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How CSGO’s M4A4 Griffin almost became the next contraband Howl

Everyone has heard of the M4A4 Howl, one of only two items in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive that has ever claimed the rare Contraband quality, but most don’t know a second M4A4 skin almost became the Howl 2.0.

In 2014, a design was uploaded to the Steam Workshop for an M4A4 weapon skin by a team of two artists. The design was slick and unique, two traits appreciated by Counter-Strike’s players.  But above all else, the Howl was flashy. With a flaming wolf emblazoned on its side, the skin was an attractive prospect for any potential owner.

Original 2014 M4A4 Howl Workshop Submission

The weapon skin was accepted by Valve and placed in the loot tables for Valve’s latest loot box, the Huntsman case. The community loved the skin, but it was soon discovered that those who had submitted the Howl design to the Steam Workshop had stolen its design. The Howl’s original artist, Andreas Mass, filed a Digital Millenium Copywrite Strike against Valve for utilizing his artwork on the skin.

Valve gets DCMA over stolen Howl Artwork

The strike was the first of its kind. Auzzii and sic, the two who had submitted the design, claimed that they hadn’t known that the image was copywritten. Regardless, Valve’s response was swift.

Artwork Howl Andreas Mass to file a DCMA complaint

The developer pulled several other skins associated with the two out of loot tables across the Counter-Strike ecosystem alongside the Howl. Valve doubled down and marked the M4A4 “Contraband,” meaning the item was designated to never drop again from the end of a match or case opening. 

The Howls that were already in player hands, however, would remain there. Valve pushed a patch that changed the Howl’s design, presumably to Mass’s satisfaction, as well as it’s accompanying sticker, the “Howling Dawn.” which also featured the artwork. 

As a result, the price of the Howl, which is still tradeable and marketable on Steam today, jumped from prices ranging from $20-$30 to well over $1000. Currently, the Howling Dawn sticker is available on the Steam Marketplace starting at over $800.

Counter-Strike’s M4A4 Griffin was almost the next Howl

With the release of the Vanguard Collection, another skin was drawn into the fray. The M4A4 Griffin was also the subject of a copyright strike, but Valve simply redesigned the skin, changing the titular griffin to avoid the infringement. In anticipation of Valve turning the Griffin contraband, prices of the skin soared, but Valve has never released another Contraband Item.

So why did it happen with the Howl and not the Griffin? It all has to do with rarity. As a Covert skin, the M4A4 Howl had about a .64% of dropping from a CSGO Case. As a restricted skin with a 15% drop rate, the Griffin was much more common by the time a DCMA complaint was filed against it. In other words, it was simply too widespread to assign that type of value to it.

M4A4 Howl Griffin Comparison

Another possible reason the Griffin never went contraband might be that Valve wants to dissuade players from submitting copywritten works, stocking up on them, and then waiting for the strike to come in.

Ultimately, there’s rarely an indication of what Valve will do in a given situation. But with all signs pointing to an expanded CSGO store and more items, skins, stickers, patches, and sprays coming to Valve’s shooter, there’s always the chance it happens again.

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These are the rarest skins in CSGO

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’s skins market is built around the system of supply and demand. When demand is high, and many want to own a certain skin, the price of that skin will go up. And when supply is low, the price of a skin will increase as well. 

Certain skins have become so rare that it’s not only expensive to acquire them but close to impossible to find one available. Let’s take a look at four of the rarest CSGO skins in the game.

M4A4 | Howl – Contraband Rifle

The M4A4 | Howl is one-of-akind. It’s the only skin to be labeled as “contraband.” In June of 2014, after being in the game for only one month, the skin was removed from the Huntsman Weapons Case. Apparently, the creators of the skin used a copyrighted artwork and Valve received a DMCA from the original artist. 

While the skin was not removed from the game, it became impossible to unbox or use a trade-up contract to get a new Howl. Valve gave the skin the Contraband label, something it hasn’t done since.

Nowadays, owning a Howl is a matter of prestige. Collectors hold on to their valuable objects, and whenever there’s one available, a bidding war ensues.

Souvenir AWP | Dragon Lore – Covert Sniper Rifle

Is there a skin more iconic than the AWP | Dragon Lore? The skin is part of the Cobblestone Collection and can only be acquired through the corresponding packages. These packages are only dropped when the map is played during the Major. 

With the map Cobblestone being removed from active duty, new packages will no longer become available. There was a time when the Dragon Lore was obtainable as an operation drop, but Valve no longer uses the Collection as a drop.

