How To Spot Fake 1952 Wheaties Hand-Cut Cards

“You better eat your Wheaties.” is a phrase ingrained into American culture.  Starting in the 1950s, Wheaties began to team-up with athletes.  Olympian Bob Richards was the first athlete to be featured on the front of the Wheaties box.  Since then, Bruce Jenner, Mary Lou Retton, Walter Payton, Chris Evert, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Dale Earnhardt, Brett Favre, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Michael Phelps, Mia Hamm, and Muhammad Ali have all graced the box cover.

Wheaties has issued various trading card sets with their cereal.  In 1952 they released a 60-card multi-sport set.  Card subjects range anywhere from baseball stars to professional divers.

We live in a time where anything and everything can be counterfeited.  Years ago someone forged a lot of these cards, and they made their way onto the market.  They’re still floating around.  It certainly isn’t the most expensive set in the world.  Perhaps that is why they thought they could get away with it.

Here are a few tips on what to look for in authentic/counterfeit 1952 Wheaties cards:

  • Hand-Cut – These had to be cut-off the side of the cereal box by collectors.  If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.  They won’t be perfect.  Major condition issues.
  • Stains – Authentic examples tend to have stains on the back.  Not uncommon when you have cards included with a food product.
  • Border Color – Counterfeits usually have very bright white borders.  Authentic cards have borders which are a bit darker in color.
  • Reverse Color – The back should be completely blank, and a grey color.

Authentic front

Authentic back

How To Spot A Fake Mike Trout 2011 Topps Update Series RC #175

Browsing the Blowout Cards Forums attempting to get a beat on the daily hobby pulse I came across an interesting post by user CoachBruno.  Within this post are some tips for spotting a counterfeit Mike Trout 2011 Topps Update Series RC #US175.  Rookie cards of Mike Trout aren’t cheap.  Even his mass-produced base rookies.  It shouldn’t surprise you that this card of his and the accompanying parallels that go with it are being forged.  Some of these are being sold as reprints for a few dollars, while others are being used to trick unknowing collectors.  Someone recently spent $1,200 for a counterfeit Diamond Anniversary parallel of this exact card.

When buying this card online, the best place to look at is the back.  This card’s front, especially the Diamond Anniversary parallel, is easier to identify a counterfeit in person.  The counterfeits are nowhere near as shiny.

A majority of counterfeits contain these features.  Its very possible that better counterfeits exist which don’t.

Authentic – Features “ANGELS OUTFIELD” in red.  Grey trapezoid beneath the Topps logo.  Color MLBPA logo.

Counterfeit – Features “ANGELS OUTFIELD” in black.  Missing/faint trapezoid beneath the Topps logo.  Black/white MLBPA logo.

How To Spot A Fake Michael Jordan 1984-85 Star ROY #288

Michael Jordan cards have been counterfeited for decades.  His 1986-87 Fleer rookie is atop the list of most forged cards in the hobby.  Outside of that card we have a large amount of Star issued cards.  Some collectors won’t even touch Star cards of popular players such as Michael Jordan because they have been counterfeited so much.  Authentic Michael Jordan Star cards can be worth a lot of money if they’re the real deal.

Mr. Jordan has multiple cards made by Star.  His 1984-85 Star ROY #288 is one of the easiest to spot a counterfeit/reprint:

  • Border Spacing – Perfect centering is almost unheard of when it comes to this card.  Most authentic examples show little border on the right side and a fat chunk on the left.  Having this reversed and/or the card being dead-centered in many cases is a red flag of a counterfeit/reprint.
  • Coloring – On the back of the card there should be a slight color bleed along the edge of the card from the front.  The color clarity is softer and unique to original issued Star products, the counterfeits/reprints have bolder colors and out of registry text, bleeding or feathering are good terms to describe the counterfeits/reprints.

