Collectors today are lucky. With the Internet, the world is their oyster, and there are plenty of sites which can be of great use to them. Be it for trading purposes, like sportscardforum.com or for buying purposes; Beckett marketplace comes to mind or eBay is also rather popular. That being said, while the Internet gives us more options to fuel our card collecting addiction, it also exposes us to a few pitfalls. A good article about buying boxes online safely was written by a fellow Sports Card Forum writer in January and you can read it at the following link http://www.sportscardforum.com/articles/?p=57. However, there is also the small matter of fake cards which are quite a serious problem especially if you are considering a high end purchase.

Recently on the forum, a member was considering buying a The Cup auto/patch print run of 50 (link to ebay auction). As he was weary of whether or not the card was authentic he asked around to get others opinion’s on the matter, and Reoddai provided him with a definite answer with proof that the card was indeed fake. To protect other collectors I have asked him to tell me how he was able to determine that the card was indeed a fake.

His first advice was to keep your eyes open, if you see a patch that looks too good to be true, it is worth doing an investigation to ensure you are not spending a ridiculous amount of money on a nice looking counterfeit. A rather elementary check which should be mandatory for anyone buying on eBay is a quick scan of the seller’s feedback. If there are some negatives ones, it is definitely worth pushing your investigation further. Even if there isn’t any though, you may still want to look deeper into things for your own protection. Look around on the Internet for other examples of the same card with the same print run, since you are on Ebay, its rather easy to do that there. If the one you are contemplating purchase of looks much better than the other ones on sale, you may want to dig deeper.

The second step is to take a moment to be critical about the card you are contemplating buying. As you have just spent some time looking around at the same card in other auctions, make sure that what you want to buy is what is advertised. For instance, if the auction advertises a logo patch, make sure it is indeed a logo patch and not something which looks out of the shoulder patch. Other factors to consider include the size of the lettering, the dimension, and the quality of the material used in the patch which can be assessed by looking closely at the quality of the stitching (a poor quality material will often result in low quality stitching). After considering all these elements, if you still have doubts you can move on to third step.

Third step, go back to the source! Both Upper Deck and In the Game have websites, use them wisely as they sometime display examples of the patches used in their cards. You can find Upper Deck’s homepage here and In the Game here. It’s always a good idea to go back to the people who manufacture the product as they will always be the ones with the full story. Another good reference tool is of course Beckett’s publication as plenty of information can be found in their magazine.

If you are still not reassured as to the authenticity of your prospective purchase, you can put the following search engines to good use: Ebay, Google, and fakepatchreport.com. The later offers you a quick reference guide including several examples of fake patches. While this might not be completely up to date, it still is a quick way to check on patches that have already be reported and on which the leg work as been done.

You can also interrogate eBay and use it to search past auction, of course here you are hoping that the person who is selling the fake patch off eBay, but it is still worth checking out. In the example mentioned earlier, this came up during the eBay search: past auction. Now if you compare with the earlier link to the first auction provided, you will notice that the card is the same, fair enough no one said it was a 1 of 1. However, look at the number 41/50…they are one and the same. Use several criterions to do your search, the player’s name, the card’s year, set, serial number, and print run are all good ways to get a result. Furthermore, search not only the title of the auction but the listings as additional information is often provided by the sellers there.

Finally, a search on Google is also a viable option even though it is longer and more complex. Its advantage over eBay is that it saves cached pages of searches previously done by different users. Therefore once you have press search on google and a link comes up, rather than clicking on the said link, click on the cached link after it. This way, you will see the same search result as the other person saw in their search however long ago. This is effectively a way to get around the 30 days limit on the past item auction eBay has. This method will allow you to see listings of items sold up to 90 days ago. Again make sure to use plenty of terms and options in your search, the player’s name, the card set, year, subset, specific serial number, total print run (ex: /50) and “eBay.” You may also want to do the search without using the word eBay, that way you could also pick up transactions made on different trading forums. Such research can yield many results, and this is a time where patience will serve you well. Go through the results closely reading the brief description provided by Google and click on the ones you consider of interest. You may also want to contact people who have sold such patches before and they may be able to give you some pointers as to what the patch looked like. This step is by far the longest and hardest, and I was told that you should spend at least an hour on this to make it a worthy exercise.

If you have got this far, it is likely that you are not dealing with a fake patch. However, as the method has its limit, you cannot see eBay sales having taken place more than 90 days ago, and it most certainly cannot let you see private transactions made in person between a dealer and a scammer. There is always a clear possibility that a scammer will be patient and non-greedy, therefore avoiding detection by this method.

Another frequent issue with fake cards is the one of the fake rookies, Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan, Patrick Roy, the list goes on…I will write about this particular example in the near future. I hope this article has been helpful to you and if you have any questions, please let me know. Special thanks to Reoddai, an outstanding member on sportscardforum.com for his thoughts and tips on detecting fake cards. Let’s hope we get many more members on the boards willing to look out for one another!