Artist Proofs (AKA White-backs) are authentic Magic: The Gathering
cards, which are available only though the artists. These cards
have a limited print-run of 50-150 world wide, depending on the
expansion and a few factors described here. Proofs are true magic
cards on the front with a solid white back. WOTC delivered these
to the artists as a sample of how their original work looked after
resized & printing in the set. Artists have chosen to: Sell, trade,
give, keep or destroy their proofs - as they are the only source
for them. Artist-autographs serve as a certificate of authenticity
that they are genuine & sourced through the artist. Without
autograph, there is no certainty that the Proof is authentic.
The Print-Run of Artist Proofs Relies on Several Variables:
1) Established Print-Run
A certain number were printed by WOTC per set, starting with Beta - Actually the Collector's Edition print sheets were used, hence the square corners. Duplicate sets/expansions by language were not produced or delivered to the artists. Therefore after Beta proofs were printed, Unlimited proofs were not printed (because it carried the same card set and language). Revised was printed, as cards were added and removed from the set. The first add-on expansion proofs were Antiquities, no Arabian Nights proofs were printed or delivered to the artists. Starting with Fourth Edition & Ice Age, WOTC started sending foreign language equivalents instead of English. This was reversed at Fifth Edition and now only English equivalents are distributed.
These listings summarize conversations and APs-in-hand from over 100 different artists.
Some artists did not receive their full amount per expansion or none at all. Therefore
each artist's actual quantity of each card may vary slightly.
|Beta - Noted by square corners, like Collector's Edition Sets||50 Print-Run|
|White Border Foreign Revised
- Italian WB Revised
* Many were 'lost' in transit from WOTC to the artists,
make sure they're autographed for authenticity
|Fourth Edition||50 Print-Run|
|Black Border Foreign Fourth Edition
- Japanese BB 4E
- Chinese BB 4E
|Fifth Edition through Current Core Sets||50 Print-Run|
|- - - - - - - - - -||- - - - - - - - - -|
|The Dark||50-100 Print-Run|
|Fallen Empires||100 Print-Run|
|Ice Age||100-150 Print-Run|
|Black Border Foreign Ice Age
- French Ice Age
- Italian Ice Age
- Spanish Ice Age
- Portuguese Ice Age
|Alliances through Current Expansion Sets||50 Print-Run|
2) Artists Shorted from Printing/Shipment to the Artist
WOTC was tasked with shipping proofs to artists as a sample of their work, but some were 'shorted' through the printing/distribution process. I have heard that some artists received far fewer than the printed amount, the balance somehow 'disappearing' between the printing press and the artist.
3) Erroneous Artist Listed
If WOTC listed an artist's work incorrectly, the erroneous artist listed received the APs (unless given to the rightful artist by the erroneous recipient).
5) Shipping from WOTC to the Artist
Artist proofs are shipped to artists in lightweight cardboard boxes. At times, proofs have been damaged in shipment, affecting a large number of a specific card title.
Items Affecting Artist Proof Condition
1) Artists Care & Storage
Many artists use partial-filled boxes, lunch-boxes with rounded corners (Mark Tedin), a shirt pocket or box of 'catch-all' with their pens/blades/inks to handle their APs in transit on the convention circuit - without proper care to card conditions. Therefore, artist proof condition can degrade quickly over time. When purchasing directly from the artist (show/convention), ask to review several proofs of each title (if possible) to select the best condition available. I've received several cards in EX condition (2 grades below mint) directly from the artist... further enhancing the value of those in Mint/Near Mint! True 'Mint' Proofs are very hard to find!
2) Ink Rubs On Backs
This is a common hazard with any signed card, especially when metallic inks are used (Ed Beard Jr is the worst at this BTW). With metallic inks, great care should be used to separate the newly autographed cards, with either a slight air gap between each (if held in hand) or separated on a large hard surface for 2-3 minutes before stacking them on top of each other. This makes finding M/NM APs even more difficult! Sharpie inks are much easier to dry & can be stacked within 10 seconds of autograph, but can still leave marks if stacked too early.
3) Artist Business Cards
Some artists use Artist Proofs as a high-class Business Card, whether hand-writing their contact information on the back (Matt Covotta does this a lot) or attaching a mailing address label (Ne Ne Thomas did this in the past). This greatly affects the availability & distribution on the open market. Many true collectors feel this defaces the card, lowering the value... while others consider this a unique feature & hold the value higher.
With the rare Alpha/Beta print-run in the thousands & foils/inserts/promos in the tens of thousands, Artist Proofs are truly rare! Several collectors I know rate their worth equivalent to Summer Magic, but with a 100% print-run for full-set collectability.
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