Glock-18 | Fade – Restricted Pistol

Just like the dragon Lore, the Glock-18 | Fade is part of a collection linked to a map, Assault. It was released in the Arms Deal update back in 2013 and was available as an in-game drop for a couple of years. But Assault was removed from the game a couple of months after its release, and so was the chance to receive skins from the collection. 

At the time of writing, only 10 Glock-18 | Fade skins are listed on the Valve community market. Its rarity and the fact that it has been unobtainable for so long make it a valuable object for collectors. 

Negev | Anodized Navy 

The Negev | Anodized Navy is a victim of the popularity of the Glock-18 | Fade. The Anodized Navy is used in trade-up contracts for the Fade. And over the past few years, there have been a lot of trade-ups being done to get this skin.

Australian Youtuber TDM_Heyzeus raised awareness for this problem in a video. He called the skin “Critically Endangered.” There are only a couple hundred Anodized Navy’s left and a good portion of them are locked in VAC-banned accounts, according to Heyzeus.

Need a look inside the world of counter strike global offensive? Read all about it here!

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CS:GO Contraband Skins: The Rarest Among the Rare

Among all the various CSGO skins rarity grades, types and variation it would be really hard to find one rarest skin. However, there may be some contenders to this title, and one of them is M4A4 | Howl, the only one of the contraband CSGO skins.

CSGO contraband skins – in depth 2019

Currently, there are 6 main rarity grades and almost every CSGO weapon skin is part of one of these categories. These categories are as follows:

  • Consumer Grade (White) skins – These are very common skins that are rather easy to drop through normal play. Common weapon skins usually cost just a few cents.
  • Industrial Grade (Light blue) skins – Slightly rarer than Consumer Grade skins but still pretty common and very cheap.
  • Mil-Spec (Blue) skins – These are the rare skins that you can still acquire quite easily from cases but they hold their prices quite well. Easy to obtain through Trade Up contracts.
  • Restricted (Purple) skins – Restricted skins are considerably hard to get and can reach quite high prices. They can reach as high as $250 in market value.
  • Classified (Pink) skins – These skins are very rare and quite expensive.
  • Covert (Red) skins –  Extremely expensive! If you got the right one and need a lot of money at once, you could pay your bills for a month by selling one of those on the more expensive end of the price spectrum. Prices reach thousands of dollars.

Other than these six categories, all CSGO knives are ultra-rare items, very hard to get and very expensive category of gold skins which is signaled by a star next to their respective finish names. However, there’s one more category – contraband skins.

What are contraband skins in CSGO?

In Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Contraband is a quality given to a weapon skin after the skin gets canceled while it is already available in the game. When skin gets the Contraband quality, it is erased from the skins roster of the case it came originally, nor it can be dropped through random in-game drops. However, CSGO contraband skins that were already acquired by players will remain in their inventory, making that particular weapon skin a completely unique skin. Currently, there is only one contraband skins in CSGO – M4A4 | Howl.

Why did contraband skins become legendary?

In 2014, when CSGO Market was on the rise, numerous artists began to upload their skins designs to get some fame and money. The most popular skins were added to the game and the artist was given a portion of the value of all transactions, making it a very lucrative option.

Two of such skin artists, Auzzii and sic, have uploaded a skin for M4A4 and a sticker called the Howling Dawn that was, supposed to be inspired by the artist’s dog (In a very short time, M4A4 | Howl got over 4,5 thousand upvotes and become popular enough to be introduced into Huntsman Collection. The M4A4 | Howl received a Covert rarity and everyone was happy: Artist got the commission, players got their skin and Valve had a satisfied customer base. Everyone was happy. Everyone except CanisAlbus, the original artist behind the artwork used in Howl’s design who was informed about the fraudulent use of his artwork. After filing a DMCA takedown notice, Valve removed Howl from the cases and the skin got an original redesign by Valve team to avoid plagiarism. However, even though the M4A4 | Howl disappeared from the case, it still remained in the player’s inventories. Suddenly, M4A4 | Howl that was already in the inventories got a limited Contraband rarity and became the most expensive CSGO skin overnight shooting straight from $17 to ~$180. Currently, a Factory New M4A4 | Howl can reach thousands of dollars.

Can you still obtain contraband skins?

