MTG - How to spot fourth edition alternate vs regular fourth edition

This post will answer your question on: how do I determine if a card is a fourth edition alternate? I made a short video on exactly this on youtube, which this post will be based on:

Determining it is a fourth edition card

You can recognize a fourth edition card by the following:

  1. White border
  2. No set symbol
  3. 1995 year at bottom left

Here is an example:

dwarven warriors fourth edition

Both the regular fourth edition and the alternate fourth edition have these three traits. Next, let us take a look at how to tell them apart!

#1 the front is different!

Fourth edition alternate has more vivid coloring than the normal fourth edition. The normal fourth edition can seem faded in comparison:

Dwarven warriors front fourth edition alternate

Above is an image of a regular fourth edition Dwarven warriors (to the left) and an alternate version (to the right). As you can see the alternate version seems more warm and red.

The front is not the easiest way to spot an alternate fourth edition, the easiest way is to look at the back!

#2 The back is different!

Throughout time the back of magic cards has remained the same. In some print runs it has been lighter, in some it has been darker, so there are subtle differences. However alternate fourth stands out, it is easy to spot an alternate fourth by looking at the A on the back of the card:

Fourth edition alternate back

In the above we compare the back of a regular fourth edition (top) with an alternate (bottom). It is easy to see the color differences of the "A" in Magic. Other letters are also colored differently but I find it the easiest to look at the "A".

The backs of alternates are also more glossy and blurry, but this can be harder to see.

#3 Green dot test

You cannot perform the green dot test on alternate fourth edition. The green dot test is where you look for four red dots inside the green dot on the back of the card. This is to determine whether it is a legit or fake card. Alternate fourth edition is printed in an entirely different way - using stochastic printing rather than rosette. So there is no rosette pattern:


The above is what you see using a jeweler's loupe looking at the green dot of a regular fourth edition and an alternate fourth edition. The alternate version looks in no way like a real magic card!

I believe I call it "red dot" test in my video.. because they are red dots inside the green dot! :)

#4 They are specially coated with UV protection

A big giveaway if you have a UV flashlight is the special coating of the alternate fourth edition. Normal magic cards reflect UV light strongly, however alternate fourth reflects less UV light:

uv light on fourth edition alternate

In the above the UV light is on the Dwarven Warriors. The bottom one is a regular fourth edition, the top one is an alternate. In the picture below it is easy to see that the Unsummon (left), Samite Healer, Marsh viper and Dwarven Warriors (right) are alternates:

uv light on fourth edition alternate 2

This requires you to have a UV light which can make this test hard to do. I will reiterate: Start by looking at the "A" at the back from step 2!

#5 Feel

It is hard to tell exactly what a magic card should feel like these days. There are many variants, but if you have a regular fourth and an alternate and hold them in your hands you will feel a difference.

Alternate fourth feels much more like a regular playing card and they feel more waxed. I would say this is the most difficult way to spot fourth edition alternates as there has been a lot of difference in how magic cards feel over the years.

That is all

I hope you found this interesting and feel free to leave a comment below! I show more details in my video: