Hey guys! I found this totally sweet misprint and wanted to see what it’s worth! Can I get an estimate on it?
Magic’s recent tremendous growth spurt has brought a massive number of new (and returning) players and collectors to the game. As more people play and collect Magic The Gathering, more people encounter misprints. These players then find out that there’s a community of misprint collectors and a market for it. As a result we have a new population of people who own and/or are interested in the world of misprints. I am writing this guide for those people. Hopefully, after reading through this, you’ll have a base understanding of what’s out there, and if your misprint is worth anything extra or not.
Part 1: Miscuts
General rule of thumb: If it doesn’t show a 2nd card, it’s not miscut.
A miscut card is a card that wasn't properly aligned while it was being cut from a sheet of magic cards. Miscuts are one of the most common types of errors, but that doesn't mean they aren't valuable. There are two important things that can make your miscuts worthwhile to collectors: The card it's on and/or the severity of the miscut.
What is miscut and what isn't?
This is not a miscut. This isn’t even off-centered enough to be considered off-centered. If you have a card like this, and think it’s miscut, please re-evaluate. (Image courtesy of random ebay seller).
This is the maximum amount of offset a card can have before it’s considered to be miscut. Everything in between this, and the previous image, are not worth making a fuss about. They can be neat, but they’re not going to pull much value over the base cost of the card. There are exceptions to this (only for offcentered cards to the degree shown in the image). If your off-centered card is a Legacy or Vintage staple, or highly sought after card, it’s very likely worth more than its non-offcentered counterpart.
This is a miscut. It’s not terribly exciting, but the key point here is that it shows another card. You’re not looking at much difference in price from a normal version of the card unless it’s a Legacy, Vintage, EDH, Modern, and sometimes standard playable card.
Now we’re starting to get somewhere a little more exciting! If you have a miscut like this or bigger, then you’ve got something worthwhile for your collection.
It’s also worth noting that miscuts can happen horizontally. While they are a little less common than their vertically miscut counterparts, there is no real value difference.
Edge of the Sheet:
What’s this white stuff or all of these colors? This is what a miscut card from the edge of a sheet looks like. Some will even have text and other technical print data on them. These are usually worth more than a miscut from the center of the sheet (card dependent of course).
You can also find connecting miscuts. On average these are good to collect or sell as a set, and the more connectors you have the better. However, there is usually a high likelihood that one or several collectors, are only interested in specific cards of the set. This makes selling these sets a little difficult if you have a "keep them all united" mindset.
More than 2 Cards:
In very very rare cases, a card can get misaligned on 2 axis (horizontal and vertical) and get miscut in a way that shows more than 2 cards! "If this is soooo rare then why can you find a ton of extremely miscut cards like that on eBay?" you might be asking. Those cards are not miscuts, they are NFC.
NFC stands for non factory cut. That means that these cards are cut by third parties from sheets of uncut magic cards usually given away as prizes at events. I decided to go more in depth about NFC cards in their own article, which you can read here.
While the overwhelming majority of 4-way miscuts that you see are NFC, its important to note that there are also legitimate miscuts that show 4 cards. They're super rare. I've only seen them in French FBB Revised, Fallen Empires, one from Eldrich Moon, one from Kahns of Tarkir, and one from Amonkhet.
Part 2: Crimps
Crimps happen when a card gets misaligned during the process of being sealed into a pack. You’ll notice that the indent pattern on your crimped cards align with the pattern on the sealed part of a booster pack. Crimps can happen on the top or bottom of a card. While crimps are a little less common than miscuts, they're usually desired less by collectors.
Crimps can also happen vertically. These are rarer than other crimps because they happen in the back of the pack.
Different regions package cards differently. As a result, there can be different indentation patterns in crimps.
If a card is severely misaligned during pack sealing, it can get crimped twice or even have part of the card cut off. In some rare cases a card gets halved, and in even rarer cases you can find both halves in different packs.
