On Sunday, January 19, 2020, the original painting for Douglas Shuler’s Uthden Troll from the very first Magic: The Gatheing set, Limited Editon Alpha, was sold on the MTG Art Market for $40,000!

Uthden Troll by Douglas Shuler, oils on Esselte cold press illustration board, 5.5” x 7.5” on 7.25” x 7.75” board.

Uthden Troll by Douglas Shuler is a work of oils on illustration board measuring 5.5 inches by 7.5 inches. The small size is all but standard of Alpha paintings, as they needed to be able to fit on Wizards of the Coast very primitive, early-1990s scanner.

It is one of the original 295 cards from Magic: The Gathering’s very first release from 1993 called Limited Edition Alpha. It is one of 28 cards that Shuler produced for the game in its infancy, and it’s offering a rare chance to own an original piece of this now storied game and set.

The auction was run on the MTG Art Market by Jack Lewis Stanton, operating as agent for the current owner of the painting. The person selling the painting was none other than Kaja Foglio, famed illustrator of Magic’s past who illustrated near 70 Magic cards (along with her husband Phil who did near 60 of his own).

When a post on the MTG Art Market first announced the Troll would be coming to the sale, the story behind the painting was revealed. Kaja and Doug traded art many years ago: Uthden Troll went to Foglio, and in return he was given Cuombajj Witches.

Shuler sold his Foglio piece several years ago via his agent Mark Aronowitz, not knowing whether his half of the trade, the Troll, was still in Foglio’s hands. It was not until this announcement that the entire tale came full circle.

Reverse of the board, Uthden Troll by Douglas Shuler.

The auction started with an opening bid ask of $35,000, met by a publicly bidding collector in the comments. The $35,000 start was most likely determined from open offers by several collectors willing to pay $35,000 minimum for any Alpha artwork. As the market for original Magic art rises, the market for original Alpha art has skyrocketed; it was only April 2018 when Dan Frazier’s Healing Salve sold for $10,000, and that’s after failing to sell at a lesser amount two years prior. Over the past year both interest and public offers for Alpha artworks have become unprecedented in the market for Magic originals, and that would set the stage for this sale.

After the opening bid, the auction stayed quiet until the last day. A private bid advanced the bidding $500, and was immediately raised by the public opening bidder to $36,000. These exchanges continued, $500 private advance, $500 public increase, until the collector bidding publically in the comments stood alone at $40,000.

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Art from the early days of Magic will always be special, whether you played with the cards or not. For those that remember casting Uthden Troll, the artwork is a heavy dose of nostalgia. And for newer players that might not connect with the artwork, there is still a respect for those images that started it all.

It’s a unique treat to have an Alpha work hit the open market, and may very well be some time before it happens again. We’ll be watching.

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