Good morning everyone and welcome back to the Mirror Gallery here on Hipsters of the Coast. School is back in session across the country, and I thought that might be a fitting time to begin my own little class series I’ve wanted to do for a long time on the world of Magic: the Gathering Artist Proofs. As of right now, I have four articles in this series, and they are as follows:

AP101: Artist Proofs & Where to Find Them
AP102: The Art on the Back
AP201: Beginning Your Collection
AP202: A History of Painted Miniatures
AP301: TBD

I’d like to make this informative both for seasoned veterans of this collecting hobby as well as a resource for new folks just starting out or finding APs for the first time. To do that we need to begin with answering an important question..

What is an Artist Proof?

This section has been written with some information found within the Green Disenchant Project and from Anson & Brenda Maddocks.

Artist Proofs are white-backed versions of Magic cards given to artists after their artwork is printed on a published Magic card. They exist in extremely limited quantities, and thus are technically rarer than any regular card printed, although they are not tournament legal. They are only printed once per printing, meaning when an artist has sold or given away all APs from a given set, they are gone forever unless found again on the secondary market.

APs for Magic: the Gathering have existed since near the beginning of the game. They were originally created as a compensatory tool for artists, to be used as business cards or otherwise an example of their published artwork for this brand name game. The blank white back could then serve as a place for an artist to write their information for potential clients or collectors, or to sketch something to be gifted or sold.

The first proofs emerged as Beta Artist Proofs, launched alongside the Collector’s Edition, and through 1996 AP quantities varied greatly and were available in several languages. Beginning in 1997, the tradition of 50 non-foil proofs for all major expansions became standard, and then in 2015, foils began to be proofed, with artists receiving 30 of this version as well. In 2020, Tokens also began receiving proofs.

APs still serve their original purpose that started 30 years ago, as a secondary income outlet for artists and a way for folks to showcase their work, and now more often than not, with more spectacular artwork on the back.

Artist Proofs Now

For current sets, artist proofs are received for most (but not all) cards that are printed, once for each printing that takes place. As previously mentioned an artist expects to receive 30 foil versions and 50 non-foil versions of each card they do, and slightly more (approximately 60) if a card has no foil printing like the annual Commander decks and some Secret Lairs. Today, most cards that are printed receive Artist Proofs, including most all tokens and promotional cards. The most recent exclusions are Mystery Booster and The List; no proofs exist for these sets.

Artist Proofs usually arrive to artists anywhere from 4-12 weeks after the set is initially released on average, and at that point they can be used entirely at the artist’s discretion. Some folks like Aaron Miller post them to online stores where sketch and painting options are available a la carte. Others take orders via an agent in one of the two major online communities. And some artists like Seb McKinnon do not offer them at all, saving them for in-person conventions, Kickstarter promotions, or future projects as their schedule allows.

It is more often than not that collectors commission artwork on the back of the card, and this could range from a $40 pencil sketch to a $300 (or more) painting across one or more cards. Every artist offers something different based on their artistic style and schedule of work, and part of what makes the world of APs so enjoyable is seeing art on the back as diverse as the game artwork itself.

Over the last thirty years, an entire sub-culture of collecting has been born out of these white-backs, with many folks placing a large chunk of their MTG energy directly within this niche. As a result, a robust community has evolved; it snowballed this last year especially as folks found themselves at home with no events, but still a burning desire to support artists and their work. If this sounds like something you want to explore further, here’s where you can find these agents and collectors online::

Online Communities

As it stands now there are two “hubs” for Magic: The Gathering artist proofs.

Facebook Group

The Facebook group Magic: the Gathering artist proof cards sale trade display was started back seven years ago by artist agent and collector Mark Aronowitz, and was really the first place that artists and collectors from around the world could buy, sell, and share their MTG APs. The group is now over 4,000 members and actively growing everyday. In addition to Mark’s artists, you can find collectors auctioning proofs, sharing their collections, and previews of newly available APs. It’s also where I run auctions for my artists, and has become the place on the internet for Magic AP action.