Part 3: Ink Errors
Ink errors are the misprints that happen during ink application (aka printing) and are easily the most common type of misprint. There can be several reasons why something goes wrong during the printing process. If you want a better idea of how magic cards are made, check out this article. Ink errors can be fairly common, and a lot of the time you'll see a 'common' ink issue with new sets. They key thing to note is that desirability of ink errors are directly related to the severity of the error. If you can't easily spot the error, it's likely nobody will be interested in it. I've written an article on how to appraise your misprints, which I highly recommend for everyone.
Ink errors can usually be classified into one of two categories: Additional ink & missing ink. Lets take a closer look at the various incarnations of each of these two categories.
Misprints with Additional Ink:
Smudging is usually a minor misprint where the ink that has been laid down on the card gets a little smeared. Smudges are primarily on the text layer. Sometimes this happens because a little too much ink got transferred onto that layer. Smudges have to be fairly extreme for them to generate any real interest from collectors.
Bleeding is a similar type of error to smudging, but more exciting because it happens on one of the color layers. Excess ink gets transferred and smeared across the card, creating a colored wash effect. This usually happens on part of a card, and the value is determined by how much smeared ink is clearly visible.
Double printing happens when the residual ink from the previously printed sheet doesn't get properly cleaned off the roller before the ink for the next sheet is applied. A slight offset in positioning gives us the double vision effect when slightly ghosted ink is printed alongside the normal ink. Value is determined by the number and clarity of additional 'printings.'
Similar to the double prints above the rubber transfer rollers are sometimes not cleaned properly from previous print jobs, leaving residual ink that gets transferred onto cards. The most famous of which are the Charlie Brown Medallions. This error can (and has) happened with any type of printing, not excluding other sheets of mtg or medical disclaimers.
Misprints Missing Ink:
Blotches & Splotches:
While I couldn't tell you the difference between a blotch and a splotch, they both are acceptable terms for this type of misprint. These happen when something gets onto the sheet or roller that prevents the ink from properly sticking. It’s also worth mentioning that these errors can happen across multiple cards. As with the miscuts, these are worth more as sets.
Missing/Faded Color Channels:
If you haven't read the article on how MTG cards are made yet, you'll learn that the cards are printed in several layers. The first layer is the black (K) art layer. This is then followed by the Cyan (C), Magenta (M), and Yellow (Y) layers respectively. Additionally, there is another layer of black afterwards for the text, mana symbols, and borders. Any of these layers can be low or missing their ink entirely. I've used Photoshop here to illustrate what the backs of MTG cards would look like with each possible missing layer variation.
When a card is missing the C, M, &Y color channels entirely, it is referred to as an Albino. There are also odd instances where for some reason a card can be partially albino. The following sheets of full albino cards are known to exist: Ice Age, Antiquities Commons, Revised Commons, French Mirrodin, Italian Legends, 4th Edition, and Japanese 7th Edition.
These may look like albino’s, but they are in fact not even misprints at all. These are sun-bleached cards. They were left out in the sun (or in a window) for an extended period of time and allowed to fade. The key thing to look out for are the blues. For physics reasons, blues are the last color to fade. Scuba divers will tell you the first color to fade the deeper you dive are the reds (this has to do with light wavelength). Enough about physics, they’re fakes, don’t buy em.
Part 4: Fillers
Cards are printed in sheets of 11 x 11 (121 total) cards. When you don’t have enough cards to fill a sheet, you get a blank spot. These blank spots occupy a spot on the sheet (hence the name filler) and come in many different forms. Below are a few examples of fillers, but if you would like to see a complete list of most known fillers check them out here.
The plain white filler with black borders above is the most common filler. It has a normal magic back. Average market price for these is between $5 and $15. They come in foil as well, but be sure to take a very close look at it before you pick one up since they're easy to fake. The ink on a foil is easily removed using acetone or an eraser.
Part 5: Human Errors
Typos, wrong casting costs, missing power/toughness, and even wrong art! Sometimes people just make mistakes and with all the language and print variations there is plenty of room for things to go unnoticed. These errors are usually present on an entire print run, partial print run, or a specific language version of a card. For a lists of these kinds of misprints, check out Squt’s Misprint Page and this thread from the librarities.
