How To Spot A Fake Jim Kelly 1984 Topps USFL Rookie Card #36

Wouldn’t it be fun to see new cards made that pay tribute to the USFL? I truly believe collectors would like to pull autographs of Steve Young in an LA Express uniform. Tell them to dig up one of Reggie White’s Memphis Showboats uniforms, cut it up, and place some swatches into a few cards. The list goes on and on. I’m not 100% sure how all the licensing works though when it comes to using team names and logos from a defunct league.

During it’s short lifespan, Topps issued two USFL sets. The first arriving in 1984, and the second in 1985. No packs. Each were issued in factory set form, and in much smaller quantities compared to their NFL counterpart. Hall of Famers such as Steve Young, Reggie White, and Jim Kelly made their cardboard debut in USFL uniforms. Their USFL rookies are in much higher demand compared to their first NFL licensed cards.

Lets get one thing straight. Topps has never issued any kind of USFL reprint. The 1985 set was the last USFL product they issued. Between you and me the word “Reprint” is being used way too loosely nowadays. An authentic “Reprint” originates from the card its modeled after original manufacturer. A homemade card doesn’t count as a reprint. That’s considered a counterfeit. People use the word “reprint” or the letters “RP” on their listings in an attempt to fool you into thinking that specific card came from a manufacturer like Topps. Places like eBay don’t know how or just don’t care enough to learn how to distinguish between the two. The people making these homemade cards are fully aware that passing them off as the real deal could come back to bite them. Calling them reprints might not bring in the same amount of money, but it still allows them to move their hoard of counterfeits. Its a horribly abused wording loophole.

Below are some tips for spotting a counterfeit Jim Kelly 1984 Topps USFL #36 Rookie Card. FYI – Most of these tips also apply to 1984 Topps USFL rookies of Steve Young, Reggie White, and Herschel Walker.

  • Centering – Authentic cards from the 1984 Topps USFL set are notorious for having bad centering. Most counterfeits have excellent centering because they want the card to look as good as possible. Its possible to find an authentic example with nice centering, but its just something to keep an eye out for.
  • Corners – Counterfeits tend to have perfect corners. The factory set boxes authentic cards come packaged in are made of flimsy cardboard. This makes it very easy for the corners to sustain damage.
  • Back Surface – With the pink/red back its common for authentic examples to have chipping (white areas) showing. The back is quite condition sensitive. Counterfeits tend to be too good looking.
  • Contrast – As you can see below the coloring on the counterfeit is much brighter compared to the authentic example.
  • Trademark/Copyright logos – On the front of the card you’ll see two “TM” logos. One is located next to the letter “L” in “USFL”. The other is next to the profile view of the helmet. Located on the bottom of the back are the USFL and Topps copyright logos. On counterfeit examples these trademark and copyright logos are blurry. Of all the things to look for when it comes to spotting a counterfeit blurry trademark/copyright logos is the first thing to watch for.

If capable, use a less expensive card from the set (one that nobody would bother to counterfeit) and place it side-by-side with the one you are thinking about picking-up. The characteristics between the two should be similar. Topps used the same printing techniques for that less expensive card as they did for the rest of the set.

Counterfeit front

Counterfeit back

Authentic front

Authentic back

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