Archive for the ‘1992 Portraits’ Category

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.


Here’s a Gifford signed on the front

In 1992 Portraits on April 16, 2013 at 12:43 am

gifford signed on front

Here’s a Frank Gifford Pro Line autograph that sold this month on eBay that was signed on the front.

The only other Gifford I’d seen was signed on the back.

Shortly after publishing this post, I received an email from someone who has two Gifford certified autographs, one on the front and one on the back. He asked which is more rare. Here is what I wrote to him:

I really have no hard data about which is more “common,” which is a poor term because any certified Gifford auto is extremely rare.

I think most people prefer the autograph to be on the front. I’ve heard stories that Pro Line asked the players to sign on the back, even that they asked the players to sign on the bottom strip of the back where there is no writing. I’m not sure that these stories are true, but I don’t know that they’re false. If you look at the Santa and Mrs. Claus cards, those autographs, which obviously were done by the Pro Line folks themselves, are almost exclusively on the front. So why would they ask the players to sign on the back and then sign the Christmas cards on the front? Seems inconsistent.

But if they didn’t ask the players to sign on the back, why did so many of them do it? And why did so many of them sign the small strip at the bottom where there is no writing? I can see where some players might have done so because the photo on the front of their card is quite dark and the signature might not have been easy to see.

But despite any rumors about where the players were told to sign, I’ve heard and read complaints from collectors who think signing on the back is not as desirable as on the front. I think that desirability can have a great deal of significance to collectors. But if you get right down to it, this card is so hard to find that any Pro Line collector is going to be thrilled to acquire one, front or back.

Ahmad Rashad sells for $271

In 1991 Portraits, 1992 Portraits on August 19, 2012 at 10:40 pm


Jeremy Nierenberg, a card dealer in Tamarac, Fla., recently bought a lot of Pro Line cards from a collector. He is selling them individually on eBay, and he recently appears to have sold a Frank Gifford card for $299.

The collection had some rare cards in it, and one was this Ahmad Rashad card. Nierenberg’s buy-it-now price was $499.99, but he also was accepting best offers on the card. Apparently the high offer was $271.

Some other highlights were Reggie Langhorne selling for $271.50, Alonzo Highsmith for $177.51, Mark Carrier of the Bears for $128.04, Greg Townsend for $143.51, Albert Lewis for $95.

Oddly, the 1991 Roger Staubach Portraits card went for $120, which is a little high, IMHO.

His most recent set of auctions range from Ronnie Lott or Phil Simms starting at about $20 to John Elway at about $80 and Santa Claus at a C-note.

And if you’re looking for more prices that more Pro Line cards from 1991, 1992 or 1993 sold for, check out my Market Data section here. It’s not a price guide. It’s a list of sale prices that I am aware of. Some might be tremendous bargains. I recently bought a 1992 Thurman Thomas Profiles card for less than $5. That’s a great deal. Other prices might be gross overpayments. Maybe that Staubach that i mentioned a few paragraphs ago was too much. But, as I enter more results, a clearer picture will emerge of approximately how much other people are paying for the exact same card. And through that collection of data, perhaps readers will be able to gauge a fair range of prices for any particular card when buying or selling.

Did Frank Gifford sell for $299?

In 1992 Portraits on August 7, 2012 at 2:45 am

A reader recently asked if Frank Gifford signed any of his 1991 Pro Line cards. The answer is yes.

A seller called Imac7065 on the website (where I got the scan shown above) posted just this month that he had one and was wondering how much to sell it for. He decided to auction it on eBay with a starting price of $299, and he listed it Aug. 4. His eBay seller ID is Imac7065. He sold it Aug. 5 and wondered if he listed it for too little.

I’m aware that some Gifford autographs in the Pro Line set are believed to have been done with a rubber stamp. But this autograph looks genuine. I’m no expert on Gifford’s signature, but this signature has none of the telltale signs of a rubber stamp. There appear to be various pressure points and different densities in the ink. Looks good!

Here’s a link to the discussion about the cards on

And here’s a scan of the auction result:

UPDATE ON AUG. 19, 2012
The same seller appears to be selling the same card in a newer auction. I’m not sure, but the card that appeared to sell for $299 sure looks like this one, which has a starting bid of $1,299.99.

