Original Magic Art.com was launched with the hope that the member galleries would be filled with amazing collections of art and cards. Needless to say, one member has provided one of the most breathtaking collections of Magic history ever assembled in one place.
OMA reporters reached out to fellow member Paul and ventured to learn more about this amazing compilation of iconic Magic art.
First, let me say that you have perhaps the most amazing collection of original art from Magic the Gathering that we have ever seen. Can you tell us a little about what started you on the path to this outstanding collection?
I had been playing Magic for a number of months when one evening, while I was flipping through my cards, designing decks, and admiring the artwork, when I was struck by the question, “Is this art available for purchase?” The next morning, I called Wizards of the Coast and asked them if it was possible to acquire the original Art and they referred me to a gallery which was appropriately named, the Wizards Art Gallery. I contacted them and they sent me a list of the pieces they had available.
Of the pieces in your collection, which was the first piece that you picked up?
There really wasn’t a first piece; it was more of a block. When I received the list I was like a kid in a candy store – I started circling all the pieces that I wanted and ended with a pretty sizable list. Fortunately, I had been doing quite well financially, and had a fair amount of disposable income, so I was able to pick up a bunch of the pieces I wanted. The first block included Chaos Orb, Birds of Paradise, Mox Ruby, Time Twister, Lighting Bolt, Fireball and a number of others.
How many blocks of purchases were there in total?
I believe there were about 5 blocks and a number of individual purchases.
What motivated that first purchase?
I really loved the game, and when I found the art was available and within my price range, I just started to pick up all the pieces that called to me.
What is your history with the game? Were you there at the 1993 Gen Con when Magic debuted?
I wasn’t at Gen Con, but I started playing in August of 93 when Magic was first released to retail stores by a small game company called Wizards of the Coast. They were known as being a role-playing game company, but this card game looked very intriguing. I had been a gamer for a number of years before, and card games were often a fun break to play between longer games — I really liked Nuclear War by Flying Buffalo and Naval War by Avalon Hill. This new Magic: the Gathering by Wizards of the Coast looked like a fun game to try and it was not like any other game I had played before – once I starting playing, I got hooked.
Having two of the original Power Nine paintings is a feat in and of itself. Did you ever have the chance to pick up any of the other paintings of Power?
There were some Moxen I had a chance at, but I never had a real chance at Lotus, Recall or Walk.
Do you have the power in cardboard form to go along with the paintings?
I have multiple sets of the Power Nine. I got them all pretty cheap by today’s standards and I never sold any of my individual cards just like I never sold any of my Art. I did trade some cards, but very few. I wasn’t collecting to flip it for a profit – there is nothing wrong with doing so, it just wasn’t what motivated me.
I really liked Chaos Orb, but I also put an emphasis on the power 9 cards. I also liked Shivan Dragon and Gauntlet of Might. The Library of Alexandria was also high on my list as were dual lands. While Chaos Orb was one of my favorite cards, I really wasn’t trying to amass a large collection of Chaos Orbs specifically.
Every original art collector has their “one that got away” story. Are there any paintings that you missed out on that you were really hoping to pick up?
Yes, I was looking at the Mox Jet and thinking that I really should pick it up since it was cool piece and it was only going for $215.00. But I had already bought so much Art, I hesitated and then when I decided to buy it, it had sold – I’m still kicking myself to this day.
Your collection of paintings is obviously outstanding. Is your card collection equally as impressive? Any standouts or significant rarities?
My Magic Cards were more for play. I separated out my best condition valuable ones and put them in plastic, but I never tried for complete sets. I could very easily have a complete set of original (A/B/U), Arabian Nights, Antiquities and Legends, but I’m sure I don’t have a complete set of Alphas or Betas. I opened lots and lots of boxes, and bought quite a number of cards, but many of them have been played extensively and are not exactly high grade.
With your last pieces being from The Dark, what caused you to stop collecting Magic art?
It was getting harder and harder to find the pieces I wanted and I started to pick up pieces that really didn’t call to me simply because they were available. In addition, I was playing less Magic as work was keeping me really busy, so the newer pieces really didn’t call to me as much as the previous pieces had before. In retrospect, I think I should have stayed in and only picked up the pieces which really called to me.
Most collections of Magic art typically reflect a snapshot from the collector’s time playing the game. Does your collection reflect that idea?
Absolutely! However, there were a few exceptions such as the Book of Rass which I never used in any of my decks. I only got it because I saw it on the outside of the booster display of The Dark and it looked kind of cool, like an old Starter Deck box.
Even though you have some amazing pieces in your collection, what do you consider to be your favorite?
