Collector's today place too much trust in grading companies that are supposedly protecting the integrity of the hobby. One of their faults, aside from turning a blind eye to trimming, is authenticating items that are patently fake.
One such example is the 1992 Sports Stars USA card of Dan Marino, produced in an 'orange' version that says "All Time Best" on the left-hand side of the card and a 'green' version that says "Marino" on the right-hand side of the card. Images for both versions are the same and feature a blue facsimile signature on the lower portion of the card.
As far as I can tell, it's hard to believe deceit was intended by the creator to pass this off as an autograph card. With an ounce of scrutiny, one would conclude the image was an autographed 8" x 10" that was shrunk down to size in order to create the card. The dimensions of the signature are comically small, neatly fitting into a 1" x 1" box with room to spare. Marino's signature is fairly involved and never appears so compact. An easier surface examination would reveal there is no ink on the surface of the card.
No legitimate autograph examiner would certify this as authentic.
Sadly, I've yet to acquire the green version because they're normally bid up by unsuspecting buyers thinking they are authentic. An e-mail to PSA about the card they certified went unanswered.
If your wantlist had a wantlist, it would probably pick out a handful of cards that you've potentially never seen before or just too unobtainable unless you've hit the lottery. Over the past few months on eBay, there have been a slew of incredibly rare Marino cards that NEVER come up for sale, and they're reaching incredible prices.
Take for example, possibly the most recognizable and sought after card set of the 1990s, the 1997 Skybox Metal Universe Precious Metal Gems Green. Serial numbered to 150, only the first 15 were issued in green. It sold for $4,550 on October 17. I scanned my wantlist, there's no other card that would command this kind of money. This is the most expensive Marino card you can own, and certainly an investment piece.
Equally recognizable for its use of bright neon colors on acetate, are the 1998 Skybox E-X2001 Essential Credential Future and Now sets. Limited to just 61 copies between the two sets, 53 exist for Marino in the Future set and only eight in the Now set. Depending on the players card number in the 60 card set, the serial number decreases from 1-60 for the Future set, and increases from 1-60 for the Now set. A Futures version sold for $888 on 10/23. Although the Now version for Marino is rarer and would probably sell for more, I'm not sure if its neon yellow colors would look as sharp as the Future version. If I had a choice, I'd go for the Future.
Skybox continued the parallels the following year in its 1999 Skybox E-X Century Essential Credentials Future and Now sets. With slightly increased print runs for Marino--66 for Future and 25 for Now--and a change in design, the 1999 set does not warrant the sky high prices seen for 1998. A Now version recently sold on 11/3 for several hundred dollars (eBay hid the price since it was a BIN, but I would imagine it sold for $400-500). The Future version #/66 can be had in the $150 range.
Lastly, one of the underrated late 90's sets that doesn't get as much notoriety as the top two sets is the 1998 Upper Deck Black Diamond Premium Cut Horizontal Quadruple set. Most of the players in this set can be easily obtained--except for Troy Aikman and Marino. For them, the insertion rates were much harder at 1:22,500 packs. And according to my records, only 10 copies were made. The example below was snatched up by BIN on 10/7, and although the price is obscured I know an offer north of $300 was declined, so I'd estimate the final sale price was around $500.
Not an ideal way to kickoff a new blog, but I felt compelled to post this public service announcement after recent hoards of fake Marino autographs have hit the market and are fooling unsuspecting buyers.
Straight to the point, blank copies of the 1998 SkyBox Autographics and the 1999 SP Signature Autograph cards were backdoored and are now appearing with inauthentic signatures.
In my expert opinion, here are fake copies of these cards followed by real examples for comparison.
Fake 1998 SkyBox Autographics
These fakes began appearing in late 2015. All fake versions are missing the embossed SkyBox stamp near the signature. If the signature is missing the "13" it is fake. Some recent fakes have started to include the "13," but if you study Marino's signature you can easily distinguish the real deal from the fake.
Real 1998 SkyBox Autographics
Fake 1999 SP Signature Autograph
These fakes began appearing in early 2016, around the same time as the SkyBox Autographics. If the signature is in black ink, or is missing the "13" it is fake. The two fake versions on the left side are getting closer to replicating Marino's signature, but the angle of the signature and position of the "13" are dead giveaways that the signature is fake.
Real 1999 SP Signature Autograph
Keep in mind that just because the card stock was intended to have an autograph and has the stated 'Certificate of Authenticity' on the back, collectors need to be scrupulous about the items they buy. Even card grading services 'authenticate' fake cards from time to time. If it doesn't look right, walk away.