Part 6: Corner Errors
For some reason some cards miss the edge cutting die and get shipped with square corners. Cards can have 1, 2, 3, or 4 square corners. I’ve been told that 3 square corners exist, but I’ve never seen one. If you’ve got one, send me a scan!
Alpha Cut Corners:
Some 4th Edition sheets had the cards cut with Alpha Corners. This happened to some Ice Age cards, which are much more rare than Alpha Cut 4th. There are also alpha cut Revised, which are insanely rare.
A Little Off Target:
Sometimes, like in miscuts, cards will shift while they're getting their corners trimmed. If a card shifts far enough, you can end up with a corner in a spot where there wasn't supposed to be a corner!
Part 7: Stamping Errors
WoTC added foil stamps to cards to designate them as promotional and in the current days as a means to authenticate the rares and mythics. This additional step to the printing process has added more room for error, which is something misprint collectors like us love.
Sometimes a card that is supposed to have a stamp, doesn't go through the stamping process at all! When this happens it's usually a common error for those specific cards.
Stamped Without Foil:
Visually similar to missing stamps (well a little bit similar at least) cards sometimes get stamped without the foil. This usually leaves an indentation in the card, which can sometimes be seen through the back.
You may be starting to notice a theme here. Errors happen when something gets shifted or misaligned in the printing process. Date stamps are no exception to this. They've wandered just about every place you can think of on a card; bottom, top, corners, upside down, and even on the 'back' of flip cards!
In rare cases cards get stamped twice. This can happen with the holo stamp or with promo stamps.
A little bit of extra foil:
In a few rare cases some cards get a little bit of extra WoTC authentication. The Russian Wingmate Roc pictured here is actually a fairly common example of this, but it has also been seen on other cards as well.
Part 8: Unintionally Released Magic Sets
These are sets of magic cards that were intended for release, but due to various issues were canceled and were never supposed to hit store shelves. Despite getting axed some amount ended up in circulation anyway. This has happened twice in the history of Magic.
Alternate 4th Edition:
Printed by the United States Playing Card Company in 1995 this 'set' was an attempt at using a US based printing company. It didn't end up working out and the cards were supposed to have been destroyed. You can most easily identify Alt 4th cards by looking at the back. The top right corner of the A in Magic is dark, where on normal magic cards it's light. The cards also have the feel of normal Poker cards and don't glow under blacklight like official MTG cards. Alternate 4th edition is found exclusively in starter decks, which can be identified by the "Made in the U.S by the United States Playing Card Company" marked on the side of the boxes, or the ISBN numbers 1-880992-26-4 or 1-880992-25-6 on the back.
Summer magic was intended to fix a whole bunch of printing errors from Revised. While they did fix a few of the errors, they ended up making more than they started with (the most famous of which is the Blue Hurricane) and called for the destruction of the set. Before its destruction, some of it was given to WoTC and CartaMundi employees, and a few cases made it out to the public.
To identify summer magic, look at the copyright line. If it's a Revised card and has "Illus. (C) 1994" followed by the artist's name on one single line, it's summer magic.
Part 9: Test Prints
When WoTC wants to test something that affects the card design or layout, they print out some tests to see if they like them or not. Tests have been made for everything such as figuring out what foil cards will look like, what a potential new card frame could be, how to add the holograph authentication stamp, and even tests for the recent 'meld' mechanic. Test prints make it into the public's hands either through error, or more commonly through people with connections to former WoTC employees. There are lots of test prints out there, but here are a few for you to look at.
Part 10: Other Notable Misprints
That covers the majority of misprints that you'll see out there. Rather than create an individual category for the remaining misprints, I've decided to list them here. Mouse over each image for additional information!
Well that about wraps it up. You should have a pretty complete understanding of a good portion of the misprint and rarities world. If you have any questions feel free to contact me! If you disagree with anything written, feel I’ve missed anything vital, of have found this guide to help you, let me know! Thanks for making it this far, and enjoy collecting, because there’s some crazy stuff out there.