Collecting Magic – Oddities Part III : Filling the Gaps
by Crispin Bateman
For part one of this multi-part mini-series on oddities click here.
For part two, click here.
Some Final Printing Errors
At the end of the last article, I said that my favourite misprint was the Charlie Brown image over the [mtg_card]Sapphire Medallion[/mtg_card]. It isn’t. The problem was that my favourite misprint was out of my reach; it was something I had heard about and seen only briefly in a video – in fact, I mention it early on in this Collecting Magic series, but I had no decent scan of it to show you. I didn’t have this:
One of the advantages of writing articles read by people all over the world is that occasionally they contact you to share their goodies; such a nice bunch! This [mtg_card]Hymn to Tourach[/mtg_card] with the Magic card back has a normal [mtg_card]Hymn to Tourach[/mtg_card] front (the image is of the back of the card) and was kindly provided to me (along with a great number of other images) by über-collector Keith Adams, the Misprint Guy.
Like the Hymn, here’s another double print – this time a [mtg_card]Dwarven Armorer[/mtg_card] fighting for space with a [mtg_card]Spore Cloud[/mtg_card]:
Fallen Empires is simply filled with errors. This one is a goodie – a [mtg_card]Goblin Grenade[/mtg_card] with the back from a different TCG:
This isn’t actually a Magic card, however – this is a Wyvern card which was misprinted with a psychotic Goblin on the front. What’s the difference? Well, this card appeared in Wyvern starter decks, not Magic boosters! It wasn’t alone; all of the Fallen Empires commons appeared with Wyvern backs somewhere!
It just gets weirder. Still within Sarpadia we find this:
A blue-bordered card! Not the only one in existence, however; this Magic card back comes from Visions:
Keith provided me with a few pieces I would be remiss to share. Though I felt finished with the miscut category of cards, this one deserves a little time in the limelight:
Four cards in one! It’s even been signed by Ron Spencer on the [mtg_card]Terror[/mtg_card].
My introduction to the word albino came from owning hamsters as a child. There are plenty of hamsters which suffer from the condition and all it ever made me think of was the interesting (and slightly eerie) look of the little pets’ red eyes. Wikipedia teaches me that it is due to lack of melanin production in the body.
Albinism in Magic cards has little to do with melanin production or lack of, but it still produces some impressive results (ignore the weird edging on some of the cards, it’s a fault in the cut and pasting from the original scans):
This [mtg_card]Sabertooth Cobra[/mtg_card] suffers from a part-albino problem; perhaps something spilled onto the card, or the ink ran out midway through the printing:
While not quite truly albino, this [mtg_card]Wall of Blood[/mtg_card] also suffers from a lack of text and a grey border:
The Next Machine
After all this, I start to feel sorry for a Magic card. Like anything in life, it is easy to take the production of such a simple object for granted, but the noble card passes many trials before it finds itself into the hands of a player, eager to sleeve it and put it in a deck. I pity the most, however, the card which survives all of the potential printing and cutting mistakes and makes it into a booster only to have its perfection marred by a sudden crushing by the very machine designed to protect it. Fifteen cards, lying side-by-side, all believing they have made it as they are slid into the shiny foil booster package before the machine comes pounding down to push the opening closed and then disaster! Something slips; perhaps one card or more were out of alignment, perhaps something just nudges out of place, and suddenly the head of a card joins the booster edge under the crimper. Perfection gone.
Crimped cards aren’t super rare. Like all the other steps in the process, there is room for error here and those errors do occur. Unlike the other steps, however, these errors are more difficult to spot in quality control (after all, the mistake is inside a sealed booster pack and wasn’t there beforehand!), so, if the crimped card isn’t obviously sticking out of the top of the booster, it is logical to assume that almost all these errors go undetected and make it into the wider world. The ribbed edging which is the tell-tale sign of the card crushed by the booster-sealing machine looks something like this:
Look at the top line to see the crimping there.
