NSA Cards Are Still Garbage!

Just because a company has gone out of business doesn’t mean their garbage can’t continue to pollute the hobby. This is the perfect way to describe NSA (National Sportscard Authenticators).

From baseball to Bruce Lee NSA made “relic” cards for anyone. None of the material found in these frankencards were ever in the presence of the person or people featured on the cards. At best the material came from items purchased at the local Walmart and/or sporting goods store.

Their generic COA on the back doesn’t offer much confidence either. Especially the part that reads “NSA Grading excepts no responsibility and expressly disclaims all liabilities which may arise from the use or resale of these pieces.” They’re basically saying its not our fault if you go to resell this card and the material is found out to be fraudulent.

Between 2008 and 2010 I jumped on NSA’s case many times before they finally closed up. When NSA was alive and kicking they would actually post positive comments about their products here on Sports Card Info. They would then take those self-made comments and post them on their website as fake testimonials.

I continue to see people get fooled by these things. On a regular basis I receive e-mails from people telling me they have this “rare NSA card”, and want to know what the value is. The answer will always be zero.

How To Spot A Fake Ludwell Denny 1990 Pro Set #338 Promo

The odds of you finding this card out in the wild are about as good as the Phillies calling me up asking if I’d like to play first base. Its not likely to happen.

As I mentioned in my 2021 Leaf Pro Set College Football Blaster Box Break, Ludwell Denny founded Pro Set in 1988. Between 1988 and 1994 Pro Set issued card products for the NFL, NBA, NHL, NASCAR, and PGA Tour. Their parody “Flopps” promo set was about as close as they got to making MLB cards. Outside of sports they made a variety of entertainment products as well. Pro Set went bankrupt after 1994. In February 2021 it was announced that Leaf Trading Cards had acquired the Pro Set trademark, and quickly began using it on their products.

Mr. Denny had a card of himself printed in 1990. Don’t bother ripping through old packs hoping to find it. They were used as promotional handouts. Almost like a business card. Although an official print run was never released, supposedly one sheet amounting to (90) cards was made. How many were actually handed out is a number we will never know.

Pro Set was notorious for their errors, misprints, corrections, short prints, variations, etc… Sometimes I think they did this on purpose just to keep collectors on their toes.

The Ludwell Denny promo card is one die-hard Pro Set collectors would love to add to their collection. I’ve only seen one show up for sale, and it has been on eBay for years with an incredibly high asking price.

No authentic alternate versions of this card are known to exist. No errors, misprints, corrections, short prints, and/or variations. What you see is what you get. However, there are counterfeits floating around.

The differences drastically stick out when an authentic card is placed side-by-side with a counterfeit one.

Characteristics of a counterfeit card include dark coloring on both the front and back.

The font is completely different where it says “Ludwell Denny Head Coach Giants” on the front. Turning the card over you can see the font used for “Ludwell Denny Head Coach” is also quite different. The font used for the card number isn’t correct either.

Counterfeits use a dot instead of a dash to separate the words “Coach” and “Giants” on the front.

Numerous misspellings and grammatical errors totally pollute the description on the back of the counterfeit.

On the back of a counterfeit the words “National Football League Players Association” surround the football image near the bottom. Authentic examples do not have this wording.

Authentic front
Authentic back
Counterfeit front
Counterfeit back

What Does An Authentic 1988 Cal League Ken Griffey Jr. San Bernardino Spirit #34 Baseball Card Look Like?

A massive wave of new people entered the hobby over the last few years. Things that might be common knowledge for veteran collectors may not be so common for all of the newbies. Scammers are just waiting to take advantage of these naive new collectors. So many fraudsters have been exposed so far this year with many more on the way.

I recently watched someone spend over $100 on a handful of unlicensed/fake 1988 Cal League Ken Griffey Jr. San Bernardino Spirit #34 baseball cards. Its sad that this still happens.

Reinforcing the fundamentals of this hobby can’t hurt. Especially with all of the new people. Below is what you should be looking for if you’re in the market for an authentic 1988 Cal League Ken Griffey Jr. San Bernardino Spirit #34.