It is possible to get your own contraband skin, but the methods are limited. As per its rules, you can’t get it from random drops nor cases. The only method of acquiring M4A4 | Howl is through trading. Because CSGO contraband skins get very expensive, be prepared to spend a couple of hundreds up to $4000 depending on version and wear. The good thing is that by getting M4A4 | Howl you secured virtually all CSGO contraband skins 😉

Can you sell and buy contraband skins?

If you decided you want to buy CSGO contraband skins practically every market has some. Although the supply is very limited and the prices are high, you can find numerous M4A4 | Howl pieces at the Steam Community Market and third-party websites. Likewise, if you want to sell one of your CSGO contraband skins you will find buyers everywhere. It may also be a good idea to negotiate the price in person rather than use automated systems.

Final Verdict

In this article, we discussed everything related to using CSGO contraband skins, trading them and getting a new one. We also talked about their limited supply, the story behind them and their design. Stay tuned for more articles on CSGO skins!


Janusz Gądek in Skins


M4A4 Howl – The Most Expensive Contraband Skin

When Valve introduced skins to Counter Strike Global Offensive through its “Arms Deals” update in 2013, it has been widely known to disrupt the gaming industry with one of the most lucrative virtual item markets in the world. This year, M4A4 Howl has broken another record.

Because of how massive the CSGO economy is today, it is not uncommon to see some of these weapon skins sold for a hefty price tag. To put it into better perspective, the official Steam Market has processed millions of dollars worth of CSGO skins transactions on a daily basis. This figure does not include the sales in other reputable third-party CSGO marketplaces such as SkinCashier. According to a 2018 report it was estimated that the entire CSGO skins industry is worth an incredible $50 Billion, and it is expected to continue its growth relative to the increasing number of CSGO players worldwide. And truth be told, Steam has registered its all-time record of more than 20 million CSGO players playing the game within a 24-hour time span in March this year.

The previous record of the priciest CSGO skin sold was an autographed Souvenir AWP Dragon Lore by the 2018 Boston Major’s MVP Skadoodle. It had fetched a valuation of $61,000 after it was sold to a CSGO skins collector. But it was not before long that the astonishing record was broken by another CSGO skin’s transaction this year.  And that CSGO skin in question, is a StatTrak M4A4 Howl Factory New.

Also Read: CSGO Ranks – Competitive Ranking System Explained

M4A4 Howl with iBUYPOWER Katowice 2014 stickers

The controversial backstory of the original M4A4 Howl has created a huge demand over the discontinued CSGO skin design. The original M4A4 Howl has seen incredible price valuation in CSGO skin marketplaces over the past six years as collectors flocked to these platforms to buy the remaining contraband CSGO skins available in the market. 

This is not to say that all M4A4 Howl skins available today will be worth as much as the original CSGO skin. It is worth noting that only M4A4 Howl with the original design will command a higher price point in CSGO skins marketplaces like SkinCashier. That said, you may be in for a ride if you do possess another original M4A4 Howl Factory New with iBUYPOWER Katowice 2014 stickers as the wild world of Chinese CSGO skin trading could be a whole other story in of itself.

It was not until recently that M4A4 Howl has gained a renewed interest within the community, as an original M4A4 Howl Factory New with iBUYPOWER stickers from Katowice 2014 have appealed to CSGO skins collectors from all over the world. The rarity of this Counter Strike Global Offensive skin is likely attributed to the sticker and the limited quantity of the original M4A4 Howl in the market, hence making it one of the hottest collector items on the market.

According to a July 2020 Twitter post by CSGO economist ohnePixel, a Chinese CSGO skins collector paid $130,000 for the ultra-rare StatTrak M4A4 Howl Factory New (0.003 float rating) with four iBUYPOWER Katowice 2014 stickers on it, setting a brand new record skin price in the CSGO history. On the contrary, the price for a Factory New (0.009136963 float rating) StatTrak M4A4 Howl Factory New (without IBP stickers) is estimated to be valued at $5,180, which pales in comparison with the former.

The transaction of this controversial weapon skin has proven once again that CSGO skins is an virtual asset class which cannot be ignored by the gaming industry.

Also Read: Most Expensive CSGO Knife Skins

The Infamous Story of M4A4 Howl

The Howl should be a familiar Counter Strike Global Offensive skin among active CSGO players in the community. It is a contraband CSGO skin that became an overnight sensation after a news scandal revolving around the legitimacy of the design in 2014. It was the same year that the CSGO market saw an exponential growth and popularity among the CSGO community, whereas players can customise their weapons with cosmetic upgrades in the form of various CSGO skins. 

