Some Common Sports Card Printing Errors You May Encounter

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Mistakes happen — even when it comes to printing sports cards. Nobody sets out to mess up, but it doesn’t always work out that way. From time to time, we all mess up.

So do machines.

But you probably experienced that today if you encountered the Blue Screen of Death on your computer. Or when your oven decided it wanted to take a Christmas vacation of its own the moment you were readying the turkey.

When it comes to cards, things get messed up from time to time. Sports card printing errors don’t happen all that often when you consider just how many are printed each year. But they do.

However, that doesn’t usually mean you’re going to get rich if you land one.

Production Imperfections

Sports card printing errors usually show up in a few different forms. Normally, these are caused by part of the production chain.

Usually, trading cards are printed in large sheets. These are then cut down. As both cards and the printing process has evolved over the years, it has made some things easier and some a little more complicated.

For a long time, cards were simply printed images and text on card stock. In more recent years, things like foil and holograms have been added. Modern cards can look pretty amazing. But they can also lead to more potential production errors.

New cards or old, both have multiple steps involved. Every time, a new set of potential problems.

Considering the millions of cards printed each year, it’s pretty amazing to think how small the number of problems are. For most collectors, there’s a good chance they don’t ever encounter one in a pack. For others, there can be isolated times when it’s more of a “when it rains it pours” approach and you get several similar errors in the same pack or series of packs.

Most Common Types of Sports Card Printing Errors

Here are some of the most prevalent types of sports card printing errors you may encounter:

Miscut Cards

When card companies are printing cards, the aim is to make like Robin Hood and have things printed dead center. It doesn’t always work out that way. Normally, it’s just a little off, barely visible to the naked eye. Other times, you get cards they are clearly off.

And on rare occasions you get a card that is so messed up that you can’t really tell what the card is because you’ve got two or even an intersection of four cards.

Severely miscut cards were more common in the past. Today, centering is better overall but issues still happen. Needless to say, these cards don’t yield the best results from grading.

Missing Back/Front

Sometimes you find a card that looks perfectly normal on one side but when you flip it over, there’s nothing there.



Sports Card Printing Errors - Blank Back


A couple of things are at play here to consider. Some blank-sided cards are a result of print quirks, particularly from several years ago. It’d be easy to happen if a couple of sheets stuck together.

These types of cards have also surfaced on the secondary market after being cut from sheets after the fact. These sheets were known to be complete only on one side, usually with nothing on the back.

Sometimes blank backs are proofs used as part of the production process that made their way to the secondary market.

Topps also sells blank back sets for a lot of their current sets through the Topps Vault on eBay. These are manufactured intentionally as blank backs and sold as one-of-ones. Think of them as a sort of parallel.

Wrong Back

Sometimes player on the front of the card doesn’t match the one on the front. These are called wrong backs.

When you think about it, this could happen fairly easily. Sheets have a specific layout. If the sheet is off or mixed up, weird things can happen. Like wrong backs.

Some of these cards can be found with appropriate centering on the reverse. However, often, they’re in miscut territory. This varies from set to set.

Missing Foil

With the advent of foil, another step was added to the printing process. With another step comes the possibility of more mistakes.

Cards missing foil on the front are one of the most common mistakes today. Sheets can stick together. Somehow, they can get skipped. When that happens, a card that might have a foil logo or name on the front all of a sudden seems a little naked.

If you’re quickly fanning through a stack, missing foil cards can be easy to miss, especially in sets that don’t use a lot of it in the first place.

For whatever reason, a lot of times, missing foil cards come in bunches. If you buy a blaster, most of the base might be messed up. Or it could be a common theme in a hobby box. Or you could go your entire collecting life without finding any.

Weird or Wonderful?

Errors have a long and storied history in the hobby. However, the majority of those that are widely recognized in the hobby come from things like spelling mistakes and wrong photos — oops moments that happen before a card heads off to the printer.

Generally speaking, sports card printing errors have more of a novelty status. There are exceptions, like the 1990 Topps Frank Thomas No Name on Front. But usually, these kinds of cards are outliers.