Authentic front

Authentic back

Counterfeit front

Counterfeit/reprint front

Counterfeit/reprint back

How To Spot A Fake 1967 Topps Baseball Card

(609) cards make up the 1967 Topps Baseball set.  Key rookies include Rod Carew and Tom Seaver.  Counterfeit copies of those two rookies have been floating around the hobby for decades, and might even be the subject of a future blog post.  But for now here are some tips on spotting counterfeit 1967 Topps Baseball cards that aren’t Rod Carew and Tom Seaver rookies.

  • Print Pattern – Especially visible on Robinson’s black sleeve, you can see dot matrix printing dots.  Authentic cards do not have this style of printing.  The colors should be solid.
  • Glossy Back – Many counterfeits will have a smooth and glossy back.  Authentic examples will always have a back that has a rough texture.
  • Thin White Sides – Counterfeits tend to be half the thickness of an authentic card.  Their sides also can be white versus brown on an authentic example.
  • Bright Coloring – Bright coloring is a dead giveaway on so many vintage counterfeits.  The baseball bat on this card is almost the same color as the white border (which is too white to begin with).  This bright coloring isn’t limited to the front.  Its not uncommon for authentic 1967 Topps cards to have green backs that vary in color a little bit.  Find some authentic commons from this set and see if the back of your card is close in color.  Too bright means its a counterfeit.
  • Black Bar – This is quite player specific.  On the back at the bottom below where it says “T.C.G. Printed in U.S.A.” is a black bar.  Some players have this while others do not.  Make sure you know whether the player you’re looking to buy has this bar or not.  If it does, learn if the bar extends all the way to the end.  Some do and some don’t.  Take this Brooks Robinson card.  On an authentic card he has a black bar that extends all the way.  The counterfeit stops short.
  • Perfect Condition – I’m not saying that an authentic 1967 Topps card can’t be found in mint condition.  The odds are just very unlikely that you will.  A lot of the counterfeits will lack wear and age.  Some counterfeiters will attempt to add these features artificially.

Counterfeit front

Counterfeit back

Reprint front

Reprint back

Authentic front

Authentic back

How To Spot A Fake Pete Rose 1963 Topps Rookie Stars #537

Have you ever wondered what the first well-known card to be counterfeited is?  If so, the answer is the 1963 Topps Rookie Stars #537 card.  It contains rookies of Pedro Gonzalez, Ken McMullen, Al Weis, and most notably Pete Rose.  The inclusion of Pete Rose is the real value driver here.

In the earlier 1980’s, a wave of counterfeit Pete Rose rookie cards found their way into the market.  A large chunk of these counterfeits were confiscated, stamped “COUNTERFEIT ORIGINAL REPRINT” on the reverse, and found their way back into circulation.  It became such a big deal that some people actually seek the counterfeits just because they make an interesting conversation piece.  These counterfeits were so well-made if the individual pulling the scam would’ve sold them at multiple card shows instead of dumping them all at one spot there is a good chance they might have gotten away with it.

Its important to note that not every counterfeit Pete Rose rookie card will have this stamp.  Lots of non-stamped counterfeits are still out there attempting to fool uneducated buyers.

Here are some tips for spotting a counterfeit Pete Rose 1963 Topps Rookie Stars #537 card:

  • Black Line (Outside Hat) – Many counterfeits contain a thin black line around the outside of Pete Rose’s white hat.  Authentic examples do NOT have this line.
  • Missing Black Line (Cincinnati logo) – Its difficult to see, but on an authentic example there is a black line around the Cincinnati logo on Rose’s hat.  Counterfeits tend to be missing this item.
  • Thin Card Stock – Counterfeits tend to be printed on much thinner card stock compared to the real thing.  While looking at the card’s reverse, hold it up to the light.  If you’re able to see the four circles on the other side it certainly is a counterfeit.  You wouldn’t be able to see through the card if it was authentic.
  • Red Tint – On some counterfeits the faces can have a red tint.
  • Light Colored Back – The back on a counterfeit usually has a lighter tone versus an authentic card.
  • Pixelated Heads – Upon close inspection you’ll notice the player’s heads are quite pixelated on a counterfeit.  A genuine example won’t have this.
  • Perfect Centering – Not that there aren’t authentic examples with good centering, they’re just difficult to find.
  • Lack of Frontal Upper Edge Wear – The upper portion of the card on the front has a blue color that reaches the edge.  That part of the card is notorious for chipping.

