A question that comes up all the time is, "What makes a card an official error card and what prevents a card from becoming one?"
You might notice that, throughout sportscard history, there are cards that are officially acknowledged as error cards while others have mistakes, but never make it to official error card status. Take the 1986 Fleer Update Jose Canseco #20 card. The card has Jose's statistics listed under pitching categories instead of hitter categories. Jose would end up throwing a few innings down the road, but this is a clear mistake on the part of Fleer.
Another example would come up in a letter written to me by a collector. The collector was wondering why his 1999 Fleer Ultra Charlie Batch #225 card wasn't acknowledged as an error card when Shawn Springs was listed on the back. This scenario comes up all the time in sportscard collecting. There's an obvious mistake so why isn't it an error card?
The answer is fairly straightforward in some cases and not so straightforward in others. The basic rule is simple. If the manufacturer never corrected the error, then the issued card is not considered an error. That is the case with the 1986 Fleer Update Jose Canseco card. Even though the mistake is apparent, the absence of a corrected version means the "mistake" card now becomes the standard card.
The second rule is not so straightforward. Take the 1999 Fleer Ultra Charlie Batch scenario for instance. The card has a clear error on it; it has the wrong guy on the reverse of the card! It couldn't be more wrong! The error is clear but the rule is certainly not. It seems that, if an error is extremely rare such as the Charlie Batch example, the card will not be deemed an official error card. What the so-called card rule makers are saying is that if the card is too rare, there will be no error acknowledged.
So, let me get this straight. In some cases, if a card is many times scarcer than another card, that card will not be considered an official error card? That is correct. Logically it doesn't make the most sense in the world, but that is the way collectors have looked at it for years. That is not to say that your card has no value but the reality is that your card would probably have much more value if the card manufacturer would acknowledge that card as an error and not a mere isolated manufacturing defect.
There is a market for your card as an oddball item, but instead of being looked at in the same light as the 1990 Topps NNOF (no-name on front) Frank Thomas card, it is looked at in the same light as a circus freak! Just kidding. The interesting thing is that the card is possibly a one-of-a-kind item, but that prevents it from being recognized. If you were ever interested in selling the card, it is probably wise to find a collector of oddball items or a Charlie Batch or Shawn King fan.
Remember that if you have a concern about the authenticity of a particular card or simply want more information about the grading process, please write us at he address listed below. Mike Baker can be reached via postal mail by addressing your questions to:
C/O Mike Baker
P.O. Box 6180
Newport Beach, CA 92658