Authentic front
Authentic back

In the early 90’s an unlicensed version of this card began to surface. The overall layout and design is similar to the authentic version, but the dead giveaway is the different photo. As you can see there are two unlicensed cards floating around. Both utilize the same photo, but the text and placement of the text are a little different. The card number on the second example is a bit fatter as well. You never see these unlicensed fakes graded by PSA, BGS, or SGC because they aren’t authentic. The secondary market has been filled with them for years. You’ll notice they are always cheaper when compared to the authentic version. Its funny to see that one was pictured on a bobblehead in 2019.

Unlicensed front
Unlicensed back
Unlicensed front
Unlicensed back

How To Spot A Fake 1985 Star Gatorade Slam Dunk Michael Jordan #7

Fans who attended the 1985 All-Star Weekend Banquet in Indianapolis received a 9-card set of Star basketball cards featuring the Gatorade logo on them. It’s official name is the 1985 Star Gatorade Slam Dunk set. The set includes Checklist #1, Larry Nance #2, Terence Stansbury #3, Clyde Drexler #4, Julius Erving #5, Darrell Griffith #6, Michael Jordan #7, Dominique Wilkins #8, and Orlando Woolridge #9.

Technically there are (10) cards in this set. Terence Stansbury was a late substitute for Charles Barkley. Both cards were produced, but the Barkley card wasn’t released along with the others. Eventually the Barkley card leaked out, and collectors saw it surface on the secondary market.

Star cards are notorious for being counterfeited. That especially goes for Star cards of Michael Jordan. I can’t stress how many counterfeit Michael Jordan Star cards there are floating around. You can easily find them on eBay.

Counterfeit examples of the Michael Jordan 1985 Star Gatorade Slam Dunk card are all over the place. Some people advertise them as authentic, while others do the whole “reprint” or “RP” thing. 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 Star. 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 thing could come back to haunt 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.

When placed side-by-side the difference between an authentic example and counterfeit can easily be seen. One of the biggest red flags of a counterfeit is the lack of a line going through the letter “N” in “JORDAN” on the front. I’ve never seen an authentic version without this printing defect. Most counterfeits forget to include this element. Overall photo blurriness, and incorrect coloring can be other signs of a counterfeit.

Flipping the card over you’ll see more red flags. Counterfeit backs tend to have thicker/bold font. In some cases the font is a completely different color especially in Jordan’s bio. Its not uncommon for the text in Jordan’s bio to be broken too on a counterfeit.

If capable, compare the Jordan with another (less expensive) card from the same set. The printing techniques should be similar. Star did not print Michael Jordan’s card any differently.

Counterfeit front

Authentic front

Counterfeit back

Counterfeit back

Authentic back

This Fake LeBron James 2003-04 Topps Rookie Card Is Everywhere

Let me be clear. This is not the only counterfeit/unauthorized reprint of a LeBron James 2003-04 Topps #221 rookie card. Doing a quick search on eBay will result in countless examples. But the card I’m referring to in this post seems to be the one that surfaces the most often. When a player becomes as popular as King James its common for these types of cards to popup.

You can clearly see the coloring on the counterfeit/unauthorized reprint is much darker. And it just isn’t certain areas either. Everything on it is darker when compared to the authentic card. Both the front and back.

Inspecting the front you’ll notice that the font isn’t quite correct. It looks a bit thinner. Within the nameplate “LeBRON JAMES” sits lower too. On the authentic example there is some space between his name and the bottom of the nameplate.

In my opinion the biggest signs that the card is a counterfeit/unauthorized reprint can be found on the back. Overall the counterfeit/unauthorized reprint has a grainy tone to it. This specifically can be seen on the reverse side in the grey areas. On authentic examples these grey areas are smooth.

Two distinct white marks are a trademark red flag to this specific counterfeit/unauthorized reprint. Both are located on the back. One can be found above and slightly to the left of the Cavaliers logo. The other is directly beneath the letter “L” in “SCHOOL”.

