Unusual and Uncommon Signatures

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I maintain two saved eBay searches for Magic cards: one for Alpha cards sold by ABUGames at auction, and the other for Beta cards from the same seller. Most of these listings start at too high a price, but when the cards don’t receive a bid for the entire five-day listing, ABUGames will proceed to relist the cards with a lower price point. They rinse and repeat until the cards sell, so every once in a while I get lucky and find a great deal on a played card.

Over the past few months, I noticed they started listing cards as “damaged” because they had a signature written on them that wasn’t from the artist.

The mysterious signature appeared again and again, on some highly desirable cards. The Old School Discord and associated Facebook groups were abuzz with inquiries about the person whose signature this is. My interest was piqued as well because some of these prices are quite reasonable for a sleeve playable copy of the card.

The Hunt for a “Clint” Card

I tried bidding on one of the Beta Serra Angels that ABUGames was selling with the mystery signature, but I was outbid as the auction neared closing. It turns out I’m not the only one who finds this story interesting.

While I was waiting for the auction to end, I did some research and came across a Facebook post on the subject. Someone was watching an auction for an Alpha Sol Ring and was trying to figure out (like everyone else) whose signature was on the card. Then people started to notice just how many of these “Clint” cards existed!

Finally, someone chimed in with the background, lifting the mask from our mystery signer.

It turns out the person who signed these cards is named Chato Urbin, from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Chato played Magic competitively back in the day and was a Top 10 Vintage player back when the format was still called Type 1. Apparently, it was a thing back then to sign one’s cards so that if they were ever stolen, it would be easy to identify who the true owner is.

What’s really funny is that when Chato was approached about these cards, he expressed interest in buying them all back! Does this mean these cards suddenly have a premium to them?

Not exactly. Not yet, anyway. I finally managed to win an auction (after being outbid once) for a damaged Beta Swamp, so I can proudly(?) claim to own a piece of this extremely niche collection of cards.

Eager to share my acquisition, I posted a picture in the Old School Discord. As usual, people responded with pictures of their own cards signed by Chato.

But then someone posted a new bit of information—they referenced the claim that Chato would purchase the cards back if possible. Unfortunately, when they approached Chato about buying the cards to once again bring the collection together, he said the cards were more expensive than he realized. Imagine that, Alpha and Beta cards are more expensive now than they were many years ago, by a huge margin!

Either way, there’s still an entertaining meme of a story with these signatures. I don’t know if pieces from this collection will ever merit much premium, but it’ll be a funny card in my collection for years to come.

Speaking of Interesting Signatures

This exploration led me to consider other signed cards in my collection. Of course, there are the cards I own that are signed by the artist. Kaja Foglio is my favorite artist and signature, so I have a small pile of cards signed by her. I also have a single card signed by Quinton Hoover (a Fifth Edition Wrath of God) and my iconic signed War Elephant from Arabian Nights. The former is noteworthy because the artist, Quinton Hoover passed away a while ago, and the latter is famous because the artist, Kristen Bishop, almost never signs Magic cards.

The artist for the original Chain Stasis, Fay Jones, is an established artist in the Seattle area. Her notoriety and the rarity of her signature on copies of the card add significant value.

Beyond artist signatures, there are a handful of autographs out there that likely make a Magic card more valuable—or at least more interesting.

For example, cards signed by certain professional players may be noteworthy. I have a handful of tokens signed by Luis Scott-Vargas that I cherish. Three of them I obtained in person myself at an event long ago (I still remember how nervous I was approaching him to ask!). Since then I have had the pleasure of meeting LSV in person and even battling him in Old School--it was one of the best Magic days of my life!

I know of other stories where people have asked Chris Pikula to sign their copies of Meddling Mage and whatnot. I remember seeing a card signed by John Finkel for sale on ABUGames’ website at one point as well. Often times these signatures are obtained by fans of the respective player, so they don’t hit the secondary market all that much. I’m not sure these merit much premium either, but there may be exceptions.

What does merit a nice premium are cards signed by Magic: the Gathering’s creator, Richard Garfield.

I know Old School cards are more expensive nowadays, but these cards signed by Richard Garfield earned a tremendous premium! Consider, Mijae Djinn from Revised is typically worth around a buck. Arabian Nights copies of Wyluli Wolf are worth a few bucks unless in minty condition. These copies sold for many times more. Of course, part of the reason that the Wolf in particular merits such a large premium could be tied to the card’s association with Garfield—the name Wyluli is an anagram of Lily Wu, the name of Garfield’s first wife.

I am happy to own one signed Garfield card myself: a Revised Vesuvan Doppelganger.

I’m not sure how much premium this signature merits, but I don’t really plan on letting go of this card anyway. I acquired it in an elaborate trade and my plan is to hold onto it indefinitely. In fact, the person I acquired it from has an entire cube dedicated to Richard Garfield! This is just too cool a card to have and it’s not easily replaceable.

Other Famous Signatures?

I don’t see any on eBay, but I suspect Magic cards signed by famous people who play the game could be noteworthy. For example, we know Post Malone is an avid fan of Magic—could someone acquire a card signed by him for their collection? I don’t see why not! The same would go for former Major League Baseball player Hunter Pence. Even something signed by Martin Shkreli, once the most hated man in America, could be valuable. Remember that one time he made a comment somewhere about buying up all the Black Lotuses?

I searched for Magic cards with these signatures on eBay, but came up empty. In fact, I tried searching “MTG signed” on eBay and sorted by price, high to low, hoping to find something that stood out. What I found, however, was mostly a selection of Power, Dual Lands, and Old School cards signed by the artists themselves. Nothing off-the-wall like a famous actor, singer, or athlete. I guess for now this isn’t as much of a thing as I had hoped.

Either that or people who acquire such signatures have no plans of selling them—I wouldn’t blame them if that is the case. If I had a Magic card signed by someone famous, I wouldn’t be interested in letting it go either.

Wrapping It Up

It was fun to dive into the world of non-traditional signatures on Magic cards this week! Who knew that the extremely niche space would still find a following? Whether it be a collector of Richard Garfield signatures or a meme “Clint” signature, players have found interest in cards signed by people other than the original artist.

Personally, I think my quest is satisfied for the time being. Once I acquired the Beta Swamp signed by Chato, trying to buy a second would yield diminishing returns. One is enough. Maybe my next goal will be to acquire a card signed by someone more famous, to see if I can make that into a thing. Besides, who wouldn’t want a sweet Time Warp signed by Britney Spears or something? (Oops!... I did it again! Get it??)

If you own a card signed by someone special, please feel free to share it with me on Twitter! I’d love to see what else is out there—chances are, whatever you’re going to share will be more exciting than the signature of some random player from Idaho!

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