Counterfeit Card Alert: 1968 Topps #177 Koosman/Ryan

Posted on 12/2/2021

The printing is impressive on this fake rookie card, but there are still clues it is not genuine.

A marquee rookie card from the late 1960s, the Jerry Koosman/Nolan Ryan card can be found in more than one version. Besides card #177 in the base Topps set of 1968, there is also the Milton Bradley version that was found in the 1968 Milton Bradley board game “Win-A-Card.”

Genuine examples of the #177 Jerry Koosman/Nolan Ryan card from Topps and Milton Bradley.
Click images to enlarge.

Another version of this iconic card was found north of the border. Produced by O-Pee-Chee (OPC) under agreement with Topps, the card is similar to the Topps card with the exception of the card stock and a copyright line that indicates the card was printed in Canada.

While the OPC version is rare in comparison to the Topps and Milton Bradley versions, they all pale in comparison to the version printed south of the border. The 1968 Topps Venezuelan version may be the ugliest example of the Koosman/Ryan rookie, but it is also the rarest. Produced in South America under agreement with Topps, the quality of printing and stock used was inferior to its cousins printed in the north. Venezuelan versions of Topps cards can appear to be dirty or dingy. More often than not, these cards are found with back damage as a result of being pasted into an album.

But there is yet another version of the Koosman/Ryan rookie card that we do not want to see. That version is a new kind of counterfeit.

This card has been the target of counterfeiters for decades. While most of the fake examples are easy to spot, a few have been of a high-enough quality to require extra attention from the experts at Certified Sports Guaranty® (CSG®). The example featured here is one of those rare higher-quality fakes.

The counterfeit card submitted to CSG.
Click image to enlarge.

The print quality on the front of the card is fantastic — fantastic in a bad way. We do not see the evidence from typical counterfeits of decayed image quality and design devices that are pixelated instead of being printed in solid ink. The design devices on this card all appear to be correctly printed. In fact, in the purple “Mets” logo, there are typical “fisheye” print dots that are commonly seen on real cards. These can be harder to reproduce when copying an authentic card and trying to create a convincing fake.

Close-up of the counterfeit card.
Click image to enlarge.

The print quality on the back is equal to that on the front, but we see the color being “off” in comparison to an authentic version.

A close-up of the back of the counterfeit card.
Click image to enlarge.

As with most counterfeit cards, it is the stock that remains difficult to replicate. The stock of this card feels thinner and slick to the touch. While the thickness is close to being correct, the stock itself feels flimsy, and it also allows light to pass through. Holding the card in front of a proper light source, one can clearly see the other side of the card through the stock. An authentic card will not allow light to easily pass through it.

LEFT: The counterfeit card allows some light to pass through it.
RIGHT: A close-up of the edge of the counterfeit card.
Click images to enlarge.

The edges are another giveaway. The stock used for the counterfeit has no age to it. In an attempt to cover up this unnatural whiteness, the edges have had color added to them in an attempt to make them seem more aged.

The counterfeiters and their methods are getting better, but with world-class expertise and cutting-edge technology, the CSG team will remain at the forefront of card grading and authentication.

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