Sunday, May 2, 2010

New/old counterfeit warning

An inquiry from a reader about what appeared at first glance to be an unchecklisted card from the 1921 Holsum Bread set prompts a warning about some "old" (20th Century) counterfeits.

The appearance of a Boston Braves card of Sherry Magee in a circa 1921 set was the first red flag. Magee last played for Boston in 1917, and was out of the major by 1919. I posted these scans and an inquiry about the card on the forum and quickly received verification that this is a fake.

Since the early 1990s, this type of counterfeit has been plaguing the hobby. Regardless of the advertising on the backs (more on that later), the cards share a few physical characteristics.

The card stock is somewhat rough and often shows a yellowish or ochre tint. Vintage card experts Frank Ward and Leon Luckey describe the counterfeits as having a slight gloss on the front.

The front photos are kind of fuzzy, probably because they have been copied either from genuine 1917 Collins-McCarthy cards or possibly even reprints of that set. The principal at-a-glance difference between this family of fakes and genuine C-M cards is that the real cards have a card number centered in the bottom border.

The typography on this Magee card is all wrong for a 1921 Holsum. The bread company's set was derived from the 1921 American Caramel (E121) / W575-1 strip card sets. As such, it should feature sans-serif type on the front.

Fortunately, for all but the most novice of collectors, the backs of these fakes are readily discerned as poor reproductions of the real thing. On these counterfeits, the back printing seems to have been rubber-stamped, rather than printed by the correct lithograph or offset technology of the early decades of the 1900s.

While this appears to be the first of these counterfeits to surface with a Holsum Bread back, they have been seen with backs advertising Oodles Chocolates and Kendig Chocolates, neither of which ever produced baseball cards, as well as Henry A. Johnson Confectioners -- which issued genuine overprinted backs on similar series in the 1920s.

Given the permanence of information posted in cyberspace, it seemed like a good idea to put this information out there.

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