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  #1  
Old 07-29-2015, 10:10 PM
Zach Wheat Zach Wheat is offline
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Default 1991 Topps Desert Shield - What We Know & How to Spot a Fake

I was asked by a few others in a thread on the Pre-80 board initiate a separate thread to recap what we know about the 1991 Topps Desert Shield set and "How to spot a fake". Apologies in advance for the long post, but this encapsulates a number of years of research, hunting and review of thousands of cards. I certainly don't consider myself an expert in this area so feel free to chime in with questions, changes & corrections.

Understand Topps Mindset in Producing the Set
In order to get information on the background of production, I have reviewed numerous periodicals, newspapers & articles contemporaneous with this era for information on the set. Why did this set have such a short production run?

Topps marketing spokesman Bob Ibach indicates that, "...Topps isn't patting itself on the back and distributed the set..." with "...little fanfare in order to let the troops have a little reminder of home". Ibach also mentioned Topps did not anticipated many or any of the cards would make it home as the troops had little means of protecting or storing the cards. Seemingly their goal in producing the cards was short term in nature purely as a gesture of goodwill. At this time Pro Set had already distributed several million packs of football cards and Topps did not want to be left out. The cards had to be produced & shipped overseas relatively quickly and converting a set that was already in planning & production seemed to be the easiest way to meet these needs.

Operation Desert Shield took place from August 2, 1990-Jan 16, 1991. That operation was replaced by Operation Desert Storm starting on January 17, 1991. Topps spokesperson, Ken Liss indicates that Topps produced the cards quickly with a short shipping timeframe. A Jan. 1991 issue of the Chicago Tribune indicates Topps "...did this shortly after the first troops were sent to Saudi Arabia, so the cards say Desert Shield..." versus Desert Storm. Production of the cards ceased almost as soon as they started printing them.

The Feb 4, 1991 issue of The Pittsburgh Gazette indicates that "...the Topps cards were issued 2 Months prior..." (so Dec 1990) and that Topps had actually planned the shipment before the war (ie Desert Storm)
began. Timing dictated that Operation Desert Shield was over almost as soon as the cards arrived. In an article in the Myrtle Beach Air Star News, Topps spokesman Timm Boyle again mentions that approximately 5,400,00 cards were produced and that the entire allotment meant for the Air Force was returned to the base at Myrtle Beach unopened. This shipment accounted for approx. 1,500,000 cards. Boyle also mentioned that the production run was approx. 6,800 for each player (my math) or approx. 1/1,000th that of normal production.

Basics of the Set
The set was consists of 792 cards printed in 6 sheets which Topps designated Sheets A - F. Printing was done in one print run as evidenced by the 6 Key Cards detailed later on in this discussion - with each card produced equally. Of the 6 sheets, 2 sheets (A & B) have a bold red "40th Anniversary logo" on the reverse of the card while the remaining 4 sheets have similar, but much more faint impression of the same logo.

In addition, analysis of full printing sheets indicates that the set was probably produced early after the 1991 Topps set had already started production as some statistical changes were made from earlier 1991 Topps cards; however most changes were not included in the Desert Shield set. To date, there are no known data variations (only print ink variations).

On the reverse of each card, near the copyright logo, Topps indicated the sheet where each card was printed. When Topps switched or replaced certain cards in the print run - some times necessitating they change location on different sheets - Topps added the sheet designation to the new card. For instance, if a card on Sheet "E" needed some changes to the stats on the back of the card, Topps removed the card from the sheet, made the changes and then replaced it on, say Sheet "F" except for the reverse of the card would now state that the card was printed on "Sheet E*F*".

There are only 5 Desert Shield cards with a dual print sheet designation (#9 Fletcher, #87 T Jones, #233 Leiter, #676 Chiamparino and #696 Olin). These 5 cards are all situated close to each other on Sheet F*. A 6th card of Cal Ripken is also adjacent but does not have a sheet designation. The Ripken card is the only card in the set without a sheet designation. This data seems to suggest the set was printed in one continuous print run and that there are no print variations.

Glow Backs
It was noticed by illustrious N54 member 4Reals that certain cards had backs that fluoresced under UV light. In fact, it appears that when Topps execs decided to switch printing to the Desert Shield set, they also changed the ink combination on the cards. They added a brightner to the red ink used to print the "40th Anniversary logo" and red trim on the reverse of the cards. After much searching, it became evident that virtually all Desert Shield cards had a 40th Anniversary logo that glowed under UV light. It appears that Topps experimented on several sheets of cards - as some of the printing is slightly off and so is the UV enhanced "red ink". These cards soon became known as "glow back" cards. All known Desert Shield cards - except for a rare handful - are known to have a "glow back".

Which are the Real Checklists?
The checklists of Desert Shield cards do not contain the embossed Desert Shield logo. Even the original sheets have been inspected and found that the checklists do not contain the embossed logo. Unfortunately, PSA grades both error & revised checklists as true Desert Shield checklists. So how can we determine the true Desert Shield checklists?

Three of the 6 checklists (Cards #131, #366 & #527) can be found with errors on them as well as a corrected version. Review of the full uncut printer sheets indicates that the true Desert Shield checklists are the uncorrected "error" versions.