Authentic front:

Authentic back:

Counterfeit front:

Counterfeit back:

How To Spot A Fake Greg Maddux 1986 ProCards Pittsfield Cubs Card

A key card that any Greg Maddux collector can add to his or her collection is his 1986 ProCards Pittsfield Cubs MiLB card.  Valued at $70-$100, this is one of the earliest cards to feature the 2014 Hall of Fame inductee.

BE ON ALERT FOR COUNTERFEITS!  They’ve been making the rounds.

Here is an example of an authentic card:

ProCards were cheaply manufactured, which resulted in a minor defect in the printing of his last name.  The “DD” in his last name are slightly cut off at the bottom.  Every authentic card has the same defect.

Here is an example of a counterfeit card:

Not only is the font different, but the “DD” in his last name are completely in tact.  The “DD” on an authentic example have flat bottoms, where on the counterfeit you can see a curve.

How To Spot A Fake Wayne Gretzky 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee #18 Rookie Card

The Wayne Gretzky 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee #18 rookie card has been a prime target for counterfeiters for years.  It’s Topps counterpart isn’t far behind, but his O-Pee-Chee carries much more demand.

Here are some tips for what to look for in an authentic and counterfeit Wayne Gretzky 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee #18 rookie card:

  • Print Dot – Authentic cards contain a yellow print dot on Gretzky’s left shoulder.  Every authentic version contains this blemish.  WATCH OUT!  Some counterfeits contain this dot too.
  • Rough Edges – Most authentic examples have rough edges.  The rough edges come from a metal wire being used to cut the cards from the sheets.  Over time this wire would get dull resulting in the cards receiving a rough edge.  Cards cut earlier will have smoother edges.
  • Image Quality – Counterfeits will have poor image quality compared to an original card.  The photo on most counterfeits are of low resolution and tend to be fuzzy.
  • Blue Stripes – On the first print run the Gretzky rookie card will have light blue stripes going across the back.  The second print run does not have the blue stripes.
  • Blue Specks – Around Gretzky’s skates you should see very tiny blue specks.  You do NOT want to see any red specks.
  • Black Borders – The black borders should be solid.  Counterfeits have been known to have breaks in the black borders.
  • Fuzzy Lettering – If any of the lettering (especially “Wayne Gretzky” on the front) looks unclear and fuzzy, its most likely a counterfeit.
  • Perfect Centering – Counterfeits tend to have great centering.  Authentic examples are difficult to find with decent centering.

How To Spot Fake 1989 Score Football Cards

Five cards come to mind when I think about 1989 Score Football – Barry Sanders #257, Troy Aikman #270, Derrick Thomas #258, Deion Sanders #246, and Thurman Thomas #211.  Do you know what each of them have in common?  All are rookie cards, and each one has been counterfeited over the years.  Specifically, Barry Sanders and Troy Aikman.

There are four key areas on these cards that can assist you in identifying a counterfeit:

  • Score logo on front
  • Red star on front
  • Black lines around the helmet on front
  • NFLPA logo on back

On counterfeit examples, fuzzy dots make up each of these parts.  You should be able to clearly read each word in the NFLPA logo.  Authentic examples have clear, crisp pictures, and the colors are solid.  Fuzzy printing has always been a common sign when it comes to counterfeit cards.  The printing methods just aren’t as superior as the manufacturers.  CLEAR = GOOD.  FUZZY = BAD.  Using a common base card from the 1989 Score Football set which isn’t worth a dime can be used as a comparison.  Special treatment wasn’t given to those five cards.  They were all printed the same way.

