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Harry Potter Trading Card Game (TCG/CCG)
c.2001-2002 The PoJo --

Anatomy of the Promo card: Harry Potter Style

What is a “Promo Card”?  You would think that this has a simple and easy answer?  You would be right, and wrong!  “Promo cards” are hard to put a finger on.  When it comes to TCG/CCG’s, each company that produces these items, views promo cards differently.  Even different “Brands” produced by the same company will have different “promo card” treatments (like Pokemon vs. Harry Potter).   So, where to start?

First, a definition of “Promo” card is needed.  That is an easy one.  I went to my handy dictionary and looked up promo.  I didn’t expect to find it.  WRONG!  It was there. 

Promo- [short for promotional]: a promotional announcement, blurb, or appearance.

Ok, not really what I need.  Let’s look for a better definition in the word, promote, which is the base of promo.

Promote-from the word promovere; which literally means to, “move forward”. Here are some definitions:
1. To contribute to the growth or prosperity of
2. To help bring (as an enterprise) into being {Launch}
3. To present (merchandise) for buyer acceptance through advertising, publicity, or discounting

 Well, how to apply this to the TCG/CCG’s? [TCG = Trading Card Game; CCG = Collectable Card Game]  Essentially from the above discussion, each and every card produced is in fact, a “promo” card.  That, obviously, is too easy an answer.

Let’s get to the heart of this article, Harry Potter Promo cards.  Wizards of the Coast (WOTC), the games producer has done an excellent job in differentiating promo cards from the “regular” cards.  WOTC has had a lot of practice with promo cards as they have produced the long running Magic: The Gathering and Pokemon games.  For Harry Potter, they made it very simple.  Each and every card has the Harry Potter “scar” symbol embossed in gold and the word “promo” (also embossed in gold) in an arch/semi circle above the scar symbol.  Did I say “Each and every”?  Ok, like lots of things in life, there are exceptions.  So why should the Harry Potter TCG/CCG be any different?  There is one promo card that has different markings on it.  I will run down all of the cards in order of release and note the different symbol when it is appropriate.  WOTC also used cards from the regular sets to create their promo cards rather than having exclusive promo only game cards. 

The first six Harry Potter promo cards came out in the in late 2001.  These six cards are significant for two reasons.  The size of the promo symbol and the location of that symbol.  These cards are known as the “small symbol” promo cards.  WOTC was learning as it went to market with this card game.  Both the size and location of the symbol presented a problem.  This “problem/issue” only came to light after the cards were out in the market place. 

Size.  The promo symbol was too small and was difficult to see.  The whole idea of a promo card is to differentiate the “special” card from the regular card.  The promo symbol did not “jump out” at people and tended to blend in to the card background.  This is the opposite of the intention.  It should jump out and grab one's attention.  WOTC enlarged the symbol for the following promo cards, which did indeed grab ones attention.

Location.  The promo symbol on the first six cards was put in the bottom right hand corner of the card unless there was artwork there.  Then it was put in the bottom right hand corner of the text field of the card.  Five of the first promo cards came from the original base set of cards.  The sixth came from the first expansion set, Quidditch Cup; but it was not produced with a set symbol since the card came out before the Quidditch Cup set was released.  Thus there was no “set symbol” on any of the cards.  The set symbol for any follow-up promo cards would be vying for space with the promo symbol.  WOTC decided to move the promo symbol to the bottom right hand corner of the artwork on the card eliminating any interference it may have created.

