Tuesday, October 20, 2009

1963 Bazooka Baseball #5, Warren Spahn

Last year, I started work on 60s Bazooka sets, including the (already profiled) 1960 baseball and 1963 All-Time Greats. Collecting cards originally printed on gum boxes feels wistfully nostalgic; I picture young kids blowing sugary bubbles and trying to scissor along the dotted line with uneven success. Unfortunately, modern buyers face a more complicated situation.

Bazooka's simple white border and blank-backed layout belies a problem that plagues current collectors: counterfeiting. This look's so straightforward that people with matching card stock and a high-quality scanner can re-print panels and individual cards at will. Since people expect grading companies to weed out fakes, creating your own (sham) service makes them even harder to detect.

Card front (counterfeit)

That's right, not only is it a 1963 Bazooka #5 Warren Spahn, it's an FGA 8 NM-MT! Sweet! Sadly, there's no better guarantee of fakery than this very slab. A surge of reprinted 1963s went out as "high-grade" FGAs earlier this decade. Many experienced collectors know to avoid them, but just in case: definitely don't buy one!

Sad to say, the growing number of fakes killed my enthusiasm for working on most of the Bazooka sets. At least the All-Time Greats include foil stamping and machine-cut edges, more difficult aspects to forge with home tools. Given the variety of issues "reprinted" issues from all eras and the relative anonymity of online selling, it's important to be wary. SCD examined counterfeits of more modern star cards in a July 2005 issue.

Card front (blank back)

The real 1963 Bazooka set comprises 36 cards, with HOFers like Mantle (#1), Aaron (#9), and Mays (#12). Commons cost $1 - $5, depending on condition, and superstars run $20 and up. Be wary of reprints if you go for the set!

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