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.

  1. Nicely worded. I like that you did a market search for random cards that gives a different perspective on the suspicious amount of cards selling on ebay. The forger has recently purchased several 12 card sets of the Reggie White 1992 Fleer Ultra Career Highlights cards that also had a signed variation with the only distinguishing difference being a Fleer embossed stamp. I guess we will soon be seeing these on ebay. White did not sign cards 11 and 12, so it will be interesting to see if those cards end up being forged and stamped.

    You have done well on your site!

  2. Another observation: During the years 2000 to 2008 or so, there might have been anywhere from 5 to 10 of the Ali autographs sold on eBay in the span of a year. Now that number is monthly.

  3. Guys, this is a shame. I’ve basically given up ever getting that card, because I’ll really never know if my card is legit.

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