Real or Reproduction?

Q At my last show, I bought a shoebox full of baseball cards from a guy who wandered into my booth. I have enclosed a photo of a sample. It’s something I don’t normally deal in. How can I check the age and value?

– T.G., Chicago, Ill.

A The examples in your photos are all reproductions. Bringing in boxes and sacks of baseball cards “from the attic” to unsuspecting dealers is a common scam. Such deals are never offered to sports specialists who regularly handle sports cards but general line dealers like you.

Like most reproductions, the majority of new baseball cards begin as honestly represented inexpensive substitutes for expensive originals. But with slight alterations, many new cards are offered as old in the collectibles market. Most of the altered or artificially aged baseball cards seen today have been taken from inexpensive books with pages of full color copies of original cards. The cards are printed on lightweight cardboard with perforations just a like a postage stamp for easy removal. Perforations may be on 4, 3 or 2 sides depending on a card’s location on the page. Perforations are almost never found on original cards and should be considered a warning sign of a reproduction.

Cards from these books are frequently altered to “enhance” their age. The most common step is simply trimming the perforated edges into smooth edges. Next, a reprint warning which is on most but not all of the new cards in the books above, is erased. Then the card is smudged and stained to simulate age.

If you want lots of cards in a hurry, there are the “dealer” specials offered by reproduction wholesalers. Bundles of reproduced cards – advertised as “out of date” and “collectible” – are sold in boxed lots of 250 pieces for as little as 1 to 2 cents each.

Be extremely careful with all sports cards. It takes a specialist to detect the carefully made fakes.