Another area to look at is the foil used on the front. With authentic examples this foil shines and reflects light. Counterfeit/unauthorized reprints may look as if they have foil in the picture, but most will not reflect light like the authentic ones do. That’s because its not actual foil. Its just a scan of the real foil. This can be difficult to determine just by looking at a picture online. Having the card in-hand would make it much easier.

Counterfeit/unauthorized reprint front

Counterfeit/unauthorized reprint back

Authentic front

Authentic back

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 thing could come back to haunt 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.

I’ve seen a lot of people get taken advantage of with this counterfeit/unauthorized reprint. There are a bunch more like it floating around. Many even share some of the same characteristics. When you have headline after headline advertising the latest million dollar card sale it doesn’t take much for people to blindly jump in and starting buying cards they know very little about. Buy smart. Do some research before pulling the trigger.

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

Mike Baker Authenticated Is An Unnecessary, Sloppy, Lazy Service

Severe amounts of conflicts of interests plague the entire grading side of the hobby. Its been that way since PSA graded their first card, and it probably isn’t going to change any time soon. Special grades for those submitting a certain volume of cards, specific grades for friends, and looking the other way allowing altered cards to make their way through the grading process happens all of the time. So many people turn a blind eye to these facts because the money and publicity that comes with these highly graded cards can be immense. In short, as long as the merry-go-round keeps spinning its extremely difficult to convince someone to get off the ride. You can blog, record YouTube videos, and Tweet all you want about how corrupt grading is and it won’t change a thing. In fact, grading companies like PSA have seen a record increase in sales even after stories exposing their corruption have come out.

Just when you thought card grading couldn’t get more ridiculous, let me introduce you to Mike Baker Authenticated. Mike Baker once worked for PSA. For a fee, his newly formed company will (get ready for this) grade your already graded cards. These graded graded cards come with a COA and a corresponding sticker attached to the card’s holder. I guess the holder is receiving the grade. This is total !@#$%.

The example I’m showing is of a LeBron James 2003-04 Upper Deck MVP #201 rookie card graded by SGC a GM 10.

Everything about this COA screams lazy. This is an SGC graded card, but the COA only mentions PSA. In addition to that, there are numerous misspellings:

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Probstein123 has been selling these on eBay. The two are probably working together. Probstein123 is notorious for shill bidding his own auctions, and a top place for card doctors to move their altered creations. All the investigations in the world haven’t been able to put a dent into his business. Very sad.

2020 has seen a massive wave of new money enter the hobby. Cards selling for record amounts have received national coverage. Services such as Mike Baker Authenticated prey on those who don’t know any better. You don’t need his stickers plastered all over your cards just to feel superior.

Unnecessary, sloppy, and lazy easily sums-up this service. The worst part about the whole thing is that people are buying into this garbage.

The Reprint Loophole

According to the official GO GTS Live! Glossary of Hobby Terms and Definitions, a reprint is defined as a card that has been purposely reproduced of an original, usually more expensive, card or set.

Browsing sites like eBay I’ve noticed something shady going on.  The word “reprint” is being used much too casually.  Seeing “reprint” in an auction title/description implies that the card you’re looking at was printed by the same company who made the original.  For the most part this is true.

What I find bothersome are the people selling cards they label as a “reprint” but did not originate from the manufacturer who issued the original card it is modeled after.  Many times these cards are flat-out counterfeit.  Using the word “reprint” tells the buyer its not the original while at the same time implying that it originated from the manufacturer.  This is what I refer to as The Reprint Loophole.  Its an easy way for counterfeiters to move their hoard of fake cards without being called out for doing so.  eBay allows it because they have zero knowledge of what a card company did or did not issue as a reprint.  Why would they want to?  The more items they allow to be sold, the more money they make.

I highly recommend doing you’re research before buying that reprint.  Make sure you know which set that reprint is coming from.  Glance over that product’s checklist to confirm it indeed contained reprints.

High-dollar cards are the prime target for scammers to take advantage of this loophole.  You see this with prospect and rookie cards of Mike Trout quite a bit.

Some of these counterfeit reprints are so convincing unaware buyers will treat them as if they’re the real deal.  Spending hundreds if not thousands on a card not worth a dime.

