Playtest cards - MTG / Pokemon / Yugioh ...

I started getting into some MTG playtest cards while I wait for my PSA Pokémon submissions … (ha) and I am curious to see what playtest cards people have from any sort of TCG.

These were distributed by Richard Garfield (the game creator) to his friends to playtest the cards for him. I sometimes wonder whether Pokémon had something like this, but I assume it’d look very different given that Pokémon was already an actual company.

I am aware of the positioning test cards and such but I can only imagine an actual no-rarity Charizard playtest card with a wonky illustration like the cards below :rofl:

Also, I recommend checking this link to anyone interested in more MTG playtest cards from before the game even existed: link

These predate all actual MTG products and were made in very limited quantities between 1990-1992:

I bought the Mountain off ebay from Keith Adams, a very prominent playtest and misprint collector, who got it directly from R. Garfield. With both cards I have the luxury of knowing how many owners it passed through, as the community is rather small.

It is also awesome that CGC is willing to grade Gamma playtest cards (as for now just Gamma, as there’s most information on them):


Super cool. I’ve never heard of Keith selling anything lol, so congrats on getting one from him! Personally, I’m a huge fan of test prints. Playtest cards are cool, but they just don’t feel like cards to me. I’ve owned several Exodus test prints, but my favorite ones are the 8th Ed. test prints (and I’ve unfortunately never owned one). For example:

It’s crazy how affordable stuff like this is in MTG, at least relative to Pokemon. Anything similar in Pokemon would be worth 100x more lol

Right… even the Black Lotus Gamma playtest card is much cheaper than the actual Black Lotus.

Nonetheless, some of the playtest cards like the Shivan Dragon graded by CGC are apparently much more valuable than their regular Alpha counterpart - so we’re perhaps close to the playtest cards being more noticed (although I do not really care). To me they’re just a cool piece of history of a game I enjoy :grin:

And as to the cards you posted, I find the layout super wonky, but I love it.

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CGC is taking a huge risk with the playtest cards, though. A material part (obviously nowhere near all, one might assume) of their authentication up to now has been based off working with original owners of playtest cards, which you can imagine isn’t the most arms-length approach.

I think they’re cool pieces of mtg history, and own a number including P9, but the fact that they are print-outs works against them.

Test prints should definitely be more expensive, and they will be eventually because many are in permanent collections now. WOTC has also been clamping down pretty hard on their dissemination. The Exodus ones mentioned above are relatively common (NFCs also exist), but a potential buyer of say the foil 8e ones above is looking for 1 of 4 copies and that allows sellers to eventually exert more control.

This is a beautiful card.


I’ve always thought the mtg playtest cards are super cool. I agree that the fact that they’re just paper printouts with crude or pasted art works against them. I’ve always thought they are so easy to copy. I love that they’re being authenticated. I feel like if that’s happening it should come with the chain of custody attached or something as proof. Otherwise I would still have a hard time shelling meaningful cash for them. I also think of them as niche items, cool and meaningful to the hobby but I don’t see them reaching the lofty heights of low pop gem mont alpha rares. I would be shocked if the shivan dragon for example competes with price on an alpha 9.5 copy. Of course I could be wrong…

EDIT: I too would welcome any knowledge of these as it relates to the pokemon tcg. I wonder if they are forever locked away and controlled by nintendo, just like pokemon original artwork.

I thought the same but the cardstock of these is really unique, and luckily theres very few prominent people within the hobby and most of the cards come directly from them, usually with actual documentation / email exchange between the parties.

CGC is apparently looking to extend to other versions not just the Gamma one (easiest to authenticate apparently).

I agree they’re niche, but again there’s a Blastoise (front) / MTG (back) misprint that will get auctioned for far far more than what the regular version would.

Also I myself am not a fan of regular misprints and miscuts but I love old playtest cards, and so any knowledge about PKMN playtest cards would be awesome :blush:

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I’ve spoken to many WOTC employees over the years (less so recently as time has been limited), and have never heard anything about Pokemon playtest cards. It’s doubtful that any will surface from WOTC, and TPC has much better controls over these type of items. If anyone has interest in acquiring mtg playtest cards, definitely join one of the misprint groups on FB. Or if you have decent offers in mind, PM me and I’ll pass it on to the guys who own the playtest cards.

Price-wise I doubt a playtest card, say Shivan from above, gets close to its graded Alpha counterpart. There was someone who was looking to trade the playtest Shivan above for a Beta Lotus, but I think that’s way off. Oddities that could compete with a graded Alpha Shivan would be a similar or higher grade Summer Shivan, and these:





The back above is a combination of the UL and AQ uncommon sheets – AQ did not have rare sheets so the chase cards like Workshop and Candelabra are present on other members of the sheet above


Which is not too surprising. For MTG, WotC is responsible for the entire process. From the idea, to the texts, designs, and sending these designs to one of the printing facilities. For Pokémon, they simply translated existing texts and reused artworks. Only the design and Holofoil they’ve modified, but almost all of the Pokémon cards from the WotC era were first designed and printing as Japanese cards in Japan. There was no need for playtesting, since this was already done in Japan at TPC.

