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. 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.
  6. There is a small, maybe 1 centimeter long, vertical scratch running under the first "L" in BASEBALL and after the "s" in Aces on the back of the card.

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.

In 1994, Score ran a promotion with Burger King and issued a series of 9 Cal Ripken, Jr. cards. The cards came 3 to pack. Every pack had 2 base cards and 1 gold foil card. Many lucky collector's won autographed versions of the card by sending in sweepstakes forms. An authentic autographed card looks like this:



 

In 2005, Fleer went bankrupt and liquidated everything to help pay off its creditors. The company itself ceased operations and the brand was sold to Upper Deck for $6.1 million. However, there was a big auction on September 9th, 2005 at a New Jersey Radisson Hotel where many unfinished and unique items were sold directly to the public. Even today if you look on eBay you will see many items claiming to be from Fleer's bankruptcy. In particular, various eBay sellers list Fleer Press Plates they claim to be from the 2005 bankruptcy.

Alleged 2005 Fleer Bankruptcy Auction Press Plate

I've seen many auctions on eBay like this for Cal Ripken, Jr. Fleer Press Plates and I can only assume there are many more for other players. Here is a quote from the auction shown above:
"We purchased a large collection of printing plates at the show on 2005 July. We are breaking up the collection and piecing them out every week. I think it blows out from Fleer Factory!"
The problem is, I reviewed the auction listings for the bankruptcy in its entirety and there were no Press Plates to be found. This eBay seller claims to have purchased a large lot in July though, not September. Is it possible there was a card show where these plates were auctioned off? I've never heard about that anywhere, including the calendar of events on Fleer's bankruptcy website at fleerabc.com. There is only mention of the preparations for the upcoming September auction at the Radisson.

In any case, there is no evidence of any Press Plates in the actual bankruptcy auction listings found here: 2005_Fleer_Bankruptcy_Auction.pdf. You can view detailed listings of each lot at Randy L. Fridkis Auctions, LLC.

Based on this information, I would strongly lean toward these eBay items not being legimate and would stay away from purchasing them.

Status: Most Likely Fake