Sunday, May 9, 2010

Would you keep a counterfeit card?

I recently purchased a never-saw-it-before #5 Bazooka card on eBay. Though rare, it's not outrageously valuable and the seller set a Buy It Now price around $20, the high book for its condition, according to SCD's annual guide.

The seller's favorable feedback % and high number of total sales pushed me to buy the card, since who knows when it'll pop up again? It definitely didn't seem like an eBay scammer trying a 1-time con. (Most experienced buyers have seen those guys in action.)

Short story, my purchase turned out not so authentic; three things gave it away.
  1. Its front picture had "ripples," where the picture-to-backing glue dried unevenly. I've never seen this on authentic Bazookas.
  2. Paper peeling at the card edge revealed a hint of colors behind the player photo. In other words, something was printed on the back, flipped over, and reused for more printing. Topps almost never did this.
  3. Modern color printers use "dotted" ink printing. Vintage cards don't and this card had it. This is the most damning proof, but can be hard to see with the naked eye. (Check out #3 in this counterfeit-spotting guide.)
The seller accepts "any reason" returns, so I sent the card back. While professional about the process, he also remained confident of its authenticity. Unfortunately, there's not a middle ground for us--it's either an original or not.

Knowing that the seller will probably resell this card, I had second thoughts. Keeping (or even destroying) the #5 might make more sense than returning it. After all, this saves the trouble of a less experienced buyer picking it up, thinking they've got the real deal, and getting a rude surprise much later. Of course, that also wastes my $20!

This week's poll: what would you do? Return the card as I did? Destroy it? Keep it as a souvenir? Add comments if you have other proposals.


Carl Crawford Cards said...

This is unfortunately the world we live in. You can't take the $20 hit on a fake and know the bum WILL sell it again. You can't leave in in the feedback b/c he'll retaliate, so the best you can do is publicize the fake (which you did) and maybe tell other vintage collectors his user id over email (I'd love to know---I frequently buy vintage from high-rep sellers to avoid this crap). That said, I wouldn't be surprised if he's going "don't ask don't tell" on this, as in "he bought it under the assumption it was legit and doesn't want to know if it's not."

Anyway, the best we can do is stay educated and alert and help each other out. Thanks for the post!

Matt Runyon said...

What Carl Crawford Cards said.

Chris Stufflestreet said...

I have some counterfeit cards among my 1930s gum cards...a couple of '33 and '34 Goudeys and a Diamond Star. Fortunately, they were acquired in the 1980s I ended up getting them in trade for some late-80s rookie cards so I ended up getting the last laugh there. I kept them because now that I have some real cards from those sets they really stand out.

Come to think of it, that's a good blog entry for the future...

For the record, once I learned the true identity of the cards, I never again saw that collector again to tell others to watch out.

Matthew Glidden said...

Thanks for your comments, guys. I posted a scan to Net54 asking for opinions and got feedback from no less than SCD big book editor Bob Lemke. He suggested an interesting fake angle on this particular set, too.

1. Scan an unnumbered 1971 Bazooka star, which aren't hard to find
2. Scan the #'d footer from another Bazooka set (not necessarily a "real" 1971 #'d card) or simply font-fake the "5 of 48" text
3. Combine 1 & 2 in a photo editor
4. Yay! You have a 1971 Bazooka #'d card!

Given how easy that is, I'm surprised more don't turn up. It's probably a question of getting the right paper and believable glue...