Archive for May, 2013|Monthly archive page

Beware Ali, Clay counterfeits

In 1992 Portraits on May 19, 2013 at 2:37 am

Here’s a disturbing piece of news from Donnie, a friend of the Pro Lines blog.

Donnie warns that, unfortunately, many Muhammad Ali 1992 Pro Line autograph cards are counterfeit.

Donnie claims that a counterfeiter in Tennessee buys the numbered Ali base cards on eBay using several user IDs. He then deletes the card numbers using printer’s deletion fluid, which Donnie said is very easily done.

The counterfeiter has created a die to stamp the cards that Donnie said looks very good, other than a few noticeable glitches in the outer zig-zag ring. But this counterfeiter doesn’t sell the fakes on eBay; he sells them at “great prices” at card shows in the mid-Atlantic region. In turn, many of this criminal’s buyers are reselling them on eBay, whether they are aware of the dubious nature of the autograph or not.

Some of these sellers have sold five or more Ali “certified autographed” cards in the past few months, Donnie said, all with the same fake embossing.

The counterfeiter also sells Fleer stamped Scottie Pippen autograph cards, David Robinson Fleer stamped cards and any stickered cards (Star Pics, Front Row and Signature Rookies Kromax stamped auto cards), Donnie said.

“The counterfeiter buys up common autograph stickered cards and removes the stickers with heat to make counterfeit cards of Favre, Jeter, Bird, Pippen, etc.,” Donnie said. “The person will basically counterfeit any card that doesn’t involve printing ink that distinguishes it as an autograph card. If the only thing that separates a factory base card from a factory autograph card is an appliable thing, he will do it. Stickers and embossed seals. I have no idea how to get him caught. I know his name, and he knows that I know what he is doing.”

Donnie said the counterfeiter used to sell on eBay using different seller IDs, but those accounts were shut down when he was confronted.

I have some statistics to back up Donnie’s concerns. Check the Market Data page of this blog. As of today, it shows more than twice as many Muhammad Ali/Cassius Clay autographs selling than any other single card. The numbers on the Market Data page reflect prices that I logged from the eBay completed auctions listings at random periods in the past year. I typically look at one month of completed auctions at a time so I do not duplicate a single sale in the listings. Therefore the total number of cards shown is not an accurate count of how many have sold in a year; it simply is a snapshot of prices at random points. But it still shows significantly more of the Ali cards selling during my haphazard trips through the listings than any other card.

Considering how much those Ali/Clay cards are selling for, it seems highly unlikely that there happens to be a big supply of that one card on the market, by coincidence, at the same time.

I also checked the current eBay listings recently (I won’t say when, because I don’t want to implicate anyone whose card might be legit). I searched “Pro Line” and “Ali,” and I got 14 hits. Then I searched “Proline” and “Ali,” and I got 18 hits. Certainly some of the same cards came up in both searches. But that’s a lot of any one certified autographed Pro Line card on sale at any one time on eBay.

So I then searched four random cards, one each from 1991 and 1992 and two from 1993 to see how many hits I would get.

First I searched “Pro Line” and “Steve Young” and got one stamped, autographed 1991 Portrait. Then I changed the search to “Proline” and got two cards that were different than the one in the previous search.

On to 1992. I searched for Tony Dorsett. I got three certified autographs looking for “Pro Line” and two that were labeled “Proline” were among the three I found when I searched for “Pro Line.”

In 1993, I searched for Rodney Hampton and Archie Manning. I found four certified Manning cards and two certified Hampton cards.

So in four random searches, I got three, three, four and two hits, an average of three. Nowhere near the 14 to 32 that showed up in a search for Ali. And I didn’t bother searching for “Cassius” or “Clay.”

I feel safe about my Ali autograph. I bought it at a card show in the 1990s in Florida from a dealer who had about 50 certified Pro Lines, stars and commons alike. But if I were needing an autographed Ali today to finish my set, I would be nervous about the potential for finding a counterfeit.

My advice would be to compare the signature with an authentic Ali or Clay autograph for authenticity. Also, compare the embossed seal for any irregularities. I would use a common card (one that would be impractical for a counterfeiter to duplicate) for this comparison. Also, check the space on the card where the number would go to look for any signs of tampering.

There are also some tips for collectors from the folks at Ali Autos.


