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JordanCards.com: How prevalent, do you believe, are counterfeit 1984-85 Michael Jordan Star Co XRC cards?

Steve Taft: With all the rumors about counterfeits of this card, the amount of counterfeits is very small when compared to the MJ Fleer RC counterfeits. (Small in comparison to the Fleer counterfeits, but, still plenty of them to put a hurt on a lot of unknowing collectors).

The other little secret, is, the three main counterfeits are very easy to spot. The vast majority of counterfeits are sold via online sources, most notably on that very famous site… I recommend avoiding the ungraded Jordans via online sites unless you know your stuff or are dealing with a known Star Co. specialist.

It never ceases to amaze me how many collectors jump at a “deal” on a Star (or Fleer) Jordan RC that turns out to be a fake. A legitimate dealer is not going to give you a Jordan RC in nice shape because you’re a nice guy. The margins between buy / sell on a key card like this are tight. It’s generally not a card a dealer can make a killing on because nobody is going to “give” a dealer a nice MJ RC dirt cheap.

I would recommend collectors buy their Jordan (and other key RC’s that have been counterfeited) from well known dealers. Ask around, you can figure out who can be trusted and who might be questionable.

As to grading, BGS and GAI are currently grading Star Co. cards. Both of these companies hired me to train their grading staff and provide them with my “Star Co. Authentication Manual”. I also did this with Sports Collector’s Digest many years ago, but, as most people know, they have closed their grading company while continuing to publish hobby magazines and books.

Two caveats:

  • Sports Collector’s Digest should NOT be confused with Sports Card Direct. I have nothing to do with Sports Cards Direct and never will…
  • GAI has a limited problem to be aware of – that is somebody has copied their “old” label and is using generic slabs in attempt to pass them off as real GAI Star cards. Mike Baker at Global is not grading these counterfeits. It should be easy to spot, as, it’s not a Global slab, it’s a generic slab.

This is probably a good place to make a personal comment… While I have trained grading company staff on Star Co. authentication and provided them with samples and my “Star Co. Authentication Manual”, I do not work for, or at, any grading companies. Once I’m done training them, I go back to being a card dealer. I do not grade cards for any grading companies. I do make myself available to them should they have a question or a submission that might require my consulting regarding authentication.

JordanCards.com:Without giving away any trade secrets what are some basic techniques that collectors can use when identifying authentic 1984-85 Star Co cards?

Steve Taft:I think you want to know about the tricks of the 1985-86 Star Co. issue, card #’s 95-172. The original issue cards tend to have front border color bleed to the back edge(s). The 2nd batch, that I consider counterfeit, even though it was printed at the original printer, where the time of printing is in question, among other things, does not bleed onto the back edges. The original batch tends to have flatter colors and cards tend to be a fraction larger. The 2nd batch tends to be brighter in color, have more gloss, and, tends to be a fraction smaller. When those factors are difficult to figure out, you go to the layering of the film negatives. Border frames around the picture will vary, but, that’s a card by card difference, not something that I can spell out here. Of note, GAI and BGS graders pick up on these differences very quickly. Once they’ve got these mastered, the rest is very easy…

JordanCards.com: Is it possible for your average collector to identify reprinted Star Co cards? If so what should we look for?

Steve Taft: Yes, in general, the things mentioned above. Once you’ve got a core collection, use those cards as samples to compare.

JordanCards.com: What is your number one tip for collectors interested in adding Star Co cards to their collection?

Steve Taft: I don’t know that there’s just one tip. First of all, and this applies to all types of cards, if it’s too good to be true on a key card, it probably is…

One thing I like to tell new collectors that shop online, buy from a dealer that uses their real name or store name. A professional that plans on being in business in the future wants potential customers to know their name, and, while that may not guarantee an honest transaction, it greatly improves the odds of an honest deal. Most of the online sellers involved in counterfeit sales go by “cute or smart-ass” nicknames.

Find out who the long time Star Co. dealers are, and, who has the reputation for knowing the cards well, obviously, with the ability to make sure you get the real thing. I’d like to raise my hand, here, as I can do that for collectors. I don’t guarantee to match the price of the guy selling counterfeits, but, my cards are original. There are other sellers that can be trusted, too.

Beginners should probably get a few BGS or Global graded cards and make sure they buy from known Star Co. experts. Once a collector has some Star cards in their collection, it gets easier to learn. The first thing I tell the grading companies at a training session, is, “the dirty little secret is Star Co. authentication is not as difficult as it is rumored to be…”.

The other batch of Star counterfeits came along around 2003-2006. These cards were likely printed in Ohio or PA, as, that’s where the main distributors lived. They flooded that famous online site with Star Co, Minor League Baseball, Sportscasters, Kenner SLU cards, and a few other counterfeits.

It appears they may have shut down as one of the “sellers” was arrested about two years ago. These cards feature re-built font and borders, and, are fairly easy to spot, especially with a comparison card to sample. The original Star owner had nothing to do with this batch.

All the Jordans and most of the key RCs were done by this group. I consider this group to have been one of the two largest counterfeit distribution networks in hobby history. They also did huge amounts of minor league baseball cards, Sportscasters, 1985 Nike MJ’s, and, even some vintage Bazooka BB. In fact, they probably made every mass-produced counterfeit of the last ten years or so.

Finally, it’s not all that difficult to learn about Star and determine what’s authentic. If you can tell a 86 Fleer original from a fake, you can easily learn to do the same with Star.

JordanCards.com: Thank you Steve for your time and expertise in this area. I hope this helps clear up a lot of the confusion around these cards.

Steve Taft runs a couple of great online stores where you can find his guaranteed authentic Star Co items available:

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