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For most millennials, the collection of Trading Cards remains one of the fondest childhood memories. Trading cards that were a rage back in the 90s and early 2000s, still appear to enjoy the same amount of popularity.

So now, what is a Trading Card?

A trading card is a small card drawn out of paperboard or thick paper. These cards entail images and information, statistics, and interesting trivia on celebrities, fictional characters, places or things. Although primarily associated with sports, these also feature an array of subjects ranging from cartoons to fantasy, television series etc. The late 80s and 90s kids fondly remember these as their treasured collectables and shuffling through them their favourite hobby.

A Peek into the History of Trading Cards

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and its resultant “house arrest” for a prolonged period, it brought an unprecedented boom in the popularity of trading cards. However, not many would know that the concept of collecting cards emerged from the Victorian-era sentimentality and a fascination with new-fangled colour printing. They originated in the 1800s as ‘cigarette cards’. Packaged with cigarettes for the purpose of stiffening the packaging, the original trade cards were used for the purpose of advertisement. In the 1860s, following the inception of baseball as a professional sport, baseball cards were printed and usually sold in the packaging of candy or tobacco products. The popularization of ‘colour lithography’ in the 1870s and early 1900s created a rage for these cards. Companies from various industries started inserting the cards into product packaging as a prize. Available in vibrant colours and images, they caught the fancy of people who started collecting them in scrapbooks and albums. People would often trade the cards with each other to prepare a complete set, thus the origin of their name. The 90s saw the onset of the trading game. In 1993, ‘The Wizards of the Coast’ was released; This was when Pokémon cards hit the market. Introduced in Japan in 1996 and the United States in 1998, the cards have witnessed unmatched popularity.

With the soaring popularity of colour printing, the cards started losing their sheen and stopped being inserted into products. However, the concept of collecting trading cards gradually became a fad. 

Trading Cards at Present

The hobby of Trading Cards collection has been revived, and this appears to have been on the back of COVID-19 related massive resurgence. With unforeseen days of lockdowns, people started taking a renewed interest in trading cards and there were millions more submissions for grading services. Trading cards are valued most when they are affiliated with an official grading system. There are a number of enterprises that provide such grading services, Ace Grading being one of the most popular and trusted ones. Trading cards are ranked on their condition, 1 being ‘poor’, and 10 being ‘gem mint’.

Of Cards and Counterfeiting

Trading cards is a serious business – It is estimated that as much as 25.2 billion Yu-Gi-Oh trading cards were sold from 1999 to 2011. Pokémon had recorded a total sale of 28.7 billion cards by 2018. E-commerce sites and other marketplaces entering the trading card business have facilitated communication between buyers and sellers, creating a more liquid and transparent card market. It is needless to mention that the increase in the demand for these cards and trading cards and the ease in buying and selling of same has also given rise to the problem of counterfeiting.

Delving into the world of counterfeiting of trading cards reveals some astonishing facts:

– As early as 1999, the Arizona Sun Daily reported a spike in counterfeit Pokemon Cards.

– In 2005, a massive shipment of counterfeit Yu-Gi-Oh! Cards worth approximately $3 million was confiscated.

– In 2012, a shipment with 30,000 counterfeited sets of Pokémon cards valued at $2 million dollars was seized and destroyed on the port of Los Angeles.

– As recent as 2021, nearly eight tons of counterfeit Pokémon cards were seized at the Shanghai airport.

The massive scope in the trading cards industry and the amount of money that card lovers are willing to invest on getting the right cards to complete their set makes this a booming industry for counterfeiters and has kept the activities of illegal card trading thriving for years now. Not many would be aware that the selling of counterfeit cards is illegal in many parts of the world and individuals involved can likely get prosecuted for the same.

The Difference between Fake Cards and Reprints

To understand counterfeiting in trading cards and identify counterfeited cards, it is important to know the difference between Fake Cards and Reprints. A fake card is created solely for the purpose of misleading collectors. These cards are often given vintage look and feel to make them look authentic. A reprint on the other hand is produced to be utilized as a collector’s item. Here the buyer is aware and acknowledges the fact that the card is a reproduction. Some reprints also have ‘reprint’ printed on them to help one distinguish from authentic ones.

The Solution to Counterfeiting?

Like all other industries, if there is counterfeiting in trading cards, there is a solution. It is a known fact that nothing can prevent counterfeiters from manufacturing and selling fake products to mint money. However, manufacturers of authentic grading cards can certainly take steps to ensure the safeguarding of their cards’ reputation and authenticity.

One of the most effective ways to check Trading Cards counterfeiting is to resort to a grading service like one that Ace Grading provides. This service protects cards by putting them in marked cases with the Ace Grading logo embedded on the front and back of the slab. This establishes the authenticity of the product.

Manufacturers can adopt the use of Hologram Stickers to make their products authentic. However, using this technology can increase the cost of the cards. Using Serial Numbers can be another way to prevent counterfeiting; The printed numbers are thus unique to each card. Rainbow Foil can be another way to distinguish between authentic and fake cards; These colourful foils embellish the cards,  they however take up more room on the card itself. Blacklights were once used as an effective way of checking counterfeiting; These lights are used on the cards to show an alternate design underneath the base layer of the foil. But with the advancement in technology, counterfeiters learnt the art of creating false blacklights.

A modern and effective way to protect cards from counterfeiting is  through the use of Artificial Intelligence. The Cypheme solution is the best out there to prevent counterfeiting in any part of the globe. With labels running on an Artificial Neural Network, it protects brands and mitigates the threat of counterfeiting. Far beyond the realm of the ordinary, these anti-copy labels are produced with advanced sets of algorithms that verify the product’s authenticity. Going a step ahead, these labels also geolocate where fake products are being made. Extremely easy to use, all a customer needs is a smartphone camera to scan the products and verify their authenticity. It is interesting to note that Ace Grading makes use of Cypheme labels in its Trading Cards verification process.

Cypheme is the next-generation solution to keeping counterfeiters at bay; With illegal manufacturers relentlessly trying to make and sell fake trading cards by giving them a vintage look, Cypheme is the most trusted friend trading card manufacturers and grading companies need to prevent the loss of revenue and build trust with their customers.

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