1991 Pro Line National embossed: with numbers and without

In 1991 National Convention, 1991 Portraits, 1992 National Convention, Oddities on May 13, 2013 at 5:19 am

tittle 1991 national no number

1991 everett national number

Donnie, a frequent eBay seller and friend of the blog, shed some light on the 1991 Pro Line National set. Some of the cards with the embossed seal from the 1991 National convention in Anaheim, Calif., have the card number on the back of the card, and some do not. Donnie is selling some of these cards that have the number, and I asked him what the difference is.

Donnie said the 1991 Pro Line National embossed complete bindered sets were distributed at the National to card dealers. These complete sets had their own special binder and case that the binder was inserted into. All of the complete set cards were a parallel of the base card other than the embossed seal.

The non-numbered cards were given away individually and could be signed by players who were at the convention as contracted signers by Pro Line. Some of those players were Michael Cofer, Christian Okoye, Blair Thomas, Gayle Sayers, Andre Collins and a few others. The embossing on those cards were done by a hand stamp and therefore the placement of the stamped seal is inconsistent.

The stamped sets were embossed by machine stamping and are all consistent, just like the stamped pack pulled autograph cards.

In the 1992 National bindered sets, both Portraits and Profiles were unnumbered cards.

1991 bennett national with number

felicia moon 1991 national no number

Here’s the 1992 Pro Line National set

In 1992 National Convention, 1992 Profiles, Oddities on May 5, 2013 at 2:46 am


We covered quite a bit about the 1991 Pro Line set with the embossed seal from the National Sports Card Convention that year in Anaheim, Calif.

So here’s a little information about the 1992 Pro Line National set, which I mentioned I own.

The following was taken from, which was quoting Beckett in 2005-06:

This set was distributed at a private party at the 1992 National Sports Collector’s Convention. Each card is essentially a parallel to the base and some insert Pro Line Portraits cards and each was embossed with a “The National 1992” loto on the lower right corner of the cardfront. Unlike the base cards, each National card was not numbered on the back. At the party, the cards were issued to attendees in complete set form in special 1992 National two-binder set within plastic sheets. The big Beckett gives a Book Value on this special set at $900.00!

It goes on to say the Portraits portion of the set would be worth $600 and the Profiles would be worth $300. But I can’t imagine breaking the two-binder set apart and doing away with the box that they fit into.

I also don’t think they’re worth that much.

And here’s what the front of one of the binders looks like.


Here’s a shot of the spines of the binders.


And here is one of the National-embossed Profiles cards of Mike Ditka.


1991 Pro Line National set for sale on eBay

In 1991 National Convention, 1991 Portraits, 1992 National Convention, Oddities on May 5, 2013 at 1:50 am


Here is a complete 1991 Pro Line set from the National Sports Card Convention, which was at the Anaheim Convention Center.

I actually attended this show, and it was a blast. Unfortunately, I hadn’t started collecting Pro Line autographs yet. Had I known that I eventually would, I would’ve been at ground zero for oddities, giveaways, prizes, autographs and the like.

I have heard multiple times that, in the goodie bags at the front door, some fans received a certificate and/or a Pro Line card that they could take to a signing party during the show and have autographed by the player, say Howie Long, and then the card would be embossed at the party. I own some cards with the National seal but no autograph and I own some signed cards with the National seal. In fact, all nine of my signed 1992 Jerry Rice cards are from the National. And I enjoy having them. But I can’t say for sure where they came from.

I’ve also heard that these complete sets were given away to VIPs at some party. I’m not sure why card company execs or even the athletes themselves would want even more sports card stuff, unless they were socking it away to sell to collectors on a rainy day.

But this promotional piece has all the cards, even the Rashad family card and the Payne Stewart insert. It doesn’t appear any of them were autographed. And the buy-it-now price is $350.

A few years ago, I bought the 1992 National Pro Line set, which was in a white binder. It also was for sale on eBay. I can’t remember if I paid $95 or $195 for it. That’s a significant difference, but I really can’t remember. I’ve been told that the 1992 Pro Line National set was distributed at a private party at the 1992 National.

Considering the prices of some of the cards I still need to complete my set, I think I will pass on spending that much for this oddball set.

Here’s a link to the set. It’s not an auction. It doesn’t look like there’s an end date, so it might stay up until it’s sold.

Here’s a pre-Internet story from the Chicago Tribune and writer John Leptich about his impressions of the first Pro Line football cards when they were unveiled at the 1991 National.

And below is a closeup of the embossed seal for the 1991 National convention. The embossed seal was one thing that drew me to this set in the first place, and I think it’s cool that they made an entirely separate seal for the 1991 and 1992 Nationals.