1990 Topps Frank Thomas No Name on Front B

By they’re very nature, they’re mistakes that weren’t supposed to happen — like when a fast food restaurant forgets to put the beef patty on your cheese burger. Or when Leonardo’s head falls off the moment you take a Ninja Turtle action figure out of its package.

Many times, collectors look down on printing errors in the sense that they’re not complete. They don’t necessarily fit in with a set you’re building. Despite they’re sharp corners, they’re damaged. So to that end, your best recourse might be to mail them back to the manufacturer and request replacements.

What Are Sports Card Printing Errors Worth?

It’s hard to say what sports card printing errors are worth.

Putting a gauge on what these sorts of errors are worth is tough. Their appeal is largely for player collectors looking to dive deep and get whatever they can. So sometimes, you can find buyers, particularly if it’s a star or an important Rookie Card.

Even then, big money is often the exception. You might get a few dollars if you try to move it. Or it might just sit there. It’s all dependent on who it is and if the right collector comes along. So few are actively looking for printing errors that they’re often the kind of thing you usually stumble upon rather than search out. Some may even avoid printing errors because they’re not as they’re intended. Pinpointing what these kinds of cards might be ‘worth’ is extremely tough to gauge. It’s probably best to keep expectations on the modest side.

To Sell or Not to Sell?

If you land a Mike Trout or Tom Brady mistake, it might be worth your time to try and find a buyer. If it’s a fifth-year card of a 35-year-old reliever in a set you’re working on, replacement might be the better route.

Depending on your take, sports card printing errors can add a little flavor to a break or they can be annoying. Just like a lot of other parts of the hobby, it comes down to preference.

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Ryan Cracknell

A collector for much of his life, Ryan focuses primarily on building sets, Montreal Expos and interesting cards. He's also got one of the most comprehensive collections of John Jaha cards in existence (not that there are a lot of them). Got a question, story idea or want to get in touch? You can reach him by email and through Twitter @tradercracks.

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54 comments

  1. IamNotARobot 11 May, 2018 at 12:31

    I have a few error cards in my collection. Topps had a hard time one year with Mark Carrier DB Bears and his cousin Mark Carrier WR Bucs. I also have a couple of other players with wrong backs. They are kind of cool and different, but I wouldn’t pay big bucks for any of them. I have seen people pushing error cards on eBay, usually overinflating the value based on rarity.

  2. David Hollingsworth 11 May, 2018 at 18:37

    Back in 2009 I got some O-Pee-Chee Hockey metal (Chrome) cards that the backs were Bowman baseball cards. Got them out of packs. And the next year was when Topps changed who made their Chrome cards.

  3. Jason 12 June, 2018 at 10:04

    I have a mistake on my AJ Green card because instead they put a photo of Jermaine Cresham instead of AJ Green and they have all of AJ Greens stats on the back so how much do you think i can get from this card?

  4. John 27 June, 2018 at 14:08

    John
    June 2018 at 2:00

    I have twenty six 1993 94 Ultra basketball cards that has is a error card I will name one of them Dennis Rodman on the back and Robert Horry on the front I had these cards since 1992 I love looking at the cards just wondering if they would have any value to them I don’t know

  5. Richard Ayotte 16 September, 2018 at 19:50

    I have a bowman hocley card joe nieuwendyk pictured on front and on back reads pierre turgeon at the top and has number 145 that is not turgeon or nieuwendyk its mike krushelnyski do you know anything about this card…thank you

  6. KC Morgan 11 October, 2018 at 13:36

    I don’t have any error cards. However I have Three Wax Pack Wrappers that have errors. Color being the issue. Missing some color, colors, partial color Looks like color worn off, but I think it is the the start of printer running out of ink. Is there any value in these?? Does any one collect this type of error as generally the wrappers are thrown away like most anything else.

  7. Michael 22 November, 2018 at 21:05

    I have a 2007 topps #301 adrian peterson rookie card but on the back it says 2010 The Topps Trading Company Inc. Is That a mistake? If so how much can I sell it for?

