Ultimate Guide to the History of Cards Signed by Christopher Rush

Collecting artist signatures is increasing in popularity. What started as a small group of fringe collectors, led largely by collector Scott Mosser, has exploded into a movement measuring in the thousands.

As signed cards become mainstream, signatures have risen in value. Collectors are scrambling to complete projects ranging from signed decks and sets, to cubes and global collections.

One of the most prized signatures in the signed card community is that of Christopher Rush. His art is iconic; holding a special place in the hearts of those who play the game. Chris is special because he put a piece of himself into every painting. Similarly, he put a piece of himself in every signature.

The purpose of this article is to tell the story of Chris’s signature, to outline how and why it evolved over time. Like the man himself, Chris’s signature is unique and can tell us a lot about his character.

History of the Signature Classification

It is no secret that Christopher Rush is one of my favorite artists. Nothing brings me joy like sorting through a pile of cards at a vendor booth and finding a signed Lightning Bolt or Crookshank Kobolds. When I hold a signed card of his in my hand, I feel like an archaeologist who just discovered an important relic from our past.

My love for the game and the esteem I hold for Chris led me to analyze these signatures to help those who feel the same way I do. I hope the information I have gathered from this analysis can help future generations to authenticate and appreciate his signature.  

My analysis helped me classify Chris’s signature in three categories: first generation (Gen1), second generation (Gen2), and third generation (Gen3). I shared this analysis with Jeff Ferreira, Chris’s agent and longtime friend, who helped me refine these categories and shed some light on the details surrounding their origin. Each will be discussed in detail to fully understand and appreciate why and how each came to be.

1st Generation Signatures

Rush’s signature has evolved over the years. His Gen1 signature is the most prized of collectors and can be broken down into two distinct types: Gen1A and Gen1B.

Gen1A

In the early 90s, Rush signed his first cards using a ballpoint pen. His signature was smaller with a sharp thin C on the right center of the card between the text box and photo. The first name was placed above the last with both slanted at an upward angle toward the top right of the card.

This signature is extremely rare and valuable to collectors because they are the first cards he ever signed.

This signature is only found on cards from Alpha Edition. As Chris started attending events, he changed the medium and style of this signature.

Image of Lightning Bolt signed by Christopher Rush from the collection of Jake Wise
Figure 1: Gen1A. From the collection of Jake Wise.

Gen1B

Chris was surprised and touched by the number of fans who asked for his signature. He began to change the way he signed so fans would have something they would treasure and remember him by.

Chris tossed the pen and switched to sharpie. He soon found he had to move the first and last name alongside each other or the signature would look blocky, tended to blend together, and could be distracting. In this generation of signature, the first name and last name rarely touched, they were distinct.

Gen 1b. Rush Signature from Vault of Alexandria archives.

Chris was cognizant of his signature and wanted it to look good. The care and attention he put into his signature is a reflection on his character. He signed this way through Legends before his signature evolved again.

Image of signed Junun Efreet from the collection of Matthew Viau.

Figure 2: Gen1B. From the collection of Matthew F. Viau.

2nd Generation Signatures

As Magic gained in popularity, Chris started going to more events and signing more cards. His signature started to undergo a significant transformation to adapt to the demand. The Gen2 signature is the result of this adaptation and has two types: Gen2A Transition and Gen2B.

Gen2A Transition

As Chris signed more cards, he changed the location from center right to bottom middle below the text box. There is multiple reason for this: First, he did not want to obscure the set symbol; Second, as he signed a stack of cards it was easier to sign larger; And third, since he signed larger, he didn’t want to cover the art, or text with his signature. It is important to remember that prior to this, the set symbol wasn’t as important.

As the game grew set symbols and text became increasingly important. Chris recognized this and changed his signature to do what he felt was best for the players.

Even though the location and size changed, the signature shares the characteristics of the Gen1 sigs, except it is larger. The signature itself is distinct, because he kept the first and last name separated.

Gen2A Transition signatures are inconsistent, sometimes the gap between first and last name is extreme, other times it is closer together. As Chris aged, he blended his first name and last name together as we will see later on in this article.

This stage of evolution is where the timeline becomes convoluted due to the pace in which sets were being released and the massive increase in events Chris attended. What can be gathered from my analysis, is that by 1995, Chris stopped using this signature and transitioned completely to the Gen2B.  