However, there’s yet another Gifford, this one selling for $1,999, from the same seller with the same scan. Is he using multiple auctions to fish for the highest bid for that one card? Or does he have multiple Gifford autographs and is just reusing the one scan?

To complete, or to super-complete

In 1992 Portraits on January 18, 2012 at 5:06 am

So Don Mattingly signed some of his 1992 Pro Line Portraits in blue, and he signed some in black. Do you care? Does it really matter?

How much of a completist are you? Do you also collect the embossed cards from the National conventions? Do you collect every variation possible? The autographed cards from the regular set plus the autographed National cards?

The bottom line is this: There is no right or wrong answer. As long as whatever you collect makes you happy, then you’re doing the right thing in this hobby. If you want to collect every variation possible, it’s going to be quite expensive. But, 20 years out, maybe that’s all you have left. You’ve got all the cards (or maybe all but a few), and you’re occupying yourself with the odd blue autograph or ballpoint signature you find.

Me? I’m sticking with the autographs. And I do like the cards from the National. I went to the 1991 National in Anaheim, and it was probably the most fun I’ve had in the card-collecting hobby. A complete blast. So I grab a National card here and there when I see a good deal. Otherwise, I’m trying to compile the 1991, 1992 and 1993 certified autographs.

Was Emmitt Smith supposed to be in the 1991 Portraits set?

In 1991 Portraits, 1992 Portraits, Oddities on January 17, 2012 at 3:10 am

I have never seen this card before, a 1991 Emmitt Smith Pro Line Portraits card. A reader called Gus sent me two digital pics of the card, front and back, looking for some answers. I don’t have specifics, but I can make some educated guesses.

This clearly is not one of the regular 300 cards from the 1991 Pro Line Portraits set, although the date on the back of the card says 1991. Emmitt had no 1991 card. His Portraits card appeared in the 1992 set.

Gus’ card is exceptional for four reasons: The card has a different photo on the front than the 1992 Smith card (above), it has different text on the back from the 1992 card (below), it has no number and the date on the back says 1991. I can’t tell if the photo on the back is different, but the crop is tighter on the 1992 card.

The cards that were sent to the players to autograph did not have the card number on the back. That fact and the certified, embossed seal are the two ways to know you have an autograph card that was inserted into the pack by the manufacturer (and not a forgery). This card does not have the seal.

I have three guesses about this card:

1) It is a prototype for a Smith card for the 1991 set that somehow got away from the Pro Line folks and into circulation in the collecting world. I’m basing this guess on the quote on the back of the card, which mostly revolves around Emmitt’s views on the differences between college and pro football. That would make sense for a player who just finished his first NFL season, but it makes less sense for a player who would be entering his third season as the cards were hitting the shelves. That being the case, Pro Line would’ve changed the wording on the back for 1992, which it did. Smith gained nearly 1,000 yards in 1990, so demand for a 1991 card would’ve been there. Gus says he read somewhere that neither Smith nor the NFL was happy with the photo of Emmitt not smiling. I would be interested to read whatever Gus read. If this were a prototype for 1991, it seems like a simple fix to change the pic. But we don’t know the timing of the matter, which might have kept the card out of the 1991 set.

2) It’s a prototype for 1992. But if it is, why does it have the 1991 date on the back? Seems odd. And unlikely.

3) Emmitt was supposed to be part of the 300-card 1991 set, and this is one of the cards meant to bear Emmitt’s signature and be inserted into foil packs. If this problem with the photo was significant enough (and the situation came up late in the process to get the set out), it may have prevented Emmitt from being part of the 1991 set. If that was the case, the company might have decided to hold the card until 1992, adding some star power to the set. I’m basing this guess on the fact that there’s no number on the back of the card.

I think the third is the most likely possibility.

As I said, I’ve never seen this card before, and I’d love to know more about it.

If it was meant to be part of the 1991 set, I’d also love to know which of the other cards was not originally included in the set of 300 (in other words, which card was added to replace Emmitt). I’d be curious to know who was essentially card No. 301 and got included when Emmitt’s card fell through.