Also not too surprising tbh, simply because of quantity and availability. As I mentioned at the bottom of my Protostoise timeline article, there are only ten known sample prints for Pokémon in total, and with some of them we don’t even know if they still exist after the events they were shown were over. With MTG there are a lot more of these kinds of cards out there.

Anyway, I’m personally still a huge fan of any kind of prototype cards for any TCG. Although they aren’t officially released, it still shows a part of the history and production process, which was supposed to stay hidden behind closed doors if security would have been stricter. Value-wise however, they’re always will be way below the more desirable official releases, like the Alpha Black Lotus or Pokémon Trophy cards will always be miles above any possible unofficial test print, no matter how cool.
I’ve also seen it more with my own collection goals over the years. Even though I absolutely love Pokémon Sample prints, right now I focus more on all officially released Pikachu cards, since I deem my collection ‘complete’ if I’m ever able to get my hands on all (1400+) of them. I do still really want all the unofficial Pikachu cards as well though, like the fourteen Japanese Sample Pikachu cards I’m missing, or the Ishihara & Pikachu GX card that was given to the CEO of TPC for his 61st birthday, or a grey stamp Red Cheeks Base Set Pikachu. But all of those are more nice-to-haves at this point.


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Was there ever anything disclosed regarding TPC Japanese playtest cards? I assume there must have been some way to test the cards and how they play out, despite it being undoubtedly more controlled than with MTG where R. Garfield just handed the cards to his friends at Uni.

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@occam, I don’t know who in their right mind would pay a similar amount for a Summer Shivan as an Alpha Shivan. The Summer one is probably rarer, but also much less iconic and meaningful to the history of the game. The misprints you attached I also would be surprised to see someone pay anything near high grade Alpha Shivan prices for. Very cool misprints, but I’d be stunned to see them sell for mid-high 4 figures like a nice Alpha Shivan would.

Well, without engaging in a matter of taste, summer Shivans start from 3-3.5k and go up from there. A bgs 8.5 went for 7k ish 2.5 years ago, in the middle of a supply deluge for summer. I see psa 10 Betas being offered for psa 9 summer Shivans and rejected out of hand (ok, different class, but still). All I was saying was that these will likely be in the same ballpark as Alphas, which is a stance I’m still comfortable with.

A Birds of Paradise from that sheet went for 4+k, and considering there are some huge dragon collectors (including the gentleman who owns the Shichifukujin and a couple of his friends) around, I’m certain the Shivan breaks 10k.

Oddities, misprints and test prints don’t have the wide-reaching span that high grade Alphas or say 1e/certain trophy Pokemon cards, but then and again we’ve never seen an actual mtg test print that was Black Lotus. The Exodus foils were nice, but City of Traitors and Survival of the Fittest can hardly be compared against P9. The earliest test prints/prototypes that are around in mtg today are security back Betas, and the best cards there are Lightning Bolt + Island.

In mtg, the misprint and test print markets largely overlap, and in neither sphere are there very high end examples of Alpha/Beta/UL P9 oddities, except for the triple printed sheet above. Once people cotton on, the P9 from that sheet will become the oddity equivalents of high grade Alphas. Won’t be as high due to lower coverage and demand, but well above normal Alpha versions.

@goonhoon, I apologise if this has gone off-topic, and wish there were information on Pokemon playtest cards I could have provided.

If any of these were physically printed outside of digital graphic I would consider them play test cards.


I was on instagram a few days ago and saw something about Pokemon playtest cards - I’ll have to find it again. I don’t think they were ever made into actual cards though, but were conceptual images. Kind of like the GameBoy cards that sadly never saw production.

Edit: Nevermind. @qwachansey literally posted the link!


Wow that was a good read, thanks for sharing.

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Yes, the Japanese TPC does indeed playtest cards. They in fact have 19 full-time employees with varied skill in the Pokémon TCG that playtest new Pokémon TCG cards.

Here is the source for that: Gamespot “How New Pokémon Cards Get Made” - February 27th, 2020 (first shared here by @ptccards ). I will quote the relevant third part about the playtesting:

Apart from this article, I don’t know anything about playtesting in Pokémon, especially not during the WotC era.

The entire article is worth a read for anyone who hasn’t yet, since they also talk about designing and illustrating a new Pokémon. So not just the part above. And while looking for this article I remembered, I also came across another article I read before about the design of Pikachu, in case anyone is interested in that history/interview. :blush: