in turn stems from the fact that that game itself, has real value and requires real skill. The card is an icon of that culture and that skill. Saying it's just a piece of cardboard is like saying that a Rembrandt is just an oily cloth... It's woefully, almost certainly willful in it's ignorance of the weight of human time that came to bear to produce that one thing... as with a Babe Ruth card.
(But seriously, are you really comparing a Rembrandt to a Black Lotus?) Yeah, I am really comparing a Black Lotus to a Rembrandt painting. I'm not saying they are the same thing. If you offered me a choice between the Lotus and the Rembrandt, I would take the painting, I'm not an idiot. (I would sell the painting, then buy a couple original Hokusai prints and a full set of Power for my wife and me... except maybe just one Timetwister... sorry, just not a fan.) I'm saying that with each of those items as a human artifact, there is the same thing going on. Each one is austensibly just paper or cloth with pigment on it, but they represent skill and culture and knowledge, and they are rare and beautiful. And that sets each of those things far apart from the other "collectible" chaff that's out there, like Beanie Babies, or those stupid statuettes of angels they try to sell tired old people on cable tv late at night.
That's why I cringe every time someone gets away with calling this a 'kids' game. I get that, but seriously folks... I don't see too many kids winning these touneys. I see grown ups with a really solid grasp of sophisticated math concepts, language, causal logic and economic principles. If I were marketing this game I would go straight at parents and teachers and say, kids should be playing this because it absolutely improves their language and math skills... here's a kit we offer to run a tourney at your school, winner gets a free deck on us. We consider this a world class game and we want you to be a part of it. (I would also let kids know that it has elves and dragons and vampires too... cause those are friggin sweet. Hey there are Knights and Towers and Queens in chess folks.)
(And I hate that use of the phrase, "for kids"... it manages to insult the game and children simultaneously. It means to say, dumbed down. And sets expectations for children that are needlessly, foolishly low. Kids as a group, tend to either just like things because they're fun... which is actually the best meaning of the phrase, "for kids"... or when they get older they just want to try to do what adults are doing and prove they can.)
As for collectors, the value of their cards is only linked to the cultural significance of the game. It is only reflective of how much other people want their cards. Now that we have Moto and full proxy tourneys and the price for paper Lotus keeps going up, we have confirmed that the value of the cards doesn't lay in having to get the card to play, but in the cultural sway of the game. That is what should be tended to. And that's where vintage comes in. If vintage gets secured as a chess-like world class game, these cards are going to be things we proudly pass down to our grandkids. So long as we go for the shortsighted "kids game" model, and do things like call the highest plainswalker point tier "archmage" instead of life master, like they do in Bridge... we risk someone 100 years from now finding our collections in some attic, and saying... oh yeah, this is that goofy card game for kids from the early 2000s...
Build the game. That card value will take care of itself.