Famous Wizard Cards
Q: Did you actually write the information that ended up on the Famous Wizard cards? For that matter, what about the spells in the films? Did you invent those or did Steve Kloves? And why were new incantations created for the movie in the first place? (Example: "Incendio" to "Lacarnum Inflamari"?
A: Yes, I wrote the information on the original Famous Wizard cards. As you have notices, a few of them have now popped up on the 'Wizard of the Month' cards on my website desk.
Spells in the films - there I've lost track. Steve invented some and I gave him others. Some of the new incantations, such as "lacarnum inflamari" must have sounded more dramatic onscreen - although by the time you've managed to say "lacarnum inflamari", you've surely lost precious moments in which the Devil's Snare might have throttled you. But that's showbiz.
-- Jo Rowling
In the book, these cards are collected and traded by students and referred to as Chocolate Frog Cards. However, "real" versions of these cards exists, created by Rowling herself, providing a fascinating look into the vast scope of Wizarding history.
After the release of the fourth book, the world of Harry Potter expanded quite dramatically. Rowling sold the film rights of the series to Warner Bros. and also signed merchandising contracts with a number of companies. In order for some of these products to be made, additional information about the Harry Potter universe was required. Rather than let others create this information, Rowling did it herself. The 101 famous wizard cards are one of the results of that effort. These cards are NOT the cards from the Trading Card game, although she may have contributed to them as well. There has been some confusion about this since Rowling stated on her website that she wrote the "original famous wizard cards."
There are three types of Harry Potter cards available. The first is the Harry Potter Trading Card Game, which Wizards of the Coast put out a few years ago. It was a really spectacular game, somewhat similar to Magic. The game was going strong and doing well until Yu-Gi-Oh came along. The game was discontinued a year later at a most unfortunate point, since a new series had just been released to coincide with the release of the second film and several of the cards in that series were broken (which means they allowed for unfair play). Typically, broken cards in a trading card game are fixed in the next series released, but there never was another series and so the final version of the game can be unplayable in some instances. The cards for this game contain a lot of new information, including the first names of some characters, but we still haven't been able to determine how much input Rowling had into them, so they remain non-canon.
I have talked with Wizards of the Coast about this and all they are allowed to say is that Rowling worked with their people to assure the accuracy of the information. I have since learned from them and from the folks at Electronic Arts that companies which create Harry Potter information are forbidden by contract to claim to present "new Harry Potter information." In other words, they can't say that their product is canon, even if it is by our definition.
The second type of Harry Potter cards were trading cards with photos from the films. These cards offer no additional information, they're basically souvenirs of the films, and the films definitely aren't canon.
The third type of cards are the Famous Wizard cards, the ones Jo was talking about on her site. These cards have appeared in several forms. They are included in the candy Chocolate Frogs you can buy in the store (and there are several series of these cards, some created by none other than Wizards of the Coast, which strongly suggests a link between them and the Trading Card game). They also appear in the Electronic Arts video games, and it is from those games that we get the entire list of 101 cards. Jo used some of the information from the Famous Wizard/Chocolate Frog cards for her website's Wizard of the Month.
The Lexicon has the complete and ultimate list of all that information, information which we now know is canon. In order to gather all available data, we had to track down each card from each source, since some include additional details that others don't have.