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.
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