Another Mrs. Claus variant

In 1992 Portraits, Oddities on December 27, 2011 at 7:03 am

Here’s another variant on the 1992 Mrs. Claus autographed Pro Line insert. This one has two autographs one it. Check out the photo of Santa. The Pro Line Santa Claus stand-in signed his framed picture for Mrs. Claus.

Very interesting. And once again, it makes me wonder how many are like this and what other surprises were/are lurking in those silver, black and white foil packs.

Holy North Pole! Mrs. Claus vs. Mrs. Santa

In 1992 Portraits, Oddities on December 24, 2011 at 2:35 am

Fellow Pro Line certified autograph collector Jayson Morand (whom you will be reading about from time to time) has discovered something ultra rare.

He got a certified, stamped card of Santa’s wife that was signed Mrs. Santa, not Mrs. Claus. I’ve never heard of one of these. But Jayson has one, and he forwarded me the scans (above). I’ll let him tell the story:

“I always had a 1992 Pro Line Portraits Mrs. Santa autographed card, but I picked up another one in a online auction a year ago. I was in the process of selling it recently when I realized that the one I had was signed ‘Mrs. Santa.’ The one I was selling was signed ‘Mrs. Claus.’ So I decided to keep it. I recently sent it to Dan Hitt at Beckett to get it incorporated in the next Beckett price guide.”

Fantastic find! It makes me wonder three things:
a) if whoever was signing those Mrs. Claus cards just wanted to screw with us collectors.
b) just how many were signed “Mrs. Santa.”
c) what other variations are out there … on any card.

We’ll discuss Muhammad Ali soon.

And make sure to head on over to Jayson’s website and check out his collection.

There’s all this talk about Santa Claus, but …

In 1991 Portraits, 1992 Portraits on December 20, 2011 at 6:03 am

If you’re collecting the entire run of certified Pro Line autographs, do you also collect the Santa Claus cards?

They’re certified. They’ve got the stamp. They’ve got an autograph. No idea whose signature it is. But unless Virginia knows something the rest of us don’t, it ain’t Santa’s.

And that’s my problem with the cards. The Pro Line Claus cards are fun, but I’m not interested in them for the purposes of collecting the set. Those just aren’t legitimate autographs.

I know my mind might change when, someday, I have all the cards and am desperate to continue the hunt. And when the search for the elusive Chris Miller Profiles cards someday dries up, I might search for the Clauses just to prolong the search for one more embossed, autographed card that I don’t have..

According to a few sources, Pro Set was the first to issue a Santa Card, in 1991. Then the Pro Line Santa (top of page) was released afterward. It may be obvious, but Pro Line was the first “autographed” Santa card. And it wasn’t enough to have a short print of autographed santa cards in addition to the “regular” Santa, which, I believe, also was a short print. But Pro Line also produced an autographed Santa that was numbered to 200. The first card was signed simply “Santa.” The second, numbered card has an autograph that reads “Santa Claus.” In 2010, Beckett said this numbered Santa insert is the most expensive of all the Santa Cards made since 1991. At the time it booked for $60, according to Beckett.

I’ll rant about the prices of Pro Line autographs (or any card, for that matter) in the Beckett guide some other time. But this adds to my frustration about the Santa card being part of the set. If you acquire a certified, stamped Santa card — but not the numbered one — do you still have to get the numbered one to finish the set? I suppose it depends on how much of a completist you are. But it vexes me that they added this make-believe autograph to the set. Then, it wasn’t enough to have one, they had to use the same card and add 200 more autographs with a gimmicky twist.

Why not add another card, one signed “Kris Kringle” that would be numbered to 50? Or one with a “Father Christmas” autograph numbered to 25? Where will it end? There are more names for Santa. All you need is a Sharpie and an embossing stamp with the Pro Line logo.

Anyway, in 1992, Pro Line produced another Santa chase card but added a Mrs. Claus, too, also signed and embossed. Here’s a picture of them (below).

My first scouting report: Paul & Judy’s

In 1991 Portraits, 1992 Portraits, 1992 Profiles, misinformation, who didn't sign on December 13, 2011 at 12:29 pm

One of the first things that alerted me to the fact that not everybody had autographed their Pro Line football cards was some information I got in a catalog in 1993. It was from Paul & Judy’s Coins & Cards of Arcola, Ill.

