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

How To Spot A Fake Stephen Curry 2009-10 Topps #321 Rookie Card

In 2016, a massive wave of counterfeit Stephen Curry 2009-10 Topps #321 rookie cards found their way into the hobby.  They continue to surface today.  Some sellers will attempt to pass them off as the real thing, while others claim that they’re reprints.

When I see the word “reprint” I think that the card’s original manufacturer made more later on to use as an insert set in another product.  That certainly isn’t the case with these.  This card has no genuine reprints.  Although they might not be asking the price they would if they were passing it off as the real thing, using the word “reprint” still makes people think it was printed and distributed by Topps.  Its just another way to move their hoard of counterfeit cards.  A major loophole in the wording, and the misinterpretation from uneducated buyers.

Here are a few tips for spotting a counterfeit Stephen Curry 2009-10 Topps #321 rookie card:

  • Extra Gloss – Counterfeit examples tend to have more gloss on them compared to an authentic card.
  • Incorrect Card Stock – When placed side-by-side its obvious that the card stock on the counterfeit isn’t the same as an original.  Counterfeit card stock has a cheaper feel to it.
  • Blurry Topps Logo – The Topps logo on the front of a counterfeit can be blurry and made up of tiny print dots.  On authentic examples this logo will be much clearer.
  • Wrong Font Size/Color – On the front of a majority of the counterfeits “Stephen Curry” and “Guard” are printed in a completely different size and color compared to an authentic example.  What should be small and silver is big and white on a counterfeit.  With that being said, I have seen some (not many) counterfeits that have the correct font size and color.  But even those don’t look right.

One of these counterfeits found it’s way to Pristine Auction.  And it sold for a total of $66.99.  You can clearly see the font isn’t what it should be.  eBay has them too.

Counterfeit front

Counterfeit back

Authentic front

Authentic back

How To Spot A Fake John Elway 1984 Topps #63 Rookie Card

John Elway and Dan Marino are the two key rookie cards when it comes to the 1984 Topps Football set.  Eric Dickerson, Howie Long, and Dwight Stephenson aren’t far behind.

Here are some tips on spotting a counterfeit John Elway 1984 Topps #63 RC:

  • Image Quality – Counterfeits tend to have a blurry, fuzzy, pixelated quality to them.  Its actually not uncommon for authentic cards to have a snowy-look to them as a result of a printing defect.  Another printing defect found on some authentic cards includes a small bubble around Elway’s fingers.
  • Card Stock – Counterfeit examples in many cases are printed on much thinner card stock.  When placed side-by-side the counterfeit tends to be half the thickness compared to the original.  Thin white edges are a pure sign of a counterfeit.
  • Black Border – Its not the easiest factor to spot, but the black border on a counterfeit can have very sharp 90-degree angles to them.  Authentic examples have a black border with a bit softer/rounded angles.
  • Blue Line – Some counterfeits contain a blue line within the Broncos logo on the front.  Right beneath the horse.  Originals do not have this.
  • Centering – Authentic examples are known to be off-center.  Counterfeits like to look as perfect as possible.  If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Remember, not every counterfeit John Elway 1984 Topps #63 RC will have all of these features.  Topps did issue genuine reprints over the years.  A majority of the reprints up for sale were not issued by Topps though.  A lot of these counterfeit cards are now being sold as genuine reprints.

How To Spot A Fake Brett Hull 1988-89 O-Pee-Chee RC #66

Thousands of counterfeit Brett Hull 1988-89 O-Pee-Chee #66 rookie cards entered the market during the early 1990’s.  Many are still floating around deceiving collectors today.

Counterfeit examples exhibit the following characteristics:

  • The absence of a small yellow dot found on the push-pin next to Hull’s name on the front.
  • The dots around Hull’s nameplate on the front are lighter in color, especially the ones which are on his photo.
  • Ragged and broken type on the back.
  • Filling in of the center of the upper case “A” in the type next to the NHL logo on the card’s back.
  • The text on the card’s back is fatter, thicker, and tends to blend together.  Very noticeable on the O-Pee-Chee logo.

Authentic front

Authentic back

Counterfeit front

Counterfeit back

How To Spot A Fake 1951 Topps Connie Mack All-Stars Card

For only having (11) cards in the set, completing the 1951 Topps Connie Mack All-Stars set is not the easiest accomplishment.  Especially if you want a set in decent condition.  Given that these cards are die-cut, and meant to be punched-out, means many display a considerable amount of wear.  Players in the set include Grover C. Alexander, Connie Mack, Mickey Cochrane, Christy Mathewson, Eddie Collins, Babe Ruth, Jimmy Collins, Tris Speaker, Lou Gehrig, Honus Wagner, and Walter Johnson.

Please don’t confuse the 1951 Topps Connie Mack All-Stars set with the 1951 Topps Major League All-Stars Baseball set.  The 1951 Topps Major League All-Stars Baseball set utilizes the same design, has the same amount of cards, but consists of active players at the time.  The checklist is completely different.

Here are some tips for spotting a counterfeit 1951 Topps Connie Mack All-Stars card:

  • Not Die-Cut – Cards from the 1951 Topps Connie Mack All-Stars set are meant to be punched-out and stood-up with no background behind them.  Some counterfeits lack the entire die-cut feature altogether.  Being die-cut is what makes this set what it is.  Not being able to punch-out that player is a major red flag.
  • Cut Line Not Cut – Some counterfeit examples contain a cut line, but many aren’t actually cut like they should be.  It may appear that you can punch-out the player, but you can’t.
  • Card Stock – Compared to an authentic example, counterfeit cards tend to be printed on card stock which is too thick.  Poorly cut edges too.
  • Poor Image – Taking a closer look a counterfeit will exhibit computer print lines not found on a genuine example.  What should be solid in color is blurry, and contains lines.  Color tends to be off compared to an authentic card.

Authentic

Counterfeit