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  #1  
Old 05-07-2021, 09:17 AM
thatguywithadot thatguywithadot is offline
Avery Singh II
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Default Identifying a Counterfeit Through Printing Knowledge

Hey there guys and gals! Wanted to put this piece together and try and summarize some key things in relation to the printing processes of most sports cards we have all come to love! these distinct printing differences are the very reasons counterfeit items always stand out for the wrong reasons! Lets jump in!

Half tone printing has been around since the early 1900s and as a result is present on pretty much all sports cards with exception of lithograph produced ones obviously! Half tone printing utilizes a a methodology of printing in dots of all sizes at specified spacing(these 2 things can be researched under pulse-width modulation and frequency modulation). This is done to create an optical illusion that the naked eye perceives as smooth tone in these patterned areas. It uses the CMYK color model for this process and i can go into detail about this further and why if anybody cares but not relevant right now. colors are cyan(blue), magenta(red), yellow, Key(black). Through grouping of different proximities to each other and layering on top of each other desired colors can be projected to our eyes! Atypically the human eye in most cases cannot make out these dots when viewing(first hand in my case i have 20/10 vision and it is viewable when focusing your eyesight correctly to the image or card in question). Dot shapes are round in our sports card world as this is the preferred choice for skin tones due to the tonal value of the round dots vs the other 2 options.

Now why does this matter? When viewing this card or any card minus litho cards you want to be aware of the precision of what top level half tone printing can produce onto cardstock like we collect by knowing a little. Do variations occur? Of course and generally this is due to imperfection in the cardstock sheets or gloss layer of sheets however in dp and tp runs ink batches can differentiate themselves also at time due to gamut of factors centering around availability of supplies or otherwise.

When the 4 printing plates are made for every card to produce what we get in packs etc. The result is an image that is vivid and precise in ways that home productions or any counterfeit operation cannot replicate fully simply due to the blanks not being present. tonal issues are usually the most frequently seen issues on counterfeit cards however in high level examples out of old production facilities studied coming from Mexico it can be a bit perplexing for some if they do not familiarize themselves with the individual sets printing signature for that issue! your best friend when viewing for authenticity on a card is if your lucky to see what some call "fish eyes" or "bullseyes" as to date i am not aware of that being able to be replicated in any fashion by the counterfeiters out here today.

Inkjet printers or laser printers differentiate heavily in how they produce imagery from the half tone process of our beloved sports cards!

Inkjet printers utilize liquid ink being heated or by a vibrating piezo-crystal that produces ink droplets. Inkjet printers operate in similar fashion to dot matrix printers in that it moves across a page to print a row and rollers move the paper down to print proceeding rows so on and so forth. (Keep this in mind when viewing cards for authenticity as poor attention to detail will result in a more OBVOIUS mis orientation of the dots!) Biggest and easiest thing that makes identifying these counterfeit cards produced by inkjet is that because it is using liquid ink it spreads into the paper as it dries and gives off a less crisp appearance!!!

Color Laser printers operate differently from the other ways in that it uses a laser to illuminate dots to be printed on a photosensitive drum that becomes electrically charged wherever those dots are. The drum is then rotated in ink tanks respectively for toning and a piece of paper is fed toward that drum and the toning image is transferred to the paper. Then the final step is that the image is heated up in a fusing system that melts the toners into the paper while the drum is being cleaned internally for the next page. Laser printers making counterfeits are flawed easily to identify rapidly for a gamut of reasons! Laser printing is limited in its color scale availability and can simply not produce certain colors precisely! Also due to the processes it utilizes to print, laser printed imagery where there is a continuous large area of color to be had will exhibit printing artifacts throughout such as texture or print lines and crystal clear dots.

When it comes to identifying the print aspects of a given card to make an authenticity determination when imagery is available, this overview should help you to identify any devious cards out there trying to get your money.

Remember these key aspects!

1. Cards should always appear smooth in the halftoned areas which are usually the portraits of players and scenery! You should see a crisp imagery that looks like a photograph of sorts!

Cards should never appear to be fuzzy on edges of parts of the imagery photo of card! There should never be texture to the cards imagery visible to most eyes.

Exceptions here from first hand would be extremely high level eyesight being able to register the dots from a distance!

2. The amount of detail in a given cards imagery such as hair strands, 5 oclock shadow, lines on jerseys etc should all appear precise and not hazy or fuzzy.