  8. alvin soloway 19 December, 2018 at 01:35

    i have some 1952/53 baseball cards that a badly damaged they were pasted in a scrap book. are they worth anything about 40 cards no mickey mantle

  9. sgb 20 December, 2018 at 01:24

    I Have 2 x michael jordan rookie cards with mistakes both graded 9 by becketts 1 has a small round dot no ink on the cardboard on the back one has an ink line down the front about .02mm

  10. Gary Fournier 2 January, 2019 at 21:13

    i have quite a few Topps NBA cards 57-58 season. About half (25) are printed upside down on the back.
    Does this make them worth more?

  11. John Sandman 6 January, 2019 at 23:23

    Why isn’t the 1957 Hank Aaron card, printed with the negative reversed to show him batting left-handed when he was a right-handed batter considered an error card?

  12. Bob Crabill 23 January, 2019 at 16:09

    I have 5 1970 Topps football cards where the backs of the cards also printed on the front. Was this a common occurrence back then? I distinctly remember opening that pack and wondering what the heck happened!

  13. paul lalonde 31 January, 2019 at 10:57

    I have a hockey card who was cut at the wrong place 1969 O PEE-CHEE CARD NUMBER 57 Bob Baun. We are able to see the hockey stick(only the shaft) on the left and on the right 4/4 of the shaft. Does this card is more worthy?

  14. James hobbs 25 February, 2019 at 16:12

    I have a dave lapoint and a Richard Dotson card half cut cards i believe they are 1988 or 1989 cards. How much do you think they are worth.

  15. Stephen Gomez 27 February, 2019 at 01:58

    1999 Topps Lamar Thomas #48 missing player and team name on the front, the word Topps in the upper right corner is missing approximately 50% of the word. I have both the error card and the correct card. Is it a very common error card? I have not been able to find any information by anyone else about it. Granted it’s his 6th year card so not expecting it to allow me to retire. Just curious about.

  16. Christopher J Andren 5 March, 2019 at 15:51

    Ryan, just pulled a 93-94 stadium club 1st day issue with scottie pippen on the front and a miscut chris mills on the back. Any idea what the value would be can’t find it anywhere. Thanks.

    • Ryan Cracknell 5 March, 2019 at 16:52

      @Christopher – The article explains why it’s tough to gauge what these sorts of cards might sell for.

  17. John 10 March, 2019 at 00:42

    1992 Topps basketball Dana Barros incorrectly cut card. It’s cut so the card is tilted left. What do you think if any value it has? I haven’t seen any copy’s of it st least where I’ve been looking.

    • Ryan Cracknell 11 March, 2019 at 09:19

      @John – This article explains why cards like this are tough to get a value on.

  18. Kyle 10 March, 2019 at 18:25

    I have a Sergei makarov Upper deck card with 2 upper deck holograms on the back of the card. Is that not an error card?

  19. Stan 11 March, 2019 at 19:17

    I have roughly three hundred baseball cards with most having blank backs and a few having wrong back for the picture on the front. Are they worth anything. Thanks in advance

  20. Dan 15 March, 2019 at 03:05

    I have a Sage Hit high series autographed Jake Elliott rookie card, but has a authority on the card that is not Jake Elliott’s, it just says AB…not even close. Also, I have a Calvin Ridley 2018 prestige passport memorabilia card that the game worn jersey is off center!! Not sure if these cards would be worth anything or even the amount that the undamaged cards would be, but it really pisses me off when it is a hit card that they messed up on. Then when you try and replace it, they give you the run around. Do you have your receipt? Do you have the box? Do you have the pack it came in? And then they expect you to pay to ship it back to them only for them to tell you that the card is not replaceable due to how old it is.

  21. Eddie 16 March, 2019 at 16:28

    Just found a Rashaun Woods sp Jersey auto card should be no.201 and mine is no.200 any value?

  22. Richard 17 March, 2019 at 13:07

    I just opened a 2019 topps opening day mis-cut mike trout its off pretty bad. Is it worth anything?

  23. Tom Y 31 March, 2019 at 14:15

    I have a 2007 Topps card that has a picture of Mickey Mantle on the front and the back has Edgar Renteria stat info. Both appear to be cut properly just a mix up. It appears to be a Wrong Back error as described in the article. I was thinking it may be worth something as one side is Mickey Mantle….any thoughts?

