Card collecting terminology
For those unfamiliar with card collecting terms, this overview relates primarily to two of the sketch card sets produced by Topps Company Inc.
(Topps) from Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings (LOTR)
• Masterpieces (MI) released in 2006 and
• Masterpieces II (MII) released in 2008.
Topps produced many cases containing these card sets (eg 2,250 cases of MII).
For more details see NS Lists MI
and NS Lists MII
There are varying forms of LOTR cards: trading cards, etched foil cards and sketch/art cards. In all cases the card is 2.5”x 3.5” in size. A brief outline of these cards follows.
Topps commissioned a number of artists to do a series of artworks. These were then reproduced as trading cards and placed in packs in trading card boxes.
For MI/MII, there were 90/72 art cards in the set, and each trading box contained 36 packs of seven of these cards.
Topps commissioned artists Rafael Kayanan for MI and Russ Walks for MII, to create a composite LOTR etched artwork (equivalent in size to six sketch cards).
Etched foil cards
Each of these etched artworks was cut into six pieces and reproduced as etched foil cards. The six pieces of the original art were randomly inserted into trading card boxes.The chances of finding one of these original artwork pieces was for MI 1:68,000 and for MII 1:108,000 oacks.
Two of these are in the collection:
A sketch card is a one-of-a-kind piece of art; it features original, hand-drawn artwork on one side of the card surface (the other side has printed logo of set).
For the official sets, Topps commissioned 87 artists for MI and 104 artists for MII.
Depending on the availability of artists etc, the number of sketches completed per artist ranged from around 50 to 1100 (with some doing considerably less, eg for MII DeLiz did only 17).
Two of these sketches were inserted randomly into packs in each box.
The artwork is diverse in terms of the array of media used, and the form and style of art, often belying the label ‘sketch’.
Diverse artwork forms
The artwork ranges from:
• simple line drawings
• shaded monochrome
• with color highlight
• to spectacular in colour, design, detail, and subject matter, in scenic form, or
• oil portraiture, eg sometime amazingly gruesome, or
• beautifully poignant,
Diverse artistic styles
Arwork ranges from
• comic form, to
• dramatic realism,
Artist Return sketches
As compensation for contributing to the MI and MII sets, artists could nominate six of their sketches to be returned to them to keep or sell. These are called Artist Return sketches (AR).
In rare cases, the artist chose to use all six AR cards in one composite scene, eg:
In addition, artists contributing to the ‘second wave’ of MII, were typically provided with three additional AR cards, eg:
The Cryptozoic Hobbit sketches chosen by artists and returned to keep them or sell are referred to as Artist Proofs, eg
For the Evolution set Topps permitted artists to be commissioned by collectors to repaint the sketches the original sketches and were inserted into packs. These are called After-market sketches (AM).
The example shows the original drawing and the reworked AM:
After-market sketches for MI and MII sets
Topps disallowed after-market sketches for the MI and MII sets. However, it seems that Topps provided extra MII blanks to some artists (in addition to the nine official AR cards). 'After-market' sketches were then completed by artists years later on these additional cards.
The discussion of this controversy can be found at: Scoundrel Publishing
Some artists completed sketches over multiple cards, these are called panels. Sometimes each piece is stand-alone. However some only form a complete portrait or scene when the separate pieces are reunited, eg: If the individual pieces are pack-inserted, a major goal for collectors is to reunite these panels.
The MI Kansas triptychs: three artists (DeLiz, Dillon, Engstrom) collaborated on two three-card panels. They each drew on and signed each card, see Ents and Gollum triptychs:
Master and Master Master sets
• A 'Master set' contains a sketch from each of the artists contributing to the set.
• A ‘Master Master set' is one which also contains one of the original Kayanan or Walks etched foil cards.
Personal Sketch Cards (PSC)
PSCs are not part of the official sets.
They are sketches completed by an artist on their own card stock, often commissioned by a sketch collector, especially if the desired image was not permitted on an official card, eg imagined meeting of Tolkien and Jackson.