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Original Art on the Auction Block


Magic players understand the implicit value with their cards. The collectible card game value is prominent and ingrained into playing. How that relates to me is . . . well, I ask Ryan Bushard about card pricing when he isn’t busy. But when it comes to pricing altered cards and original art, that’s Vorthos business. The exception is artist proofs, which straddle both worlds of objective and subjective values. A ton of art moves without you even realizing it, not unlike a behind-the-scenes art deal, short-term auction, or worse: illegally-obtained artwork liquidating itself on the Black Market. I miss a lot of the art that moves, as Christie’s and Heritage Auctions aren’t exactly our de-facto choices. That said, I hear about a lot of deals, and usually, I just sit on the info due to the crazy art explosion as of late, and I’m utterly uninterested in seeing new crops of speculators buying low and selling high, though it’s inevitable.

I feel miniature case studies could prove pretty useful. Also, my memory is pretty atrocious, my wife can’t remind me about pricing of art because she largely doesn’t read my articles, and she only likes the screen prints or pop art we have in the house—not the Magic pieces.

Here’s a sampling of a week in the life when you’re in Vorthos world. Thinking about planeswalkers and storyline doesn’t change on a weekly basis other than when a Wizards staffer mentions that Jace isn’t going to be in Theros . . . but art. Oh man, art changes a lot, especially as of late. Here are the big stories in my life. I hope you can enjoy some of the news!

Wednesday, October 23

Vindicate Comes on the Market

Joey Boyack had purchased Brian Snõddy’s original art for Vindicate and is trying to find a buyer on the High End Magic stuff for sale! Facebook group. Normally, that group is basically foil, foreign cards or only the pinnacle of the cards available, able to call Aziz Ansari an equal in swag. Occasionally, art pops up, and when it does, it’s serious.

Image via personal photograph from Joey Boyack

Since it was posted on Wednesday, there have been over a hundred fifteen comments, and people throwing out valuation has been pretty comical.

It should hit eBay, and it will be more expensive than you think. The added provenance in the paperwork is just gravy. I wish more artists would keep the commission e-mail, but non-disclosure agreements are a thing, and toeing that line is scary for artists. Maybe with PACT proliferating, more provenance on art will be mentioned.

Chaffee’s Five Shards Are Being Priced

You might be new to reading about Vorthos art content, so perhaps you missed my article I wrote on Doug Chaffee’s available original art. I helped Melba Chaffee price some of her late husband’s work, as Magic is pretty unique compared to other collectible card games. I went through and priced everything. Looking back at what I did, holy crap has art exploded in price in just two years. We need more pricing guides—historical records like this. Sadly, most don’t endure, or worse, are hard to memorize. I wrote the below blurb then:

When an entire cycle is available, I always wonder, “Hmm, how could I get these?”

For $850, I could purchase an entire cycle. Hell, if you asked for $800 shipped, it’d probably fly.

One problem with getting a cycle, though: You have to frame the entire set. Framing is $100 to $300 per piece.

Priced to move

I could see these as $50 to $100 more, but people who will buy these will want either just Crystal Shard or the entire set.

I’d love to get the entire set, but I haven’t got a spare $800 to buy art. Seeing an entire cycle on a wall is really, really impressive.

Wow. $800 for five pieces of art is just silly. That doesn’t exist anymore, folks. Hell, four pieces for $800 doesn’t exist anymore either. Why doesn’t it exist? There are thirty percent more Magic players basically every year, and alumni players with larger checkbooks are getting back into the game.

Aaron Fortino posted arts on MTG Art Exchange. One thing to note: Whenever you see art that was purchased and wasn’t framed, make sure you get a ton of pictures. Check the condition of it, making sure it’s both real and taken care of. Also, the previous owners didn’t and don’t love it, so you usually have some negotiation wiggle room from that collector.

Image via personal photograph from Aaron Fortino

Friday, October 25

Donato Giancola’s Disenchant

Brian Kell, in case you don’t know him, is the collector who did the Disenchant Project. The idea of a global set is something that the folks at MTG Librarities love to do: getting one copy of every card in every language and art version. Also included in these global sets are promotional copies of the card, artist proofs, and more common misprints. Some take a very short amount of time. Some cards that are quite expensive on their own can take years to track down artist proofs for. His collection is impressive, and it actually has three original artworks of Disenchant: an absurdly awesome feather in his hat.

Though, like all good things, they have to come to their end.

I hear he’s basically done with the project after posting this on Facebook:

Image via personal photograph from Brian Kell

I’m a huge fan Donato Giancola’s art. His paintings of hands really propelled him into a tier-one Magic artist and, of course, other things followed. Not unlike Pete Venters's goblins or Terese Nielsen's humans in their workshops, some artworks in Magic are must-haves to have a full ranging and complete Magic art collection.

