Grading Baseball Cards: How To Spot A Fake
When grading baseball cards, make sure that old baseball card you spotted is really vintage. Some tips on identifying the real deal from the reprint.
You see the auction ad in the newspaper. "Old Baseball Cards," it says. Curious, you head to the site to check it out. It looks like Babe Ruth. Even has some wear. But is it really from 1933?
I'm not saying it isn't. I'm just saying "be careful." Cards of old-timers like Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle and ever-popular Yogi Berra were printed at a time when card collecting was for kids. It still is, but adults are about the only folks who can afford the real old ones. Prices have gone up, up, up since the late 1970s when collecting took off.
Those old cards were so popular, some companies reprinted the old sets in the 1970s and 80s to satisfy the demands of collectors who couldn't afford the real thing. If you spot what may be an old card, be aware that finding cards from 40 or more years ago in great shape is almost impossible. Sharp corners? Not likely. Over time they've probably shown a little wear at least. If the old card you see looks brand new, it may be a reprint. Some are labelled as such, some aren't.
Remember that older cards were printed on heavier card stock. If the card you see is thinner, it could be a fake. The older cards should have a rich, deep color to them.
Some unscrupulous people have even been known to stick something to the card or put it in the sun to give it an "aged" appearance. Don't be fooled. Go to a big card show or find a local dealer who has a few old cards and see what the real things look like.
There are some sets that were reprinted in such quantities they're well-known, like the 1928 Fro-Joy cards of Babe Ruth. The real thing DIDN'T come on an uncut sheet. Individual cards you see today often have the perforated printing on the edges.
Consult a price guide for more tips on spotting fakes. The best out there is probably the Krause "Standard Catalogue". It's a huge tome that's a little pricey, but worth it if you're serious. Beckett's annual guides are also a big help. You can find them at most major booksellers.