Taking My Hacks

Desperate Times – Desperate Measures

Joe Orlando

Whether times are good or bad, criminals are always up to no good. That said, when times are really tough, the bad guys seems to step it up a notch in hopes of preying on rattled consumers. People are looking for ways to invest, supplement their income or simply make a buck. I have said it before and I will say it again... the greed that drives the criminal is the same greed that drives the consumer right into a trap.

Desperation has a way of paralyzing common sense to the point where consumers will make purchases that are obviously too good to be true. It is during these times that our guard should be up more than ever, a time when we have to take notice of the red flags. I am certainly not trying to discourage anyone from buying. In fact, it is quite the opposite since some excellent deals can be had during these times. The point I am trying to make is to simply be prudent, to be aware.

People die in car accidents every day. It doesn't mean people stop driving. People lose money in the stock market every day. It doesn't mean people stop investing. As they say, there are no guarantees in life and there is risk in everything we do. It ranges from minor risk to major risk and that is where the key lies as a hobbyist, being able to identify when that risk reaches a level where the deal is no longer worth it.

At PSA, we have noticed more vintage counterfeits over the past year than ever before. In particular, an alarming number of counterfeit vintage cards have been circulating. Everything from 1933 Goudey Babe Ruths to 1952 Topps Mickey Mantles to 1954 Topps Hank Aarons, outright counterfeits are being spotted at an alarming rate. I am not talking about reprints either; I am talking about counterfeits or copies created with the intent to defraud.

Now, before any of the readers panic, most knowledgeable collectors would never mistake these counterfeits for authentic specimens. In addition, even if you didn't possess the expertise, most sensible buyers would never purchase these items based on the surrounding circumstances of the deal. Sellers who have no reputation in the industry, prices that are too good to be true, unusually high inventories of valuable cards and insistence on paying by wire transfer, cashier's check or cash are all examples of red flags that cause most people to ask questions.

Unfortunately, there are those who decide to ignore common sense. We had one gentlemen fly to our office with six high-grade 1952 Topps Mantles... at least that is what he thought they were. All six of them were counterfeit. We had several more of the exact same style show up at The National this past summer. There were also groups of other vintage cards, submitted by various customers, which were counterfeit.

Many hobbyists know the cards that have been subject to counterfeiting the most date to the 1980s. This is due in part by the simple designs used during the decade, poor print quality and the lack of technology (holograms, foil, etc) that eventually came into play during the 1990s. These were features that made it hard to produce believable counterfeits.

So, we are used to seeing the 1984 Topps Dan Marino, 1985 Topps Mark McGwire and 1986 Fleer Michael Jordan counterfeits floating around but it is not often that you come across blatant counterfeits of vintage cards which are also difficult to replicate with accuracy. Even many of the T206 Honus Wagner "counterfeits" are really reprints that were doctored to appear old – not actual counterfeits (although those exist as well).

Just remember that desperate people will do desperate things in order to make money, especially during tough times. No matter how great a deal seems to be, just use the same due diligence you would use during any transaction, in good times or bad. Buy from trusted sellers and let common sense be your guide.

Never get cheated,

Joe Orlando

Joe Orlando
Editor In Chief