How to Spot a Fake
For all those that have read this far without falling asleep, a true Desert Shield card should by now, be easier to spot. A true Desert Shield card should have the following characteristics:
  • Desert Shield logo should be 13mm X 15 mm
  • Desert Shield logo should have a rounded bottom
  • Desert Shield logo should be "crisp" and not fuzzy
  • The logo can be either goldish or slightly silver - both colors seem to be legitimate
  • Stars on the Flag should not be fuzzy
  • The card should be a Glow Back ie flouresce under UV light. The red 40th Anniversary should jump out under UV light
  • The tip of the bottom most palm leaf should point between the "R & A" in " O P E R A T I O N"; fake logos have the word " OPERATION" shifted slightly to the left.

The last point in the list above is one of the 2 most obvious tells of fake Desert Shield card (the other being the glow back). In every instance where I have been unable to see something obviously fake about a card except for perhaps a slightly fuzzy logo - the palm leaf gave the card away as a fake. I can show examples later on if needed.

I have reached out to Ibach (who runs a marketing firm in Chicago), Liss and Boyle for continuing comments about the set and their time at Topps. No one had any additional information to add - other than to wonder why some looney was inquiring about a piece of cardboard produced almost a quarter century ago.

Apologies for the long post. Enjoy collecting the set and consider us all better educated as we learn together.

Z

Last edited by Zach Wheat; 08-02-2015 at 02:19 PM. Reason: Corrected checklist to read "#131" not #31
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  #2  
Old 07-29-2015, 10:56 PM
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pokerplyr80 pokerplyr80 is offline
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Wow a lot of great information. I've always been curious about that set, but don't own any yet.

If you're not an expert on this set I don't know what one needs to do to be considered one.
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  #3  
Old 07-30-2015, 05:40 AM
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Thank you for the great post Mr. Wheat. When you have time I would really appreciate a nice close up scan of a real logo to compare mine with.
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Old 07-30-2015, 10:13 AM
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Default DS

Great info and commentary Zach....except for the part about Joe being "illustrious"....unless that means he glows fluorescent under a black light
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  #5  
Old 07-30-2015, 04:18 PM
Zach Wheat Zach Wheat is offline
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Default Desert Shield

Ben,

First, here is a fake logo with explanation. Close but no cigar. I am not sure which card this came from....might have been the Boggs we discussed.

Z
Attached Images
File Type: jpg 1991 Fake Logo Tip of Leaf Between E R and Fuzzy Stars.jpg (79.7 KB, 660 views)

Last edited by Zach Wheat; 07-30-2015 at 04:33 PM.
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  #6  
Old 07-30-2015, 04:22 PM
Zach Wheat Zach Wheat is offline
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Default Fake Logo

I should have added that I initially suspected this card was fake because it was initially printed on an A or B sheet without a Bold "40th Anniversary" logo.. All known Desert Shield cards printed on Sheet A or B should have a bold 40th Anniversary logo.

This card did not have that and then I started looking at the logo more closely. This was the best "fake" DS card I have seen.

Z

Last edited by Zach Wheat; 07-30-2015 at 06:35 PM.
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Old 08-01-2015, 08:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ALR-bishop View Post
Great info and commentary Zach....except for the part about Joe being "illustrious"....unless that means he glows fluorescent under a black light
I have spent many a night glowing under black lights but can honestly say I have never been described as illustrious. I got a tickle out of that, thank you. I must, however, give credit where credit is due. I learned of the glow backs on the base Topps set from a random Steve B. post buried in the archives. If anyone is illustrious it is he. I just went obsessive compulsive with it and discovered the fact of the DS cards along the way. Love that you compiled everything in one post Zach, makes it super easy to find, great work, brother.
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Old 08-01-2015, 08:41 PM
bsuttonosu bsuttonosu is offline
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Default Thanks...and some questions

Zach - First off, thank you for pulling this together in a post. As a player collector with a checklist of over 700 unique George Brett cards to run down I depend heavily on posts like these when researching rarer cards. Much appreciated.

A couple of questions...

"The tip of the bottom most palm leaf should point between the "R & A" in " O P E R A T I O N"; fake logos have the word " OPERATION" shifted slightly to the left."

In looking at the pictures, should this say that the word on fakes is shifted to the RIGHT? Thus making the leaf hit further left in the word between E and R on fakes versus between R & A on real cards?

I'm also wondering if there's variation in the intensity of fluorescing? I have both the base and record breaker Bretts. It's obvious on the base. Foil looks right and the red logo glows bright. On the RB, the foil looks the same, the red border on the back fluoresces but the logo not so much. Maybe it's just harder to see with the text over it on the RB versus the stat back.
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Old 10-30-2021, 10:07 AM
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I donít own a stud finder either. If anyone else tries and it works Iíd love to know though.


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Old 11-01-2021, 12:24 PM
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I went out and got a stud finder this weekend and gave it a shot and it didnít work


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Old 11-01-2021, 12:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 4reals View Post
I went out and got a stud finder this weekend and gave it a shot and it didnít work


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It was worth a try. Thanks for letting us know it didn't work.
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Old 11-01-2021, 02:43 PM
steve B steve B is offline
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There should be a way to pick up the foil though.
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Old 11-01-2021, 02:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steve B View Post
There should be a way to pick up the foil though.

Maybe a handheld metal detector if they sell such a thing


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