A little quiz question. What’s the most powerful card in Magic? I can hear it now; cries of [mtg_card]Black Lotus[/mtg_card] or [mtg_card]Ancestral Recall[/mtg_card]. Perhaps some of you thought about it and decided to go with [mtg_card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/mtg_card]. Well, all of those answers are wrong. The flat out most powerful card in Magic in my opinion has always been this one (here with extra crimpage):
Without a doubt that’s the most powerful crimp I can find. This next one, however, is somehow more impressive:
I found that beauty in the vaults at Magic Madhouse; it’s undoubtedly for sale if you want to contact the sales team with an offer!
And Now For Something Completely Different
“Mis-shapes, Mistakes, Misfits…” So goes the first line of Pulp’s Different Class album. Every time I look at all of these oddities, the song runs around in my head, but not all oddities are so misformed. Some of Magic’s most collectible oddities come simply from their supreme rarity or because they are simply not meant to find their way into the hands of the common people. For some of these collector pieces, we need to go back to this:
This is a sheet of Magic cards before they have been cut into the individual cards. While uncut sheets themselves are a collectible oddity, it is what they create which is next to look at.
First of all a little lesson. Magic cards are printed on sheets of 121 cards (eleven cards square), each sheet printed a number of times to determine rarity (more for sheets of commons, less for sheets of rares). In a set with 121 commons, it is easy to see that merely putting one of each common on a sheet and then printing that sheet once the number of times equal to the common print run number will produce the right amount of cards. It’s not so easy in a set with only 110 commons, however, as there are eleven spaces remaining on the sheet which will all be printed at the same frequency as those commons. Some clever jiggling is done to ensure that cards are printed in the right numbers; for example, a mythic rare exists on the same sheet as the rares, but where each rare occurs twice on that sheet, the mythic would only occur once.
It takes only a basic understanding of mathematics to realise that at some point there are going to be blank spots; places on the sheet where it just makes the most sense to have nothing there. So what happens with these blank spots? In the very olden days (back when Alpha was printed) Wizards would cheat and put a basic land in this spot which led to some booster packs with an [mtg_card]Island[/mtg_card] in the rare slot (not something guaranteed to make the lucky purchaser happy). In modern times, however, this is where we find filler cards.
This unexciting-looking Magic card is a real collectors item, coming as it does from a sheet which looks more like this (notice the filler in the first slot):
While those filler cards are removed before boosters are packed, it’s another place where quality control can go awry and these items sneak their way into boosters to be found and traded to collectors of the strange. Filler cards don’t all look the same and Wizards seem to have taken care to ensure that different fillers exist; giving them different patterns or even symbols on them, a few of which have found their way to a scanner near me:
My favourite one there is the silver bordered filler, which obviously came from an Unhinged print run, and the foil filler (which is the one that looks pink from the reflection off the scan).
Fillers have their own rarity, though it is difficult to learn what they are individually worth without some research, and some of them fetch many hundreds of pounds on the secondary market.
It is worth remembering that it isn’t just the sets which are printed on these 121 card sheets; special product like the Commander decks, From the Vault series and pre-release cards all have to be printed in the same way, and this can lead to some different and rare filler cards (not to mention the collector value of the uncut sheets!), for example, this “M” filler card comes from the 1996 Pro Tour Deck Series:
More exciting than miscuts, more valuable than a filler card, some of the greatest oddities out there are the original play test Magic cards. When Richard Garfield and his friends first played the game, they didn’t have nice cards, miscut or otherwise; they had some pieces of paper onto which Richard had printed some vague artwork or copied a cartoon he particularly liked. A few of these have been shown over the years by Wizards of the Coast on the official MTG site, but it feels a little more exciting to realise that some people actually have these pieces in their collection and it isn’t just a case of them all being hidden in a safe in Magic HQ. Here are a few pieces owned by Keith that he was willing to share:
There’s little I can say after that little lot except to say many thanks to Keith Adams for all his help and a peek into his card collection. Next week sees the fourth and final part of this look at Magic oddities, and believe me, I’ve saved the best for last!