There’s an old saying that if something too good to be true, then it probably is — and this collector recently got a reminder of just that.
With the recent health scare of pro wrestling legend “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair, I decided it was past time to track down a copy of his 2005 Topps Heritage WWE autograph card — a card that was never released in packs but had reportedly surfaced years ago.
It’s not that I needed a Flair autograph — I have it a few times and actually met him at a past show — I wanted this card because I’ve always had an affinity for Topps‘ earliest years of WWE cards. This was Topps’ first release in its current run, but Flair didn’t make the cut as part of a crop of signers that includes Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels, The Iron Sheik, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, Trish Stratus, Stacy Keibler and so many more notables from the past.
I found one on eBay and examined the autograph in the auction photo closely even though it was certified by JSA. I checked other cards for sale from the seller to see if there were autographs that looked questionable — everything looked fine to me and the card was affordably priced ($50) compared to another seller who wanted nearly $900 for a PSA-authenticated and slabbed copy (and I’m not a fan of its autograph). This JSA one was complete with sticker and a certificate noting that it was a witnessed autograph, not just an authenticated one.
But, I never even thought about whether the card itself was legit — I figured somebody somewhere had gotten their hands on the original cards Flair was supposed to sign but didn’t — however I knew instantly upon arrival that the card was legit as one of Flair’s face-first flops to the mat.
The Flair card might pass on its own to a beginner or someone who hadn’t ripped into packs of Heritage over the last 12 years, but I knew it was wrong from the start — not the ink just the card. (JSA isn’t a card authenticator.)
I’ve enlisted fellow WWE Hall of Famer Lita on a card I pulled from a pack — likely from a case bought from Blowout years ago — to show the differences. First? The stock. The Flair is printed on thinner white cardboard and it’s not glossed. The originals are on the correct dark Heritage stock and are (unfortunately) heavily glossed. The image itself — both front and back — are clearly from a high-res scan of an original card. There’s no amateur Photoshopping here — the card is clean and crisp — except it’s not crisp enough. You can see noise where the original screening dots create noise between scanning and a second printing. That’s how parts of the yellow lettering are fuzzy or vanish as the ink bleeds more than the original did. (And it’s not like the originals’ typography is that sharp to start with.) The faded Heritage logo also is a sign when compared to a real card and that trademark sign after Flair’s name that’s barely visible? Also a giveaway. The lawyers want those things visible.
You can also see the visual noise a bit more pronounced in the lightened window of white where Flair was supposed to sign, but the ridiculously obvious giveaway? It’s the back. The grains of the card back are seen on the surface — but the cut edges show white fibers of cardboard below the fraying. That won’t happen on a real card. Brown fibers displaced from their original home when cutting would show more brown fibers below them. The top edge of the Flair card most obviously shows that the fix was in with this card.
I was instantly torn about what to do with this one. I could’ve returned it — somebody else that I recommended one of these cards to did just that and got their money back with no issues — but I knew that, with apologies to Curt Hennig fans, this was a perfect item to write about.
So, with that said, I’m giving this kayfabe card a moment … as well as a place in my collection.
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I would keep it as well. As someone who has done ttm for autographs, I have used card images to get signed. Now mine are usual 4×6 pictures of them but still card images. I have also used custom cards for it as well. I would look at it as the same and have a story behind it.