The following list has all of the promo cards for Harry Potter..
Type  Date  Card Name Where did it come from
08/01 Diagon Alley WOTC HP TCG Introduction Promo
08/01 Remembrall WOTC HP TCG Introduction Promo
11/01 Bluebell Flames HP & the SS Movie Release
11/01 Snape's Question HP & the SS Movie Release
11/01 Strategy Session HP & the SS Movie Release
11/01 Illegibilus Harry Potter PC Game
01/02 Diffindo Harry Potter League Promo # 1
02/02 Forest Troll Harry Potter League Promo # 2
03/02 Hufflepuff Match Harry Potter League Promo # 3 
04/02 Unusual Pets Harry Potter League Promo # 4 
04/02 Swelling Potion DA Game Day Tourney
05/02 Moonseed Poison Harry Potter League Promo # 5
05/02 Through the Trap Door Toys-R-Us First HP Movie pre-order 
06/02 Meeting Fluffy AH Game Day Tourney
07/02 Ollivanders Harry Potter League Promo # 6
08/02 Hover Charm Harry Potter League Promo # 7 
09/02 Forbidden Corridor Harry Potter League Promo # 8
09/02 5 Points From Gryffindor Goblets of Fire paperback Giveaway
11/02 Keeping Dobby Quiet HP & the CoS Movie Release
11/02 Rainy-Day Match HP & the CoS Movie Release
11/02 Swelling Solution HP & the CoS Movie Release

All of the cards have the "scar" promo symbol except for one.  The Meeting Fluffy card.  For some reason, WOTC decided to change the scar symbol for the Adventures at Hogwarts symbol and to change the word promo to "Launch".  The effect is still in embossed gold.  The league promos are also a little different.  The first five have the Holographic/Foil treatment applied and their respective set symbol and card number information was eliminated and replaced with a number corresponding to the league promo number.  The remaining three League promo cards did not have the Holographic/Foil treatment but did have new artwork on the card.  The Ollivanders and Forbidden Corridor are also missing the set symbol and card number.  Hover Charm however retains its set symbol and card information.  This card gave a sneak peak to the upcoming Chamber of Secrets set symbol and number of cards in that set.

So, that's it!  WRONG, again.  There is more.  There are promo cards that do not say promo on them.  WAIT!  I thought that was the whole idea.  Well, unfortunately, the Harry Potter card game has a few tricks up the sleeve when it comes to promo cards.  Let's take a look.  The cards that I am talking about are Holographic/Foil versions of regular cards that are found only in the Starter/Theme Decks and Character cards with different artwork. So you have to buy a Starter or Theme deck in order to get these cards.  Only the Holographic/Foil treatment or new artwork makes theses cards different.  All other aspects of the cards are the same.  To the list!
Type Date Card Name Where did it Come From
04/02 Draco Malfoy Diagon Alley Starter Set
04/02 Hermione Granger Diagon Alley Starter Set
04/02 Norbert Diagon Alley Starter Set
04/02 River Troll Diagon Alley Starter Set
10/02 Chimaera Chamber of Secrets Starter Set
10/02 Manticore Chamber of Secrets Starter Set
10/02 Caught by Snape Chamber of Secrets Theme Deck - Twin Trouble
10/02 Potions Project Chamber of Secrets Theme Deck - Percy Weasley

Now we are done?  As far as I define a promo card the answer to that question is yes.  However, there are a few more cards that should be looked at.  I call these the "wrapped" cards.  These are cards that were either inserted into magazines as promotions or were handed out at retail stores to increase awareness of the Harry Potter card game.  The cards are regular cards wrapped/sealed in cellophane.  These cards are promo cards strictly speaking.  The only problem is, if the card is opened.  Then it no longer is a promo card since there now is no way to tell it apart from  the same card found in a booster pack. There are five of these kind of cards out there.  Three were distributed from retail outlets and heralded the Quidditch Cup set.  There are: Cleansweep 7, Drowsiness Draught, and Gone!  The other two "wrapped/sealed cards were inserted into the Nintendo Power magazine and heralded the Diagon Alley set.  The cards were Dog Biscuits and Madam Malkin's Robes.

The last item for this discussion is the rumor that there was a promo version of the card "Devil's Snare".  This has proven at this time to be untrue.  I have seen scans of this card and I have not been convinced of the authenticity of the card.  This card if it existed should have a "small" promo symbol on it, but the card image I saw had the large symbol on it.  I even had "Mr. POJO ask WOTC directly about this card.  Their response was that, "We have not commisioned that card.".  Ok, I agree that leaves a little room to maneuver.  It is not the emphatic NO I wanted to hear.

There are promo cards in other languages which I have not included here.  All of them are repeats of the English promo cards except for one.  The Japanese comic Coro Coro published  a large symbol promo card of the card "Wingardium Leviosa" in December of 2001. 

Greg Hodgkinson


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