Someone offer you a bargain card? Make sure it's not a counterfeit

February 24, 1991|By Ruth Sadler

Buyer, beware.

Now that spring training has begun, many baseball fans are adding to their collections -- buying new issues, checking their older cards, attending card shows.

Watch out for counterfeit cards.

Joe Bosley of The Old Ball Game in Reisterstown reports that he has seen three bogus Rickey Henderson rookie cards. A genuine Henderson rookie card (1980 Topps) sells for approximately $200; counterfeits will often be offered for less and appear to be a bargain to the unsuspecting.

Bosley advises that on the counterfeits, the name on the front is a little blurred, as is the picture. The color of the back is slightly different from that of other 1980 Topps cards, and the card stock is stiffer.

Most other dealers report no new counterfeits, but collectors should be aware of: the Cal Ripken counterfeit rookie cards with the blank backs; 1984 Donruss Don Mattingly counterfeits; 1984 Fleer update counterfeits of Dwight Gooden, Roger Clemens and Pete Rose; and the bogus hockey cards, Brett Hull (1988-89 Topps) and Wayne Gretzky (1979-80 Topps/O-Pee-Chee) rookie cards.

Counterfeiters tend to choose desirable, higher-priced cards. A collector's best defense is to be aware of card values; if the bargain seems too good to be true, it probably is. Collectors should also get to know the cards -- the colors, the feel of the card stock. If you're interested in a hot rookie card, check out the commons of that set so you get to know the family.

Reproduction of bogus cards is not perfect. Pictures and lettering may be blurry. Especially check the smaller type on the back of the card.

Also be aware of genuine cards that have been trimmed in the hope of increasing their value. Since worn corners lower the value of a card, some people are making their own sharp corners. You can guard against this by measuring a questionable card against one you know is uncut.

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Harry Sponseller of Straightaway Center in Glen Burnie has noticed a surge of interest in Upper Deck 1989 packs. With the Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card going for $35, collectors are shunning the sets, whose price has held, for the packs, whose price has risen to $3.25 at Straightaway Center. "They want to get that card, so they buy a pack -- like the lottery," says Sponseller.

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Two dealers, Mike Tanner of Baseball Card Outlet in Dundalk and Bob Fickus of Baseball Unlimited in Rosedale, report that one of their customers got a Nolan Ryan Legends card in a Donruss pack. Only 7,500 of the cards were produced.

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The hottest cards in the Baltimore area are Topps' Desert Storm set, which most dealers report is a sellout.

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New on the shelves are the 110-card NBA Hoops II and the 110-card Score football update. Emmitt Smith is the star of the football set.

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The fifth issue of Topps Magazine (winter 1991) features the 40th anniversary of Topps baseball cards. There are articles on the beginnings of Topps Chewing Gum Inc., a pictorial center pullout checklist of the '91 set, a one-page guide to the company's 41 regular sets, a look at the Duryea, Pa., card plant and four new features -- football cards, hockey cards, sports collectibles and answers to readers' questions. The magazine has eight new cards in its series of magazine-only cards. Four feature current stars on 1952-style cards (if you like the idea of new players on old-style cards, check out Baseball Cards Magazine, which produces such cards monthly).

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Seattle Seahawks place-kicker Norm Johnson is co-owner, with childhood friend Jim Weir, of two sports card stores, in suburban Los Angeles and suburban Seattle. During the off-season, he works in the Washington store -- up to 12 hours a day. . . In 1987, the Basketball Hall of Fame began issuing limited-edition silver-toned anodized aluminum cards of each of its members. The cards are available in sets of eight, and only 999 of each of card will be produced. Set 1 includes James Naismith, Set 11 Wilt Chamberlain, Set 21 Earl Monroe and Set 22 Wes Unseld. Sets are $25 each, including postage and handling. For information, write: Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Box 179, 1150 W. Columbus Ave., Springfield, Mass. 01101-0179.

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Upcoming events:

Sunday, baseball card show, Running Brook Elementary School, 5215 West Running Brook, Columbia, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 740-3368.

Sunday, baseball card show, Towson Quality Inn, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

March 9, baseball card show, Holiday Inn Timonium, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 254-2729.

March 9, baseball card show, Security Holiday Inn, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 922-8366.

March 10, baseball card show, Comfort Inn Airport, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 922-8366.

March 30, baseball card show, Freedom Community Center, Route 32, a half-mile south of Route 26, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 549-6269.

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