Alternate Fourth Edition - The Unwanted MTG Set?

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Daniel Clarke

2 minute read

What is Magic: the Gathering's Alternate Fourth Edition, and why is it the "unwanted set"? Come find out!

Fourth is on the right, Alternate Fourth is on the left

Alternate Fourth Edition is one of the least known MTG sets ever printed. Often confused with Summer Magic, there are several critical differences between Alternate Fourth and any other officially printed set. In 1995, Wizards of the Coast (WotC) agreed to have Magic cards printed by the United States Playing Card Company (USPCC). Due to undisclosed circumstances, WotC canceled its contract with USPCC, and the release of, what is now called, Alternate Fourth never officially happened. While it cannot be known for sure why this happened, one could speculate that USPCC did not meet the print quality requirements as Alternate Fourth has an anomalous texture and print pattern compared to Cardi Mundi's cards (WotCs preferred printer at that time). Alternate Fourth print quality varies so much that if you did not know what to look for, Alternate Fourth might appear to be a counterfeit card. The inkjet pattern is not the same as other MTG cards printed, and it was the first set of cards to absorb UV light rather than reflect it like most authentic MTG cards do.

Fourth Edition on the right, Alternate Fourth on the left

Fourth Edition on the right, Alternate Fourth on the left

Alternate Fourth cards can sometimes appear to have richer colors, a higher gloss, and a smoother feel, but without magnification, the card's text and features will look the same as any other Fourth Edition card. In the recent past, Alternate Fourth has gained some popularity and value- it's important that you know what you are looking at.

Do not confuse Alternate Fourth with Summer Magic which was accidental, but the tiny release of something closer to Revised. Summer Magic looks just like Revised, except it has a 1994 copyright date, no second subtext line, and very saturated colors. Fourth and Alternate Fourth has a second subtext line compared to Revised and are both dated 1995.

Alternate Fourth Under 10x - Look for a dot pattern

Alternate Fourth Under 10x - Look for a dot pattern

Fourth Edition will have an inkjet pattern with rosettes and a solid black layer.

Fourth Edition will have an inkjet pattern with rosettes and a solid black layer.

Its common to use a UV light to see the difference between Fourth and Alt Fourth but this requires a special tool that may or may not be definitive. Alt Fourth will absorb the UV making it seem darker, because of the surface coating that was used. The UV test is fun to perform but if you can use simple magnification you will be able to know exactly what you have without question.

Be careful when purchasing Alternate Fourth cards without having a control sample in which to compare. Of all cards counterfeited, Alternate Fourth is among the most difficult to detect. If there is any uncertainty, do not risk it. 

If you’re looking for expert authentication and grading of your MTG cards, check out Ambr Grading. Ambr Grading was created by people who love TCGs as much as you and have knowledge and experience you can trust.