  24. Henry Davis 2 April, 2019 at 14:14

    I have a Topps 50th anniversary Travis Henry Buffalo Bills card. In the information it talks about the GM of the team it has the name of the GM for the Jets football team instead of the Bills football team I was wondering what kind of error card this would be and if there is any way of knowing how many were printed

  25. Alex Calder 4 April, 2019 at 09:11

    I have a 1966 Topps Dick Egan card with the wrong back (#412 Sam Bowens). I have looked around a little and can see nothing reported on this error anywhere. What should I do with this card? Is the best idea to get it graded which would note the error?

    Alex

  26. Andy 1 May, 2019 at 10:48

    Ryan-

    I have 2 cards from the 89 Fleer set that represent 1 player, Dan Gladden (#112). He is basically cut in half, with Frank Viola (#127) underneath him, and an unknown Twins pitcher above him. I have scoured the internets looking for any intel on these cards, but no luck. Both cards are ungraded but in mint condition. Any suggestions?? Thanks!

    • Ryan Cracknell 1 May, 2019 at 11:16

      @Andy – It sounds like a mis-cut card, which are mentioned in the article.

  27. Tony price 26 May, 2019 at 22:16

    Have a Complete Box set that looks different than the others. 1988 Fleer Complete Set found it in a storage unit. Had 11 still wrapped and one that was open. The one open has the “COMPLETE 1988 FLEER SET INSIDE” printed twice on top and the 660 CARDS & 45 STICKERS that should be on top of the box is on the front. Is this worth anything?

  28. Roger Versch 13 June, 2019 at 02:41

    I have a 1 only error card #190 Davey Allison In Memory card. The print was overlayed as it was stamped twice. 1st stamp was error in spelling and second stamp was the fix. The error on card was also circled. Any ideas what to do with card or a value? I called the Traks company and spoke with the man that ran stamp machine. He said he remembered the bad sheet with error and apparently they forgot to move the sheet before stamping the sheet. It is a 1 of 1. Only 1 world wide. I thought about auction block.

  29. Cathy 1 July, 2019 at 23:36

    I have some 1989 Donuss printed on front of card on back the cards according to on the internet are they are 1988 leaf which is printed on back. Are they worth anything

  30. Bill waddle 14 July, 2019 at 12:23

    I have a 1999 Upper Deck MVP Michael
    Jordan checklist card #220 . The card has a face and other parts of what appears to be Rusty Wallace the race car driver embossed on the front of the card . I did hear that there was a few cards like this from that set with the same embossed front but not a Jordan . I also heard that very few or maybe a hand full made it in to circulation . I’m think this Jordan I have is possibly a 1/1 and the other few are 1/1s also . It must have been caught really early in the printing process . I have never heard anything about this card or cards and i’v had the Jordan sence 1999 .

  31. mlb card god 21 July, 2019 at 06:11

    I have a 2019 Topps series 2 ink error of a local team player the brewers. Number 554 the weird part is error is ink dripped towards the bottoms the red smeared a little.

  32. Olivier Perrinjaquet 27 August, 2019 at 18:39

    I have a Michael Jordan Spx 1996 error card with Jerry Stackhouse in the hologram. Does anyone have any idea of what it could be worth? I also have an Allen Iverson Topps Stadium Club that is not focused.

  33. Adam Hope 16 November, 2019 at 08:52

    i have a 17-18 leaf pearl hockey Bill Barilko misprint which stats 8/3.still in original factory sealed case with seal still intact. was wondering what the price on this might be or if there is anyone who might be interested

  34. Frank 5 December, 2019 at 19:20

    Back in 1997/8 I bought a pack of skybox got the Kobe Bryant frequent flyer #9 and the whole back was triple printed so I put it in a plastic..for years I looked around and online nothing like it everyones I see is normal..What now? Im up for any Infor..Thanks Frank

  35. Dave 8 December, 2019 at 18:15

    I have a 1970 topps (330) miscut Lou Brock baseball card. Great condition. What if any additional value could I expect if I sell?

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