The real sneaky jerks don’t even use the word “reprint” in their auction titles/descriptions.  Instead they’ll use “RP”.

Panini’s 2018 Illusions Football Autograph COA Mistake Continues To Screw Unknowing Collectors

In 2018 Sports Card Info helped to shed some light on this issue.  Even though not much has changed since the initial story broke, I believe its important to remind people that this continues to be a MAJOR problem in the hobby.  Especially when a collector was recently screwed out of $400.

On February 28, 2020 a Tom Brady 2018 Panini Illusions Living Legends Autograph sold for $393.  Too bad the autograph is a complete fake.  Panini made the huge mistake of printing the message “THE AUTOGRAPH IS GUARANTEED BY PANINI AMERICA, INC.” on the back of a bunch of cards from 2018 Illusions that were never intended to be signed.  But yet these unsigned cards with the autograph COA on the back somehow found their way into the product.  We’ve seen this error popup on the Living LegendsIllusionists, and Mystique inserts.

Panini allowing cards to ship out with their autograph COA yet lacking the actual signature itself opens the door to all types of fraud.  And that’s exactly what we’re seeing here.  Loser scammers will sign the athlete’s signature themselves, and then attempt to pass it off as the real thing.  Because that COA is printed on the back people will believe its authentic.

As you can clearly see the autograph here is on-card.  MAJOR RED FLAG as the authentic cards use stickers.  Another indicator is the absence of a serial number.  It should be #’ed/10 or 1.

Panini simply stamped their autograph COA on too many cards here.  Some were meant for legitimate pack-inserted autographs.  Others received the autograph COA by mistake, and are just basic unsigned inserts.

Tom Brady 2018 Panini Illusions Living Legends insert with a fake autograph (front)

Tom Brady 2018 Panini Illusions Living Legends insert with a fake autograph (back)

This is what an authentic example should look like:

How To Spot A Fake Don Mattingly 1984 Donruss #248 Rookie Card

It might seem like a trivial card to counterfeit today, but at one time the Don Mattingly 1984 Donruss #248 rookie card was the king.  Back in the 1980s this card easily fetched over $100.  Many hobby veterans consider it to be the card that kicked-off the whole prospecting phenomenon.  With that type of attention and money being thrown around its no surprise that the counterfeiters came crawling.

Counterfeit Don Mattingly 1984 Donruss #248 rookies have been around almost as long as the real card itself.  If it weren’t for counterfeit versions of this card being made, the Upper Deck Company most likely wouldn’t exist.  Getting duped is what gave them the idea to print cards featuring holograms in order to make counterfeiting more difficult.

Don Mattingly has a very dedicated group of collectors.  His rookies may not be worth what they once were, but still are in demand.  An endless amount of counterfeits will always be floating around.

Here are some tips for spotting a counterfeit Don Mattingly 1984 Donruss #248 rookie card:

  • Card Stock – Large quantities of counterfeits were printed on thin card stock.  Authentic examples have card stock which is much thicker.
  • Gloss – Counterfeits tend to contain a lot more semi-gloss on the front.
  • Print – Blurry, dot-matrix printing is a major red flag of a counterfeit.  Especially on the front where it says “DONRUSS ’84”.
  • Coloring – A lighter-colored front/back is a telltale sign that the card is not genuine.  On an authentic example these areas will be darker.

One of the best things you can do is compare your Don Mattingly 1984 Donruss #248 rookie to other cards from that same set.  The card stock, gloss, photo, and text should all look similar.  I wouldn’t use cards depicting star players from 1984 though.  Even those are known to have been counterfeited despite not being rookies.  Use some nobody.

There has been a growing trend of counterfeit cards being sold as reprints.  Counterfeits and reprints are two completely different things.  Reprints originate from the card manufacturer.  Counterfeits are whipped-up in some losers card doctoring lab.  Its a wording loophole that helps them move their stash of counterfeits.  They’re hoping the people buying them don’t realize the difference.

Authentic front

Authentic back

Counterfeit front/back