We as card graders get to see quite a few different types of altered cards. From amateur jobs to the professional restoration and everything in-between.
Re-backed cards are nothing new. Whether is is a T206 with a rare back combo or re-backing an Old Judge, joining two different card parts together to form one “Frankencard” keeps graders on their toes.
This particular card is a 1933 Goudey Hall of Famer. As you can see in the image, the dirty clear cellophane tape used to join the two halves together is sticking out on two of the edges. The tape sticking out of one of the edges can be seen inside the red circle.
In my opinion, the card had probably been wet or separated for some other reason and someone inserted tape to hold the card together. If this had been a job to deceive, I doubt someone would have been so sloppy as to leave the tape sticking out.
An experienced card collector will tell you, learn about the different types of card alterations and learn basic counterfeit detecting and you will save yourself time, money and heartache. You don’t have to become an expert in detecting alterations but knowing some basics will set you apart from the novice collector.
Erasing, or power erasing this the act of removing a portion of the surface of a card to improve the centering of a card in the hopes of improving the apparent grade. It can also be used to remove print defects or surface stains. The tool used is an electric or power eraser. A specific type of eraser must be used in order to not damage the card surface.
This type of alteration is most commonly found on vintage cards. When done to modern cards, it is most often used to remove small print defects. The area that has been altered can be much easier to detect on a modern card.
Vintage cards without a defined border such as 1956 Topps or 1957 Topps are susceptible to the removal of a portion of the printed image giving the appearance of a better centered card. In this article, I will use a 1956 Topps card as an example of power erasing. I have used different types of lighting and enhanced some of the images in order to better show the alteration. This particular card is a somewhat extreme example and is easy to detect with the naked eye.
The first image shows the card with the border that has been erased. Notice the difference in the surface of the border under the arrow. In the image, the light reflects differently and the altered portion of the border appears to be a different color. In this case, I have enhanced the image to make the altered area appear darker.
If compared to an unaltered example, the photo portion of the surface will be bigger than the altered example. The printed image has been physically removed on this altered card. The eraser has removed the ink and under normal lighting the card seems better centered.The second image has been converted to black and white to show the contrast between the altered border and the unaltered border surface.
Notice where the arrow is pointing. Here you can see the difference in the way light is reflected by the two different surfaces. The altered surface appears dull.
The third image is a negative of the original image. Notice where the three arrows are pointing. You can see portions of the original ink left behind. The eraser did not erase the original ink down in small pits in the surface. These small areas of ink can be seen under a loupe under normal lighting.With a good light and the proper loupe, you can detect most power erasing. Hold the raw card flat directly under a light, slowly start to tilt the card under the light. Pay attention to the light reflecting on the surface. At a certain angle, you will begin to see the difference in the surfaces. The altered surface will appear dull while the light reflecting on the original gloss will not. Once this altered area has been spotted, examine the area under a loupe. Look for fine lines in the surface where the eraser has removed the surface, much like a record album. You may also see tiny areas of the original ink that were left behind.
As I stated before, this particular card is a more extreme example and is easier to detect. Sometimes only a small portion of the surface will be removed to make a print dot or light surface stain go away. Examining the surface under light will reveal these areas of different gloss. I have seen small erased areas in white borders that were covered up with White Out or other opaque white color. Again, the light will reveal these as well.
I said that borderless cards are the most vulnerable to power erasing, but cards with borders can be victim as well. I have seen 1951 Bowman Mantle cardswhere the border was erased and the thin black border had been painted back in by hand. At first glance, this was a deceptive job. Only after an examination under the light and a loupe did the work jump out. My suggestion for a light is your standard incandescent bulb or the halogen bulbs that are found in the standard glass bulb. These look just like incandescent bulbs but have a halogen element. A 72 watt halogen will be equal to a 100 watt incandescent. I do not recommend halogens behind clear glass or fluorescent bulbs.Fluorescent bulbs are not good for card grading. They are terrible on your eyes, anyway. As far as loupes, I recommend a good quality 10x triplet lens that has been corrected for color or distortion. These are sometimes refered to as a diamond graders loupe. For more on magnification, I will be posting an article on loupes in the near future. There are so many choices at many different price points. Online auctions are filled with cheap loupes but unfortunately many are junk. That doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune on a good one.
Some card alterations are seen more than others. If you handle cards often, whether as a collector, dealer or grader, you can see trimmed and recolored cards on a daily basis. Other alterations are not quite as common. Power erasing is less common but you have probably seen more than you knew about. Power erasing can be a deceitful alteration and hard to catch at times.
Rebuilding and repairing card stock can be less common but when done by a professional can be very hard to catch.
Today I bring you an example of a filled or plugged hole. Vintage cards, especially pre-war cards can be found with thumb tack holes. Attempts to hide these holes can vary from spooning the area around the hole to filling the hole with an opaque substance like Whiteout. When a hole is repaired by someone with experience, detecting it can be harder, which is the point of the repair. A hole, as innocent as it may have been when a kid put it there, is a major defect and will cause a card to fall to a grade of somewhere between a 1 and a 2. Hiding a hole, or making it “disappear” can increase the value and the apparent grade significantly.
The example here today is a very good repair. At first glance, there is nothing to be seen in the top border. Only after examination under different light and UV light can the alteration be seen. Under different light sources and angles, the surface of the repair does not match the cards natural surface. Under a UV light source, the repair reveals itself as the material used to fill the hole fluoresces.
The picture seen here shows the card under directional lighting source and the altered area appears to almost shine.