3. Overall imagery wise, there should be a vibrant brilliance to the imagery that can only be had from printing plates producing the imagery. Counterfeit cards will always struggle to match the intensity and vibrant detail of the color patterns of real cards so pay attention to the slabbed cards already for reference! Unless documented you generally are not stumbling across some rare variation out there!

4. Look for font sizing and width on descriptive backsides to be EXACTLY the same for every card. There generally is no deviance here as the backs are not glossed and a matte surface that doesn't present the same potential issues as the front can. The thickness and deep fill or bold appearance of real cards cannot be replicated here on the backs of cards that a fakes. Inkjet fakes will always have a lightened non bold appearance to them that exhibits almost a shadow effect from the bleed out!

5. Typically only the imagery is printed in half tone while the borders and edges of a card are color filled solid!!! the counterfeit methods cannot replicate this as either dots will be present or toning issues in artifact form as expressed above will be present!

6. This one is a biggie and one we are always learning to stay disciplined by...Do not buy anything you have questions on or are not knowledgeable on until you do your due diligence and always ask for help! This forum is a great collective knowledgeable community of all different areas and types of collectors that want to help fellow collectors so do not be shy!
Do not buy with lust as a driving force if you are not up to speed on a particular card and it's production history as i can attest to recently myself breaking this rule almost!!! I know it can be tough but do not do it as it will result in a discouraging costly mistake!

This write up should serve as a good reference overview of things to look for however i have summarized it down to what i believe are the key elements of the 3 outlined printing methods and how they are different from one another! This should not serve as an end all be all as you should put into practice the application of these things by viewing tons and tons of cards and viewing tons and tons of reprints!

Also do your sports card production history research for a given issue as there are weird quirks that pre present in any given year special to that issue that may throw you off!


Happy Hunting!!
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  #2  
Old 05-07-2021, 09:29 AM
ASF123 ASF123 is offline
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Thanks for this! I've been back buying cards for several months now after a long hiatus, and I've gotten to the point where the half-tone pattern of vintage postwar printing seems instantly recognizable when viewed through a 10x loupe. I've also spotted a few fakes that had the ink jet/laser print patterns you describe above.

Do you know if there is any counterfeiting method that can replicate the half-tone pattern well enough to be indistinguishable from the real thing even under a loupe? Or can I be confident that if it has the right look, it's good?

Thanks!
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  #3  
Old 05-07-2021, 10:18 AM
thatguywithadot thatguywithadot is offline
Avery Singh II
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ASF123 View Post
Thanks for this! I've been back buying cards for several months now after a long hiatus, and I've gotten to the point where the half-tone pattern of vintage postwar printing seems instantly recognizable when viewed through a 10x loupe. I've also spotted a few fakes that had the ink jet/laser print patterns you describe above.

Do you know if there is any counterfeiting method that can replicate the half-tone pattern well enough to be indistinguishable from the real thing even under a loupe? Or can I be confident that if it has the right look, it's good?

Thanks!
well they all are going to resemble when a high quality fake under loupe when it comes to the dotting as that is the premise for the printing methods its just how they go about doing it that creates differences. When it comes to purchasing an item you should have commons on hand for the set and study them so you know the look and feel of the cards etc and loupe them as it will familiarize you with that set. Biggest thing is always the tonal discrepancies between the real and fake. THEY ARE ALWAYS OFF! not as vibrant and shiny projected to the human eye in the print where it should be etc. cards should not have a dull appearance to them even all busted up as the inks are brilliant
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  #4  
Old 05-07-2021, 10:22 AM
thatguywithadot thatguywithadot is offline
Avery Singh II
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there are high level fakes coming out of Mexico however still have issues when reproducing something without original ink mixes for that cards blanks etc. that results in a product that is always off!
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  #5  
Old 05-07-2021, 02:12 PM
doug.goodman doug.goodman is offline
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Thank you Avery. Too bad the opinion sellers don't seem to be aware of your advice.

Doug
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  #6  
Old 05-07-2021, 02:40 PM
thatguywithadot thatguywithadot is offline
Avery Singh II
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Originally Posted by doug.goodman View Post
Thank you Avery. Too bad the opinion sellers don't seem to be aware of your advice.

Doug
i take it you are referring to the sellers out there that swear there cards are real and
"if its a fake that means i got a fake card over 25 years ago!" people??? LOL

I try to deal in facts as best as possible...I feel it simplifies things in a way everyone can process and interpret in whatever subway their train of thought takes to make it the same destination either way!

