1971 Topps: from this picture book cards
look good. However, the Aaron is a reprint. In subsequent pictures
you will see the cards differ in distinct ways.
A standard and often highly effective way to detect counterfeits
and reprints is by directly comparing the card in question with
one or more known genuine examples. Granted, it is uncommon for
the collector to already own duplicates, especially if it's a
1933 Goudey Babe Ruth or 1965 Topps Joe Namath. However, good
judgment is often made when comparing a card to different cards
from the same issue. Comparing the Ruth to a bunch of Goudey
commons and the Namath to a handful of other 1965 Topps.
A T206 Ty Cobb, and even a T206 Honus Wagner, was printed
on the same sheet as T206 commons. The printers did not bring
out special cardstock and VIP inks for the superstars. When you
are studying the qualities of T206 commons, you are also studying
the qualities of the T206 Honus Wagner and Ed Plank.
If there are cards insufficient in number or of extra poor
quality (caught in the back yard thresher), techniques discussed
later in this guide will be essential.
In nearly all cases, counterfeits and reprints are significantly
different than the real card in one and usually more than one
way. However, in many cases, even though a difference or two
is identified (cardboard a bit thinner and lighter in color),
this doesn't answer whether the difference is due to fakery or
is a genuine variation. Techniques from later in this guide will
Comparing cards is highly effective in identifying modern
counterfeits. If you know how to properly compare cards, you
should be able to identify a fake 1986-7 Fleer Michael Jordan
and 1979-80 OPC Wayne Gretzky.
Before examination, the collector should be aware of variations
within an issue. A genuine 1956 Topps baseball cards can be found
on dark grey or light grey cardboard. While the 1887 Old Judges
are usually sepia in color, pink examples can be found. The examiner
must also take into consideration reasonable variations due to
aging and wear. A stained card may be darker than others. An
extremely worn or trimmed card may be shorter and lighter in
weight than others in the issue. A card that has glue on back
will allow less light through when put up to the light. The collector
will often have to make a judgment call when taking these variations
into effect. This is why having experience with a variety of
cards is important.
The following is a short list of things to look at. You are
welcome to add your own things to the list.
Obvious Differences: This can include text or copyright
date indicating the card is a reprint, major size difference,
wrong back. Many of these problems are obvious even in an online
If you are experienced with an issue, perhaps you've collected
Goudeys for the last few years, most reprints and counterfeits
within that issue will obvious. They simply will look bad.
Dimensions of face and back: This can do be done through
comparison with numerous other cards. Price guides will list
the size for standard issues.
Dimensions of printing: This includes size of the image,
borders and text. Most counterfeits made by photocopiers will
have correct measurements. However, a counterfeit of the 1956
Topps Willie Mays card had the correct card measurement but the
print itself, including the image of Mays, was too large. This
created borders around the image that were too thin.
Solid areas: With a magnifier or microscope, compare
which areas are solid and which are not. On a genuine T206, the
border around the player picture and the player's name and team
below is solid. While many reprints will also have these areas
solid, many will not.
On the 1971 Topps cards, the faux signatures in the front
player picture is solid black. On many reprints the faux signature
will be made up of a dot pattern.
Weight: Significant differences in card weight can
be important, signifying that a different cardstock was used.
Small differences are less significant and could be due to natural
Appearance of card stock and surfaces: This includes
color, texture, feel, etc. The correct gloss is hard to duplicate
on a reprint, and most reprints will have different gloss than
the original. Make sure to check both sides. A T206 and 1951
Bowman, for examples, have different textures front versus back.
Make sure to check the thickness, color and appearance of the
card's thickness or edge. The edge often shows the cardstock
to be different.
The reprint 1971 Hank Aaron has an different
gloss (shiney) and coloring than the original card.
Font and size of lettering and border lines: Some reprinters
go to the effort of recreating the lettering and border lines,
making them solid like with the originals. In many of these reprints,
the font of the lettering is noticeably off. This includes the
thinness of the lines, height of the letters, and the distance
between lines of lettering. If you are familiar with an issue,
the lettering on one of these reprints will be strikingly different
on first glace. Similarly, the border lines and designs may be
noticeably different. In a few cases, the counterfeiter left
out entire words from the text.
Unnatural signs of reproduction: In some cases, thoughtless
errors appear on a forgery that has been photocopied or computer
scanned. If a piece of lint or dirt was on the photocopier or
scanner, it may appear on the reprint. A photocopier forgery
of the 1952 Bowman card of Mickey Mantle has a small white mark
on his chin that doesn't appear on genuine cards.
The genuine card used for reproduction may have a crease or scrape
which can literally felt on the genuine card, but is only reproduced
on the reprint.
This computer reprint of a 'Safe Hit' food
packaging label has a picture-only of the folding creases. If
it were real, you would be able to feel the crease lines with
your finger and see the bend with your eyes.
Opacity: Opacity is measured by the amount of light
that shines through an item, or the 'see through' effect.
Cardstock and ink vary in opacity. Some allow much light through,
some allow none, while there rest will fall somewhere in between.
Most dark cardboard will let through little if any light. White
stocks will usually let through more. While two cardboard samples
may look identical in color, texture and thickness, they may
have different opacity. This could be because they were made
they were made in different plants, at a different time and/or
were made from different substances.
Testing opacity is a good way to compare card stock and ink.
The same cards should have the same or similar opacity.
Opacity tests should be done with more than one card from
the issue. Comparisons should take into consideration variations
due to age, staining, soiling and other wear, along with known
card stock variations in the issue. It must be taken into consideration
that normal differences in ink on the card will affect opacity.
If one genuine T206 card has a darker picture (a dark uniformed
player against dark background), it should let less light through
than a genuine T206 card with a lighter picture (a white uniformed
player against a light sky).
The opacity test can detect many restored expensive cards.
In the past, some genuine but low grade star cards (1933 Goudey
Ruth, T206 Cobb, etc) have been restored in part by having the
rounded corners rebuilt with paper fibers from other cards and
glue. When held to the light, the built up corners are often
seen as they let through a different amount of light than the
rest of the card.
When held to a normal desk lamp, the Aaron
lets through much more light than the Tom Kelley.
Black Light Test
Studying the degree and color of fluorescence under a black light
is an unbeatable tool for comparing ink and cardboard. If you
spread out in the dark a pile of 1983 Topps with the exception
that one is a 1983 OPC, the OPC will be easy to pick out with
black light. The OPC is made out of a different card stock and
fluoresces many times brighter than the Topps stock.
This is the way it often works for reprints and counterfeits.
Reprints and counterfeits were made with different cardstock
and often fluoresce differently than the genuine cards. The reprint
may fluoresce darker, lighter or with a different color. In some
cases, a reprint and an original may fluoresce the same, but
in many cases the black light will pick out the reprints with
* * * *
Sometimes, the differences between a questioned card and genuine
examples will be significant enough that the collector will be
nearly certain it is a fake. If that 1984 Topps Dan Marino rookie
has a significantly different gloss, thickness, fluorescence
and opacity from genuine commons in the issue, the card is more
than probably a reprint.
In other cases, the differences will not be significant enough
and further tests will be necessary. If the questioned card has
a slightly off color, it will take tests described later in this
book to determine if the color is due to reproduction or a natural
variation on a genuine card.
Even if the differences are significant and obvious, further
tests are still warranted to provide definitive proof that it
is a fake. For example, the proof of fakery would be irrefutable
if further tests shown later in this guide reveal that the cardstock
was made recently.
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