The rebacking of cards has been a popular scam in the past. That practice, if you’re not aware of it, is taking a card, skinning an unpopular back off of it and adding a more desirable back to it.
Rebacking is generally done for two reasons. In some cases, cards that have been glued into scrapbooks and then removed have heavily damaged backs. Adding a new back as a replacement fixes that damage. In other cases, cards with perfectly good backs have been replaced with fake backs of ultra scarce cards.
This is probably best seen in the cases of T206 cards, which have numerous backs – some much more valuable and desirable than others. In this scam, a collector would take a card with a common back and replace it with a much more scarce back to make it a more expensive card.
A new surge in fake-backed cards provides a valuable reminder to do your homework as a buyer.
Fake Backs Emerging
Leon Luckey, owner of the popular Net54 blog, mentioned in a recent post on his site that T206 and T213-1 Coupon cards have reportedly been resurfacing with fake backs.
These cards often have common fronts with skinned backs. The reason for using a common player on the front is two-fold. First, most scammers wouldn’t want to purposefully damage an expensive card. A Ty Cobb T206 card with a common back in poor condition is still worth hundreds of dollars. Second, by using a common player, the scam appears more genuine. There are plenty of fake Cobbs on eBay and most collectors will be more skeptical if the card features a big name player.
After purposefully skinning a back (removing the back), a laser-printed back of a rare advertiser is then placed on the back. As Luckey’s post mentions, the new backs often are not flawless and show some damage, leading buyers to believe they were removed out of scrapbooks.
The reason T213-1 Coupon cards seem to be a part of this scam is that they utilize the same fronts as found on T206 cards so the backs can match up to authentic cards. And as I’ve written before, this particular subset of Coupon cards (there are three types, T213-1, T213-2, and T213-3) should probably be considered as T206 cards.
You might wonder why a card with a heavily-damaged back would even be a big deal. The reason is that cards with rare backs, regardless of the damage, would still be quite valuable. A seller can still net hundreds or even thousands on a card with significant back damage, depending on the specific back or the player.
If you’ve been a reader of this blog in the past, you know I’ve stressed the importance of generally not buying high dollar cards ungraded unless you really know what you’re doing and are buying from a credible source.
Graded cards, of course, do not provide a 100%, hands down guarantee that the items are authentic. However, graders from the reputable companies (namely PSA, SGC, and Beckett) all have done their homework and have equipment that is often not in the hands of everyday collectors.
Buying low-grade, low-dollar cards isn’t as big of a concern. There are certainly fakes of lesser cards out there but mistakenly buying a $10 forgery isn’t really a big deal. Buying a $1,000 one? That’s kind of a concern.
Always also check to see if a certain card front can even exist with a certain back. In T206, many combinations are absolutely impossible due to when and where they were printed. This master checklist on the T206 Resource page is a good place to start.
Additionally, the adage of, the more you handle, the better you’ll be at identifying fakes certainly holds true here. And one great rule is to make your larger purchases from well-established buyers that will refund your money if something you buy turns out to be counterfeit. Online fly-by-night sellers (even ones with high feedback) on eBay can disappear without a trace and if you’re spending big money on raw cards, do your homework on the seller.
Buying graded cards doesn’t just apply to fakes, either. It’s a good idea to also buy high-dollar cards that are legit, too. That’s because sellers can push them as cards that are high-grade when they may in fact be trimmed or altered. Even if you know that a card is authentic, buying cards in the hopes of finding a high-grade gem is a risky game to play. If a high-grade Babe Ruth or Ty Cobb card is not graded, there’s often a good reason why.
If you’re looking at raw cards with rare T206 backs or Coupon (T213-1) backs, be sure to exercise caution.