In the last year or so a dedicated MTG Artist Proofs Discord server was started by several collectors, and is now a burgeoning nerve center of discussion for AP news, sales, and collection sharing. It’s the place to find other collectors with proofs you might be looking for, or to hear about new APs that have become available, in many cases directly from artists who are members themselves. The server also hosts group buys and an annual Secret Santa proof exchange. Each agent (myself included) and artist has a dedicated space to share their AP happenings as they become available, and at nearly 600 members, it shows no signs of stopping. If you’re interested in joining, the invite link can be found here.

Lightning Round: Art!

There haven’t been nearly enough images in this article. While there will be an entire article dedicated to art options one can seek on the back of these cards, I wanted to share just a handful of the very neat things artists I work with have been doing on their APs. We’ll go fast, but I’d love to hear your favorite in the comments on social media:

Wings, Waves & Faraway Lands by Richard Sardinha

Richard Sardinha is a legend of miniature paintings, and creates incredible themed series of work on his APs from the 2000s.


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Angel of the Desert Sun, The Dragon’s Approach, Angel & Dragons by Andrew Mar

A new artist to Magic, Andrew Mar has brought his infamous ink to the back of these cards, and become a smash-hit almost overnight within this new world.

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Slavic Fairytales Series, The Nine, Winterblossom #1 by Lena Richard

One of the most imaginative artists working today, Lena Richards marries her Slavic heritage with her skills in graphite to create otherworldly images on panoramic proofs.

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KateScapes 1, KateScapes 2, KateScapes 3, KateScapes: Seasons of Bruvac by Ekaterina Burmak

Many MTG fans of Burmak do not know she absolutely loves to paint landscapes, and has used her artist proofs as an outlet to paint what she loves in fabulous fashion.

MTG Nostalgia Series by Jeremy Wilson

Jeremy Wilson grew up on Magic, and last year recreated some of the characters of his childhood in oils in his signature style.

Famous Film Zombies by Bud Cook

Bud Cook is a master of color, and hit the movies last summer in this series that brought some of cinema’s most famous undead folks back to life.

Dragons, Vipers & Owlbears, Oh My! By Cara Mitten

Cara Mitten has two cards of her own, but work uncredited alongside Anthony Scott Waters on a half dozen more. She’s returned to the AP arena creating vibrant sketches of all matter of creature.

Cryptid Visions Redux by Allen Douglas

Allen Douglas’s Cryptid Visions have mesmerized fans for more than twenty five years, and now that he’s joined the ranks of Magic, has captured that same imagination in miniature.

Endless Atlas Dual Sketch by Titus Lunter. Collection of Matthew Munoz

Often architectural and always great, Lunter is a master of landscape, and does very sharp and straightforward sketches on his artist proofs. We’ll be seeing many more of his sketches throughout the next twelve months.

This is but a miniscule cross-section of AP examples, and what you see above are only some of the APs created by artists I work with, and only over the last eighteen months or so. It’s a literal fraction of the possibilities that abound in Magic artist proofs, and there is so much more to see now that you know where to look.

Wrapping Up

I hope you enjoyed this very brief introduction to the world of Magic: the Gathering artist proofs, both where they started and what they’ve become now. It’s a rapidly growing sector of Magic collecting, and a fantastic way to support artists, both in-person and from the comfort of your own home. And with new cards and printing coming out quicker than ever, there is always a new carrot to chase to add to your collection.

As I alluded to in the Lightning Round, next time in this series in AP102 I’ll look at art options for the back, from the very simple to the very elaborate, and talk about all the options one has when it’s time to dive into AP collecting.

Looking ahead in this column, I believe I’ll be taking a trip to Innistrad and taking residence up there for most of this Fall season. This third return to the planes promises a lot of incredible art and nostalgic storytelling, so do stay tuned for that coming in September. But before that, a Behind the Brush interview with one of the Out of Time Secret Lair artists is underway, and you’ll not want to miss that.

In the meantime, to see original #mtgart and other #vorthos related things, follow me on Twitter. Feel free to ask questions or retweet to continue the conversation. Thanks and see you next time!

Donny Caltrider has been playing Magic since 2002 and collecting original Magic art since 2017. He has an M.A. in Museum Studies from Johns Hopkins University and enjoys telling stories about art, objects, and the intersection of fantasy with real-life. You can find him on Twitter talking about #mtgart, museums, and other #vorthos related goodness. Follow along and continue the conversation!

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