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Old 05-07-2021, 09:21 AM
thatguywithadot thatguywithadot is offline
Avery Singh II
Join Date: Apr 2021
Location: Washington
Posts: 56
Default Identifying a Counterfeit Through Printing Knowledge

Hey there guys and gals! Wanted to put this piece together and try and summarize some key things in relation to the printing processes of most sports cards we have all come to love! these distinct printing differences are the very reasons counterfeit items always stand out for the wrong reasons! Lets jump in!

Half tone printing has been around since the early 1900s and as a result is present on pretty much all sports cards with exception of lithograph produced ones obviously! Half tone printing utilizes a a methodology of printing in dots of all sizes at specified spacing(these 2 things can be researched under pulse-width modulation and frequency modulation). This is done to create an optical illusion that the naked eye perceives as smooth tone in these patterned areas. It uses the CMYK color model for this process and i can go into detail about this further and why if anybody cares but not relevant right now. colors are cyan(blue), magenta(red), yellow, Key(black). Through grouping of different proximities to each other and layering on top of each other desired colors can be projected to our eyes! Atypically the human eye in most cases cannot make out these dots when viewing(first hand in my case i have 20/10 vision and it is viewable when focusing your eyesight correctly to the image or card in question). Dot shapes are round in our sports card world as this is the preferred choice for skin tones due to the tonal value of the round dots vs the other 2 options.

Now why does this matter? When viewing this card or any card minus litho cards you want to be aware of the precision of what top level half tone printing can produce onto cardstock like we collect by knowing a little. Do variations occur? Of course and generally this is due to imperfection in the cardstock sheets or gloss layer of sheets however in dp and tp runs ink batches can differentiate themselves also at time due to gamut of factors centering around availability of supplies or otherwise.

When the 4 printing plates are made for every card to produce what we get in packs etc. The result is an image that is vivid and precise in ways that home productions or any counterfeit operation cannot replicate fully simply due to the blanks not being present. tonal issues are usually the most frequently seen issues on counterfeit cards however in high level examples out of old production facilities studied coming from Mexico it can be a bit perplexing for some if they do not familiarize themselves with the individual sets printing signature for that issue! your best friend when viewing for authenticity on a card is if your lucky to see what some call "fish eyes" or "bullseyes" as to date i am not aware of that being able to be replicated in any fashion by the counterfeiters out here today.

Inkjet printers or laser printers differentiate heavily in how they produce imagery from the half tone process of our beloved sports cards!

Inkjet printers utilize liquid ink being heated or by a vibrating piezo-crystal that produces ink droplets. Inkjet printers operate in similar fashion to dot matrix printers in that it moves across a page to print a row and rollers move the paper down to print proceeding rows so on and so forth. (Keep this in mind when viewing cards for authenticity as poor attention to detail will result in a more OBVOIUS mis orientation of the dots!) Biggest and easiest thing that makes identifying these counterfeit cards produced by inkjet is that because it is using liquid ink it spreads into the paper as it dries and gives off a less crisp appearance!!!

Color Laser printers operate differently from the other ways in that it uses a laser to illuminate dots to be printed on a photosensitive drum that becomes electrically charged wherever those dots are. The drum is then rotated in ink tanks respectively for toning and a piece of paper is fed toward that drum and the toning image is transferred to the paper. Then the final step is that the image is heated up in a fusing system that melts the toners into the paper while the drum is being cleaned internally for the next page. Laser printers making counterfeits are flawed easily to identify rapidly for a gamut of reasons! Laser printing is limited in its color scale availability and can simply not produce certain colors precisely! Also due to the processes it utilizes to print, laser printed imagery where there is a continuous large area of color to be had will exhibit printing artifacts throughout such as texture or print lines and crystal clear dots.

When it comes to identifying the print aspects of a given card to make an authenticity determination when imagery is available, this overview should help you to identify any devious cards out there trying to get your money.

Remember these key aspects!

1. Cards should always appear smooth in the halftoned areas which are usually the portraits of players and scenery! You should see a crisp imagery that looks like a photograph of sorts!

Cards should never appear to be fuzzy on edges of parts of the imagery photo of card! There should never be texture to the cards imagery visible to most eyes.

Exceptions here from first hand would be extremely high level eyesight being able to register the dots from a distance!

2. The amount of detail in a given cards imagery such as hair strands, 5 oclock shadow, lines on jerseys etc should all appear precise and not hazy or fuzzy.

3. Overall imagery wise, there should be a vibrant brilliance to the imagery that can only be had from printing plates producing the imagery. Counterfeit cards will always struggle to match the intensity and vibrant detail of the color patterns of real cards so pay attention to the slabbed cards already for reference! Unless documented you generally are not stumbling across some rare variation out there!

4. Look for font sizing and width on descriptive backsides to be EXACTLY the same for every card. There generally is no deviance here as the backs are not glossed and a matte surface that doesn't present the same potential issues as the front can. The thickness and deep fill or bold appearance of real cards cannot be replicated here on the backs of cards that a fakes. Inkjet fakes will always have a lightened non bold appearance to them that exhibits almost a shadow effect from the bleed out!

5. Typically only the imagery is printed in half tone while the borders and edges of a card are color filled solid!!! the counterfeit methods cannot replicate this as either dots will be present or toning issues in artifact form as expressed above will be present!

6. This one is a biggie and one we are always learning to stay disciplined by...Do not buy anything you have questions on or are not knowledgeable on until you do your due diligence and always ask for help! This forum is a great collective knowledgeable community of all different areas and types of collectors that want to help fellow collectors so do not be shy!
Do not buy with lust as a driving force if you are not up to speed on a particular card and it's production history as i can attest to recently myself breaking this rule almost!!! I know it can be tough but do not do it as it will result in a discouraging costly mistake!

This write up should serve as a good reference overview of things to look for however i have summarized it down to what i believe are the key elements of the 3 outlined printing methods and how they are different from one another! This should not serve as an end all be all as you should put into practice the application of these things by viewing tons and tons of cards and viewing tons and tons of reprints!

Also do your sports card production history research for a given issue as there are weird quirks that pre present in any given year special to that issue that may throw you off!

Happy Hunting!!
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Old 05-08-2021, 07:39 AM
jefferyepayne jefferyepayne is offline
Jeff P
Join Date: Dec 2011
Location: Virginia
Posts: 1,981

Some good advice there! Thanks for posting it.

Here is my goto information on printing techniques and approaches for verifying items by their printing technology.

In general I recommend every serious collector have both a black light and a handheld microscope for use when verifying the authenticity of items. Just eyeballing items in not enough.

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Old 05-08-2021, 09:11 AM
thatguywithadot thatguywithadot is offline
Avery Singh II
Join Date: Apr 2021
Location: Washington
Posts: 56

most definitely Jeff, I should have clarified as this write up is actually supposed to help with the digital purchasing side of things no substitute for loupes and microscopes and black lights etc at least not for me either once in person.
"Most truths in life are the result of self fulfilling prophecy in reality."


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