Fakes are an inevitable part of our hobby, and there is nothing we can do about it. Any time there is a way to make money, there are morally corrupt people out there who will try to take advantage of it. Personally, despite my feelings of anger, I can understand the reasons that people sell the fakes. Its easy, people are stupid, and there is no action that anyone can take to stop it. There has been police involvement in the past, but there has never been a resolution that is worth anyone’s time. Only recently did the government get involved, but the focus was more on big offenders rather than the petty crooks. To be completely honest, the action to stop fakes falls on two groups of people, collectors and the manufacturers. Since we all know that the manufacturers have done a whole bag of nothing to help us out before we purchase the fakes, this page will focus on the collectors in a recap of how to avoid being caught in a bad way.
Before I move on, this exact topic has been covered before on this blog about ten separate times. Some day, if you have a few hours, it may be in your best interest to do some data mining if you want to learn a little more. The search box at the top of the site is incredibly helpful, as are many of the other blogs that are out there. In fact, this is a subject handled almost 100% by message boards and blogs, due to the fact that it is such a hands off topic by both the card companies and the media sources like Beckett. They are so concerned with not admitting vulnerability or fear of “showing people how to do it” that they have yet to address it publicly. I actually was told once a last year by a manufacturer that they didn’t want me to talk about it because collectors would become fearful enough not to buy their products. I don’t even know where to start with that.
Regardless of how other sources cover this plague, here is a good how to list of how to protect yourself. Not all of it may happen every time a fake is sold, but these are some good red flags to consider.
Know Your Purchase
You may be wondering why this is important, however I would say that 80% of all fraudlent purchases could be avoided if the buyer did their homework. That means taking the fifteen minutes to find OTHER examples of what you are purchasing, really looking over the item you are about to purchase, and consulting any resources you have to learn about drawbacks. Ill give you an example. Right now, there are close to 150 fake 2007 Topps rookie premiere autos that are up on ebay. None of them look even close to what a real one looks like. Yes, I understand that there are some that look good, but others that look awful still sell for a lot on a regular basis. If the people took the time to pull an certified autograph of the players on the card, and compare them side by side with the one they are buying, its completely obvious that something is up. Hell, if they googled the auction title, my blog would come up maybe 30 times on the first page. You don’t need to be an expert, just take the time to know what you can about the stuff you want. If you were buying a used car, you would take every precaution to make sure the car was real right? You would take it to a mechanic, you would take it out for a test drive, you would put it through its paces. So why not do the same thing with your card purchases?
Know the Prices
This doesn’t apply to everything, but normally, price is a great indicator of fakes. If the price is too low to be fathomable, there is usually a reason. Most of the time, the people who would normally buy that item are avoiding a fake, thus leading to a lower price. I mean, if a Peterson Bowman Chrome Rookie Auto sells for under a hundred bucks, its not because you are getting an “OMG STEALZ!!!1!” Its because everyone but a few uniformed people know its fake. Deals happen all the time on eBay, steals are once in a blue moon. Keep that in the back of your head, especially when you see a card you want going for a ridiculously low price. As an example, the real Topps Rookie Premiere autos from 2007 go for almost five times the prices of the fakes, mainly because the smart people stay away.
Know the Auction Style
Although not as common anymore, it used to be that all the fakers would use private auctions to prevent the message boarders from emailing the high bidders. Although eBay hides the names now, you still see private auctions pop up every once in a while. At that point, just walk away.
Know the Auctions Themselves
Fakers are notoriously stupid people. So, to protect yourself, I am talking about going through the rest of their items and comparing before you buy. If many of the people who buy these cards would go through the rest of a seller’s auctions, they would see just how many of those ridiculous cards the seller had up for sale. See, no matter what someone tells you, its incredibly rare to amass a collection of non-shield logo patch cards without a lot of money and a lot of patience. So, if you are about to buy a logo patch card, especially one with a jumbo swatch, check the rest of the stuff the guy has up. If every card he has is a crazy patch, that red flag should pop up immediately.
Know the Cards That Are Prone To Fakes
Some cards are faked more than any on the planet. Those jumbo swatches with full sleeve patches? Yeah, good luck on those. Have a Donruss card without a diecut window? Have fun. Topps Rookie Premiere red ink autos with multiple good players on them? Sorry dude, you are out of luck. Those three color SP Authentic Rookie Patch autos? Might as well serve them on a silver platter to the scammers. What most don’t realize is that if you have the ability to recognize an easy target, you can avoid easy fakes. Despite the fact that logo patches are becoming more and more common, even in lower end cards, they are still rare. It also means that you need to watch out before you decide that you ABSOLUTELY need EVERY patch from that player you collect. Stick to cards you have no doubt on, and recognize that many cards are targeted because of what set they are from. I know that Vikings head Peterson SPA looks cool, but chances are it isnt real.
