Saturday, February 23, 2013

1993 U.S. Playing Card Aces Cal Ripken, Jr. Autograph

I recently found the freedomcardboard.com message boards and found a very interesting thread on a little-known card issued with the 1993 U.S. Playing Card Aces decks. The U.S. Playing Card Co. did a promotion where they issued four autographed cards in the decks: Greg Maddux, Fred McGriff, Terry Pendleton, and Cal Ripken, Jr. Shown below is a store display where apparently 1 autographed card was issued per display:

1993 U.S. Playing Card Co. In-Store Display

In the price guides, only the McGriff, Pendleton, and Ripken are mentioned.  The Maddux card is left out, although it does exist.

What makes the Ripken autograph card interesting is both its rarity and the fact it can't easily be authenticated, that is, until now.  I have two different Ripken autograph images shown below.  Can you pick out the card that didn't come autographed out of the original deck?

Card #1

Card #2

If you chose "Card #2", you are right!  Card #1 was signed after-market and card #2 was signed before being included in the U.S. Playing Card deck.

Here are the tell-tale signs of a real, deck-issued autographed card:
  1. The finish covers the autograph.  You can determine this by viewing the card at an angle under good light.
  2. The autograph is always in black ink.
  3. The autograph placement is always directly under Ripken's chin and right above the name.
  4. The authentic autographed card is the older version of his autograph with "Ripken" in full rather than the shortened version "Ri" you see on today's cards.  Also the "C" in "Cal" and the "J" in "Jr." are not nearly as pronounced on the authentic card as they are on the fake.
  5. Possible clue: The photo cropping is different between a regular card and an autographed card.  Essentially, the image has been moved further to the right on the authentic card, causing some of the design elements not to line up the same.  This is most obvious when looking at the "W" in "WILD" and its placement relative to Cal's helmet.  I haven't determined if this cropping variation is specific to authentic, deck-issued autographs, but so far it seems to be.
The following images show several examples of this card.  Based on the signs listed above, can you pick out the fakes?  The answer is at the bottom of the post.

Card #1
Card #2

Card #3
Card #4


Answer: #1, #2, and #4 are authentic.  #3 is a fake due to the cropping.  The autograph also doesn't look the same as the others.  The "C" and "J" are different than the other 3 cards shown.

3 comments:

  1. This is awesome. I never noticed the cropping of the photo is different!

    I have 3 of these (no Ripken) and another differentiating sign is the back. In all three of my autograph cards and in all the examples I've seen online where a picture of the back is available, there is a small (maybe 1 cm long) vertical scratch running under the first "L" in BASEBALL and after the "s" in Aces.

    Thanks for this sleuthing. I've been trying to find out how to tell the difference between a real one and a fake and people seem to erroneously bring up differences in the glossy coating or lack thereof in the auto version, but after holding the regular one next to the auto one there is no difference in gloss at all!

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  2. I just bought one of these today. What is a good estimate on price?

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  3. Do any of you guys have an idea of the value of these things? I have about 17 of them.

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