Do I need a Certificate of Authenticity? 

Does a Certificate of Authenticity ensure 100% that what I am buying is the real deal?

I don’t have a Certificate of Authenticity for a painting I own, will I have trouble selling it without one?

Those are just a few of the questions that I have run into when it comes to the subject of Certificates of Authenticity, or CoA’s for short. 

For each of these questions, my answer is typically “No”. 

  • You don’t NEED a Certificate of Authenticity, but they can be nice to have. 
  • Having a CoA is not 100% proof that you are dealing with the genuine article, but it is a link in the provenance chain. 
  • Not having a CoA can be a deal breaker for some, especially newer, collectors, but if you are open, honest and build connections within the community you shouldn’t have any problems.

Non-Standard Formats

What is a Certificate of Authenticity anyway?  What does it look like?

While efforts have been made by some dealers and artists to follow a standard format for CoA’s, I’ve found that they run the gamut and vary greatly from artist to artist.

Here are some of examples of the CoA’s for Magic art that I have run into:

Hand Painted CoA for Order of the Ebon Hand by Ron Spencer

Hand Painted CoA for Order of the Ebon Hand by Ron Spencer

Ron Spencer creates the most intricate CoA’s of all of the artists that I have come across.  They are only done on request and typically run around $250 to commission, especially for a piece purchased from a third party, but they are all hand painted and works of art in and of themselves.

Typically I don’t consider CoA’s to be any big shakes, but anyone that owns a piece by Ron should strongly consider obtaining one, they are just that unique and impressive. 

IMG_0077

This is the CoA that I received from Terese Nielsen when I purchased her original sketch for Stocking Tiger.

You can see that she has developed a standard form for her Certificates, likely due to multiple requests and the higher than average aftermarket value of her work, that includes Size, Medium and the owner of the Copyright. 

As an added bonus she included the art description that she received from Wizards for the commission.  Including this extra details turns what would otherwise be a fairly clinical document into something unique and engaging. 

These are the sort of touches that allow a CoA to add value to a piece as well as enhance the provenance.

LandPTCOA

Another Terese Nielsen Certificate of Authenticity, but this time for her run of Limited Prints of the Full Art Judge Promo Lands.

You see the same sort of basic information included, along with the print run (but no X/250 number, maybe it was written on the print itself), but gone are the details seen on the Stocking Tiger CoA.  This is understandable as there would be 250 of these and the time requirement to specialize each of them would be needlessly onerous. 

This type of format is what you can expect to see on CoA’s for limited print run items.

IMG_0076

Here is another example of a CoA for a piece of Original Magic Art, this time for the Spirit Token painting by Luca Zontini (that I bought for a friend and totally forgot to send along with the painting, Sorry Ryan!)

This is a much more bare bones approach and one that you will run into more often than not.  It serves its purpose but as far as a legal document, it doesn’t get you very far.  The signature and logo are all that separates this from a quick mock up in Photoshop, which should give you pause before considering CoA’s to be the final word in provenance.

CoA Example

Finally, we have a recent CoA that was posted on the MtG Art Exchange for commissioned paintings in The Gathering books by Melissa Benson.

You can see that it is also on the more basic side, but it includes additional details, like contact information and address details, that can be used in the future if someone is concerned about the validity of the art.  This makes it a bit more robust and I wouldn’t expect something overly elaborate for what amounts to a small painting in a sketch book.

My Favorite Kind of CoA for Magic Art

APs

These are Artist Proofs for pieces of Magic Art that the artists have turned into functional CoA’s.  Since many collectors request a sketched Proof when buying a Magic painting (something I forget to ask for often, to my regret and dismay), having that proof serve the purpose of enhancing provenance while still containing a kick-ass sketch is simply full of win.

I was first introduced to this idea by fellow collector Adam St. Pierre and I’ve endeavored to ruthlessly copy him ever since.  A pirate’s life for me, Arrr!

Take a closer look at a few of these and you too might want to join us on the Artist-Proof-as-CoA bandwagon.

APs

APs

While the sketches don’t have to match the card, and they don’t in several of the examples above, I think that having them harken back to the original is a nice touch, one that I request of the artist, when I remember to request a proof, that is.

Final Verdict

To be honest, I like CoA’s.

They can be a nice addition to the provenance of a piece of Magic art, but they are by no means concrete proof that the painting attached to it is the real deal.  Anyone dedicated enough to try and pass off bupkis paintings for originals is probably more than capable of forging a CoA as well.  Luckily our market is small enough that we haven’t had to deal with this sort of thing yet, but if the ceiling continues to rise as quickly as it has been lately, it may pop up in the future.

The most important thing to concern yourself with when dealing with Magic art, much more so than worrying about CoA’s, is remaining open and honest and keeping some form of documentation.  Even in the broader Art Market, Certificates of Authenticity are often considered suspect without other information like original bills of sale or proof of purchase from the artist when it comes to establishing provenance. Email chains, original receipts, even pictures with you and the artist holding the painting all serve to establish you as the owner of the original and should be considered when making a purchase.

In the end, my advice to you, my fellow Magic art collector, is to request a sketched Artist Proof to serve as your CoA for any new purchase and to not fret if you don’t or haven’t done so in the past.  Maintaining good relationships and a strong reputation within the community will always go infinitely further than a signed piece of paper ever will.

Do you have any Certificates of Authenticity that you want to share?  Post them in the comments below!

Check back every Wednesday for new Magic art related content.  Until next time!