I do not believe for one second anyone should take what someone offers in the form of opinion whether that is grade projections conditionally or what lure the fish are biting that day and why unless they want to biologically break it down with facts that can be tracked in datasets to show evidential truth...sounds too nerdy for most i am aware of this but in a nutshell I say I have only smelt fish in one particular instance in my life...when it is fishy!
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  #7  
Old 05-07-2021, 04:30 PM
steve B steve B is offline
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Pretty good overview.

My comments added in red

Quote:
Originally Posted by thatguywithadot View Post
Hey there guys and gals! Wanted to put this piece together and try and summarize some key things in relation to the printing processes of most sports cards we have all come to love! these distinct printing differences are the very reasons counterfeit items always stand out for the wrong reasons! Lets jump in!

Half tone printing has been around since the early 1900s and as a result is present on pretty much all sports cards with exception of lithograph produced ones obviously!
Cards like T206s which were lithographed from stones can and do include at least partial halftones. And nearly all cards are lithographed, by various versions of offset lithography.

Half tone printing utilizes a a methodology of printing in dots of all sizes at specified spacing(these 2 things can be researched under pulse-width modulation and frequency modulation). This is done to create an optical illusion that the naked eye perceives as smooth tone in these patterned areas. It uses the CMYK color model for this process and i can go into detail about this further and why if anybody cares but not relevant right now. colors are cyan(blue), magenta(red), yellow, Key(black).
Through grouping of different proximities to each other and layering on top of each other desired colors can be projected to our eyes! Atypically the human eye in most cases cannot make out these dots when viewing(first hand in my case i have 20/10 vision and it is viewable when focusing your eyesight correctly to the image or card in question). Dot shapes are round in our sports card world as this is the preferred choice for skin tones due to the tonal value of the round dots vs the other 2 options.

Now why does this matter? When viewing this card or any card minus litho cards you want to be aware of the precision of what top level half tone printing can produce onto cardstock like we collect by knowing a little. Do variations occur? Of course and generally this is due to imperfection in the cardstock sheets or gloss layer of sheets however in dp and tp runs ink batches can differentiate themselves also at time due to gamut of factors centering around availability of supplies or otherwise.

Double and triple prints are more commonly from having the same card in more than one location on the sheet.
The inks are often not used as straight CMYK, but changed a little so the color is "correct" so M may be altered to an actual red, darkened, etc. The colors were hand mixed according to recipes, and can vary depending on how closely those are followed. (49 Leaf are all over the place, some use red instead of Magenta, blue can be very dark or very light etc.


When the 4 printing plates are made for every card to produce what we get in packs etc. The result is an image that is vivid and precise in ways that home productions or any counterfeit operation cannot replicate fully simply due to the blanks not being present. tonal issues are usually the most frequently seen issues on counterfeit cards however in high level examples out of old production facilities studied coming from Mexico it can be a bit perplexing for some if they do not familiarize themselves with the individual sets printing signature for that issue! your best friend when viewing for authenticity on a card is if your lucky to see what some call "fish eyes" or "bullseyes" as to date i am not aware of that being able to be replicated in any fashion by the counterfeiters out here today.

Most counterfeiters today scan and print from a computer printer, nearly all of those have their own sort of print dot pattern. (I've heard that most can be specifically identified) If the original has fisheyes, they will be replicated on the computer print.
Older counterfeits were generally sloppily done, so the tell there is that solid areas like borders etc will be halftones when they shouldn't be.
Fisheyes are where debris has gotten on the offset blanket, and the dent doesn't get inked while the dent causing debris does, creating the spot in the center.


Inkjet printers or laser printers differentiate heavily in how they produce imagery from the half tone process of our beloved sports cards!

Inkjet printers utilize liquid ink being heated or by a vibrating piezo-crystal that produces ink droplets. Inkjet printers operate in similar fashion to dot matrix printers in that it moves across a page to print a row and rollers move the paper down to print proceeding rows so on and so forth. (Keep this in mind when viewing cards for authenticity as poor attention to detail will result in a more OBVOIUS mis orientation of the dots!) Biggest and easiest thing that makes identifying these counterfeit cards produced by inkjet is that because it is using liquid ink it spreads into the paper as it dries and gives off a less crisp appearance!!!

Only if the paper stock used isn't coated. Coated stocks like the stuff sold for printing photos don't absorb the ink the same way if they absorb it at all.