If I had to choose, I would have to choose Chaos Orb. It was one of my favorites as I had gotten really good at flipping it and having it land exactly where I aimed it. We even created a house rule which said that the Chaos Orb could only affect 1 card and that card must be named before the flip so people didn’t have to spread out their cards in the play area. I remember when I used it in combination with an Argivian Archaeologist and kept bringing back my Orb and destroying any lands or mana producers which my opponent laid down.
I feel a little bad now since it probably wasn’t much fun for him, but that Orb was a big part of my early deck. I was sad when Wizards banned it, but they did have a good point – the Orb and Falling Star were the only cards which were dexterity based and which created problematic logistical issues with regard to the play area.
You started collecting before the emergence of digital art. What is your opinion of the current status of Magic art, with an increasing amount being created digitally?
It makes me a little sad mostly for the newer generation of Magic players. I get a lot of pleasure looking at my Art and remembering when I used those cards. As more artists go digital, the newer generation of players will lose this avenue of pleasure. However, appealing to the enlightened self-interest of the artists might change this trend. First, they will get a nice little bonus check if they produce art using a physical medium (and in some special cases, not so little). And second, they may achieve a more lasting fame as new cards and art emerge supplanting the old ones – artists, like most people, want to make their mark in the world.
With the Gatecrash spoiler season in full effect, do you still check out the new cards as they are spoiled each day?
I have glanced at the new cards occasionally, but I haven’t really delved deeply thus far. The guys on www.themanadrain.com are starting to re-awaken my interest in the game and I find myself considering the possibilities buying new cards.
How active of a player are you? Do you still find time to sling the cardboard?
I’ve not been very active. A while ago some people asked me if I played Magic and when I said that I did, they invited me to play the following week. When they saw my cards, I got some pretty strange looks, and some of them were horrified that I was actually playing with certain cards (even though I used sleeves, though, as it was pointed out, not very thick ones).
I can imagine some of the looks you were getting. Do you know what format they were playing? Was it mostly newer cards?
I believe they were playing with all new cards. I think one of them had an older card (and not one of the cards of power), but I’m pretty sure they were, for the most part, just playing with the last couple of sets. They kept ribbing me about how they could buy a car with the deck I was playing with – of course, they were exaggerating or talking about a pretty cheap car, but I really don’t keep up-to-date with the current prices.
Actually, I thought the games were pretty even – I did win most of the games I played; however, I think they were better players than I was and there were some new rules of which I was unaware. They figured this out and at one point told me, that they were sorry, but there was a new rule that if three of the power 9 were played in a single turn, I lost automatically – I didn’t believe that one.
One format that is great for those with older collections looking to get back into the game is Commander (or Elder Dragon Highlander, same difference). If you had to pick your favorite legend to build a deck around, what would it be?
I think it would have to be Nicol Bolas – I always thought he was a cool elder dragon. But I’ve never played Commander and I’m not sure of the rules. Vintage looks a quite interesting to me, but I need to get a number of the newer cards to be competitive.
Other than cards and art, do you have any other unique Magic related collectibles?
I have a few resin card boxes, life counters and even a neon sign and a Shivan Dragon back pack, but not really a vast collection.
Do you collect anything else non-Magic related?
I have a few limited edition box games and RPG books and both Galactuses from HeroClix. I even have a few mint AD&D Dieties and Demigods which listed Cthulhu and Melnibone Gods in them. I also have some old Dragon Magazines going back to issue #1 including the pre-cursor issues of Strategic Review.
There has recently been an uptick in the level of interest in original Magic art. Do you have any advice for anyone looking to get into the hobby?
Only collect the pieces which call to you and if a piece does call to you and you can reasonably afford it, BUY IT, do not hesitate or you will regret it. If a piece does not call to you, do not buy it or, again, you will probably regret it. There is a problematic tension which many collectors face between hesitancy and frenzy.
Hesitancy strikes when you see a piece which calls to you and you mull over it – while this is a very good thing to do with purchases of a non-limited item, it is death to the purchase of a unique item. Frenzy happens when you start buying pieces you see regardless of whether it calls to you – there are a number of reasons this can happen such as losing out on picking up a great piece to seeing art selling for a really cheap price.
Do you have any plans to attend Gen Con this year to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the game?
Probably not, as I’m not really keen on long distance traveling. The most distant traveling I do, of my own accord, is when I drive out and camp away from the city lights with my telescope (an 11” Schmidt-Cassegrain) for some deep sky viewing, but I haven’t done that for some time either.
Paul, thank you for your time and we know many will enjoy reading your story.
If you do get back into the game, we hope we will be able to interview you again in the future if any pieces call to you enough to add them to your already amazing collection.
If you enjoyed this interview, make sure to check out our other exclusive interviews here.