How To Spot Fake 1950 R423 Cards

Made available in 13-card strips, the 1950 R423 set certainly isn’t the first vintage set that comes to mind.  Its obscure, and can easily be overlooked.  They were most likely sold through bubblegum machines.  Card fronts feature a photoengraved picture.  Backs come in a variety of colors such as orange, red, green, blue, and purple.  Measuring only 1-5/8″ x 1-7/8″ they’re really small.  You could easily mistake them for a postage stamp.

Condition is a major issue.  It always is when cards come in a strip that needs to be pulled apart.  Examples in decent condition can command hefty asking prices.  WATCH OUT FOR COUNTERFEITS!

Below are a few tips when it comes to identifying counterfeit 1950 R423 cards:

  • Weight – Authentic examples weigh .05 grams.  Counterfeits weigh .15 grams and are much thicker.
  • Card stock – Authentic cards are printed on off-white stock which can be slick looking.  Counterfeits tend to have bright white stock.
  • Perforations – Authentic cards will have perforations on the left or right or both the left and right depending on which part of the strip they came from.  Most counterfeits don’t have perforations at all.  You don’t want to see smooth edges all around.
  • “Rind Effect” – Images on the card fronts are made up of tiny ink dots.  On authentic cards this “rind effect” print pattern can be seen on these photoengraved cards.  Counterfeits do not have this feature.
  • Measurements – Authentic examples should measure 1-5/8″ x 1-7/8″.

Counterfeit on left

Counterfeit on left

How To Spot A Fake Reggie Jackson 1969 Topps #260 Rookie Card

The 1969 Topps Baseball set has a lot of notable cards.  Its highlighted by Mickey Mantle’s final card of his playing career.  Second year cards of Johnny Bench and Nolan Ryan.  Rookies of Earl Weaver, Al Oliver, Bobby Bonds, Graig Nettles, Sparky Lyle, Rollie Fingers, and Bobby Cox are also key cards.  Above them all is #260.  That would be Mr. October’s, Reggie Jackson, official rookie card.

Much like a lot of valuable vintage rookie cards, Reggie Jackson’s 1969 Topps #260 has been heavily counterfeited and altered over the years.  Its important to know what to keep an eye out for when buying one.

Below are some tips for spotting a counterfeit/altered Reggie Jackson 1969 Topps #260 rookie card:

  • Glossy finish on the front.
  • Fuzziness to the photo.
  • Perfect centering – the 1969 Topps set is known for having horrible centering.  Its possible for an authentic card to have nice centering, but most counterfeits look too perfect.
  • The purple circle on the front containing Reggie Jackson’s name and position is fuzzy.  It should be solid in color.
  • On the front, locate the word “ATHLETICS”.  Look closely at the black lines surrounding the yellow lettering.  These lines should NOT be made up of tiny black dots.  Authentic cards will have solid black lines.
  • White letters – (23) cards from the 5th Series of 1969 Topps have white letter variations on the front pertaining to the player’s last name.  Guys like Mickey Mantle, Gaylord Perry, and Willie McCovey have this variation.  Reggie Jackson does NOT.  Jackson’s last name will always be in yellow.  Don’t let anyone convince you their Reggie Jackson rookie card is a rare white letter variation.  If their Reggie Jackson rookie card does have white letters its either completely counterfeit or they took a very fine pencil eraser to his last name which has been known to turn the yellow to white.  They’re attempting to catch an uneducated collector off guard.
  • Airbrushed hat logo – Ron Perranoski #77 and Paul Popovich #47 are the only two cards in the set to contain this feature.  Reggie Jackson does NOT.  If the Reggie Jackson rookie card you’re looking at has some type of airbrushed hat logo its either completely counterfeit or has been altered.  Another attempt at taking advantage of an uneducated collector.
  • One of the best things you can do is compare the Reggie Jackson rookie card you’re looking at to a less popular card in the set.  The printing techniques for all of the cards are the same.  Special treatment wasn’t given to Reggie Jackson’s rookie card.  The print quality should be similar in size, shape, and color.