Color Laser printers operate differently from the other ways in that it uses a laser to illuminate dots to be printed on a photosensitive drum that becomes electrically charged wherever those dots are. The drum is then rotated in ink tanks respectively for toning and a piece of paper is fed toward that drum and the toning image is transferred to the paper. Then the final step is that the image is heated up in a fusing system that melts the toners into the paper while the drum is being cleaned internally for the next page. Laser printers making counterfeits are flawed easily to identify rapidly for a gamut of reasons! Laser printing is limited in its color scale availability and can simply not produce certain colors precisely! Also due to the processes it utilizes to print, laser printed imagery where there is a continuous large area of color to be had will exhibit printing artifacts throughout such as texture or print lines and crystal clear dots.

When it comes to identifying the print aspects of a given card to make an authenticity determination when imagery is available, this overview should help you to identify any devious cards out there trying to get your money.

Remember these key aspects!

1. Cards should always appear smooth in the halftoned areas which are usually the portraits of players and scenery! You should see a crisp imagery that looks like a photograph of sorts!

Cards should never appear to be fuzzy on edges of parts of the imagery photo of card! There should never be texture to the cards imagery visible to most eyes.

Exceptions here from first hand would be extremely high level eyesight being able to register the dots from a distance!

And smearing from overinking, or excess print from a plate getting dry.

2. The amount of detail in a given cards imagery such as hair strands, 5 oclock shadow, lines on jerseys etc should all appear precise and not hazy or fuzzy.

Only if the registration of the colors involved is excellent. Poor registration causes lots of similar problems.

3. Overall imagery wise, there should be a vibrant brilliance to the imagery that can only be had from printing plates producing the imagery. Counterfeit cards will always struggle to match the intensity and vibrant detail of the color patterns of real cards so pay attention to the slabbed cards already for reference! Unless documented you generally are not stumbling across some rare variation out there!

If the color used was less intense originally, it will stay that way. 81 Fleer has widely varying intensity to the yellow from one press run to the next. Printing problems like underinking or using a non-opaque black ink can also affect how vivid the image appears.

4. Look for font sizing and width on descriptive backsides to be EXACTLY the same for every card. There generally is no deviance here as the backs are not glossed and a matte surface that doesn't present the same potential issues as the front can. The thickness and deep fill or bold appearance of real cards cannot be replicated here on the backs of cards that a fakes. Inkjet fakes will always have a lightened non bold appearance to them that exhibits almost a shadow effect from the bleed out!

5. Typically only the imagery is printed in half tone while the borders and edges of a card are color filled solid!!! the counterfeit methods cannot replicate this as either dots will be present or toning issues in artifact form as expressed above will be present!

Using old style equipment, that's entirely down to how good the people doing it are. Most are/were sloppy quick jobs, but I've seen at least one card back in the 80's that was not sloppy work. It was still "off" but none of the people that saw it could say exactly why. It's probably in a very high grade slab now.
Replicating the entire image, solid as well as halftone for all four colors is difficult from a finished card.


6. This one is a biggie and one we are always learning to stay disciplined by...Do not buy anything you have questions on or are not knowledgeable on until you do your due diligence and always ask for help! This forum is a great collective knowledgeable community of all different areas and types of collectors that want to help fellow collectors so do not be shy!
Do not buy with lust as a driving force if you are not up to speed on a particular card and it's production history as i can attest to recently myself breaking this rule almost!!! I know it can be tough but do not do it as it will result in a discouraging costly mistake!

^^^This.. I'm lucky I started in the late 70's when many dealers had stacks of most of the common issues. So just looking for cards I wanted led to handling hundreds or more cards from most common sets.

I will take small chances on stuff I'm not totally familiar with, but after 50 years of looking at a wide variety of old stuff and reading a lot about various collectables You do get a feel for when an item is "right" Not that I haven't made mistakes, but many of them were back when a lot of cards were only a few dollars


This write up should serve as a good reference overview of things to look for however i have summarized it down to what i believe are the key elements of the 3 outlined printing methods and how they are different from one another! This should not serve as an end all be all as you should put into practice the application of these things by viewing tons and tons of cards and viewing tons and tons of reprints!

Also do your sports card production history research for a given issue as there are weird quirks that pre present in any given year special to that issue that may throw you off!