A section of their catalog was dedicated to players who had not signed their cards and was titled “Missing in action: just too busy to be bothered.” Awesome. They warned their customers, “Don’t expect to find any of the following autographed cards in your wax packs … or anywhere else, for that matter.” And then they listed the following cards:

Fred Biletnikoff

Al Davis: Joseph C., a reader of the site, is nearly finished with the entire set of signed, embossed cards. He says he’s never seen the Al Davis.

Dennis Green

Frank Gifford (with the warning “Watch out for some that were rubber-stamped with ‘facsimile’ autograph.”)

Kathie Lee Gifford

Gifford Family

Joe Gibbs (“Race Car Card”)

James Hasty

Mark Rypien

Anthony Smith

Richard Todd

Eric Dickerson (#5 Profiles)

Jim Everett (all nine Profiles)

Jack Kemp (all nine Profiles)

Chris Miller (all nine Profiles)

Jerry Rice (#1, 2, 3, 4 Profiles)

Mark Rypien (all nine Profiles)

Deion Sanders (all nine Profiles)

Sterling Sharpe (#4 Profiles; they said, “This card was signed, but autograph ‘defective.’)

Bruce Smith (#5 Profiles; they said, “He didn’t like card.”)

Pat Swilling (#7 profiles)

Vinny Testaverde (#2, 4 Profiles; “Signed, but ‘defective.’)

The problem with this list is that it’s not accurate. At the time, it was a nice warning that not every card was gonna be out there. But Testaverde, for example, signed all his cards. I’m not sure what they meant by “defective.” Did the card not bring joy to whoever pulled it out of a pack?

But clearly, Vinny signed all nine cards.

The following is my best information on the Paul & Judy’s list:

Fred Biletnikoff: SIGNED

Al Davis: SIGNED (according to

Dennis Green: SIGNED. I have seen this card for sale on eBay. I had a cow when I did, but I was outbid. It was sometime around 2000, and I can’t remember how much it sold for. It had the embossed seal. I have not seen one since.

Frank Gifford: SIGNED, although some may be by a rubber stamp. I have seen stamped, certified, autographed Frank Gifford cards, but I’m not enough of an expert to know if it was a rubber stamp. It looked good to me. But this brings up a question about rubber-stamped Pro Line autographs. They’re less desirable to some folks, but does having a rubber-stamped Pro Line not meet the criteria for having that card if you’re trying to compile the whole set? I know Jim Kelly rubber-stamped many of the 1991 cards. So does having one of those mean you really don’t have the card? We’ll discuss this at some other date.

Kathie Lee Gifford: I don’t know

Gifford Family: I don’t know

Joe Gibbs (“Race Car Card”): I don’t know

James Hasty: I don’t know

Mark Rypien: SIGNED.

Anthony Smith: I don’t know

Richard Todd: I don’t know

Eric Dickerson 5: I don’t know

Jim Everett, all nine cards: SIGNED

Jim Everett supercollector Geoff (see comment below) has found all nine of the Everett Profiles cards that are signed with the embossed seal.

Jack Kemp (all nine profiles): I am told that Kemp did sign some of these. They do exist, but in extremely low numbers.

Chris Miller (all nine profiles): I don’t know

Jerry Rice Profiles: SIGNED. I have seen all nine of these signed with the regular certified seal. I have one with the regular seal, and I have all nine autographed with the seal from the National convention.

Mark Rypien all nine Profiles: SIGNED (according to Jayson Morand)

Deion Sanders 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6: SIGNED (see photo of #3)

Deion Sanders 7, 8, 9: I don’t know

Sterling Sharpe 4: SIGNED

Bruce Smith 5: I don’t know

Pat Swilling 7: I don’t know.

Vinny Testaverde 2, 4: SIGNED

(By “I don’t know, I mean I’ve never seen it and have no reason to doubt Paul & Judy’s information. By “SIGNED,” I mean I have visual verification that a signed, embossed card does exist, and in some cases I own them.)