The discussion has gotten so good, I thought it deserves its own topic!
After reading his post, it reminded my of something I'd heard years ago. The United States Playing Card Co. (based in Cincinatti) was involved in the printing of the "Vampire: The Eternal Struggle" game and "Dark Sovereigns" expansion for WotC back in 1995 (same year as 4th edition).fvzappa wrote:Any of you who live close to where I do (Cincinnati, Ohio) should keep your eyes peeled. There is a high concentration of these cards in my area. I find them often.
There is a place called Cincinnati Playing Card Co., and I have talked to a few former employees who say that those "gaming cards you have look awfully familiar." It is quite possible that they originated from there. I've never heard anything official- who produced them, or where, but I find MANY more locally than others I have talked to nationwide.
Here is a news release that describes the V:TES printing by USPC:
http://groups.google.com/groups?selm=45 ... .cc.vt.edu
I strongly believe now that this is the "mystery company" that was the source of the alternate 4th printing. Was it some sort of test, a full production run, or an aborted project (ala "Edgar")? Who knows. As the MTGNews article also mentions, relations between WotC and USPC broke down shortly thereafter.
I own a large collection of Jyhad/V:TES cards, and I've compared them using a black-lite. The cards from the 1995 V:TES printing and the "Dark Sovereigns" expansion exhibit the exact same properties as the alt. 4th cards do. Cards from later V:TES expansions glow under UV, as normal Magics do.
Although the pictures below show the results, the similarity between the alt 4th and V:TES/DS cards under the black-lite is unmistakable when you look at them in person.
A) Alternate 4th - Pit Scorpion - top left
B) normal 4th - Pit Scorpion - top right
C) Jyhad - Igo The Hungry - middle left
D) V:TES - Igo The Hungry - middle right
E) Dark Sovereigns - Kostantin - bottom left
F) Sabbat* - Gratiano - bottom right
* Sabbat was a later stand-alone "expansion" for V:TES.