Happy Hunting!!
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  #8  
Old 05-07-2021, 07:39 PM
thatguywithadot thatguywithadot is offline
Avery Singh II
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been waiting for another more experienced knowledgeable mind to chime in and APPRECIATE it. Seems like we do not have enough of this stuff out there for everyone to find and use as i feel some purchases wouldnt be made if there was a reference area to use readily compiled!
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  #9  
Old 05-07-2021, 07:41 PM
thatguywithadot thatguywithadot is offline
Avery Singh II
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i do feel that there are some patient "thoughtful" or detailed(horrible word LOL) counterfeiters out there that the masses including tcg will not catch nor can with the little wiggle room of variance that existed between print runs.
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  #10  
Old 05-07-2021, 09:44 PM
steve B steve B is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thatguywithadot View Post
i do feel that there are some patient "thoughtful" or detailed(horrible word LOL) counterfeiters out there that the masses including tcg will not catch nor can with the little wiggle room of variance that existed between print runs.
That's one of the reasons a lot of people don't get into the very detailed specifics on fakes. If we can read it, so can the forgers. And there isn't a lot of upside to doing their research/QA for them.

I bought a fake in 1978, that at the time was a lot of effort for the $2 it cost me. Someone actually copied a black and white halftone card, and a reverse and printed them on a press.
But they put a back on the card that it shouldn't have... Close, but nope. I keep it to remind me how much I always need to learn.

The card I saw in I think 81 or 82 was a really beautiful 51 Mantle. The dealer I hung out at handed it to me and asked what I thought about it. After a couple minutes I said "beautiful card, too bad it's fake" He asked how I knew, and all I could come up with was that it just seemed off but I couldn't say why. He'd shown it to a few local dealers and had talked to a couple others farther away who had also been sent the card. Everyone had the same opinion.
I like to think that now almost 40 years later I might be able to prove it was fake.
As far as I know they declined buying it, and sent it back.
(Oh, for the days when someone would actually mail a 51 Mantle to a dealer asking for an offer.... )

It's very likely there are some really skilled forgers out there. But they almost always get caught eventually

From a different hobby
Sperati
Fournier
And a whole rogues gallery of others, some very skilled, some less so.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_stamp_forgers

https://d2jf3tgwe889fp.cloudfront.ne...8pp147-163.pdf

Someday we may have similar resources for cards, but that may not be in my lifetime.

Last edited by steve B; 05-07-2021 at 09:47 PM. Reason: mistakes were made... so many mistakes...
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  #11  
Old 05-08-2021, 05:06 AM
danf19 danf19 is offline
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I really appreciate you all taking the time to write this down. Very helpful !
Dan
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  #12  
Old 05-08-2021, 06:55 AM
thatguywithadot thatguywithadot is offline
Avery Singh II
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that was some interesting linked material Steve! amazing to see basically an entire industry of stamp forgery that was thriving like that lol
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Old 05-08-2021, 11:29 PM
steve B steve B is offline
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It's a crazy hobby in some ways.
Sometimes something was printed using a different process, or even using a different press. And that can make a huge difference in value. As can sometimes slight differences in the paper used.

Cards are much easier!

Here's what's probably the best "find" I'll ever have.
A very common stamp, something like 65 million issued. Except, Plate 40 which can just be seen at the top was only used on an experimental steam powered press along with plate 36. Only about 2400 impressions total (240,000 total stamps from each plate) . I wrote an article about finding it for a stamp publication in 2012, the last time stamps from that plate had even been described was 1932. There are a few probable copies now that what the details were, but this is still the only certain copy from either plate. It would be a maybe if they'd gotten the centering right... The print quality is not great, about half of the 2c were done on the same press, and the print quality on those is often very bad. So bad the government insisted that steam powered presses not be used for any production, a contractual ban that lasted from 1873 into the late 1880's.

Last edited by steve B; 05-08-2021 at 11:30 PM. Reason: added pic
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Old 05-09-2021, 02:48 AM
thatguywithadot thatguywithadot is offline
Avery Singh II
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that is incredible! It really does pay off to learn production history of any item as it creates targets where nobody will ever even know it half the time i feel like!
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Old 05-11-2021, 03:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thatguywithadot View Post
been waiting for another more experienced knowledgeable mind to chime in and APPRECIATE it. Seems like we do not have enough of this stuff out there for everyone to find and use as i feel some purchases wouldnt be made if there was a reference area to use readily compiled!
There is an icon across the top, 2nd from the right, that says Net54Baseball Archive Center. There is a lot about alterations and forgeries in that area. Most folks don't care to look for stuff though. (not meant towards you)

I like talking about printing and stuff even though this is only a wet sheet transfer.

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