Many designers have since utilised the CSGO Workshop as a way to promote their artworks, either for fame or real money rewards. And this is where the Howl design was born. 

In 2014, two self-proclaimed designers Auzzii and SiC, uploaded a CSGO skin and sticker design to the workshop. The “Howling Dawn” design later received more than 4,500 positive ratings within the community, making it the finalist design of the workshop. Auzzii has described in his entry submission that his artwork is an interesting illustration of his dog, as it was the complete opposite to a wolf, thereby portraying his pet in the design as a fiery wolf.

Also Read: What is the Cheapest CSGO Knife You Can Buy?

M4A4 Howl was included in the Huntsman collection

The “Howling Dawn” design was eventually picked as the new M4A4 skin by the Counter Strike Global Offensive team and has included the M4A4 Howl in the Huntsman collection, and the only way players can obtain this CSGO skin is through case openings. At the same time, Auzzii and SiC both received their monetary rewards as a result of that winning entry. 

While it may appear initially that the design submission seemed to be a relatively easy process for the two “artists”, as they received real money rewards for a design that was not exactly theirs, but the CSGO community loved the M4A4 Howl anyway. Unfortunately, their rewards for that winning entry were short-lived, as the original artist who made the design for the M4A4 Howl soon discovered the fraud.

A DeviantArt user CanisAlbus was tipped off by online sources that his artwork was stolen by Auzzii and SiC, who went on to claim his design as theirs and submitted his artwork in a contest in CSGO. Angered with what had happened, he took legal action for the copyright infringement of his artwork, hoping for the design to be removed on Counter Strike Global Offensive. 

Valve received a takedown notice from Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and consequently, the Howl and five other Counter Strike Global Offensive skins that SiC had worked on were taken out from the Huntsman collection. Eventually, the M4A4 Howl CSGO skin became a contraband item and those who did not own this skin would not have the chance to obtain the original version again, as Valve released a new version of the M4A4 Howl as a replacement to the original design.

As a result, M4A4 Howl with the original design was regarded as limited edition CSGO skins. Surprisingly, Valve did not seek the surrender of any of these original design CSGO skins and those who owned these skins can safely possess this controversial Counter Strike Global Offensive skin in their inventory.

Also Read: Most Expensive CSGO Skins Ever Sold

Lesson learnt from this $100,000 CSGO skin

If there is any takeaway from this incredible CSGO skin purchase made recently in July this year, it is a reminder to anyone who owns reasonably valuable CSGO skins and stickers to keep these items in the Steam inventory. Knowing the exceptional sales record set by AWP Dragon Lore and M4A4 Howl, we can be sure that in the near future more record-breaking Counter Strike Global Offensive skins will be unearthed by collectors. 

Read Also: Check Your CSGO Inventory Worth and Steam Inventory Value Easily!

Another point to note is that these transactions could also influence the CSGO skins market in a positive way. In fact, the CSGO community seems to maintain a rather robust market for buying and selling CSGO weapon skins. It is almost certain that anyone with rare CSGO skins are able to sell at a profit these days, as more people are intrigued into getting rare skins for collection or investment purposes. Either way, it is a win-win situation for CSGO skins buyers and sellers, and the entire CSGO ecosystem could benefit from the striving market of CSGO skins trade.

M4A4 Howl FAQ

How to Get an M4A4 Howl?

Currently the only way to get an M4A4 Howl is to buy it from other players or third party marketplaces.

What Happened to the M4A4 Howl?

The M4A4 Howl had it’s design changed and rarity moved to Contraband after it was found out that the skins creator stole it original artwork.

What Case is M4A4 Howl in?

The M4A4 Howl is not found in any case. Back when it was possible to get it, it was part of the Hunstman Case Collection.

Why is M4A4 Howl Contraband?

The M4A4 Howl is the only Contraband skin in the game after Valve changed it’s rarity following a Copyright issue with the skin creator.

Why was M4A4 Howl Removed?

M4A4 Howl was removed after the original artwork owner submitted a DMCA claim against Valve for stealing his design.

Why is M4A4 Howl so Expensive?

The M4A4 Howl is one of the Most Expensive CSGO Skins because it’s currently the only Contraband skin in game.

How Much does the M4A4 Howl Cost in 2021?

M4A4 Howl Prices for 2021 – Well-Worn: $1365, Field-Tested: $2280, Minimal Wear: $2905, Factory New: $4217.

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