The evolution of trading card games has made an impact on the way we play, interact and collect. Trading cards made their debut in the 1800’s as “cigarette cards”, which were colorful painted cards that were added to cigarette boxes to make them more ridged. The collecting or “trading” part was later introduced when cards were able to be printed using multi-color printing or “chromolithography”, companies would insert these colored cards of various styles inside the packages of snacks and other goods. People would look forward to these cards and become eager to collect the full set and would trade with their friends and house their collections in protective binders.
It’s clear that from the beginning of this hobby, it was the art and the colors of these cards that truly caught the consumer’s eye. One of the things that makes trading cards, such as the Harry Potter Trading Card Game (Harry Potter TCG) stand out aside from each card having a different instruction or ability, is the detailed art that is illustrated on each card; this makes it different from anything previous generations have seen. There have, of course, been variations of these types of cards and their art included in merchandise and toys, but the specific TCG’s of our day are standing in a category of their own.
For this article, I want to focus on the art itself for the Harry Potter Trading Card Game as this is what gets the attention of both players and collectors alike. As we know, Wizards Of The Coast have their hands in many of the popular TCG‘s and because of that, some of the same illustrators have been used for the various card games; and for a good reason. These artists have been able to take some of the greatest adventures as well as some of the smallest details and illustrate them in such a way that allows the player or collector to look at these images and be reminded of the exact place in the books these took place. I could go on for pages on my personal favorite illustrations from all of Dive deeper into the Harry Potter TCG, card strategy, deck building and some other Harry Potter vintage merchandise from Mona’s vault at Gringotts! the 600+ cards in the Harry Potter TCG however, for the sake of this article I wish to list what I believe are the top five illustrations in terms of creativity, detail and I how it depicts a part of the book that once only lived in our imagination. I will take one card from each of the expansions to compile this short list. This is by no means my only favorites but these are some very much worthy of listing, here we go:
Card name: Gringott’s Cart Ride
Illustrator: Warner Bros.
Gringotts Cart Ride is one of the old school quintessential magical moments from the first book that had us on our tippy toes while we read. I don’t know a single reader and fan of the Harry Potter series that did not want to hop in that car with Hagrid, Harry and Griphook to go on that thrilling ride deep into London’s underground. Hagrid ‘s facial expression on this card alone breathes life into the scenario of this image and the depth of the illustration draws intrigue. Hagrid has fear and excitement in his eyes as the contrasting Griphook is comfortable and thrilled to be taking them down to the vault. This also allows us, the reader and player of the card game, to see the same excitement through Harry Potter‘s eyes as we would if it were us in that cart. The artist for this image did a phenomenal job at depicting this scene beautifully, in my opinion, and I wish I were stuck right in the middle of them while heading to my vault.
Card name: Potions Class Disaster
Illustrator: Alex Horley
Potions class disaster provides us the perfect facial expression for Neville when he, inevitably, messes up on something. He has that sort of look on his face with sheer disappointment as everyone else in the background is shocked, or in Snape‘s case, it seems like he is upset but also excited that it’s another Gryffindor who has committed such a travesty. The elements of green that are used in this image are perfect for what I would think a potion would look like in Snape‘s class. Most likely brewing something foul and slimy as a representation of what he wants the students to experience in his class. The rising smoke, exploding movement in the cauldron and splatter of potion are great images for a disaster in potions class.
Card name: Madam Malkin’s Robes
Illustrator: Greg Hildebrandt
The illustration that we see for Madam Malkin’s Robes is one that has been used before in other promotional materials for the Harry Potter TCG, in addition to this card. The rivalry between the two students, Harry and Draco, is a perfect set up for how we expect them to behave when engaging in the mundane robe fitting for school. They are both annoyed to have run into each other, their attitudes are bursting from their posture with arms folded. Additionally, the playful illustration of Madame Malkin‘s attire adds a cool element to the fierce and fiery tension that is building in the scene.
ADVENTURES AT HOGWARTS
Card name: Midnight Duel
Illustrator: Ken Steacy
One of my favorite lustrations that comes straight from chapter 9 in Philosopher’s Stone. “The Midnight Dual” is one of the greatest adventures that Harry and his friends embark on in the first book where Draco challenges Harry to a wizard duel and Harry, not wanting to be seen as a coward, heads off to meet Draco. Harry fails to realize that Draco has told Filch of his Midnight wander of the castle in hopes that he is caught and expelled. With Ron, Hermione and Neville following in Harry’s wake, they head off into the Forbidden Corridor where they are face-to face with Fluffy, the three headed dog. I love in this imagery that Harry can show his strength and resilience while we see Neville crouching behind Harry in the background. Hermione and Ron are gazing up at the scene with nervousness in their eyes but it’s clear that this won’t be their last adventure together. The details of the trophies behind them, their school robes and everlasting friendship in this image can make any fan of this scene jealous that they weren’t standing next to Harry, wands out.
CHAMBER OF SECRETS
Card name: The Burrow
Illustrator: Dennis Calero
The rich saturation of color that is painted in the each of these details for The Burrow creates intrigue and a desire to study the fine details of this piece. There is always something happening at the Weasleys beloved home and we can see this in the illumination casted in each window, on all levels of the house. When I look at this image, I can imagine Molly cooking in the kitchen while the twins are upstairs playing some joke on Ron and Ginni preparing her outfit for the next morning. This image breathes life into a house that is so full of life on its own. It’s quirky twists and turns show just how magical the family is who inhabit it.
Compiling this list was extremely difficult to do, the art used for the Harry Potter TCG is something so stunning and unique. As I mentioned before, I could have this list go on for pages as there are so many great images used, but this is a good start. For those who are a fan of the HPTCG, be sure to take a few extra moments and gather the small details in each illustration, the artists worked tirelessly at ensuring that they stayed true to the sense and did a wonderful job at it.