I hope he places it on eBay. It’s a good piece and deserves a little more attention from international folk. Never forget that Magic is a global game—don’t leave them out of the bidding fun.

Since it’s a Donato piece, pricing it will be hard, and frankly, I’m here to let you know about the art, not to give free consulting advice.

Sunday, October 27

Modern Masters Arcbound Ravager

Jack Johnson bought the Kev Walker Arcbound Ravager art on the Facebook group MTG Art Exchange by posting this:

Very hard to part with something like this, but since my wife will be needing a new car at some point in the future, it's probably time to look at the possibility of selling it. This is the Original Artwork for Arcbound Ravager by Kev Walker. Just curious to hear some opinions on what it might be worth. It's not an incredibly old piece, but it's one of the most iconic/infamous creatures ever printed. Thanks everyone!

Image via personal photograph from Jack Johnson

Modern Masters art is not to be ignored; those arts will probably be reprinted in other versions. The alternate-art swag won’t be lost to collectors and the most pimp of decks. This and Engineered Explosives are an acquired taste, but with time, they will simply be part of our collective memory, not unlike Terese Nielsen’s promotional Path to Exiles, for example.

I’d contact him to find out what he wants for it. It’s probably not absurd, just outlandish.

Tuesday, October 29

Hymn to Tourach Original Art Ends on eBay

This eBay auction literally just ended.

This is my favorite version of Hymn, though, when an auction starts at $.99 and moves to $850 in a little over three hours, the number of bidders gets silly. $2,026.00 is literally exactly what it’s worth. Liz Danforth doesn’t really want to sell her version, and I heard $6,000 was a price that would get her attention for that one. Seeing this one go for less isn’t shocking to me. The higher-end art market is a bit fatigued as of late.

The reason the higher-end art isn’t moving is that contemporary collectors aren’t competing with one another much. Generally, those folks want Alphas or serious power cards such as Moat and the like—rather than dabble in newer arts. There’s a reason the Magic Online version of Black Lotus went for over $16,000 on eBay—proving “big” cards get big money. If Tarmogoyf were made by, oh, say, traditionally, it would also be silly-money-high.

As for this Hymn, it probably won’t move for a long time. Just a quick FYI for things like this: It was bought from a Buy It Now for right around $600 not long ago, and seeing it now means that unless someone has medical bills or a surprise baby, it will sit until the market catches up.

Image via eBay listing photograph from user violetscout

Bonus: Lightning Round!

  • Matt Stewart’s Primal Vigor original art, so I hear, has already been sold. It’s the new Doubling Season! Kind of! It’ll probably pop up for sale soonish, but it won’t be on eBay. I’ll probably tweet about it when I hear what has come of it.
  • Not long ago, Heather Hudson asked what to make of prints.
  • Those old-school artists don’t really know why thirty percent more people are contacting them about signing cards and prints. Our game has exploded, and if they ask for feedback, let them know! I still think that having a signing-cost policy would get small cash amounts in artist hands and also speed up signing lag times as well—due to the monetary incentive—but that’s just, like, my opinion, man.
  • Havic the Bothering made an appearance on Facebook. Someone was selling a sealed starter pack of it. While I don’t think the art is good in it—at all—it’s a funny little unofficial product that hit the market not long ago, and it’s a fun research project. Check more about it here, here, and here.
  • Most people have no idea how much their Magic art is worth when selling it. By most, I mean damn near everyone, including myself. I can give a range that should be correct, but in an auction, the price realized at auction has been fickle as of late. That said, if you ever need to know what it’s worth for insurance purposes, I’m always online to help at @VorthosMike.

Pro Tips of the Week

  • If you have a big-time piece you want to sell for whatever reason, to earn the highest amount, you should be selling it on eBay.
  • If you’re buying a big-time piece, you want to e-mail/message/tweet/whatever you can do to not buy it on eBay to save hundreds if not thousands of dollars.
  • Another option, and my favorite, is to work out a deal with a fellow collector. That sets up future deals, allowing him or her to buy it over a few months, and, generally, it’s the Good Guy Greg thing to do because the community is very, very small. Screwing someone over is a death sentence, and frankly, friends will look for art you’re looking for in the future. In addition, artists also talk to each other—a lot. When you insult an artist with a low-ball offer and then sell it online shortly thereafter, the artist will tell others. I’ve seen it happen. For me, money doesn’t matter in that sense, but art that is quickly resold is often not framed, preserved, or taken care of that well. It sits in closets, molds, suffers moisture damage, or, worse, is actually destroyed. Think about the longevity of the art—it isn’t a card with many copies.

With that, support your favorite artist, and buy some art of any price point! Start talking to artists about holiday gifts for your loved ones. That time of year is always remembered when extra income is paramount to their families and you come in all friendly wanting to buy things.

Just don’t put it in your bathroom!

- Mike

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