Here is a small sample of sets to add to your list:
- Any pre-2005 Donruss set with a jumbo swatch
- Any SP Authentic Rookie Patch Auto
- Any Topps Rookie Premiere Auto
- Low numbered Topps Triple Threads cards
- 2009 Upper Deck Ultimate Baseball Patches
- 2006-2009 Upper Deck Exquisite Rookie Patch Autos
- Any Upper Deck Exquisite Limited Logos
- 2007-2009 Playoff National Treasures Jumbo Patches
- 2007-2009 Playoff National Treasures Rookie Auto Patches
- Any Vikings cards that feature chest logos or the Viking head
- Any Ravens cards that feature the Maryland flag team patch
- Any Titans cards that feature the Titan Sword logo
- Any Patriots cards with the Patriot head
- Any Yankees cards that feature multi-colored patches
- Any commemorative patches (super bowls, world series, and all star games)
- Any Topps/Bowman Buybacks
- League logoman patches that have higher numbering than x/5
Know What Players Are Favorite Fakes
Adrian Peterson, Brett Favre, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Matt Ryan, Percy Harvin, Mark Sanchez, the list goes on and on. If the guy is at the top of the league, he is on the list. If he is an inconsequential player that doesn’t command much attention, you are going to be much safer.
Know that Graded Does Not Mean Real
I cant stress this enough. BGS and PSA do not authenticate anything but the card itself. Patches, autos on card, etc are all services outside of normal grading. Scammers use this to their advantage when they authenticate cards that have fake patches or fake autos. If the card itself is real, BGS and PSA consider it to be real, regardless of the other stuff on the card.
Know the Jerseys
Most team jerseys, year by year, can be found on the internet somewhere. If you can study the jerseys of the player you are buying, you can see if a patch is fake. For instance, the 49ers and the Panthers use screen prints for their logos rather than patches on their jerseys. If you see a patch logo from either team on a card, it isnt real. You know that Vikings head from the back of the jersey, the one I always talk about? It is the only one on the entire uniform. Its about the size of a quarter. So, where does that huge Viking head come from then? Most likely from ebay auctions found in a search like this.
Know to Attack Early
I get that prices go down after a few months of being on the market, but if you buy in prime time, 99% of the time the cards are real. Fakers don’t have the time to get brand new cards to counterfeit, and many just don’t know how to do it until they have had some time to play around with the cards. Plus, with many of them trying to focus on making as much money as possible, they arent going to want to pay 20% more for a card that they can purchase cheaper later on. If the card costs 50 bucks after the release bump goes away, maybe its worth paying 60 for it to know you have a real one.
Know That If Its Too Good To Be True, It Usually Is
This old adage has been around for years, and I continue to encourage you to follow it. I know that you want to build the most amazing collection around, but you have to know when to walk away from a bad sale. This is essential when you are buying crazy ridiculous patches and high dollar cards. There is no worse feeling than knowing you have a fake in your hands, especially if you spent a lot of money on it. If you have to buy a sure thing two color Exquisite instead of a questionable three color, where is the harm in that? Even if the card is exceedingly rare, sometimes its better to let it go if you have
questions about it. There will always be more cards and more rarities, so don’t fret. With the growing culture of fake cards in this hobby growing exponentially, stay away from those cards that you cant verify 100%. If the card costs ten bucks, that’s one thing, but people regularly drop hundreds on easily identifiable fakes.
Know to Ask For Help
I will guarantee you that every message board and every blogger will have an opinion somewhere for you to seek. Post the auction on FCB, or send one my collegues or myself an email. We are happy to help you stay out of the weeds. We wont call you stupid, and even if we do, you still have a better idea of how to approach the sale. Lets face it here, the people who make a living on fakes this prey on collector’s inability or unwillingness to gather information about their purchases, and the more people that gain the tools, the less profit the scammers will get. Until they have no money to be made, fakes will continue to be a part of the hobby. On that note, the responsibility falls on our shoulders rather than the shoulders of the regulators. If we protect ourselves, there is no longer a need to try to get police or law enforcement involved.