By Karine Hains aka Pheebs888

Us collectors have all been there, you scour the market to find THAT card, you know the one with the best patch you’ve ever seen adorning a card of your personal collection player? And then, you find it! Or you think you did anyhow…the price seems too good to be true…There it is sitting on eBay and hardly anyone has bid on it. The patch is spectacular! Plenty of breaks, plenty of colors and ever so pleasing on the eye. The problem is, the other cards from that set are nowhere near as nice…so is it a one off? Or are you looking at the work of art of a con artist? You can’t really tell so you go ahead, bid and even win.

 

A few days later, you browse in someone’s Photobucket and what do you see? A card of your player from the same set, the same year and upon closer inspection, it’s the same serial number! Is the patch the same you ask me? Well no, of course not…You’re looking at your card with one of those dreaded plain white patch. Bottom line is you bought yourself a tempered card and as you’ve paid for it already there’s nothing you can do…Every collector will one day in their collecting experience suffer such a disappointment be it buying an altered card, a fake rookie card or a fake in person autograph, it always hurts…

 

What can you do to protect yourself though? Well, you can always do thorough research online to see if a card suddenly got itself a different patch and hope for the best but chances are, you won’t be able to protect yourself adequately. No, the solution rests with the card manufacturers they are the only ones who are in possession of the cards originally and know what they look like. So what can they do you say? They could do what was suggested to Upper Deck by Jeremy Lee an established sports card collector who approached them and offered to take pictures of all the patches from their The Cup product in 2009. Jeremy took time off from his job, flew to the Upper Deck facilities and took pictures of all the cards. Now, those pictures are held by a sports cards collectors forum and they are in the process of being put into a browsable database. It shouldn’t have taken this long though, Upper Deck clearly acknowledging that what Jeremy was planing to do was a worthy endeavour should have stepped up and hosted the images on their own site. As well as doing the same process for every release, this would truly help to protect the collector. Unfortunately they didn’t and the exercise was not repeated for the release of The Cup this year.

 

What about elsewhere though is the grass greener in other companies pastures? Since 2007, Panini America has partnered with KODAK TRACELESS for anti counterfeiting. Each card released by Panini and showing the “Prime” stamp can be sent in by collectors to be authenticated. In short, you can find out if the card you have is authentic but this is not prevention. By the time you get it authenticated you have already acquired it and there is still nothing you can do but curse your luck and wish your card was real but unfortunately, it has been returned to you with the “Not Original Production” stamp and will forever be stuck in your collection with the mention. A cruel reminder that you were fooled. Each authentication will command a $10 fee for the first card and a further $5 for any supplementary card. In short, you will be out of money for buying a fake card and for getting confirmation of that fact.

 

To date, there is therefore no program in place from card companies to help the collectors before it is too late. As the hobby grows and becomes even more value orientated, chances are the fakes will run rife and the problem will carry on growing. Unfortunately, it is human nature to be greedy and the con artists out there are currently seeing the hobby as a way to make a quick and easy buck while the manufacturers are not interested in defraying the extra costs necessary to come up with an appropriate way to protect their customers. Can you blame them though? They are after all in this market to make a profit. Chances are if they were to increase the price of their product to put in place preventive measures, most collectors would complain instead of seeing the positive side of things. For all our will to get the best cards and get our hands on the real goods, we’re still not willing to pay extra money which makes us human too.

 

How many times will we need to get burnt though before we’ve had enough? How much would you need to spend on a card which you think will be the cornerstone of your collection only to realize you got yourself an expensive fake before you decide to call it a day? Before you realize that our hobby has been tainted and that the thrill of the chase is minimized by the risk of investing in a counterfeit piece? Personally, I don’t think I can answer this question yet…I’ve not been hugely burnt so far. Only once did I make a trade for a Patrick Roy O-Pee-Chee rookie which turned out to be a fake thankfully though, I made this right a few months back by adding the true version to my collection. It definitely helped to ease the pain but it did remind me that us collectors, traders and buyers need to exercise extreme caution to avoid being faced with utter disappointment. Our playground is becoming more and more hazardous by the day and it is definitely not suitable for those impulse buys which used to make your day not so long ago…Should you have any idea how this impossible conundrum can be solved, I beg you to make contact with a card manufacturer and pitch your idea to them.