The hobby needs a clear definition and understanding of what constitutes an “altered” card. Take a look at the examples provided below and chime in in our Forum on this subject.

Back story: PSA Decertifying Kurt’s Card Care

A couple months ago, Cardhound published an article about altered cards. It has been our biggest story to date, and was written in the wake of PSA decertifying an order from Kurt’s Card Care after Kurt posted videos of some of the cards being “doctored” before submission.

Kurt’s card clean-up was obviously invisible to the graders–as the cards received numerical grades at the time. This begs the question: if an alteration is not detectable, should it render the card not gradable? Most agree that trimming and recoloring are egregious and fraudulent. After that, though, it gets very murky.

How Should We Define “Altered”?

As a collector primarily of Cuban cards of Negro League players, this topic is of interest to me. Nearly all of my cards were removed from albums they had been pasted into in the 1920’s-1940’s. And most Cuban cards show clear evidence of album removal. Further, I have seen hundreds of graded T206 (for example) that also show clear evidence of album removal. They all typically grade low–which they should with glue stains and the like. But they do generally grade.

So, how should the hobby define “altered”? In feedback received on the original story, all that’s clear is that there is no consensus. Some folks thought that using moisture and pressure to “relax” creases or wrinkles out of a card is fair game (note: most considered this fraud). Others thought that even simply wiping off a factory wax mark on the front of a card is altering the card.

Questions to Consider

I have my own personal definition of fraudulent altering, and it is largely based on the following criteria:

  • Is the defect “on the card” (surface wax on card front) or is it “in the card” (a crease)?
  • Has the defect compromised the card? (to my knowledge, a crease has done permanent damage to the integrity of the paper)
  • Does removing the defect harm the card? (solvents might remove a scratch on a modern card, but to what long-term end?)

Let’s Look at Some Examples

So in the interest of furthering the debate, let’s look at a few examples. I ask you simply in each case: Is This Card Altered? (Each of these “alterations” were personally done by yours truly. If you have any similar projects, please get in touch!)

Example 1: Mickey AS with scrapbook debris removed

Example 2: Surface gunk removed from a Larsen

Example 3: Old adhesive removed from a Cuban card

Example 4: Tape removed from a Killebrew

What Do You Think?

We would love to hear your feedback on how “altered” should be defined within the hobby. Of course, there will always be alteration fraud. But without a common set of rules and definitions to abide by, even the good folks can get caught up in controversy. Share your thoughts on this topic in the Cardhound Forum on this subject (free membership required).