CGC Trading Cards Compares a Genuine Error with an Unfortunate Victim of Sun Damage

Posted on 3/23/2022

To the untrained eye, it can be difficult to tell the difference between a Missing Print Layer error and sun fading.

The CGC Trading Cards Error Guide explains all of the different types of errors that CGC Trading Cards designates, and describes how trading cards are usually printed using a four-color process of cyan, magenta, yellow and black. Occasionally, due to low ink, a press malfunction or even simple human error, sheets of cards pass through the printing process, missing some or all of these expected color layers. However, it takes a keen eye or specialized equipment to differentiate some of these errors from cards that have been damaged by the sun’s damaging UV rays.

The backs of two Pokémon cards: one a Missing Print Layers error (left), the other severely damaged by the sun (right).
Click images to enlarge.

The cards in the images above look extremely similar at first glance. However, viewing the cards with a loupe or under a microscope, the error card with Missing Print Layers on the left is lacking the red and yellow dots in the rosette pattern, while the sun-damaged card on the right has them, but they are extremely faded.

The same two cards under infrared light.
Click images to enlarge.

Even under specialized infrared lighting, the two cards look essentially the same. However, the blue borders are ever-so-slightly lighter on the sun-damaged card, but this could easily be attributed to a different print run. The real difference between these two cards is revealed under Ultraviolet light.

The cards under Ultraviolet light.
Click images to enlarge.

Under 365nm UV light, the two cards look dramatically different. The inks on the error card all react normally, while they do not fluoresce at all on the card that has been faded by the sun’s UV rays. The inks in the sun-damaged example have absorbed so much UV radiation that the chemical bonds within the ink have been broken down, fading the colors and no longer reflecting any of the UV light.

The same error card pictured above in its CGC Trading Cards holder.
Click images to enlarge.

To ensure the authenticity of an error, purchase an example already certified by CGC Trading Cards, as every card graded by the CGC Trading Cards experts is guaranteed to be authentic and unaltered.

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