Gen 2a Rush signature

Image of Flying Men signed by Christopher Rush from the collection of Matthew Viau.

Figure 3. Gen2A Transition. From the collection of Matthew F. Viau

Gen2B

The Gen2B shares the same location and has the same sharp C as the Gen2A Transition, but the first and last names begin to blend together. Chris commonly signed with a thin sharpie during this period, which refined his signature. You can see the depth of the C is deeper and started to round slightly. The hook on the C is extremely prominent and longer. This is exactly what Chris wanted. He was
aiming for consistency and wanted a sharper cleaner look to his signature.

 

All Hallow's Eve signed by Christopher Rush from the collection of Matthew Viau.
Figure 4. Gen2B. From the Collection of Matthew F. Viau.

There are examples of the Gen2B signature as late as Fifth Dawn, which was released in June of 2004. These specimens show signs of Chris softening his signature, as seen in Figure 5. In this example, the C is beginning to flatten, but the prominent hook remains intact. I speculate Chris transitioned to the Gen3 by 2005.

 

3rd Generation Signatures

The Gen3 is the most common signature Chris had. With the Gen2 he was aiming for sharpness and consistency. With the Gen3 Chris was aiming for smoothness. He signed in bold sharpie and kept the signature neat. The signature wasn’t too large (Gen2B), or too small (Gen1), it is just right. The first and last name blend together seamlessly and becomes a work of art in and of itself.


Gen 3 Lightning Bolt signed by artist Christopher Rush.
Figure 5. Gen3. From the Collection of Matthew F. Viau.

As far as unique characteristics, Chris significantly rounded and flattened the C, keeping each letter relatively uniform throughout. If each generation of signature is analyzed (see Figure 6), one can see a clear distinction between the C on the Unlimited Lightning Bolt in Figure 5 and every other signature that precedes it. The Gen3 is the classiest of his signatures.

Multiple signature variations of signed Lightning Bolts signed by artist Christopher Rush.
Figure 6. Gen1B through Gen3 clockwise. From the collection of Luke Ailanjian.

I have spent a lot of time talking about Chris’s first name, especially the C, but not the last name. This is because the last name has remained constant over time (See Figure 7 and Figure 8). Chris used a capital bold R, followed by vertical and horizontal line. There is a faint, yet sometimes indistinguishable U and no S. It can be described crudely as an R, followed by large elongated L. The last name Rush anchors the signature and is a point of reference for those seeking to authenticate.

Various, signed Crookshank Kobolds

Figure 7. Gen1B through Gen3 clockwise. From the collection of Matthew F. Viau.

Unique Signatures

Many artists sign paintings and alters differently than they do cards for fans. Rush was no different. He signed many of his paintings with a bold print RUSH as demonstrated on the Brainstorm in Figure 7.

 

Close-up of Christopher Rush signature on Brainstorm Painting

Figure 7.

Many forgers attempt to copy the signature on the art because it provides a visual to copy from. However, Rush only signed cards this way on some full paint alters or when requested.

This style of signature is so uncommon, it is nearly impossible to verify on its own. Instead of authenticating the signature, the expert must authenticate the story.

This is problematic, because humans, by their nature, have a natural tendency to embellish or lie about the origin of their cards.

Authentication often comes down to the details surrounding the story and the owner’s credibility within the community.

For example, to authenticate:

  • The owner must provide the exact date, location, and name of event
  • There are credible witnesses or photographic evidence
  • The owner has impeccable credibility

Jeff Ferreira is the best person to authenticate this signature because he was at most of the events Chris attended. As Chris’s agent, he documented nearly every alter and witnessed special requests by the attendees. Chris always did his best to honor his fans requests, a demonstration of his humility.

 

More Than a Signature

Christopher Rush passed on February 10, 2016. His death shook the Magic the Gathering community to its core. Christopher’s death has led to an explosion in the signed community of persons seeking to own a signed card in their collection; a testament to his impact on the game.

A signature says a lot about the person. Even if you didn’t have the pleasure of knowing Chris, you can see from the care he put into his, that he had a massive heart, was extremely humble, and lived to serve. He cared about the fans and they in turn cared about him. Each card Chris signed is a piece of Magic history, a part of his legacy meant to be cherished by all.