Counterfeit Baseball Cards: How to Spot One

Baseball cards have had a recent boom in popularity. This demand has also attracted many scammers, who are producing counterfeit baseball cards in the hopes of fooling unsuspecting buyers. That’s why, as a collector, it’s important to learn how to spot counterfeit baseball cards.

You can spot counterfeit baseball cards by comparing the card to other copies, consulting the card community, and verifying any card grading to ensure that the card is legitimate before you buy it. Counterfeit baseball cards are usually reprints that scammers try to pass off as originals.

It can be difficult to determine if a card is authentic. Scammers are always finding new ways to counterfeit cards, such as faking the grading, or staining cards to age them. Even graders have been fooled by professional fakes. Keep reading to find out how you can spot counterfeit baseball cards.

Baseball Card Reprints Explained

The most valuable baseball cards cost a lot of money because they are hard to find. But since most collectors won’t be able to find or afford some of the most sought-after cards, some baseball card companies have just reprinted them. Reprints are authorized reproductions of vintage baseball cards, and they are totally legal.

The problem appears when scammers take these reprint cards and try to sell them as if they are the original. Even though most reprint cards are marked as reprints when they are produced, scammers have found ways around it. They may alter the card or remove the identification that it is a reprint. They may also provide fake grading information to make their card look legitimate.

Then there are times when scammers will create a fully counterfeit card. This means they printed the card out on their own printer, instead of trying to pass off another company’s reprint. You will find some purely counterfeited cards out there, but they are usually of lower quality and easier to spot than reprints.

Ways To Protect Yourself From Online Scammers

Most valuable cards are sold on online marketplaces. These sites are great for opening up the market to collectors worldwide, but it also opens you up to scammers. Below are some ways to stay safe when you’re purchasing baseball cards online.

Buy From A Reputable Source

Obviously, that means using a reputable marketplace that can provide some buyer protection. But even a major site like eBay will not be able to police all of the listings to make sure each card is authentic. They will, however, allow for returns and/or negative feedback if you’ve purchased a card and it turns out to be counterfeit.

It is also extremely important to research the individual seller of the item. Sellers that have no feedback or poor feedback are sellers that you should avoid. But even if the feedback is positive, be sure to read through some of the reviews. Some scammers are even able to fake good feedback to make them look legitimate.

Another thing to check is how many times that same item has been listed by the seller. Items that have been listed and relisted are a sign that the item has been purchased and returned by other buyers. It is very likely that the reason the other buyers returned it is because it is a fake.

Comparing The Card To Other Copies

Many times, it will be easy to spot a fake just by looking at the printing quality. Look at other cards that were printed in the same year and compare it to the card in question. Make sure to check both the front and back of the card for anything that looks out of place. Ideally, you’d be able to find a verified original of the exact same card so you could do a point by point comparison.

It may be difficult to see this online, but counterfeit cards will generally be thinner than the originals. The borders may also be thinner, or off axis. Sometimes the printing will be brighter on many of the fakes due to the quality of modern printers. Speaking of printers, you can usually see visible print dots on many of the fake cards. These are a sure sign of a fake.

If you’re still unsure, you can check the measurements of the card. There are resources online where you can find out what the correct measurements are. Also, be on the lookout for cards that are aged artificially. Scammers will soak cards in coffee or tea in order to replicate the aging process. But many of these stains can be identified by a webbing style pattern in certain parts of the card.

Check The Grading

Professional graders have been tricked from time to time by well-made fakes, but most cards that come with grading are legitimate. Still, if there is any grading shown in the listing, make sure to check it on the grading company’s website. These companies have records of the cards that they have certified, and you will be able to search their database and make sure the grading matches the card.

But even if you do locate the grading on a company’s website, that’s no guarantee the listing is real. Some scammers will break a graded card out of its grading slab and replace it with a reprint card. Then they will try to sell the reprint as the original, using the grading as proof. Be sure to check for any signs that the card holder has been tampered with before you buy it.

That goes for any part of the listing package. If it looks like it has been altered or damaged, it could be a red flag that someone is trying to pass off a fake. A listing that uses older style card holders, such as screwed in holders, can be another sign that something is off.

Consult The Collecting Community

Baseball card collecting has been around for years, and it is only increasing in popularity. There is a large and passionate community of collectors who will be happy to help you if you still have doubts. If you’ve checked every resource you can find and you are still unsure if it is counterfeit or not, reach out to the community.

Social media sites are a great way to find other collectors. Some collectors may have experience with new scams that have just come out. Some collectors may have prior experience with the exact same seller you are thinking of purchasing from. Or some collectors may just be more experienced, and able to give you an honest and intelligent opinion on the authenticity of the card.

Buying Cards In Person

It goes without saying that you will be better off seeing cards in person before you buy. Pictures on eBay listings can be faked or altered to hide imperfections that you could easily see with the naked eye. If you keep your eyes open, you may see cards listed on local marketplaces, or even come across a few at the local yard sale. But how can you make sure the cards are real?

If you can physically handle the card it should be easier to look for print dots or other hints that it is a reprint. The webbed pattern that comes when scammers soak cards in coffee or tea stains should be apparent. Look for anything that might indicate that it is not original, such as dates that have been hidden or scratched off, or other missing information

There is also another great benefit that comes from handling as many cards as possible. Go to the local card shop and browse the cards you can. Meet up with friends and check out their collections. The more you are able to see and feel cards, especially rare cards, the more you will be able to spot a fake if you come across it.

Tools To Help Identify Fakes

If you have a card and suspect it might be a fake, there are some ways to check it at home. Take a black light, which can be bought relatively cheaply, and shine it on the card. If the card glows under the black light, you’ve probably got a counterfeit card.

Jeweler’s loupes are another great tool. Small loupes can be purchased cheaply online, and they will help you take an up-close look at the fine details of the card. If your card was printed with a modern printer, you should be able to tell.

Final Thoughts

You can spot counterfeit baseball cards by staying on the lookout for things like webbed staining, thinner than expected cards and borders, and printing dots. If you’re ever in doubt, consult the card community or have a professional grader take a look at the card in question.

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